Swiss watches exports

Quartz watches weigh adversely on Swiss watches exports

No, it is not a crisis, it is rather a slow down! However, there is no need to panic since the first semester went well. In fact, it registered a 0.8% progression of turnovers.

By Eric Othenin-Girard
Specialised journalist

First semester of 2013. Yes, like the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry puts it, “most of the main distribution channels registered a decrease in June”. It is first and foremost indispensable to remind that in 2012, Swiss horology made history; 29’176’760 watches of all kinds exported for a turnover of 21.4 billion francs. This was a massive success for horology as it represented almost 11 % more than the previous year.

Swiss Watch sxports table for first semester 2013 Swiss watches exports table for first semester 2013

Another positive point was that 54 % of the sales occurred in Asia, in particular China, if we add Hong Kong and Macao to the performances of the Middle Kingdom and an important part of the sales to tourists from the rest of the world.

Reasons for a noticeable slow down

However, the numbers cannot grow forever and the first semester of 2013 registers a slowdown, in Asia in particular, but in Europe and the United States as well. What must be remembered in this observation is the importance attached to the sales to Chinese tourists everywhere in the world. They are truly the globe-trotters of today, to the extent of becoming the best clients of all the duty-free shops of all the airports.

Rolex booth at Baselworld 2013 Rolex booth at Baselworld 2013

This Asian, mostly Chinese, slowdown is also attributed to a change of government. The previous masters of the empire met with some corruption problems. It was thus appropriate for the new Chinese leaders to set an example by keeping a low profile. In addition, a number of political decisions have participated in a clear slowdown of the Chinese growth. Consequently, for those who understand the world markets, the slowdown in the sales of the Swiss watches was expected.

In the middle of the Euro crisis, the European community strives to stop the increasing unemployment and to boost its economy. It is thus not equipped to compensate the watch recession in Asia. Moreover, in the United States, the economy is being boosted and while June has brought negative results, the first semester registers an increate of a little more than 1%, which represents a really modest progression. Lastly, the new Eldorado - South America - is not yet operational.

Omega booth at Baselworld 2013 Omega booth at Baselworld 2013

The downside of the quartz watch is dramatic. In 2012, Switzerland exported 10’773’104 watches during the first semester. One year later, the figure decreased to 9’543’806. Even if the average price of a Swiss quartz watch is approximately 220 francs, a decrease of 1.2 million watches cannot be understated. If the analysis is deepened, it shows that it is the middle class, hopefully temporarily, which once more lost the possibility to buy Swiss quartz watches. Possessing such a device is a symbol of success and pleasure for them. It is thus important that these customers are taken care of in order to satisfy their hunger of our creations. Some watchmakers better not forget it !

Mechanical watches on the upside, quartz on the downside

The detailed figures reveal that the mechanical watches, with 3’486’363 exported timekeepers are progressing compared to the 2012 first semester, which registered an amount of 3’299’907. Approximately 200’000 extra pieces sold, this is certainly not much but shows that the selling of prestigious timekeepers remains relatively stable. It is to be noted that when I say prestigious watches, I am referring to watches within a public price range of 1’500 to 500’000 francs. It must indeed be remembered that, in numerous countries, buying a 2’000 Swiss francs timekeeper is reserved only for people affording serious wealth.

Official press release of the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry (FH):

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