PARIS — Swiss watch exports fell for the eighth consecutive month in February.
Foreign sales of Swiss timepieces were down 3.3 percent in the month to 1.65 billion Swiss francs, or $1.66 billion at average exchange rates for the period, according to the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry.
This comes on the heels of a 7.9 percent drop in January, and a decline of 3.3 percent in 2015 as a whole, the industry’s first annual decline since 2009.
The worsening in February was largely due to the continued deterioration of exports to Hong Kong, the number-one market for Swiss timepieces. They fell 25.3 percent, capping a twelve-month streak of steep declines.
The United States recorded a 2.4 percent rise after five straight months of falling sales, while Japan had another healthy month with a 22.4 percent jump. Sales to China were down 6.8 percent, deepening the trend seen in January.
Europe registered an upturn of 4 percent, with Italy broadly stable and Germany progressing 6.6 percent.
Exports of gold-and-steel watches were down 6.7 percent in value terms, while steel watches posted a 1.4 percent increase. In volume terms, the trends were inversed, with gold-and-steel watches rising 15.7 percent and steel timepieces down 11.5 percent.
The month saw overall volumes drop by 5.7 percent, with the categories of precious metal and other metals also declining.
Watches costing more than 3,000 Swiss francs, or $3,025, returned to positive growth in February, both in value and volume terms, the federation said. All other price segments recorded a downturn.
Watchmakers gathered at the Baselworld fair in Switzerland last week said they did not expect any significant improvement in 2016.
Thomas Chauvet, analyst at Citi, said several negative factors would continue to weigh on the market.
“We remain concerned about continued disruption in Hong Kong (the Swiss watch industry’s largest and most profitable market), adverse China-related news flow (poor economic indicators, yuan weakness and Shanghai stock market volatility since August 2015), recent demand slowdown in the U.S. and the potential impact of a depressed oil price on Russian/Middle Eastern demand,” he said in a research report.
“It is however partly offset by strong double-digit growth in Japan and positive growth in some (not all) European markets (reflecting parallel markets and possibly softer tourist demand,)” he added.