Swatch Cites Slowdown at Yearend

“Noticeable drop” in demand for watches slows net sales gain to 0.5 percent.

PARIS – A “noticeable drop” in demand for watches in the last two months of 2008 dragged down full-year sales at Switzerland’s Swatch Group.

The maker of Omega, Swatch and Breguet watches said its net sales grew just 0.5 percent to 5.68 billion Swiss Francs, or $5.26 billion at average exchange.

By division, watches and jewelry sales inched up 1.8 percent to 4.79 billion Swiss Francs, or $4.44 billion. The group’s production division, which manufactures watch components for third parties, grew 7.5 percent to 1.81 billion Swiss Francs, or $1.68 billion.

The group, whose brand portfolio also includes Jacquet Droz, Blancpain and Glashutte Original, said its outlook for the next few months is “cautious but not pessimistic.”

Sales this month plus orders for February and March showed improvement, indicating “a rather manageable recession,” the company said, adding that it expects a rebound in the second half of 2009.

Swatch said it would continue to expand its own retail activities, which fared better than its wholesale doors.