Swatch's Hayek says watch industry is not in crisis: paper

Swatch Group CEO Nick Hayek speaks during the welcome night at the world's biggest computer and software fair CeBit in Hanover, Germany, March 14, 2016. REUTERS/Nigel Treblin

ZURICH (Reuters) - Growth in Swiss watch sales may have dipped but industry the "is and remains healthy," Swatch UHR.S Chief Executive Officer Nick Hayek said in an interview with the French language newspaper LeTemps published on Saturday.

Watchmakers have been exposed to combined effects of record low oil prices and signs of economic weakness in China that have prompted some Russian and Asian customers to put the brakes on buying.

Erosion in the industry’s global growth has set in since peaking at the end of 2012, with Swiss watch exports sliding last year following two years of modest growth.

Still, Hayek told LeTemps it would be “exaggerated but also wrong” to call the situation a crisis, pointing out that some countries continue to grow and results in local currencies have been more robust than those reported in Swiss francs.

In February, Swatch reported a worse-than-expected 21 percent drop in net profit to 1.12 billion Swiss francs ($1.17 billion), pinning the blame on the nation’s currency for the lackluster result.

“The completely overvalued Swiss franc has done terrible damage to the country,” the paper on Saturday quoted Hayek, a persistent critic of the Swiss National Bank and its efforts to temper the franc’s strength since abandoning a cap against the euro in January 2015.

Reporting by John Miller, editing by Louise Heavens