The Swiss watchmaking industry is booming, with export revenues from watches and movements reaching a record level of SFr4.72 billion ($2.76 billion) in the first six months, up by 17.2 per cent over last year's figure.
A communiqué from the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry in Biel said some sectors were now "stretched to the limits of their capacity". As a result, Swiss manufacturers have significantly increased imports of watch components.
"The watchmaking branch has derived the full benefit from a particularly favourable world economic context and a Swiss franc which remains attractively priced in relation to dollar," it said.
The president of the Federation, Francois Habersaat, has not hidden his satisfaction at the figures. "At the beginning of this year, I was forecasting growth of three per cent for the year 2000. Now, having seen the figures for the first six months, I would say the increase will be between six and seven per cent. That would mean a result[for the year as a whole] of SFr9.7 billion, which would be a record," he said.
"In the longer term, we will try to maintain this growth rhythm of annual growth of six to seven per cent. There are no reasons today to think that this is impossible," he added.
Despite the encouraging figures, the export volume of complete watches has continued to fall. Manufacturers exported 14.6 million in the past six months - three per cent less than in the same period of 1999. In contrast, the value of these watches was 16.7 per cent higher at SFr4.24 billion.
The Federation says the further decline in volumes was mainly accounted for by plastic (-11.3 per cent), and aluminium (-16.3 per cent) products. There was also a downturn in exports of gold-plated watches (-11.9 per cent).
It adds that rising demand for steel (12.5 per cent) and 18-carat gold (10.1 per cent) watches had not been enough to offset these falls.
On the value side, over 80 per cent of the growth was accounted for by steel watches and 18-carat gold watches.
This trend, reports the Federation, has resulted in a "spectacular increase in the average price [of watches] to SFr291 from SFr242 a year earlier".
The three top export markets are the United States (SFr810.8 million), Hong Kong (SFr679.5 million) and Japan (SFr453.9 million).
Looking towards the future, the Federation says that a slackening of the growth rate is expected in the second half because the closing months of 1999 were a period of particularly strong growth for watch exports.
swissinfo with agencies
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