Swatch reports record sales

Swatch Group, the world's largest watchmaker, shrugged off the impact of the strong Swiss franc to post record sales in 2011 and said it is confident of more growth in 2012.

The group, which is best known for its colourful plastic Swatch watches, said sales rose 21.7 per cent at constant rates in 2011 compared with the previous year to a new record of 7.143bn Swiss francs (£5.4bn).

This compares with a forecast for 6.8bn francs in 2011 sales by analysts at Kepler.

Dampening expectations of a slowdown in the watch industry, Swatch said in a statement it experienced the strongest turnover in the group's history in December 2011, while all regions and price segments had got off to a positive start in January.

But analysts cautioned sales growth had weakened slightly compared to the first half.

"The outlook statement is not as typically bullish as the company has been in the past," Kepler analyst Jon Cox said in a statement.

Exporters were heavily burdened in 2011 by the strong Swiss franc, which hit multiple records against the euro and dollar and flirted with parity against the single currency in August. This prompted the Swiss National Bank to impose a cap of 1.20 francs to the euro in September to try and alleviate the pain.

Strong demand in Asia, however, has helped stave off the worst effects for the watch industry and exports rose 16.2 per cent in December, compared to a 3.8 per cent rise year-on-year in exports overall.