Swiss Exports Fall Big in June; Stable for First Half of 2019

Market variation, Jan-June 2019 compared to Jan-June 2018

Market variation, Jan-June 2019 compared to Jan-June 2018

Swiss watch exports dropped 10.7% in June 2019 compared to the year previous, totaling 1.7 billion Swiss francs (CHF) for the month. Units sold was down 17%. The first half of 2019 ends with an increase of 1.4% over the previous year, with total exports at over CHF 10 billion. It’s a slow down from the first quarter, when exports were up 2.9%.

In short, the story of June was a few less purchases of high-value precious metal (or two-tone) watches that allow the industry to report top line growth while in reality much of the market outside of the high end is struggling.

Steel watches had a significant impact on the overall result, with some particularly sharp falls in both value (-15.0%) and number of items (-24%). Meanwhile, previous metals also saw a marked decline (-6%), as did gold-steel watches (-6%), two categories that had been carrying the lagging steel and other metals and materials categories for much of the year.

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The United States, with continued strong growth at 7%, claimed the largest market share this month. Hong Kong’s performance slowed significantly (-27%), with recent political events and turmoil no doubt playing a large part. Other major Asian markets managed to report steady gains: Japan (+3%), China (+2%), and Singapore (+2%), while the United Kingdom (+13%) led the European market with comfortable gains. Meanwhile, France (-24%), Germany (-3%), and Italy (-17%) all struggled.

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All price segments recorded a sharp decrease in June, although watches priced at over CHF 3,000 (export price) were somewhat less affected than others, with a fall in value of 5.6%.

While the greater than CHF 3,000 category is typically the healthiest price segment, it usually sees positive growth, while the other categories have remained consistently negative.

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Over the first six months of 2019, five of the top ten markets have experienced growth, with Hong Kong at the top now down because of a slow and turbulent June. But, compared to 2017, nine of the 10 markets show positive growth.

Exports by market over the Jan-June 2019

Exports by market over the Jan-June 2019

The graph at the top of this post shows that America has had the strongest growth over the first half of 2019 (4.4%), with Asia the only other positive market (2.2%) growth. It’s good for the Swiss watch industry that two of the largest markets continue to grow, with Europe (down 0.6%) being a continued laggard.

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