Swiss Watch Exports Dip 2.5% in February

The Federation of the Swiss Watch cites a tough base of comparison.

PARIS — Swiss watch exports declined 2.5 percent in February, the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry reported Thursday.

Foreign sales of Swiss timepieces stood at 1.6 billion Swiss francs, or $1.72 billion, in the month, according to the federation.

This followed a 10.8 percent rise in January and a 10.9 percent gain in full-year 2012.

“Watchmaking exports had to contend with one of the most unfavorable base effects of the year,” the federation stated, explaining the 2.5 percent decline in relation to February 2012.

Dollar figures are calculated at average exchange for the period to which they refer.

While the value of steel and gold watches remained stable, bimetallic timepieces saw a marked decline, the federation said.

The volume decline in wristwatches costing less than 200 Swiss francs, or $215, came in at 18.7 percent, while sales in the 200 to 500 francs, or $215 to $537, range fell in the low single digits.

The only category registering growth, of about 2 percent in value terms although they were flat in volume, was timepieces priced over 3,000 Swiss francs, or $3,220.

In geographic terms, the decline was strongest in Asia, with steep falls in China and Hong Kong of 33.6 percent and 24.4 percent, respectively.

“This is the worst monthly performance in China for over three years,” Citi Research analysts Thomas Chauvet and Kamal Suri wrote in a research note.

“While the market is likely to read [these results] as a negative for hard luxury players Richemont and Swatch, we think on the contrary that further normalization in exports is necessary to reflect weakness in underlying demand and elevated levels of inventories in Greater China last year,” they continued.

“In Europe, the market situation remained favorable for most markets, apart from France,” the federation stated, noting that in the U.S., sales grew 6.1 percent.

For 2013, the Citi Research analysts predicted growth of 8 percent for Swiss watch exports, climbing to 9 percent in 2014.