PARIS — Swiss watch exports continued to slip for the 19th consecutive month.
In January, foreign sales of Swiss watches fell 6.2 percent year-on-year to 1.4 billion Swiss francs, or $1.38 billion at average exchange rates.
Narrower losses in Hong Kong suggested easing conditions in that hard-hit market for the Swiss watch industry. Exports there fell 3.9 percent in January, after a 15.7 percent drop in December.
Swiss watch sales continued to grow in mainland China, albeit at a slower pace. Sales to the region climbed 7.8 percent year-on-year compared with a 27.6 percent jump in December.
Sales in all price categories fell in terms of both units and value.
Buyback programs by manufacturers, most notably Richemont, artificially boost the Swiss watch exports by an estimated 2 percent, according to Thomas Chauvet, luxury analyst at Citi. Watches that are sent back by third-party distributors in exchange for new models are not counted against the total export figure.
“We do not give too much importance to monthly trends, yet the January data suggests further improvement in Mainland China and easing rates of decline in Hong Kong,” Chauvet wrote in a research note.
During January’s SIHH watch fair in Geneva, executives reported improved demand coming from the easing of some global political uncertainty as well as better consumer sentiment — particularly in Asia — according to Chauvet. Swiss watchmakers were introducing more lower-priced products to support volume, and talked about the need to control costs more tightly in order to respond to volatile demand.