Swiss watch exports rise

PARIS — Swiss watch sales picked up pace in February, boosted by the stockpiling of timepieces in the U.K. in the run-up to Brexit, and the sales of bi-metal and precious metal watches.

Foreign sales of Swiss timepieces gained 3.4 percent in the month to 1.8 billion Swiss francs, according to the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry. This comes on the heels of a 0.2 percent rise in January.

Geographic results were mixed in February. Sales of Swiss watches grew 58.3 percent in the U.K., accounting for 80 percent of the increase worldwide, and “is explained by stockpiling ahead of Brexit,” the federation said, referring to when the U.K. is due to leave the European Union, currently set for March 29.

Sales of watches were down 3.8 percent in Hong Kong and 6.6 percent in the U.S., mostly due to an unfavorable base effect. After two months of decline, sales in China advanced 15.1 percent. They were up 19.4 percent in Japan, marking a strong gain for the second month running. Meanwhile, sales in Singapore gained 18.6 percent, an unprecedented growth level for the country.

Exports of watches made from bi-metal and precious metals, particularly platinum, were up 12.4 percent and 4.3 percent, respectively, in value terms. Sales of steel watches grew 0.5 percent, while timepieces overall declined 8.6 percent in volume terms, due mostly to the other materials and other metals categories, as well as steel watches.

Timepieces costing less than 200 Swiss francs posted the largest decline, dropping 15.8 percent in volume terms. Those in the 200 Swiss franc to 500 Swiss franc range registered sales up 0.1 percent, and sales of timepieces priced between 500 Swiss francs and 3,000 Swiss francs declined for the fifth time in six months. In the month, sales of watches costing more than 3,000 Swiss francs grew 3.2 percent, “a trend that has now been almost uninterrupted for nearly two years,” the federation said.

The results, released on Tuesday, came out two days before the opening of the Baselworld, a key trade show for the watch industry, based in Basel, Switzerland.