PARIS — Swiss watches continue to be in high demand across the world — except in Asia.
Figures published today by the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry, or FHS, showed growth continuing in line with previous months.
Exports came in at 1.7 billion Swiss francs, or $1.84 billion at current exchange, a rise of 6.8 percent versus the same prior-year period. As of January, figures are once again being compared with the previous year, instead of 2019’s pre-pandemic levels.
Growth was driven by steel watches, accounting for three quarters of the sector’s results, and the 4.6 percent increase in the total number of items exported, the FHS said.
High-end timepieces priced more than 500 Swiss francs, or $540, saw an increase in volume and value exported, at 13.2 percent and 7.9 percent, respectively.
This contrasted with the mid-market 200 to 500 Swiss francs tranche, which fell sharply, despite what the FHS described as “a very favorable base effect because of the marked decline seen in January 2021.”
Across Asia, in which the federation includes the Middle East in its reporting, the market contracted in value terms, falling 5.9 percent to 876.7 million Swiss francs.
China, in particular, experienced its first decline since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, contracting by 12.2 percent to 224 million Swiss francs.
After leading in 2021, it fell to second place in market importance, behind the U.S., which continued to drive growth with a 37.5 percent increase.
This comes as analysts have warned of a slowdown in China’s luxury growth in 2022. Chinese stock markets have also experienced troubled times, compounded by the effect of the government’s ongoing tech, business and entertainment crackdown on conspicuous spending and celebrity culture.
Declines for the watch sector were also seen in Singapore, down 12.1 percent; Hong Kong, which retained its position as the third-largest market for the sector, at minus 10.3 percent, and South Korea, down 4.2 percent.
The European market was consistently on the rise, with Spain leading with 54 percent growth, followed by the U.K. at 26.1 percent. France and Germany stood neck-a-neck at 14.4 percent and 14 percent respectively.
In 2021, Switzerland’s watchmakers experienced what the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry described as “a record year,” with numbers outpacing pre-pandemic levels largely due to a strong appetite for high-end pieces, particularly in the latter part of the year.
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