PARIS — Swiss watch exports rose 4.4 percent in March, building momentum with brisk business in China and Japan, and an added boost from ongoing stockpiling in the U.K. ahead of Brexit.
Figures from the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry Thursday showed exports totaled 1.74 billion Swiss francs, or $1.72 billion, for the month, with higher-priced timepieces offsetting the decline in exports of cheaper watches, which are suffering from competition from the Apple watch.
Considered a barometer of the luxury goods industry, even if monthly figures can vary widely, Swiss watch exports are examined for clues about the health of demand for high-end goods. The luxury sector, which relies heavily on the appetite of a swelling middle class in China, has entered a period of uncertainty with the flare-up of trade tensions with the U.S. and expectations that the sector will cool this year.
Watch exports to China and Japan rose 17.3 and 21.8 percent, respectively, while the U.K. figure jumped 76.4 percent over the previous month.
Hong Kong, which remains the largest market even as government policies are encouraging Chinese consumers to make more purchases in mainland China, posted a 2.5 percent increase to 236.2 million Swiss francs. Exports to the U.S. clocked a brisk 5.9 percent rise, totaling 187.4 million Swiss francs.
Exports of watches priced more than 3,000 Swiss francs led growth, rising 13.2 percent in value, while timepieces less than 200 Swiss francs fell 24.9 percent.
Growth in the main markets varied considerably, noted the federation, citing the U.K.’s growth as a “special case once again,” while China and Japan proved “particularly dynamic” over the first quarter.