Swiss luxury watchmaker Romain Jerome has seen sales of watches costing more than 150,000 Swiss francs ($127,400) slow as the financial crisis has forced some customers to cancel their orders, the group`s head told Reuters.

Chief Executive Yves Arpa, however, still expects the company`s overall sales -- including cheaper timepieces -- to double in 2009 as it launches its latest collection of watches, which will be made from moon dust, old parts of the Apollo 11 space shuttle and spacesuits.

"In 2007, we started from scratch. In 2008, we expect to have sales of 35 million Swiss francs and this will double in 2009," Arpa said in an interview at the company`s headquarters in Geneva.

The four-year-old group sparked controversy in 2007 with its "Titanic DNA" watches, which are made from steel and coal from the ocean liner that sank on its maiden voyage in 1912, with some critics saying the watches were in bad taste.

Romain Jerome has an order backlog of 50 million francs for its Titanic watches, which can cost as much as $500,000, Arpa said.

He cautioned, however, that some customers had cancelled orders. "We are definitely seeing a slowdown in demand for watches that cost more than 150,000 francs, especially in Russia and the Ukraine," Arpa said.

As the downturn has become more severe, analysts have predicted that 2008 would be the year Swiss watchmakers would suffer their first significant slowdown in half a decade and 2009 would be even worse.

Earlier in November, Hublot said it was bracing itself for a tougher 2009 even though sales have continued to improve in 2008, while seller of Cartier watches, Richemont, has warned of uncertain times ahead.

Frederic Comotti, who is the manager of the jewellery shop in Geneva`s Hotel Kempinski, said he had seen sales of watches in the mid-price category stagnate.

"Sales of watches costing $2,000 to $6,000 have gone down. The mid-range market is dead," Comotti said. "Sales of watches costing more than $150,000 have also fallen."

Reuters via Guardian