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Switzerland’s Watch Exports May Rise to Record, Trade Group Says

Jan. 21 (Bloomberg) -- Switzerland’s exports of watches may rise to a record in 2011 as demand for luxury timepieces continues to recover, said Jean-Daniel Pasche, head of the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry.

Shipments this year may break the record of 17 billion francs ($17.7 billion) of exports set in 2008, Pasche said in an interview today on the final day of the Geneva watch fair.

Audemars Piguet, Switzerland’s oldest family-owned watchmaker, is "bullish" for this year, Chief Executive Officer Philippe Merk said this week. Lutz Bethge, CEO of Cie. Financiere Richemont SA’s Montblanc Group, said a limited edition of 19 clock-and-chronograph sets presented this week, priced at 100,000-euro ($135,000) each, was sold out within four days.

Exports in 2010 were "a bit" higher than the 16 billion Swiss francs of watches and components the industry shipped to other countries in 2007, Pasche said.

Swatch Group AG and Richemont, two of the country’s biggest watchmakers, this week warned the strength of the franc, which gained 19 percent against the euro in 2010, is weighing on profitability.

“The strong franc is a big worry for the industry because it creates problems of competitiveness,” Pasche said.

Separately, Pasche said he hopes the Swiss government will reach a decision in 2012 about strengthening limitations on the use of foreign-made components in watches labeled “Swiss-Made.” The issue is being studied by a parliamentary committee.

The trade group will publish exact figures for 2010 in early February, Pasche said. Exports in the first 11 months of the year rose 22 percent to 14.6 billion francs, the group said last month.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tom Mulier in Geneva at tmulier@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Celeste Perri at cperri@bloomberg.net.

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