Swiss watch exports had their strongest month of 2019 in March, growing at 4.4% with a value of 1.7 billion Swiss francs (CHF) for the month. Total exports for the first quarter of 2019 totaled CHF 5.1 billion, a 2.9% increase over the first quarter of 2018.
The total value of exports was significantly boosted by a steep rise in precious metal and bimetal watch exports. Meanwhile, steel production was up just 1%. In volume terms, this meant a particularly weak March, with total volumes down 18.8%. In the space of the last three months, export volume has fallen by nearly 800,000 pieces.
Growth in the main markets varied considerably from country to country. Exports to Hong Kong were 2.5% higher and those to the United States 5.9% up on March 2018. China (+17.3%) saw a substantial rise, as did Japan (+21.8%), which proved particularly dynamic during the first quarter. Once again, the United Kingdom (+76.4%) was up big. We’re going to go ahead and blame that on them stockpiling in the run-up to Brexit (is that still happening?). Other European markets continued to lose ground.
As has been typical, watches on the low end of the price spectrum saw a decline, with those priced less than CHF 200 down 24.9% in value exported. Meanwhile, pieces above CHF 3,000 had a particularly strong month, with total export value up 13.2%. These numbers help explain why total export value was up while total number of timepieces exported was down (apparently people love their expensive precious metal or bimetal pieces right now).