LVMH watches chief expects tougher 2016 for the Swiss watch industry

LVMH Group watches division chief Jean-Claude Biver said 2016 is set to be a tougher year for the Swiss watch industry because of the economic slowdown in China.

While revenue at LVMH brands such as Hublot should continue growing at a double-digit rate in 2015, “the problem might be next year,” Biver said in an interview Tuesday with Bloomberg. “Not only for us, but also for the whole industry.”

The introduction of Apple Inc.’s smartwatch, combined with a surge in the Swiss franc and China’s slowing economy, have clouded the outlook for Swiss timepieces. Exports fell in August, heading for the first annual decline in six years, and Swiss watchmaker executives are the most pessimistic in four years, according to a study published this month by Deloitte LLP.

“Hong Kong is suffering,” said Biver. “We see the consumer from China is traveling all over the world, in every country,” he said, citing demand in places as far flung as Finland. “They’re buying outside China.”

Hublot store Osaka, Japan