Last year was a record breaker for the Swiss watch industry: for the first time, exports exceeded the key SFr10 billion mark, reaching SFr10.297 billion ($6.321 billion).
The Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry said on Thursday that the "fantastic" result showed a 14.4 per cent improvement in exports over 1999, and reflected 17 months of uninterrupted growth within the sector.
The improvement in the industry's performance was mainly due to the sustained demand in major markets, the strength of the US dollar against the Swiss franc, and the generally improving demand for luxury goods.
The Federation said demand from the Swiss watch industry's main markets proved exceptionally dynamic in 2000.
The United States continued to take the lion's share of Swiss watch products worth nearly SFr2 billion. In Asia, most countries reverted to the level achieved before the 1998 crisis. In Europe, France, Britain and Italy led the field.
The increase in export sales was not accompanied by a rise in volume in the completed watch sector. Swiss manufacturers exported 29.9 million units in 2000, 4.6 per cent less than in 1999. However, the value of these products rose 14.1 per cent to SFr9.3 billion.
In other products, the Federation noted that Switzerland exported 6.3 million watch movements, an increase of 15.9 per cent in the year 2000, with a 25.9 per cent increase in value at SFr126 million.
In exterior parts, the value of exported pieces rose 18.7 per cent against 1999. Sales of clocks, small clocks and their components remained stable, up slightly at SFr90 million.
Looking ahead, the Federation sounded a cautious note for the industry, saying that the current year would be one of consolidation. The expected downturn in the US economy and the weakening dollar are likely to hit exports this year.