By  on February 6, 2007

GENEVA — Thanks to demand for luxury products in key markets, the value of Swiss watch exports in 2006 increased 10.9 percent, to a record 13.7 billion Swiss francs, or about $11 billion.

The annual results were influenced greatly "by luxury products, which showed very strong growth throughout 2006," the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry said. "Wristwatches with a value of more than 3,000 [Swiss] francs [export price, $2,403] posted an increase of 27 percent by value and 34.7 percent by volume."

However, below this price, the value of exported timepieces "remained stable, while volumes increased by 1.2 percent, generating slightly more than half of the total increase," the organization reported.

Overall in 2006, wristwatches notched an 11.6 increase in value terms; 18-carat gold styles rose 7.6 percent and steel watches advanced 10.3 percent. The strongest increase in exports was recorded by gold-plated products, up 59.6 percent, the industry group said.

The U.S. was the top export market destination with an increase of 6.1 percent, to 2.2 billion Swiss francs, or $1.7 billion, followed by Hong Kong, which registered an 8.9 percent rise to 1.9 billion Swiss francs, or $1.5 billion, and Japan, with a 10.7 percent jump to 1.2 billion Swiss francs, or $967 million.

However, Europe turned out to be a more dynamic export market last year, with an increase of 12.7 percent. France and Germany led the way, with gains of 21.3 percent, to 813.2 million Swiss francs, or $655.8 million, and 21 percent, to 768.7 million Swiss francs, or $619.9 million, respectively.

Double-digit increases were also posted in exports to the United Arab Emirates, where the value of shipments was up 11.2 percent, to 386.2 million Swiss francs, or $311.4 million.

Exports to China were up 14.9 percent, to 401.1 million Swiss francs, or $323.4 million, but increases in export sales were below average to Russia, Saudi Arabia and Taiwan.

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