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Watch exports for 2005 break all records

The Swiss watch industry is going from strength to strength Keystone

The value of Swiss watch exports last year rose 10.9 per cent to a record SFr12.3 billion ($9.5 billion), the Federation of the Swiss Industry said on Thursday.

The news comes as Swatch, the world’s largest watchmaking concern, announced group gross sales for 2005 had risen by 8.3 per cent, boosted by luxury watch brands.

“The year 2005 thus clearly established a new record by exceeding the SFr12 billion mark for the first time and surpassing by 10.9 per cent the already high level of 2004,” the group said in a statement.

Results for 2004 stood at SFr11.1 billion, with a growth of 9.2 per cent.

The group added that its “excellent health” was confirmed and that the trend had “solid foundations” worldwide. It expected the situation to continue into 2006.

It said excellent results in the luxury segment had ensured that it had avoided the pitfalls of the “less than favourable” economic situation, particularly in Europe.

In terms of country markets, the United States market gain headed the list with 14.5 per cent growth to SFr2.1 million. Hong Kong slowed its pace at 7.7 per cent, while Japan continued forward (15.7 per cent).

Swatch results

Biel-based Swatch said on Thursday that gross sales for 2005 had risen to SFr4.5 billion. This was in line with analysts’ expectations.

The group, which includes the Breguet, Omega and Tissot brands, said it expected “very solid” growth in 2006.

Swatch, along with its rivals, saw a strong growth in sales of luxury watches last year.

It also launched a new share buyback programme worth SFr300 million and said that its 2005 financial result, which will be published in March, will be “considerably better” than 2004 and would boost net income.

Efficiency measures at its lower price segment watches have also started to bear fruit and have succeeded in raising sales, added the group.

But analysts are not yet convinced that the Swatch brand, which has long dragged down earnings, has made a recovery.

The brand has also come under pressure from Chinese-made fashion watches.

General export figures

Watches were a key factor in the country’s overall strong export figures for 2005, which were also released on Thursday.

These stood at SFr151.5 billion, a rise of 6.9 per cent on last year, said the Federal Customs Office in a statement.

“Precision instruments, watches and the chemical sector all did brilliantly,” said the Customs Office.

Imports were recorded at SFr143.2 billion, a rise of 8.1 per cent on 2004 and the best result for four years.

swissinfo with agencies

Top five watch export markets
United States: SFr2.1 billion (+14.5%)
Hong Kong: SFr 1.8 billion (+7.7%)
Japan: SFr1.1 billion (+15.7%)
Italy: SFr842 million (+8.4%)
France: SFr660 million (+8.1%)

After a low point in the 1970s, the Swiss watch industry has recovered strongly, helped among others by Swatch.

Over the past five years the industry, which includes a huge range of products from low-range to luxury, has become one of the best-performing economic sectors in the country.

The value of its watch exports has climbed continuously from SFr4.3 billion in 1986 to SFr12.3 billion in 2005.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR