Apr 23, 2009
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Swiss watch exports tumble again, most markets hit

Apr 23, 2009

Montblanc Star Nicolas Rieussec Monopusher Chronograph
ZURICH, April 23 (Reuters) - Exports of Swiss watches fell for a fifth month in row in March, with sales in the key markets of Hong Kong and the United States dropping fast as spending on luxury items shrank, data showed on Thursday 23 April.

The drop in the value of Swiss watch exports accelerated to 26.6 percent in nominal terms compared with the year-ago period to 914.4 billion Swiss francs ($786.2 billion), the Swiss watch federation said.

The decline was focused on the highest price segments, particularly watches costing between 500 and 3,000 Swiss francs, while products between 200 and 500 francs saw a 9.6 percent increase in volumes.

Demand for watches from Switzerland, home to the world's largest watchmaker, Swatch Group (UHR.VX), and rival Richemont (CFR.VX), has dwindled in recent months due the economic crisis and job losses.

Exports to the sector's biggest market, Hong Kong, fell 29 percent, while sales in the United States -- the second-largest -- fell by nearly 50 percent for a second month in a row, the federation said.

It said European markets performed better than the average, with France registering growth of 2.7 percent.

Shares in Richemont and Swatch Group were both indicated to open 1.2 percent down, pre-market data from Clariden Leu showed CLPRE2.

Swatch expects to see a slight increase in full-year sales in 2009 as demand picks up in the second half of the year, in contrast to Richemont, which said in January it was facing its toughest markets in two decades and has started to cut jobs.

The federation said the number of wristwatches fell more sharply than other products, down 27.2 percent, with 220,000 fewer timepieces sold in March than a year ago. (Reporting by Emma Thomasson; editing by John Stonestreet)

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