Watch exports tick along nicely
Swiss watch exports performed better than expected in 2002, despite challenging market conditions coupled with a strong Swiss franc.
Swiss watch exports remained stable at SFr10 billion ($7.9 billion), down 0.1 per cent from the previous year.
The Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry said the exports of completed watches had risen for the first time in a decade, up 0.4 per cent in value and 1.7 per cent in terms of volume.
The sale of gold and platinum watches had played a big role in the increase, the organisation said in a statement.
"We were quite happy and surprised by the performance of watch exports," Federation president Jean-Daniel Pasch told swissinfo, adding that he was fairly optimistic the industry would weather the ongoing economic slowdown.
"I expect that we will have some difficult months in the first half of 2003 because of the weak economy but this could reverse itself in the second half if we see a recovery."
Watches and movements accounted for 7.5 per cent of Switzerland's total exports of goods and services in 2002.
The Federation said the closing months of the year had been the most successful and had boosted the annual result significantly.
"[The results] confirm the good health of the Swiss watchmaking industry... and consolidates the results of previous years," it said.
The United States, Hong Kong and Japan were the top three destinations for Swiss watches, while sales suffered in Europe.
"Italy, France and Germany saw exports fall due to the poor economy in those situations, especially in Germany," Pasch explained.
The market for low-end watches also suffered, with exports of plastic timepieces dropping almost ten per cent.
The results came a day after the Swatch Group reported a slight fall in sales for 2002 - down 2.9 per cent to SFr4.06 billion ($3 billion).
The world's biggest watchmaker said 2002 had been a "very exacting and challenging year", and blamed the strong Swiss franc and failure of economic recovery for the results.
It added that sales picked up in the second half of the year, calling it a "positive indicator" for 2003.
swissinfo with agencies
Total Swiss watch exports were worth some SFr10 billion in 2002.
The export of completed Swiss watches has increased for the first time in ten years.
The US, Hong Kong and Japan were the top three destinations for Swiss watches
Watches accounted for some 7.5 per cent of Switzerland's total exports in 2002.
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