Swiss watch fair opens with warnings of tough times ahead

BASEL, Switzerland, April 2, 2008 (AFP) - International watchmakers opened their annual showcase fair here on Wednesday with a warning that the industry could be undermined "at any time" by turmoil on financial markets.


Garde-Temps de Jaeger-LeCoultre

"In view of the events that have shaken the economic world over the past few months, it is essential that we remain objective and pragmatic," said Jacques Duchene, president of the Baselworld 2008 exhibition.

"These events have the power to affect each one of us and our industry too could be undermined at any time," he warned.

Duchene called for vigilance and level heads as the watch and jewellery sector grapples with the fallout of the subprime crisis, which has resulted in banks and other financial institutions writing off assets worth billions of dollars.

"It (subprime) has already had implications for our business, and can be expected to bring further complications in its wake," Duchene said.

"The current situation could become difficult for both our suppliers and our customers," he added.

However, Duchene said that the picture was not entirely gloomy, highlighting growing demand from developing economies.

"The export figures for the first couple of months of this year are encouraging and the underlying conditions remain satisfactory," he said.

"Although we can expect difficulties in the US market, the new markets have been developing well. This gives us reason to be optimistic for 2008."

The Baselworld fair celebrates its tenth anniversary this year with more than 2,000 exhibitors displaying their wares, with over 100,000 people expected to attend.

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