The man behind the Swatch plastic watch, Nicolas Hayek, died of heart failure while at work on Monday at the company he transformed into the world's biggest watchmaker, the company said.
As chairman of the Swatch group, Hayek - who was 82 - cut a high profile in the world of Swiss watch-making and was one of the most well known and liked Swiss business leaders.
In the 1980s, he transformed two Swiss watchmakers struggling to cope with Japanese competition into what would become Swatch, owning brands such as Breguet, Blancpain, Omega, Longines in addition to its eponymous Swatch line.
"Nicolas G. Hayek's greatest merit was his enormous contribution to the saving of the Swiss watch industry and the foundation and the commercial development of the Swatch Group," the company said in a statement.
"Hayek's extraordinary vision enabled him to realise and ensure the sustainability of a strong watchmaking enterprise with high Swiss added value," it added.
Hayek turned the company around by challenging mass-produced electronic Japanese competition head on, with the affordable but original-looking plastic Swatch watches, breathing new life into what had been a declining industry.
"With his commitment and courageous actions, Mr. Nicolas Hayek for decades gave big and important boosts to entrepreneurship," Swiss President Doris Leuthard said in a statement.