Fashion

Swiss watch exports hit near-record levels as industry booms


Swiss watch exports rose again in July, hitting near-record highs and reaching their highest value in eight years as demand for expensive Rolex, Omega and Vacheron Constantin watches soar.

Exports rose 8.3% in July from the same month in 2021 to 2.2 billion Swiss francs ($2.3 billion), the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry said on Thursday.

This is the highest value for Swiss watch exports since a record performance in October 2014.

Demand for luxury watches has skyrocketed after many cash-strapped consumers discovered Swiss brands from Rolex and Omega to Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe while stuck at home during the pandemic.

Exports to the United States increased by 13.5% over the previous year and remained the largest market for Swiss watch exports after overtaking China last year.

Demand in China is recovering as the Covid-19 shutdowns ease, with exports rebounding over the period to maintain its position as the second largest market for Swiss watch exports.

Export figures were “much better than expected”, said Jean-Philippe Bertschy, an analyst at Vontobel who expected a slight decline.

As prices for luxury watches on the second-hand market have fallen, in part due to the cryptocurrency crash and falling stocks, July exports are “rather reassuring statistics from the Federation” , said Bertschy.

The trend for high-end pieces, the driving force of the industry, continued, with watches costing more than 500 francs representing more than a third of volumes and 95% of value.

Exports of watches priced between 200 and 500 francs fell by 29.2% in value, continuing a decline that began at the start of 2020.

Probably partly due to the success of the Swatch Group’s Omega MoonSwatch collaboration, exports of watches priced at less than 200 francs increased by 5.3% in value, the sixth positive month of the year.

With the exception of Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan, Swiss watch exports in July to most major markets in Asia and Europe grew by double digit percentages.

“The post-pandemic high-end demand wave continues,” Bernstein analyst Luca Solca said in emailed comments.

Solca warned that any slowdown in demand would first be seen by retailers, as Swiss watches are mainly sold through wholesale channels and there is a lag between orders and deliveries.

“If and when there is a downturn, watch exports won’t see it first,” Solca said.

By Andy Hoffman

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