Benefiting from a favorable trend since the beginning of 2023, exports of Swiss timepieces continued their momentum in March despite a disturbed international geopolitical context. While shipments to the United States are growing rapidly, this is nothing compared to Asia.
Swiss watchmaking exports had already broken an all-time record in 2022, exceeding 2.4 billion euros. The beginning of 2023 is also off to a very good start, thanks to the awakening of the Chinese market.
After a 12.2% increase in February, exports jumped 13.8% in March to 2.4 billion euros, according to a statement from the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry (FH).
Swiss watch exports rose by 11.8% in the first three months of the year, with nearly 300,000 additional watches exported compared to the same period in 2022, for a total of over 1.5 million units.
All price segments
The watchmaking federation states, “Although uneven, the increasing concerns all price segments, both in value and volume.”
Watches with an export price of less than 200 Swiss francs (203.6 euros) saw their sales increase by more than a third, mainly thanks to alternative materials (excluding precious metals, steel, and bi-metallic).
For the price segment between 200 and 500 Swiss francs (203.67 and 509.16 euros), the exported value increased by 2.7%, which remains however a historically low level. On the other hand, the higher price ranges showed stronger growth, ranging from +12.8% for timepieces costing more than 3,000 Swiss francs (3,055 euros) to +19.7% for those between 500 and 3,000 Swiss francs (509 euros and 3,055 euros).
Hong Kong and China in celebration
With the lifting of health restrictions in China, Hong Kong – the second largest market for Swiss watchmakers – “clearly benefited from the reopening of the market, recording a strong acceleration in the first quarter.” This market rebounded by 61.9% in March to 265.2 million Swiss francs (270 million euros).
The third largest market, mainland China, saw a recovery in sales at a sustained rate thanks to the lifting by Beijing of the zero covid policy that had paralyzed major cities such as Shanghai. The gradual reopening of borders explains the 14% increase in Swiss watch exports in March to 259.2 million Swiss francs (264 million euros).
Elsewhere in Asia, Singapore (+19% to 156.7 million Swiss francs (159.5 million euros) maintained a steady pace, while Japan (+1.5% to 155.6 million Swiss francs (158.4 million euros) again underperformed.
In Europe, the fourth largest market for Swiss watch exports (+12%), Germany (+11.4%) and France (+14.6%) posted the strongest increases. The United Kingdom (+7.5%) and Italy (+5.5%) were disappointing.
The United States remains the leading market for Swiss watch exports. However, despite the growth of 7.8%, uninterrupted for 27 months, this progression continues to “lose strength on a high basis.”
This strong demand for Swiss timepieces – driven by a dynamic R&D policy and a scarcity effect generated by just-in-time production – is forcing major players like Rolex to beef up their production. Before moving to Bulle, the Swiss watch brand plans to open two temporary production workshops.
Featured photo : © Presse