Watch exports reached a very high level in 2011, creating a new landmark in their remarkable growth over recent years. With exports of nearly 19.3 billion francs, Swiss watchmakers exceeded their previous annual result by 19.2%. Except for 2010, which followed a major downturn, growth in the last 20 years has never been so strong.
The trend remained very pronounced throughout the year, with each month showing two-digit rises except for June, which nonetheless posted a 9.2% increase. While the steepest increases (above 30%) were apparent in April and May, the fourth quarter was the most favourable period since it contained the three biggest months in the history of Swiss watch exports.
These excellent results were penalised however by the strength of the Swiss franc, which put strain on margins and selling prices. However the sector drew strength from steady demand and a greater presence worldwide, particularly on high-potential markets less affected by exchange rate fluctuations.
Wristwatches accounted for the major share of exports, generating 94% of their total value. This important contribution by timepieces determined the sector’s overall development. Their value rose to 18.1 billion francs, an increase of 19.3% compared to 2010. The number of timepieces exported also showed a remarkable upturn. In twelve months, 29.8 million watches left Switzerland (+13.8%). This is the highest level since 1999 and well above the average figure of 25 million units over the past ten years.
During the year 2011, the fifteen main markets showed the following trend (total value in million francs and % variation by comparison with 2010):
The main markets of the Swiss watch industry all gained ground in relation to 2010. Absorbing more than 20% of Swiss watch exports by value, Hong Kong recorded a very strong increase, indirectly illustrating the dynamism of markets supplied by its re-exports. The United States confirmed their gradual recovery by maintaining a high level of growth throughout the year. China moved up one place in the ranking, thanks to the biggest increase among the main markets. European markets all registered below-average performances. While France, Germany and the United Kingdom recorded two-digit growth, Italy and Spain failed to match this level. Singapore also moved up one place, following the same trend as Hong Kong. Japan offered concrete signs of recovery, but from a particularly low base.
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