PARIS — Rapid growth in mainland China help trim losses for the Swiss watch industry in December.
Foreign sales of Swiss watches at 1.7 billion Swiss francs, or $1.83 billion at average exchange, represented a 4.6 percent decline.
December marked the 18th consecutive month of falling exports, although the downturn was much less significant than the 16 percent fall the industry had reported in October. Worldwide sales declined 5.6 percent in November.
Sales to mainland China advanced 27.6 percent in December, while U.S. sales gained 10.9 percent.
Sales to Hong Kong — the Swiss watch industry’s largest market — continued to slip, shrinking 15.7 percent in December.
Overall, the number of pieces exported increased despite declining sales, as the 200 franc to 500 franc, or $215 to $537, price segment gained share compared to more expensive models. The category saw a 13 percent advance in sales and a 16.5 percent increase in the number of units sold.
“The watch industry appears closer to a trough,” Thomas Chauvet, luxury analyst at Citi, wrote in a research note. “The mix evolution is adverse, with more steel watches and less precious metal models, with more entry price and less high end….We expect this will continue, as middle-class consumers drive demand.”