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Richemont's Vacheron sees watch sector slowdown -paper

ZURICH, Oct 7 (Reuters) - Richemont group luxury watchmaker Vacheron Constantin sees no signs of a softening of demand for its own brand, but expects a slowdown for the watch sector next year, a Swiss newspaper reported on Friday.

“We are lucky we have a very exclusive clientele that is not affected by the economic upheaval we are seeing now,” Vacheron Constantin Chief Executive Juan-Carlos Torres told French-language newspaper Le Temps.

“I am still very confident for Vacheron Constantin, a little less so for the watch industry,” he added.

Watch exports to Hong Kong rose by 18.4 percent in August and by 44.3 percent to China, according to statistics from the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry.

China is the growth engine for the watch industry and so far sales show no sign of slowing, but investors are becoming more nervous about slowing Chinese growth, which has weighed on the shares of luxury goods companies over the past few weeks.

Despite economic turbulence, Torres said he aimed to increase production of mechanical timepieces in the future, without specifying when, to around 27,000 to 30,000 pieces. The house expects to sell 17,000 to 18,000 watches this year.

Vacheron Constantin also plans to invest 100 million Swiss francs ($110 million) in its Swiss manufacturing and research and development over the next four to five years and double the number of employees globally between now and 2020 to about 1,300 workers.

“When I joined the house 30 years ago we were only 55 people,” Torres said. ($1 = 0.920 Swiss Francs) (Reporting by Nathalie Olof-Ors; Editing by Will Waterman)

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