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Swiss watch exports in 2012: value up, volume down

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February 2013


The latest figures published by the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry confirm that the Swiss watch industry recorded another vintage year in 2012 following its excellent showing in 2011. The value of watch exports rose to 21.4 billion Swiss francs last year, an increase of 2.1 billion Swiss francs, or +10.9 per cent.

Although growth was slower in 2012, notably due to downturns in the months of September (-1.4 per cent) and December (-5.6 per cent), the industry nevertheless managed to close the full year on a positive note.

Despite the unfavourable economic climate the Swiss watch industry clearly managed to hold its own, with strong foundations for continued growth in the coming year, thanks to continued development of production capacity and the potential still to open up new markets.

Products

Watch industry exports were comprised mainly of wristwatches. The latter recorded a value of 20.2 billion Swiss francs, an increase of 11.5 per cent compared with 2011, although the number of watches exported actually fell to 29.1 million units (-2.2 per cent). The increase in the average price to 693 Swiss francs confirms the continued success of high-end luxury timepieces, as is also exemplified by the 20.5 per cent increase in value for gold watches and an 18 per cent increase in export value for watches costing more than 3,000 Swiss francs at export.

In the entry-level category (watches costing less than 200 Swiss francs at export), the export value remained stable while the number of timepieces exported dropped by 5.9 per cent. Products in the 500-3,000 Swiss franc price category recorded a modest increase in value of 0.3 per cent.

Markets

During the year 2012, the fifteen main markets showed the following trend (total value in million francs and per cent variation by comparison with 2011):

  1. Hong Kong 4,370.7 +6.8%
  2. USA 2,186.9 +10.1%
  3. China 1,647.6 +0.6%
  4. France 1,317.2 +1.3%
  5. Germany 1,198.6 +33.1%
  6. Italy 1,173.9 +16.0%
  7. Singapore 1,124.7 -1.9%
  8. Japan 1,092.4 +19.7%
  9. United Arab Emirates 855.2 +25.2%
  10. United Kingdom 806.7 +22.4%
  11. South Korea 482.2 +21.7%
  12. Taiwan 435.8 +18.4%
  13. Spain 418.0 +17.4%
  14. Saudi Arabia 330.5 +15.4%
  15. Russia 277.4 +9.0%

The main markets for Swiss watch exports showed a positive trend in 2012, with the exception of Singapore, which showed a modest 1.9 per cent decline. The leading market, Hong Kong, saw growth fall from more than 30% to 6.8% over the past twelve months, but finished with a particularly high value. China, in third place, recorded an even more spectacular slowdown, dropping from an increase of 50 per cent to virtually zero growth at the end of 2012. These changes reflected a cooling of consumer demand in China, due in particular to political factors. The Chinese however remained important clients for the Swiss watch industry, particularly tourists on their travels abroad. In second place, the United States also lost ground, albeit in a much less marked fashion, ending the year with an increase close to the global average (+10.1 per cent). Europe bounced back strongly from the spring, even though not all markets contributed to the same degree. After a major slowdown, France recorded virtually zero growth from the spring and ended the year with a variation of +1.3 per cent. Germany’s performance was in stark contrast however and improved steadily, ending the year with an increase of +33.1 per cent. Italy also picked up the pace, albeit later and to a more modest extent, to end the year with an upturn of +16.0 per cent. Other markets in Europe and the Middle East all recorded strong increases in value terms compared to 2011.

Note: All the figures released by the FH refer to export data and not to sales to end-consumers. Differences between these two types of data may therefore exist. These data must be regarded as consolidated figures gathering export results from all Swiss watch companies. They obviously cannot reflect the individual results of one particular company or group of companies, knowing that business activity may greatly vary from one to the other.