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.
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.
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.
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.
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.