PARIS — Exports of Swiss watches rose 3.7 percent in September, further indicating improvement for the sector, the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry said on Thursday.Sales of Swiss watches totaled 1.77 billion Swiss francs, or $1.02 billion, led by growth in Hong Kong and Singapore. Patchy spots in the recovery remained, however, with the U.S. market continuing to decline, down 0.6 percent over the period.“The trend over a twelve months period therefore shows a continuing recovery,” Exane BNP Paribas said in a research note.Watches priced under 200 Swiss francs fell sharply, down 18.3 percent in value terms. Analysts consider lower-priced time pieces as particularly vulnerable to competition from smartwatches.“We continue to see the lower-end segment as at risk of share loss to the smartwatch category, with Swatch the most exposed,” noted Citi research analyst Thomas Chauvet. Citi cited the latest Apple Watch Series 3, launched last month with improvements including longer battery life and independent connectivity, as well as the new Hermès editions of the watch with calfskin straps.Analysts at Exane BNP Paribas, in a note published in July, had flagged rising competition from smart watches as “potentially ramping up as smart functionality improves.” Chinese consumers, who are the most advanced in the digital sphere on top of being fitness-obsessed, could be “just one step away from adopting smart watches ‘en masse,’” noted Exane.Considered an important indicator of the luxury goods sector, watch export figures are closely eyed by industry observers.Watch exports to Hong Kong, the biggest market, rose 13.7 percent. The federation said that market benefited from a favorable base effect. Exports to Singapore nearly doubled, up 89.6 percent, boosted by demand for very expensive watches, it said.Growth in China and the U.K., two similarly-sized markets for the industry, fell 1.2 percent and 0.7 percent, respectively.Exports to Japan fell 15.6, showing that market “failed to confirm the August growth figure,” noted the federation.Exports of watches in precious metals rose 10 percent in value terms while declining 7 percent in numbers of units. Exports of steel watches rose 6.7 percent, while declining 9.4 percent in terms of unit numbers. Bimetal timepieces continued their decline, with gold and steel watches down 13 percent in terms of value.
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