PARIS — Is the Swiss watch industry starting to feel the pinch of the global economy?
The Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry on Tuesday reported watch exports in March grew 0.5 percent to 1.2 billion Swiss francs, or $1.21 billion, the smallest monthly increase in the last few years.
The federation attributed the meager gains to three fewer working days compared with last year and a high comparison rate (exports last March vaulted more than 20 percent).
Still, the figures suggest the Swiss watch industry, which has experienced spectacular growth during the last few years, may be in for tougher times.
At the watch fairs in Basel and Switzerland earlier this month, executives reported that business in the highest price echelons continued to be robust, led by demand in Asia, Russia and the Middle East.
While the federation numbers for March showed weakened demand in less expensive watches, they also indicated that demand for expensive pieces (above 3,000 Swiss francs, or $3,000) continued to soar.
Exports of timepieces costing more than 3,000 Swiss francs grew 11.4 percent, the federation said. In contrast, exports of watches between 500 and 3,000 Swiss francs declined 11 percent.
By region, exports to Japan and the United States declined 22.2 percent and 14.7 percent, respectively, for the month.
In contrast, exports to China, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates all advanced by more than 30 percent.