Asia Has Lost Its Taste for Swiss Bling

  • Shipments fell 14 percent, declining for 13th straight month
  • Hong Kong slips behind U.S., becoming second-biggest market

Swiss watch exports declined for a 13th consecutive month in July as Hong Kong, traditionally the biggest market for luxury timepieces, slipped to second place for the first time in almost a decade.

Shipments fell 14 percent to 1.6 billion francs ($1.7 billion), the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry said in a statement Tuesday. Exports to Hong Kong fell 33 percent to 175 million francs.

Slumping demand in Asia has led some watchmakers to refocus on expansion in the U.S., which overtook Hong Kong as the biggest market. Richemont’s Roger Dubuis brand, whose timepieces cost about $60,000 on average, added its first store in New York in November and has been scouting out other locations.

In the first full month after the U.K.’s vote to leave the European Union, shipments to Britain rose 13 percent as the slump in the pound led tourists to snap up cheaper timepieces. Swatch Group AG Chief Executive Officer Nick Hayek said in July the cheaper pound led to a “boom” for the company’s shops.

Italy joined the U.K. as the only two markets in the top 10 to show growth. Shipments to that country rose 9.9 percent, putting it in third place and ahead of Japan.

Swatch and Richemont shares fell as much as 1.9 percent and 1.1 percent, respectively, in early Zurich trading.

Hong Kong has been Switzerland’s top market for watches since 2008.

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