By Michelle Graff
Biel/Bienne, Switzerland--Recently released statistics show that Swiss watch exports declined in 2015, the first slump for the sector since the global financial crisis put a damper on exports in 2009. 

The Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry (FH) said Tuesday that the total global value of watch exports in 2015 was approximately $21.1 billion, a 3 percent decrease when compared with 2014.

Development of the Hong Kong market “weighed heavily in the overall balance,” FH said. Exports deteriorated steadily throughout the year, falling from a positive 3 percent in the first quarter to a negative 7 percent in the fourth.

Factors contributing to the decline, according to FH, were the overvaluation of the Swiss franc, market development in Hong Kong, the economic slowdown and political decisions in China, tension in the Middle East, the low level of the Russian ruble, and terrorism.

FH said these issues will continue to influence results for the Swiss watch industry into the first part of 2016 and, consequently, “watch exports are likely at best to achieve the same value this year as in 2015.”

When it came to product in 2015, Swiss watches generated a value of approximately $19.9 billion, a nearly 4 percent decline. In volume terms the downturn was more moderate at about 2 percent with a total of 28.1 million timepieces exported, a number more similar to 2013 levels. In total, almost 500,000 fewer watches left Switzerland in 2015.

Mechanical watches generated 80 percent of export sales, a value decrease of 2 percent. Exports of quartz timepiece declined almost 10 percent.

FH said all main price segments saw value contract in 2015, though results were not uniform: the value of watches costing less than $200 (export price) dropped about 1 percent, and even recorded a slight increase in volume terms at 1.3 percent. The $200 to $500 category was hardest hit, seeing a value downturn of about 9 percent.

When it came to watches costing between $500 and $3,000, value declined by 4 percent. Watches exporting for more than $3,000 saw a 3 percent drop.

When it came to main markets, Swiss watch exports to the U.S. dropped by almost 1 percent, the result of a steady growth until August when a sharp decline led to a year that ended flat.

Hong Kong saw significant decline at 23 percent, followed by the United Arab Emirates (7 percent), China (5 percent), Taiwan (3 percent) and Japan (2 percent).

Markets that absorbed more Swiss watches in 2015 were the United Kingdom (up 19 percent), Austria (15 percent), Saudi Arabia (11 percent) and France (9 percent).

“Asia was the leading market for Swiss watchmakers and absorbed exactly half of exports by value,” FH said. “It recorded a sharp decline. Europe, accounting for one-third of sales, registered a healthy increase of 6 percent compared to 2014. Growth on the American continent suffered a reverse from September onward and ended the year on a negative note.”


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