Swiss Watch Exports Are Booming, Thanks to Asia

  • China, Hong Kong and Japan record double-digit gains
  • Low-end timepieces continued their export slump in January
Audemars Piguet CEO Francois-Henry Bennahmias discusses what’s behind the booming sales in Swiss watches.

Swiss watch exports kicked off 2018 with the strongest growth in more than five years, buoyed by strong demand for high-end timepieces in Asia and a later Chinese New Year.

Shipments rose 13 percent to 1.6 billion francs ($1.7 billion) in January, the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry said Tuesday. That’s the biggest jump since October 2012 and the ninth consecutive month of gains.

The January numbers follow the first annual gain since 2014. Exports were lifted by orders for Lunar New Year, which occurred a month later this year than in 2017. A rekindled appetite for luxury timepieces in China and Hong have led a rebound from the longest slump on record, which was caused by a Chinese crackdown on corruption, terrorist attacks in Europe and the rise of the smartwatch.

Time for Rebound

Chinese appetite for luxury timepieces has led a rebound in Swiss watch exports

Source: Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry

“While we note that the data in January benefited from a range of favorable factors, the sudden strong acceleration in growth, if continued, could confirm the beginning of a long-awaited restocking cycle among multibrand watch retailers,” Zuzanna Pusz, an analyst at Berenberg, wrote in a note.

Low-end watches continued their slump in January. Timepieces costing less than 200 francs declined 3.5 percent by value -- the only price category to record a drop. Swatch Group AG, however, saw a high-single-digit percentage gain in exports of that price segment in January, both by value and units, according to a spokesman.

Other highlights include:

  • Shipments to China and Hong Kong jumped 44 percent and 21 percent, respectively.
  • Exports to Japan climbed 13 percent
  • Price range of 500 francs to 3,000 francs led growth, with 21 percent increase by value
  • Shipments to U.S. slipped 1.9 percent for sixth consecutive month of decline
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