Swiss watch exports tick higher on September price rises

Higher prices meant the value of exports rose 3.8 per cent, despite a fall in volumes

Luxury watch and jewellery stores in Geneva. The value of Swiss watch exports grew in September, despite a fall in volumes. Bloomberg
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The value of exported Swiss watches rose 3.8 per cent to 2.3 billion Swiss francs ($2.6 billion) in September, despite significant falls in shipments to key markets in the US and China.

The Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry said on Thursday that exports to the US, which overtook China as the top destination two years ago, fell by 6.4 per cent in September, while exports to China were down by 5.5 per cent.

The monthly increase was the second in a row after export values fell in July for the first time in more than two years.

Analysts said higher prices increased the total value of Swiss watch exports, even though the number of timepieces bought by overseas buyers fell by 2.9 per cent.

Nonetheless, the federation said that the value of export values to Hong Kong grew by 24 per cent, to Japan by 9 per cent and to the United Arab Emirates by 2.3 per cent.

Despite a 3 per cent fall in the number of exported timepieces with a price tag above 3,000 Swiss francs, the luxury end of the market managed an increase in the value of those exported of 8.2 per cent.

Meanwhile, exports of entry-level-priced watches rose 4.3 per cent, a category that Thomas Chauvet at Citi said was “boosted by the MoonSwatch success and shipments of the new SwatchxBlancpain collaboration".

A timely slowdown for luxury goods?

Swiss watch exports clocked up a record last year of more than 24 billion francs, but in 2023 sales volumes started to moderate in line with a slowdown in the overall spend on luxury goods.

In the immediate post-Covid period, Swiss watch exports soared. For example, between 2020 and 2022, export values to the United States increased by more than 90 per cent. Over the same period, Swiss watch exports to the UAE grew by 48 per cent.

But the past two years of rising inflation, accompanied by higher interest rates, have weighed heavily on the luxury goods market, especially at the lower-priced end, where demand from aspirational buyers has been slowing.

Updated: October 19, 2023, 12:32 PM