After a slight improvement in December, Swiss watch exports fell by 11% year-on-year.
While Swiss watch exports recovered slightly in December (-2.5%), the first figures for the month of January show an 11% fall for a period of one year to 1.593 billion Swiss francs. In November and October, the declines were 3.2% and 7.1% respectively.
On the value side, “steel watches recorded a sharp fall (-14% to 585 million Swiss francs) and weighed on the total level“, wrote the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry yesterday. Export turnover for precious metal watches fell by half as much, by 6.6% to 511.6 million.
In terms of volume, a loss of more than 500,000 pieces was recorded for the main materials such as steel, precious metals, other metals, and other materials. Shipments fell by 33.2% to 1.04 million watches in January.
The Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry also announced that exports of timepieces worth less than 3,000 Swiss francs at export price suffered a significant contraction in January, although it did not give figures. Watch exports of over 3,000 Swiss francs showed a decline of 4.1%.
Exports to China, which was last year’s leading export market, rose in January to 58.2%, to 255 million Swiss francs, or more than half. Over the same period in 2019, these exports rose to 69.1%. By December, deliveries had already soared by 45.2% year-on-year, while the value of deliveries had doubled in the space of two years.
China stood out as one of the only countries showing an improvement in watch exports. Some increases were recorded in other less significant markets, such as Australia (+11.6% to 22.4 million Swiss francs), Canada (+9.8% to 16.9 million), Kuwait (+64.5% to 11.2 million), and Bahrain (+11.3% to 10.1 million).
Other regions in Asia such as Hong Kong showed a decline (-8.5% to 169.3 million), although the basis of comparison was already very weak in January 2020. The same was true in Japan, where the strict measures put in place to contain the pandemic led to a 20.9% drop in exports to 106.2 million. On the Singapore side, the figures are stabilizing and the drop is thus limited to 1.6% to 105.9 million.
On the other side of the Pacific, in the United States, the second most flourishing market for Swiss watches, exports fell by 11% to 183.3 million Swiss francs. The Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry explains the downturn by a “very unfavorable” base effect. Last year, exports to the United States jumped by 15.2%, posting the strongest growth of the year.
Europe, extremely weakened by the health crisis, recorded a drop of 26.9%. In Germany, the fall reached 13.8% to 76.6 million. France experienced a significant drop to 22.4% (63 million) and Italy to 24.2% (48.4 million). Exports to the United Kingdom, Europe‘s largest market, fell by 20.2% to 80 million Swiss francs.
The Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry believes that the effects on the export recovery observed since last summer are limited. At around 9:45 a.m. on the Swiss stock exchange, the stock of luxury giant Richemont, owner of the Cartier, Piaget, and Vacheron Constantin brands, rose by 0.34%. Swatch Group gained 0.42% while the SMI index fell very slightly by 0.07%.
In the 2020 balance sheet, the Covid-19 pandemic severely paralyzed the Swiss watchmaking industry, despite demand in China. The sector thus saw its exports fall by 21.8% to 16.98 billion Swiss francs, a drop unmatched since the subprime financial crisis in 2008.
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