Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Swiss Watch Exports Drop as Slowing Economies Curb Demand

  • Hong Kong, U.S. and China drag down global watch shipments
  • Main European markets recover while sales to Japan jump

Swiss watch exports slid for the seventh consecutive month as plummeting stocks and slowing economies damped demand for luxury timepieces in their main markets.

The two biggest destinations for Swiss watch exports -- Hong Kong and the U.S. -- were almost exclusively responsible for the global downturn, the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry said in a statement Thursday.

Shipments dropped 8 percent to 1.52 billion francs ($1.53 billion) in January, according to data from Switzerland’s customs office. That compares with a 3.7 percent gain in the same month in 2015.

Watchmakers such as Rolex and Cartier have been hit by a double whammy of higher production costs due to the strong franc and waning demand in China. Exports dropped 3.3 percent in 2015, the first annual decline since 2009.

All price segments posted significant declines, led by timepieces costing 200 francs to 500 francs, which slumped 12 percent in value terms.

Exports to Hong Kong slid for the twelfth consecutive month in January, falling 33 percent, the steepest drop since October. Swiss watch sales to China resumed their decline after two months of gains, slipping 1.9 percent. Watches headed to the U.S. fell 14 percent.

Shipments to France -- where tourist numbers have dwindled after the November terror attacks -- rebounded in January, rising 4.7 percent. Exports to Japan, which is benefiting from Chinese tourists choosing to holiday in Asia, reported their biggest rise in more than a year, gaining 36 percent.

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