Unveiling the Depths of Passion and Preservation

Diving Deep with Marc A. Hayek, from Childhood Wonder to Corporate Responsibility: The Journey of Blancpain’s CEO in Championing Ocean Conservation


Marc A. Hayek CEO of Blancpain, Breguet and Jaquet Droz

Marc A. Hayek’s journey from a child mesmerized by the enigmatic beauty of the ocean to the President and CEO of Blancpain is a tale of passion turned purpose. His early fascination with the underwater world has not only shaped his personal life but also profoundly influenced his professional trajectory. Today, as an avid diver and the guiding force behind the renowned Swiss luxury watchmaker Blancpain, Hayek has been instrumental in steering the company towards a significant and heartfelt mission: the Blancpain Ocean Commitment. This initiative seamlessly blends the allure of fine watchmaking with the urgent need for ocean exploration and conservation. In this exclusive interview, we dive into the depths of Hayek’s lifelong passion for the sea and explore how it has inspired a corporate ethos of environmental stewardship, setting a benchmark for luxury brands worldwide.

Can you share a bit about your early fascination with the ocean and how it influenced your life and career choices?

Absolutely. From a very young age, I’ve been captivated by the ocean, a fascination that has deeply influenced choices in my career. My earliest memories include being enchanted by water, especially the mysteries beneath the surface. I always insisted on wearing goggles to explore underwater, whether in the sea or a lake. My childhood holidays were spent mostly in the Mediterranean, inspired by my grandfather’s love for the ocean. These experiences instilled in me a profound interest in oceanography and marine life, paving the way for my personal interests and my career.

Marc A. Hayek, President and CEO of Blancpain, diving in Fakarava, French Polynesia, during the 2014 Blancpain Diving Experience

As both an avid diver and the CEO of Blancpain, how did your personal passion for the ocean lead to the creation of the Blancpain Ocean Commitment?

My diving adventures began at age 12, although I was fascinated with free diving from an earlier age. Spending holidays in the Mediterranean, I was constantly drawn to the sea.

This lifelong passion naturally merged with my professional life when I joined Blancpain. Recognizing the brand’s heritage in dive watches, I saw an opportunity to combine my love for the ocean with Blancpain’s legacy, leading to the creation of the Blancpain Ocean Commitment.

This initiative perfectly aligned with my personal and professional journey, showcasing the brand’s commitment to marine exploration and conservation.

Blancpain and PADI are joining forces with the aim to fundamentally increase the number of Marine Protected Areas(MPAs) around the globe by 2023

The Blancpain Ocean Commitment is focused on ocean exploration and conservation. What inspired you to combine your interest in the ocean with your role in the luxury watchmaking industry?

The synergy between my personal passion for the ocean and Blancpain’s history in dive watchmaking was a natural fit. Upon discovering Blancpain’s rich heritage, especially with the Fifty Fathoms model, I was motivated to bring this legacy to the forefront. We aimed to not only revive a historic piece but also to showcase the beauty of the ocean and its importance in scientific research and conservation. My experiences as a diver, combined with my role at Blancpain, allowed me to uniquely contribute to ocean exploration and conservation through the lens of high-end mechanical watchmaking.

In what ways has the Blancpain Ocean Commitment made a positive impact on ocean exploration and conservation initiatives?

The Blancpain Ocean Commitment has significantly contributed to marine conservation, notably through our partnership with National Geographic from 2011 to

2016. Of the 14 expeditions we supported, 12 resulted in governmental decrees doubling the surface area of protected ocean, with the addition of 4.7 million km2. Our involvement has extended beyond mere sponsorship, influencing global policies and raising awareness about ocean conservation. These initiatives have demonstrated the power of private companies in driving significant environmental change.

Pristine Seas, Pitcairn Islands © Enric Sala

Could you highlight some specific projects or achievements of the Blancpain Ocean Commitment that you are particularly proud of?

One of our notable achievements is our co-founding role in the Pristine Seas project with National Geographic.

This project has been instrumental in establishing several marine protected areas worldwide. Additionally, our partnership with the World Ocean Summit has placed us at the forefront of discussing and addressing ocean issues with global leaders.

These initiatives underscore our commitment not only to showcasing the ocean’s beauty but also to its preservation and scientific understanding.

How do you see the role of private companies, like Blancpain, in contributing to environmental initiatives and sustainability, especially in the context of ocean conservation?

Private companies have a significant role in advancing environmental initiatives. Our experience at Blancpain shows that integrating conservation efforts with business strategies can be mutually beneficial. We’ve demonstrated that environmental responsibility and business growth can coexist, emphasising the importance of sustainable practices in the luxury industry. Our approach has been to not only minimise our environmental impact but also to actively contribute to conservation efforts, proving that corporate responsibility extends beyond mere compliance.

Fifty Fathoms Tech

As a leader in the luxury watch industry, how do you balance the values of craftsmanship and environmental responsibility in the products and practices of Blancpain?

Balancing craftsmanship with environmental responsibility is a cornerstone of our philosophy at Blancpain. We maintain a commitment to high-quality, long-lasting products while ensuring sustainable practices in our manufacturing processes. This approach reflects our belief in creating timeless pieces that are both environmentally responsible and emblematic of luxury craftsmanship. Our dedication to sustainability is evident in our efforts to use sustainable materials and support long-term environmental initiatives.

What challenges have you faced in promoting ocean conservation through Blancain, and how have you overcome them?

One of the primary challenges was integrating ocean conservation into our brand identity in a way that resonated with our customers, especially in markets like China and Asia. Initially, there was apprehension about how our conservation messages would be received.

However, by engaging in open dialogues and raising the awareness of our audience about the importance of marine ecosystems, we’ve managed to not only overcome these challenges but also to inspire change and greater environmental consciousness among our customers and partners.

Pristine Seas, Palau © Manu San Felix-National Geographic

Can you discuss any upcoming or ongoing initiatives of the Blancpain Ocean Commitment that the audience should be excited about?

Looking ahead, Blancpain is involved in several exciting initiatives. We are working closely with partners like Oceana and PADI on projects that range from establishing new marine protected areas to engaging in community-driven conservation efforts. Our upcoming participation in the World Ocean Summit will include the launch of a new tool to evaluate the effectiveness of marine protected areas, ensuring that our conservation efforts are both impactful and sustainable.

Beyond your professional endeavour, do you engage in any personal initiatives or activities to promote environmental awareness or sustainability?

Personally, I advocate for taking small, everyday actions to contribute to a more sustainable future. I believe that incremental changes can collectively have a significant impact. It’s about making conscious decisions in our daily lives, whether it’s in consumption habits or in actively participating in environmental initiatives. This approach is something I encourage everyone to embrace, as it can lead to substantial long-term benefits for our planet.