First-Half Swiss Watch Sales Plummet

first-half '09 graphic

The half-year figures for Swiss watch exports are in, and they’re not pretty. The value of watches that Switzerland exported to the rest of the world between January and June declined 26.4 percent from the same period last year. They weighed in at 6.1 billion Swiss francs ($5.7 billion). Of Switzerland’s top 15 export markets, all but one showed a decline for the period. The winner was South Korea, the 12th-biggest export market, which grew a rather amazing 44.1 percent.

Bad as total Swiss exports were, those to the United States, Switzerland’s second-largest watch customer, were much worse. They were down 43.3 percent for the period, to SF673.3 million ($629 million). You’d have to run down the list of watch-export markets all the way to number 20, Russia, to find one that has lost as much steam. Exports to Russia declined 61% for the six months, to SF56.5 million ($53 million).

For June alone, exports to the United States were worse yet, down 49.2 percent, to SF109.1 million ($102 million). Last month’s deteriorating sales to this country mirrored those to the rest of the world. As the FH said in a press release, “The value of Swiss watch exports [to the world] recorded a significantly greater fall in June than in previous months.”

The United States’ first-half decline put it way behind Hong Kong, which last year unseated the United States as Switzerland’s top Swiss-watch market (it bought SF2.7 billion of Swiss watches in 2008, versus this country’s SF2.4 billion). Hong Kong’s purchases were down 22.2 percent for the half and 35.9 percent for June. Hong Kong is such a large market because it is a distribution depot for much of Southeast Asia.

There was one bright spot in the statistics. Watches with export prices between SF300 ($280) and SF500 ($467) increased by a few percentage points. But those with export prices above SF500 fell more than 30 percent, and those priced below SF200 ($187) fell by 15.8 percent.


Rank Market SF Millions % change vs. Jan.-June ‘08
1 Hong Kong 1,022 -22.2
2 United states 673 -43.3
3 France 472 -10.0
4 Italy 456 -8.4
5 Japan 395 -29.6
6 Germany 376 -13.0
7 Singapore 267 -30.3
8 China 253 -36.4
9 United Kingdom 253 -13.7
10 United Arab Emirates 224 -34.0

Source (.pdf format): Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry

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