Swiss watchmakers clock record exports in 2013

ZURICH - Swiss watchmakers saw their export growth slow down significantly last year, but they still clocked a new record high, the Swiss Watch Industry said on Thursday.

Swiss watch exports edged up 1.9 per cent in 2013 to a record 21.8 billion Swiss francs (US$24.1 billion, 17.8 billion euros), after gaining 11 per cent in 2012, the federation said in a statement.

"Expected to be a year of consolidation at a high level, 2013 lived up to its promise," it said.

The Swiss watchmaking industry has been bracing for a slowdown after seeing an unprecedented surge in sales in recent years, especially in Asia.

China, with what until recently appeared to be a bottomless appetite for European luxury goods, has been credited with the lion share of the bonanza.

But last year, the country accounted for the biggest slump in Swiss watch exports, with deliveries to Hong Kong slipping 5.6 per cent and sales to the mainland plunging 12.5 per cent.

At the same time though, exports to the second-biggest market for Swiss watches, the United States, swelled 2.4 per cent.

And in Europe, where exports had long been depressed by the crisis plaguing the continent, they bounced back nine per cent in Germany, 9.6 per cent in France and a full 18.2 per cent in Britain.