Swiss watch exports totaled 1.8 billion Swiss francs (CHF) in September 2019, a 10.8 percent increase over the year prior. through three quarters of 2019. the value of exports totals CHF 15.9 billion, an increase of 2.8% compared with last year.
As has been the case, precious metal and gold-steel bimetal watches continued to drive much of the growth. Meanwhile, the volume of steel watches exported was down, though slightly less so than in recent months. So, even with all the hype surrounding certain stainless steel models and another brand introducing its own stainless steel offering seemingly every week, these watches are not primary drivers of the industry as a whole. While it might be wise from a strategic point of view to have a stainless steel sports watch in your lineup, these aren’t the big ticket items driving exports as a whole.
The reality is, the force of the internet (especially Instagram, in this case), drives interest in a few brands and even fewer models. This is true more broadly than watches, too. Once a company is off and running the fly wheel can’t be stopped. Amazon, Facebook, and Google were the large, multi-billion dollar gorillas to build generation-defining businesses off this users-data-more users fly wheel, and now they feed this phenomenon in every other inudustry. It happens in music, fashion, and any other number of industries too. Through algorithms, we’re all taught to like the same stuff, bidding up the price for those things to absurd amounts, then wondering how it go to be this way.
So while companies might think they “need” a stainless steel sports watch in their collection to get customer interested in their brand, that almost entirely misses the point. It could’ve been an Australian shepherd, a staircase to nowhere, or matcha tea instead. The item is almost inconsequential to the trend; we’re being trained to to like the same things as everyone else, all in the name of curating the grid.
Meanwhile, watches priced under CHF $3,000 continue decline in both volume and value growth. That said, many of the new steel sports watches are priced above $3,000 and might be benefitting from larger trends. By the way, wouldn’t it be great to see these numbers super-imposed with Apple Watch sales? With the Apple Watch 5 being released last month, I would imagine sales of wristwear as a whole in this price category were through the roof, though the Swiss industry saw none of that.
The U.S. market continued to perform strongly, with an increase of 14.7% in September, good enough for 11.8% share of the total Swiss export market. China (26%), Japan (31.6%), and Singapore (20.5%) all saw huge double-digit growth during the month. Meanwhile, even in in Europe growth was strong, with Germany (14.4%), France (15.6%), and Italy (7.2%) all seeing solid growth during September.
All in all, it was a solid month for the Swiss industry as it heads into the fourth quarter and the holiday season looking to finish the year strong.