The Swiss watch industry reported an export value of 1.5 billion Swiss francs (CHF) in August 2019, an increase of 1.5% compare to one year prior. This continues the slow upward trend of 2019; through 8 months, export growth is at 1.9%. It’s not a bad showing considering the global political and economic challenges, but is substantially down from the industry’s strong 2018 which saw growth of 6.3%.
Looking at the 12-month moving average of year-over-year export growth provides the best indication of the continued, slowed growth the industry has experienced over the past year.
Many of the trends in August’s data are part of the larger industry trend: sales buoyed by high-priced precious metal and gold-steel pieces, with a steady decline in steel watch sales. As such, while total value remains stable, the number of items exported continues to fall substantially. In August, total items exported fell by 220,000 units.
Performance continues to vary widely across markets. Most notable is the continued decline of exports to Hong Kong, as the country continues to experience protests and political unrest — issues much larger than some blog’s concern of declining Swiss watch exports.
Meanwhile, the United States was a bright spot for the industry, with exports up 14.8% year over year, making it the largest export market in August. China and Japan also showed strong growth, up 14% and 35%, respectively. However, Europe overall saw a decline of -2.7%, with the United Kingdom (-5.6%) and Germany (-4,2%) as laggards.
As precious metals and two-tone watches continue to carry Swiss exports, it’s no surprise that watches in the lower price segments continue to suffer. Watches below CHF 500 saw double-digit declines in August, even more surprising when you consider this has been a sustained trend. It’s no coincidence that the Apple Watch is priced at $500, slowly killing much of this market segment.