By and  on March 18, 2010

PARIS — Continuing an upward trajectory after a catastrophic 2009, Swiss watch exports rose 14.2 percent in February to 1.2 billion Swiss francs, or $1.12 billion, compared with the same period last year, according to the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry.

Dollar figures are converted at average exchange rates for the period.

Watches priced at less than 500 Swiss francs, or $466, at export price represented the majority of exported timepieces for the industry in February, with an increase of 23.9 percent in value. Watches in the 500 to 3,000 Swiss franc, or $466 to $2,799, segment showed the highest growth rates, up 45.9 percent by value.

Watches priced over the 3,000 Swiss franc, or $2,799, mark lagged, their value increasing 3.9 percent.

Bimetallic and steel styles headlined the gains, with the number of exported units increasing 30.8 percent. Some 430,000 more watches left the country during the month, boosted by a significant uptick in business in Hong Kong, China, Singapore and the U.S., which has finally returned to growth.

In the Middle East, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia showed some of the highest growth rates globally. European markets remained lackluster.

Speaking on Wednesday, François Thiébaud, president of the Swiss exhibitors’ committee at the Baselworld watch and jewelry trade fair which kicked off Thursday in Basel, said the recovery in Swiss watch exports at the beginning of 2010 was powered by Asia.

“China today is the world’s third largest luxury market, but within the next three to five years, it will certainly become the number-one market,” he predicted. A total of 456 Swiss brands are exhibiting at Baselworld this year, versus 453 in 2009, despite the bankruptcy of several watchmakers that did not survive the global economic downturn.

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