It could have been worse. Last year, Swiss watch companies eliminated “only” 4,200 jobs, compared with the more than 5,000 that some officials had predicted. Employment is now 49,097, a decline of 7.9% from 2008, and nearly the same as in 2007. Manufacturing jobs were hardest hit, declining 9.8%, to 36,275.
These figures come from the Convention Patronale de l’Industrie Horlogère Suisse (CP), an organization that represents Swiss-watch-industry employers. Twenty Swiss-watch companies went out of business last year, meaning a decline of 3.2% in the total number.
Because 2008 was a record year for employment, it could be argued that a drop of 8% from that level wasn’t really that bad: despite the decline, employment last year was at its second-highest level in 30 years. Over the past five years, the industry has had a net gain in jobs of nearly 23%.
The number of Swiss-watch-industry apprentices actually increased last year, by 36, a 3.7% gain over 2008, the CP said.
More good news, kind of, came from the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry. Exports of Swiss watches to the world’s top 30 watch markets grew 19.7% in the first six months of this year over the same, admittedly dismal, period in 2009, when they fell 26.4%. For the month of June alone, they were up 35%.
The value of Swiss watch exports for the six months was 7.30 billion Swiss francs ($6.95 billion). Despite the gain, Swiss watch exports were still 11.9% lower than in 2008. Hong Kong remained the top market for Swiss watches (it’s the entry port for watches destined for much of Southeast Asia), and had a gain of 37.9%. Exports to the United States, the second-biggest market, grew 12.5% (30.6% for June alone) to SF757.7 million, or $721.6 million (this is a whopping 36.2% lower than the figure for the first six months of 2008). Mainland China lived up to its reputation as a red-hot luxury-goods market, posting an increase of 90.6%. It was the fourth-largest customer for Swiss watches, right behind France, buying SF482.7 million ($459.7 million) worth of them during the six months. Among the top 30 markets, only the Czech Republic, number 29, showed a bigger increase: 302.7%. Among the top 10 markets, Japan (#7) and Germany (#8) were the only ones to show decreases, of 8.6% and 5.3%, respectively.
Source: Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry (.pdf format)