After a strong first quarter of 2019, Swiss watch exports slowed in April, down 0.4% compared to April 2018. It’s a dose of reality for the industry, after exports grew a total of 2.9% throughout the first quarter. April’s low sales bring growth through 2019’s first four months down to 2.1%.
The total value of exports in April was still higher than that in March, but growth was down because of a strong comparison base to April 2018.
The trend toward precious metals and two-tone (gold-steel) timepieces continued, with the categories up 4% and 5.2%, respectively. The steady decline of steel continued, with both total units and value decreasing. Perhaps the darkest statistic for the month is that unit sales across categories were down 17%. While the continued popularity of high-value precious metal watches meant this did not impact total value of exports, it’s a stark remind that less watches are being sold.
Interestingly, results varied across geographic regions. Hong Kong was down nearly 4%, in part due to strong base effects. But the United States and Japan continued to see strong growth, despite similarly strong base effects. Japan’s growth was so strong that it overtook China as the third-largest export market, as exciting for the growing Japanese market as it is worrisome for a slowing Chinese market. Europe as a whole was down 4%.
All segments below 3,000 CHF (export price) saw steep declines. While this has been the trend, the drop was significantly pronounced in April. The reduction in the number of timepieces priced below 200 CHF was -23.6%. Watches priced over 3,000 francs remained positive, helping to stabilize the trend in export turnover.