PARIS — Exports of Swiss watches posted double-digit growth in December, suggesting high-end timepieces may sidestep turbulence in the economy thanks to robust business in Hong Kong, Russia and the Middle East.
Capping a "particularly good" year for Swiss firms, the value of Swiss watch exports grew 13.8 percent in December, the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry said Tuesday.
Overall, watch exports bounded 16.2 percent over the full year to 15.96 billion Swiss francs, or $13.31 billion at average exchange rates, underscoring a "record year of growth unrivaled over the last 18 years," the federation said.
Despite signs of difficulty in the global economy, most watch executives remain bullish for the coming year. Fawaz Gruosi, the owner of de Grisogono, said in an interview last week that meeting demand remained his greatest challenge.
Earlier this month in Geneva, Gruosi introduced two new luxury wristwatches, one limited to 177 pieces. Gruosi said 100 of the pieces were already preordered.
Meanwhile, Georges-Henri Meylan, who runs Audemars Piguet, said he, too, had difficulty filling orders.
"I don't see why we should have any problem this year," he said at the introduction a week ago of a watch Audemars designed with Chanel that is expected to retail for 19,000 euros, or $27,740 at current exchange.
Growth remains particularly robust at the top end. The Swiss federation said exports of 18-karat gold pieces grew 24.9 percent in 2007, as exports of steel watches gained 14.7 percent.
Timepieces retailing for 3,000 Swiss francs, or $2,500, and over at export price grew 25.3 percent in 2007. That is on top of growth of 16.7 percent in 2006.
Despite the impressive numbers, two key markets for Swiss firms — the United States and Japan — posted less staggering numbers than the fastest growing markets.
Swiss watch exports to the U.S. gained 6.7 percent last year to 2.44 billion Swiss francs, or $2.03 billion, while exports to Japan declined 4.7 percent to 1.21 billion Swiss francs, or $1 billion.
Hong Kong, in comparison, rocketed 25 percent to 2.43 billion Swiss francs, or $2.03 billion. Most countries across Europe, except Germany, logged strong double-digit gains. And sales to Russia grew 57.4 percent to 322.1 million Swiss francs, or $268.7 million. Sales to China grew 43 percent to 577.6 million francs, or $481.8 million.In separate news Tuesday, Swatch Group, which operates brands Omega, Breguet and Swatch, said it had signed a letter of intent to buy a building in Biel, Switzerland, at which to establish Tiffany & Co.
Swatch Group and Tiffany in December sealed a 20-year strategic alliance for Swatch to manufacture and design Tiffany timepieces. Swatch said the building where Tiffany will be located would cost 2.7 million Swiss francs, or $2.4 million.
“Azzedine has been one of the biggest influences in my life. He has always been such a strong, loving, fatherly figure to me. I call him Papa. His designs are indescribably unique, they are pieces of art. He knew how to make the female form look its loveliest. I have so many memories of him; my favorite might be during my first show with him in Paris. He liked me and he wanted to help me get more work. He called all his friends at Kenzo and Comme des Garcons, and asked them to book me. They said, ‘But she can’t walk!’ And he said, ‘but she has such a great ass!' His friendship and support has been the great privilege of my career. I can't imagine life without him. Repose en paix mon Papa.” - @stephanieseymour tells @wwd. #wwdfashion (📷: @steveeichner) #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa, flanked by two of his closest friends, models Stephanie Seymour and Naomi Campbell.
He designed Seymour’s dress for her 1995 wedding to Peter Brant, and treated Campbell (who famously called him Papa), like a daughter. For more on the legendary designer, tap the link in bio. #wwdfashion #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa's “I-did-it-my-way” ethos stood out starkly at a time when brands are experimenting with consumer-facing fashion shows, coed formats and trans-seasonal collections – anything to perk up lackluster sales of ready-to-wear in an age of Insta-everything. “It’s not creation anymore. This becomes a purely industrial approach,” the late designer told WWD in an interview last year. “But anyway, the rhythm of collections is so stupid. It’s unsustainable. There are too many collections.” Read more about the iconic designer’s life and work on wwd.com, link in bio. #wwdfashion #azzedinealaia (📷: @WWD Archive, 1986) #alaia
Sneaker reselling app @goat’s latest exhibit, "The Greatest: New York," tells the story of New York's sneaker culture. To celebrate the exhibit, an intimate crowd gathered on Thursday night at the pop-up gallery space, located at Platform in Culver City, to hear guest speaker and illustrator @esymai talk about her own rise in streetwear and women in the business. "For me I'm just someone who is creative. I like to create things," said Chang. #wwdfashion
Azzedine Alaïa, one of the most iconic couturiers of the modern era whose body-con designs defined Eighties fashion, has died in Paris. The diminutive Tunisian-born designer, known for his structured knitted dresses with fitted waists and impeccably cut, figure-hugging second skin silhouettes was deeply admired by his peers, and counted supermodel Naomi Campbell - his adoptive daughter - among his inner circle, one of a gang of glamazons including Farida Khelfa, Carla Bruni and Stephanie Seymour who became ambassadors of his style. (📷: Alexandre Guirkinger) #wwdblast