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Swiss watchmaking still riding high
Point of View

Swiss watchmaking still riding high

Thursday, 01 March 2012
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Christophe Roulet
Editor-in-chief, HH Journal

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3 min read

Exports up 15.5% in January. Hundreds of millions invested by the main groups. Recruitments on the rise. Time measurement is dodging the crisis. An interview with Jean-Daniel Pasche, President of the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry.

Is Swiss watchmaking immune to tough times? Export figures for January suggest so, not to mention the millions which the sector’s main groups are investing in bigger premises to keep pace with demand. Jean-Daniel Pasche, President of the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry (FH), reviews the situation.

Swiss watch exports show no signs of slowing, gaining 15.5% in January.

Jean-Daniel Pasche: Figures for January do indeed confirm the excellent performance of 2011 as Swiss watchmaking continues its positive trend, although we are expecting single-digit growth for 2012. Of course, this year’s performance will have to contend with a high base effect after exports set a new record last year, increasing 19.2% to CHF 19.3 billion. The industry can feel pleased with these latest figures, particularly as the b Swiss franc continues to weigh heavily on margins, and the situation in Europe is still unstable. As the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie showed, and as preparations for Baselworld confirm, watchmakers are confident. Even serene.

Do brands benefit from a global presence?

That companies do business on all five continents gives them an edge. Of course we can’t ignore the importance of Asia, including the Middle East, which at 55% is Swiss watchmaking’s biggest market. Growth has been b in China but not only. Countries such as Singapore and India offer huge potential for development, as does Latin America.

Despite the forecast slowdown this year, companies are investing hundreds of millions, such as Swatch Group whose plans include a vast construction project in Biel.

This shows they are confident for the future. No one has forgotten 2009, which ended with a 22% drop in exports. I’d say brands remain cautious but are taking a long-term view.

The Federation recently spoke out in defence of Swiss Made but seems to have lowered its sights. What's the situation there?

We’re still in the early stages. The Swiss Parliament will shortly announce its position concerning the proposal to increase from 50% to 60% the added value of Swiss-made components in order for a manufactured product to qualify as Swiss Made. As you rightly point out, the Federation is campaigning to bring this figure up to 80% for mechanical watches and 60% for quartz. Our first move has been to voice our support of the Swissness project. Then, probably next year if the political authorities approve the 60% rate, we will petition for a federal ruling specifically for watches in line with our demands. This will of course include a transitional period so that companies can adapt to these new conditions.

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