PARIS — The Swiss watch industry remains under pressure.
The country’s watch exports slipped again in November, declining 5.6 percent on the back of a sharp downturn in Hong Kong, one of its top markets.
Exports of Swiss timepieces totaled 1.95 billion Swiss francs, or $1.96 billion, in November, according to the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry.
In contrast to the four previous years, the value of the industry’s exports failed to exceed two billion francs, the federation noted, blaming it on a “difficult international context.”
Although China recorded a “very significant increase” of 17.1 percent, it could not offset continued decline in Hong Kong, which slumped 27.9 percent on the month.
The United States, down 5.3 percent, were less affected than in the previous two months but remained below par, in line with the world average, the federation said.
Among the month’s biggest gainers were the U.K., up 14.3 percent, and Italy, up 2.3 percent, contrasting the performance in other European markets.
Japan, meanwhile, benefited from a more favorable base effect and advanced 8.9 percent.
“We were expecting some improvement in export trends largely owing to easing comparatives, however the deceleration in Hong Kong comes as a surprise, illustrating continued pressure on the luxury watch segment in Asia, and read-across to Swatch Group and Richemont is negative,” observed Rogerio Fujimori, analyst at RBC.
Citi’s Thomas Chauvet said he was “concerned” about continued disruption in the Swiss watch industry’s largest market Hong Kong. He also pointed to the recent demand slowdown in the US, the potential impact of a depressed oil price on Russian and Middle Eastern demand, the strength of the Swiss franc and adverse China-related news flow, including poor economic indicators, yuan devaluation and the Shanghai stock market correction of last summer, as negative factors impacting the industry.
“It is however partly offset by solid growth in most European markets, reflecting parallel markets and tourist demand on weak euro, and in Japan,” where local demand and Chinese tourism act as drivers, Chauvet noted.
The federation further reported that there were no positive developments in any of the main price ranges, either in value or volume terms. The steepest declines were registered in the price range between 200 francs and 500 francs, or $201 and $503, and among watches costing more than 3,000 francs, or $3,021, which in value terms fell 7.7 percent and 6.9 percent, respectively.
Precious metals and steel pieces were most affected. In value terms, they fell 8.4 percent and 8.1 percent, respectively.