SWATCH Group AG, the world's largest Swiss watch maker, clocked up double-digit growth in its first-half profits as China's appetite for luxury timepieces showed no sign of waning amid an economic slowdown.

The Biel, Switzerland-based company reported yesterday that its net income soared by 25 percent to 720 million Swiss francs (US$727 million) in the January-June period while operating profit surged 19 percent to 903 million francs.

Gross revenue in the first half increased 14.6 percent to 3.85 billion francs from a year earlier and the sales contribution from China was bigger than last year, the company said.

The Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry said exports of Swiss-made watches to Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland jumped 23 percent to 3 billion francs in the first half.

Such strong demand came amid worrying signs that China's economy is in a serious downturn. The country's gross domestic product growth decelerated for a sixth straight quarter to 7.6 percent in the April-June period this year.

Swatch remained optimistic in its press release, saying there are "more opportunities than risks for the future, despite some negative trends such as the exchange rate."

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