Jan 16, 2012
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Cautious optimism at opening of watch exhibition in Geneva

Jan 16, 2012

GENEVA - An international luxury watch show opened on Monday in Geneva to cautious optimism despite the economic crisis, with the organiser of the event forecasting modest growth for 2012 after a record 2011.

This year the industry is expecting an increase of at least five percent in exports, according to Cologni Franco, director of Richemont and chairman of the show's organiser, Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie (FHH).

"I will be happy if the new year results in a net growth of about five percent," he said.

The week-long event called the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie brings together 18 watchmakers including the Richemont Group with brands such as IWC, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Lange & Soehne, Vacheron Constantin, Baume & Mercier, Dunhill, Montblanc, Panerai, Roger Dubuis and Van Cleef & Arpels.

Independent brands such as Audemars-Piguet, JeanRichard, Girard-Perregaux and Parmigiani also count among exhibitors.

Despite the global economic crisis, Switzerland's flagship watch industry posted a record year in 2011, although it now expects a return to normalcy in 2012 as it builds on the growing markets in emerging countries.

The Richemont Group said sales for the third quarter that ended in December ticked up 24 percent to 2.6 billion euros (3.3 billion dollars).

Another Swiss watchmaker, the Swatch Group, exceeded annual turnover of 7 billion Swiss francs (5.8 billion euros, 7.4 billion dollars) for the first time last year despite the negative effects of a high currency that weighed on sales.

While the SIHH is open only to those invited, the Geneva Time Exhibition (GTE), an annual event for the watch, jewellery and luxury market is open to the public. It started at the weekend, ahead of the yearly Baselworld, one of the industry's biggest exhibitions in Switzerland, in March.

SIHH 2012 will also host a special exhibition. After presenting pieces from the Watch Museum Beyer in Zurich in 2011, a collection from the Museum of Art and History in Geneva is on show.

Previous exhibitions emphasised pocket and wrist watches, but the theme this year is pendulum clocks, represented by a selection dating from the Renaissance period to the early 20th century.

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