Swiss Watch Exports Rise ... Because People Bought Alarm Clocks

Exports in the Swiss watchmaking rose 11.4% in May to just over 2 billion Swiss francs (CHF). Much of the increase was driven by the “other products” category, which is so often ignored — it was up 62% year-over-year — apparently people bought a lot of alarm clocks and small clocks last month. Growth in wristwatches was up 8.6% in terms of Swiss francs, but down 9% in terms of units sold. This continues the trend to selling fewer, higher-priced precious metal and two-tone watches.

The numbers are a positive rebound for the industry after it saw exports drop 0.4% in April; this was after exports grew a steady 2.9% in the first quarter of 2019.

While exports of all materials were up in May, precious metals and bimetals (gold-steel) had particularly strong months, up 10.3% and 13.4%, respectively. While units of steel wristwatches exported continued to decrease, the overall value of exports was up 5% year-over-year, a positive sign for the largest chunk of the industry’s sales.

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Exports to China boomed in May, showing 81% year-over-year growth, bumping China to the second-largest export market. According to the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry, much of this growth was due to an exceptionally large purchasing of alarm clocks and small clocks (so we know where all those alarm clocks went, but why?). But, the market would have seen significant growth even without this bump. Hong Kong saw a 7% decline, continuing its trend of slow or decreased growth throughout 2019. Meanwhile, other Asian markets followed China’s strong growth, with Japan growing nearly 40% and Singapore almost 25%.Outside the five largest markets, the United Arab Emirates experienced 44.6% growth.

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As is typical, the performance in price sectors remains bifurcated, with watches above CHF 3,000 recording double-digit growth, while watches under CHF 200 recorded double-digit losses.

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