Swiss watch exports drop 4% in value

The value of Swiss watch exports dropped 4% in the first half of 2002, to 4.8 billion Swiss francs (almost $3.3 billion), continuing a “downward trend [seen] in the closing months of 2001,” the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry said Aug. 5.

“This trend is in line with expectations,” says the report. “Several more months will be needed before the trend turns round and a return to growth occurs.” The Federation forecasts “a moderate recovery in the second half [although the] final result is likely to be just short” of 2001.

The number of Swiss watches exported through June 30 rose slightly to 12.7 million (a 0.5% gain), or 70,000 more than the first half of 2001, offsetting a fall in volume reported for more than eight years. The increase was primarily in steel watches (up 395,000 pieces) and aluminum watches (up 230,000).

The average price of exported timepieces fell from 357 francs ($241) to 345 francs ($233). “This decline is proportionately well below the steep increase in the average price in the past two years,” notes the Federation.

In value terms, gold watches showed the most decline, with export sales at 142.5 million francs ($96.2 million), a 10.4% decrease from the first half of 2001. Steel, platinum and bimetal watches, though, showed some sales growth.

Among components, there was a rise in the value of exports of movements (2.7%), cases (9.7%) and hands (31.7%), says the Federation, but a decline in the value of exports of dials (-2.3%) and wristlets (-33.8%). Exports of large products, such as alarm clocks and other types of clocks, fell 58%.

The six top markets for the Swiss watch industry, which account for 60% of the total value of exports, continued to decline between January and June 2002.

Hong Kong, the top market, was down 3.2%, to 714.6 million francs ($482.3 million). The United States, second, was down 7.9% to 709.2 million francs ($478.7 million). Japan, next in line, imported 497.6 million francs of Swiss watches ($335.8 million), a 2.5% drop. Italy accounted for 394.3 million francs ($266.1 million), a decline of 2.8%. France imported 308.1 million francs of watches ($207.9 million), down 9.8%. Germany, the six largest watch-trading partner, had the largest decline—307.4 million francs ($207.4 million), a 13.2% decline.