[ZURICH] Swiss watch exports kept growing at the slowest rate since the financial crisis for a second year as shipments to China and Hong Kong dropped in the final quarter.
Exports advanced 1.9 per cent to a record 22.2 billion francs (US$24 billion) in 2014, the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry said on its website on Tuesday. Exports to China slumped 27 per cent in December and declined 10 per cent to Hong Kong.
Timepieces make up more than a tenth of Switzerland's total exports, led by brands including Rolex, Swatch Group AG's Omega and Cie. Financiere Richemont SA's Cartier.
Political protests in Hong Kong, where rich Chinese purchase watches and jewelry at lower tax rates than on the mainland, caused shops to close in September and October.
"Watch exports ended the year 2014 on a negative note," the federation said. The group gave no forecast for 2015.
The Swiss franc's 14 per cent surge this year against the euro is weighing on exporters' sales abroad.
The pro-democracy demonstrations coincided with the China National Day holidays known as Golden Week, one of the busiest times of the year, as well as a watch industry show in the city. A crackdown on extravagance among Chinese government officials has also weighed on demand.