Hong Kong, China end Swiss watch exports slump

Hong Kong and China led a resurgence in Swiss watch exports last year.

While there is a time lag between rising retail sales and export data (as retailers replenish stocks), the broader Asian market drove a recovery according to figures released by the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry. Total export sales fell just short of 20 billion francs, up 2.7 per cent on 2016 exports and representing the first increase in three years.

Asia, where exports rose by 4.8 per cent, generated one-half of all export sales with the strongest growth in the second half.

“Recovering since the spring, Hong Kong (up 6 per cent) ended the year with strong growth,” said the federation in a statement. “China (up 18.8 per cent) had been the first to recover and posted the strongest advance of all these countries. Despite a very good fourth quarter, Japan (down 2.6 per cent) ended on a moderate downturn. Singapore (up 8.5 per cent) and South Korea (up 5.6 per cent) maintained a pleasing trajectory,” the federation said.  

Globally, Swiss watch industry exports improved steadily throughout last year. “On the distribution side, a presumably tighter stock level was another factor conducive to recovery. A growing number of markets returned to growth, but several of them are still lagging behind.”

The worst-performing market was the US, where sales fell by 4.4 per cent, the third straight annual decline. “Despite favourable economic conditions, this market is proving slow to recover its taste for luxury products, at least through the traditional sales channels,” the federation said.

The world’s top 15 export markets for Swiss Watches in 2017 (in Swiss francs and percentage change against 2016):

  1. Hong Kong 2.5247 billion +6.0
  2. US 2.0501 billion -4.4
  3. China 1.5367 billion +18.8
  4. UK 1.2905 billion +7.0
  5. Japan 1.2294 billion -2.6
  6. Italy 1.1811 billion +0.0
  7. Singapore 1.0995 billion +8.5
  8. Germany 1.0776 billion -2.2
  9. France 981.9 million -0.4
  10. UAE 891.4 million -3.5
  11. South Korea 699.2 million +5.6
  12. Spain 447.3 million +0.3
  13. Saudi Arabia 325.1 million -6.4
  14. Taiwan 304.5 million -11.9
  15. Austria 299.1 million -1.4


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