ATHENS (Reuters) - Former European Central Bank vice-president Lucas Papademos will head Greece's new crisis coalition, the president's office said on Thursday, charged with saving the country from default, bankruptcy and an exit from the euro zone.

The coalition will be sworn in at 1200 GMT on Friday, an official in the president's office said.

Papademos, a respected figure in European capitals and on financial markets, will lead a national unity government that must sign up to a 130 billion bailout deal with the euro zone before calling an early election.

He cuts a grey and uncharismatic figure in the colorful and chaotic world of Greek politics, but also has a reputation for being calm at a time when the nation is clamoring for some kind of stability.

He's a clear policy thinker. He was never involved in politics. He knows what needs to be done, said Thanos Papasavvas, head of currency management at Investec Asset Management in London.

In a sign of the daunting problems he will face, the statistics service ELSTAT reported that unemployment jumped to a record high of 18.4 percent in August -- at the height of the tourism season when the rate traditionally falls -- from 16.5 percent in July.

The appointment of Papademos followed four days of sometimes chaotic talks led by outgoing Prime Minister George Papandreou and conservative opposition leader Antonis Samaras.

(Additional reporting by Angeliki Koutantou in Athens and Jeremy Gaunt in London; wWriting by Deepa Babington and David Stamp; Editing by Kevin Liffey)