2010 saw a strong recovery in Swiss watch exports following the significant downturn recorded in 2009. The sector exported the equivalent of 16.2 billion francs or 2.9 billion more than the previous year. This 22.1% increase makes 2010 the second best year ever, even higher than 2007, which was considered to be excellent at the time.
The recovery kicked in starting in January and never eased up. Every month showed an upward trend, often in excess of 20% and even reaching 30% in March and June. Growth accelerated each quarter, with second half exports increasing by 24.3% compared with 19.6% in the first half of the year.
Wristwatches accounted for nearly 94% of the value of exports by Swiss watch manufacturers in 2010, recording an increase of 22.7% to 15.1 billion francs. The corresponding number of timepieces also increased sharply, rising to 26.1 million units. This is the highest level achieved since 2002, reflecting growth of 20.4%.
Steel, the material of choice for more than one in two timepieces, set the pace, both in value and volume terms. Gold watches were also close to the yearly average. Bimetallic timepieces recorded particularly strong growth (+50.7% by value). In volume terms, the category of other materials strongly influenced the overall result with an increase of 30.6%.
Growth was apparent in all price segments. Watches costing less than 200 francs (export price) were largely responsible for the rise in the total number of timepieces, with an increase of 18.5%. Representing around 10% of the total, the 200-500 francs category registered the sharpest increase, in excess of 30%. Timepieces between 500 and 3,000 francs were situated slightly below the average, while watches costing more than 3,000 francs recorded an increase of 24.2% by value and 29.8% by volume.
The decline of ’09 has not been fully erased: 2008 still stands as the best year ever. Yet it is remarkable that the market has bounced back so far so fast. Though even as the tide comes in, all ships are not rising equally. During 2010, the fifteen main markets showed the following trends (total value in million francs and % variation by comparison with 2009):
Asia absorbed more than half the total value of exports in 2010 and recorded growth well above that of other regions. Asia was up 34.6%, easily outstripping the U.S. (+14.5%) and Europe (+10.4%).
Hong Kong, a leading re-export center, consolidated its position as the number one direct market for Swiss watch exports by achieving one of the highest increases of the year. The U.S. recovery is modest by comparison, and started from a lower level. In terms of percentage increase, the U.S. placed 10th among the 15 largest markets. France is the standout among European markets, thanks to purchases by tourists. Other destinations on the Old Continent showed more modest increases and even a decline in the case of Germany. In fourth position, China proved particularly dynamic and moved up three places in the ranking compared to 2009. After around three years on a downward spiral, Japan recovered remarkably well and ended the year on a positive note. The other main Asian markets all recorded growth above the world average.