Swiss Watch Half-Year Exports to U.S. up 13.8%

Swiss watch exports rose 15.5 percent in value for the first half of 2007, for a total of 7.2 billion Swiss francs (Sfr) or about $5.9 billion, says the Federation of Swiss Watch Industry (FH). Aiding that was a strong June (up 18.5 percent), rebounding after a slowdown in May. Precious metal timepieces, among the fastest-growing luxury goods, showed the highest rates of growth.

The year’s first-half gain “augers very well for 2007 as a whole,” said the FH report. The United States, the number one market for Swiss watch exports, saw an 13.8 percent increase.For the 12-month period since mid-2006, total Swiss exports rose 12.8 percent in value, exceeding forecasts.

Products. For the half-year, exports of complete wristwatches increased 15.4 percent in value, to 6.6 billion Sfr (about $5.4 billion), boosted especially by precious metal timepieces.

During the six months, a total of 11.8 million wristwatches left Swiss territory (a 3.6 percent increase or 410,000 more).

All price categories showed export gains, though timepieces costing more than 3,000 Sfr (export price), or about $2,500, showed the highest gains—up 23.7 percent in total value and 13.5 percent in volume.

Among other products, movements rose 19.3 percent in export value, to 85.4 million Sfr (about $70.3 million); cases by 21.5 percent, to 29.3 million Sfr (about $24.1 million); bracelets by 9 percent to 88.4 million Sfr (about $72.7 million), and clocks, including alarms, by 14.7 percent, to 17.7 million Sfr (about $24.3 million).

Markets. The first half-year also was positive for all major markets for Swiss watch exports. The United States, the top market—up 13.8 percent in value, to nearly 1.17 billion Sfr (about $961.6 million)—remained “a highly attractive market” for Swiss watch manufacturers, said the FH report.

Hong Kong, the number two market, continued to “make strong progress” (up 20.4 percent), while Japan registered one of the lowest rates of growth (just 2.6 percent), “confirming its slowdown,” said FH.

Europe overall increased its rate of growth, though Italy (up 14 percent) and France (up 15.9 percent) turned in “average performances,” and Germany (up 6.2 percent) “lagged behind.”

Among other markets, strong growth was registered by China, the ninth largest market, up 28.8 percent, and Russia, the 12th largest market, up 118.8 percent. Their performances “outstripped all others in the first half-year,” said the FH report.

In a related story, shares in the Swiss-based Swatch Group, the world’s largest watchmaker—which already had risen 33 percent this year—rose 4.3 percent to a all-time high (378.50 Sfr) on July 19, boosted by the upbeat Swiss watch industry export data report, Reuters reported.