Impact of world economy dominates 2003 Swiss Watch Federation meeting

The global economic situation and its repercussions on the watch trade “monopolized the attention of delegates” at the 2003 General Meeting of the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry (FH), says the group’s report on the June 26 session, held in Fribourg, Switzerland.

“Despite the difficult economic situation, we have confidence in the future of our industry, which has what it takes to strengthen its position in world markets,” said FH president Jean-Daniel Pasche in his address to the General Meeting.

Pasche noted that Swiss watchmakers have had “some difficult months since the start of the year. At the end of May, the decline in total Swiss watch exports was 6.1%, at 5.5 billion Swiss francs [just over US$4 billion]. For finished products, the downturn was 6.5% in value and 12.6% in the number of pieces,” he added, noting that individual results “can vary greatly from one firm to another.”

However, “in view of the world economic situation, it is not catastrophic,” said Pasche, “since it follows on [several] good years.

He noted, too, that “war in Iraq and the SARS epidemic worsened the lackluster economic situation, affecting consumer spending and world trade. The strength of the Swiss franc against the American dollar also had a negative effect” on Swiss watch exports.

“[While] it’s difficult to be precise about when the recovery will occur [because] economic forecasts have regularly postponed the start of the recovery,” said the FH president, “in all likelihood, we’ll not see a general recovery before the end of the year, or even the beginning of 2004, at least not in Europe.”

But Pasche told the assembly that he’s “confident in the ability of the Swiss watch industry to retain its leadership, insofar as the crisis is affecting all watchmaking industries. So far as we can tell, we are not losing market share, and we are increasing our exports in markets that seem to be less affected by economic problems.”

In his report, the FH president also highlighted some of the association’s activities in the preceding year, including “the fight against the global scourge of counterfeiting,” a traveling watchmaking exhibition, the online availability of watchmaking statistics, and the new online FH e-shop, which offers more than 200 publication-references. The association now has 231 member firms.

Also during the meeting, the FH assembly reelected Pasche as president for three years and renewed the appointments its board’s 20 members and alternates.