September 13, 2015 / 1:01 PM / 3 years ago

Swatch CEO plays down China turbulence: newspaper

Swatch Group CEO Nick Hayek wears the new 'Swatch Touch Zero One' during the Swiss watchmaker's annual news conference in Corgemont March 12, 2015. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

ZURICH (Reuters) - Swiss watchmaker Swatch UHR.VX is not worried by economic and market turbulence in China, Chief Executive Nick Hayek told a Sunday newspaper, noting its sales to Chinese customers will rise when stripping out exchange rate swings.

“This year as well we will sell the Chinese in China and outside of China more than last year in local currencies,” he said in an interview with Schweiz am Sonntag.

The Swatch brand alone is generating 15 percent growth in mainland China and other brands single-digit growth when measured in local currencies and units, he said.

Despite the strong Swiss franc, watch sales in the Swiss cities of Lucerne and Interlaken, popular with tourists, were in some cases up by half or more in July and August.

“We never had such good numbers, and that of course has to do with the Chinese who are on holiday here,” he said.

Hayek said Swatch had decided to go ahead with a new battery that was at least 10 to 20 percent better than anything on the market. Production is to begin next year.

Hayek also dismissed suggestions that Apple’s (AAPL.O) Smartwatch posed a threat, saying instead it had fueled renewed interest in watches.

Swatch’s sales of mechanical watches in the United States had risen by a factor or four to five in recent months, he said. {ID:nL5N10X06W]

Reporting by Michael Shields; editing by Jason Neely

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