PARIS — Sluggish Asian markets drove Swiss watch exports down 9.3 percent in July, headlined by a 39.6 percent drop in China, burdened by a slowing economy and a volatile stock market.
Sales in Asia overall were down 21.4 percent, the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry reported, tallying total July exports at 1.9 billion Swiss francs, or $2.86 billion at average exchange rates for the month in question.
Exports had rebounded in June, when strength in Europe compensated for weakness in Asia.
The disappointing data sent shares in Swatch Group down 1 percent to close at 73.25 Swiss francs, or $76.40 at current exchange, while Richemont ended the day down 2.4 percent to 74.15 francs, or $77.33 at current exchange.
In July, a 53.4 percent leap in exports to France, a 4.7 percent rise in the U.S. and a 2.3 percent gain in Germany could not compensate for declines in other geographies. Watch sales were down 28.7 percent to Hong Kong; 29.8 percent to the United Arab Emirates; 19.7 percent to South Korea; 11.6 percent to Italy; and 1.9 percent to Japan.
All price segments reflected the negative trend in July, according to the federation.
Watches costing less than 200 francs at export, or $210 at current exchange, recorded a 2 percent drop in the number of units sold, corresponding to an 8.1 percent dip in value terms.
Exports of timepieces costing 200 to 500 francs, or $210 to $750 at current exchange, dropped 14.5 percent, while watches costing more than 500 francs, or $521 at current exchange, fell by 8 percent. Watches costing more than 3,000 francs, or $3,150 at current exchange, fell 12.3 percent in unit terms.
In value terms, exports of steel watches declined 13.8 percent.
“This had a significant impact on the overall result,” the federation noted. “Bimetal timepieces reported the same trend while products in precious metals declined less strongly. The sustained rise in the category of other metals was by no means sufficient to offset the losses.”
Luxury analysts acknowledged the numbers were bad news, but cautioned that monthly figures are volatile and rarely indicative of structural trends.
“We prefer to look at the last 12 months rolling average, which shows that the market is still highly volatile and generally subdued, especially in the price range more exposed by the competition of smart watches,” said Mario Ortelli, senior analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein.
“The jury is still out on what Chinese demand will do,” agreed Luca Solca, managing director and sector head of global luxury goods at Exane BNP Paribas.
He noted that the surge in exports to France no doubt reflects a glut of Asian tourists visiting and shopping up a storm in Paris.