PARIS — Exports of Swiss watches edged up a slight 0.2 percent in January, the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry said Tuesday, with growth from the U.S. market helping to offset a decline in sales to China.
The federation noted that growth at the beginning of last year makes for a tough comparison base this year, predicting this will continue to affect the sector’s performance through the first half.
January timepiece exports totaled 1.6 billion Swiss francs, or $1.59 billion, led by timepieces priced more than 3,000 Swiss francs.
Overall growth from the sector in 2018 was tempered by a rockier performance toward the end of the year, adding to investor jitters that global appetite for high-end goods will falter amid a flareup in global trade tensions.
The Swiss watch data, while it can fluctuate from month-to-month, is considered a barometer for the luxury industry, and closely eyed for clues about the broader health of high-end consumption.
Analysts have observed an increasing divergence between the priciest timepieces, which are benefiting from brisk demand while their cheaper counterparts are suffering from competition from the Apple Watch.
Exports to the U.S. rose briskly, up 9.1 percent to 178.1 billion Swiss francs, while exports to China fell 14.8 percent to 150.6 billion Swiss francs, with the federation noting the performance was compared to fast growth at the same time last year.
Exports to Japan and the U.K. grew strongly while the French and Italian markets posted sharp declines.