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Swiss watch makers see tough times ahead

Published on 06/04/2009

Switzerland's watch exports, a market is leads worldwide, could drop by as much as one-third this year, Rolex chief said Bruno Meier in a recently published German newspaper interview.

"I can imagine Swiss exports in 2009 dropping by up to one third of their value," the luxury watch maker’s new chief told the NZZ newspaper amid the Baselworld jewellery and luxury watch fair in Basel.

Swiss watch exports were up 6.7 percent at 17 billion Swiss francs (EUR 11.2 billion) in 2008, but they have been dropping in recent months.

They sank by 22.4 percent in February, according to the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry Federation.

 But Meier said Rolex would be less affected than its competitors.
"We might reach a level equivalent to that of 2005," he said, adding that there were no plans to lay off permanent employees.

Rolex, which is privately owned by the Geneva-based foundation Hans Wilsdorf, does not publish any sales or financial figures.

 Chief executive of Hublot, Jean-Claude Biver observes that while the demand remains the same as in previous years, retailers are expressing caution.

"We can clearly say that in some countries we have faced a drop of sales, whereas in others the brand has continued to perform quite well," he told Expatica.

"At last year’s Baselworld fair, retailers ordered ten watches to secure the delivery of at least five. This year we saw retailers buying four or, at best five — we have moved from inflated to realistic orders."

Biver sees creativity, innovation and promotion as the answers to the crisis.

"We, the Swiss Watch Industry, are still going to perform quite well, eventually going back to the 2007 level, or between 2007 and 2008," he said.

AFP/ Expatica