18 April 2024
The Weekly

The Swiss watch industry woke up to a bad hangover with its March export figures. Exports in the month fell 16.1% year-on-year, remaining barely above the CHF 2bn mark. This contributed to Q1 that contracted 6.3% against the same period in 2023, although it stayed above first-quarter 2022’s figures. By volume, wristwatch exports in March were down 25.4%. This translated into almost 400,000 fewer watches leaving the country compared to March 2023, with all price segments affected by the decline. While mainland China and Hong Kong — which slipped into the third and fourth markets by size for Swiss timepieces, respectively — were the largest contributors to the month’s contraction with their 41.5% and 44.2% tumble, most markets showed lacklustre results in March.



At CHF 15mn, exports to mainland China sank even below their March 2020 level, when the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic brought the sector to a near-halt mid-month, the Swiss organization reminded. Less affected than most were the U.S., still the top export destination for Swiss watches with a 17% market share, and Japan, which edged into second place for the first time. Other top markets, such as Singapore, the U.K., Germany and France, were in the low double digits of decline. India, which is increasingly being viewed as the next growth engine for luxury and currently is the 21st market by size, was among the few territories that showed growth in March, with a 9.2% bump in exports heading to the country.


A breakdown by price categories highlighted that high-end watches, those more than CHF3,000 at export value, were less affected. They contracted by 9.9%, while watches priced less than CHF 500 fell by less than one-fifth. The mid-market segment of Swiss watches was most affected, with a decrease of 38.2% by export value and 41.6% in the number of units, supporting analyst predictions of tepid spending by aspirational consumers.