2001 Swiss Exports: Value Up, Volume Down

The Swiss watch industry exported US$6.2 billion of watches and watch products in 2001, a 3.5% increase and a new record, according to its annual report. There were significant gains for precious metal and upscale timepieces, but sales drops for cheaper watches.

The value of finished Swiss watches alone rose 3.7% (US$5.6 billion), though volume dropped 11.6% (by 3.5 million) to 26.4 million.

The United States, the largest market for Swiss watches, had the biggest declines—down 14.1% in value (to US$932.8 million) and down 16.6% in volume (almost 3.3 million).

The report spotlights the ongoing concentration of exports in upmarket products. The greatest growth (mainly in the United States, Asia, and Europe) was in gold watches (+15.2%, to 570,457 units) and platinum watches (+64%, to 11,799 units). While steel watches are the largest category (four out of 10 exports), their volume dropped 7.5% (11,208,143), though their value remained stable ($2.3 billion).

The average price of exported Swiss watches rose to $214.78, a 17.4% gain. Also, while the number of exported movements shrank 14% (to 5,390,450), their value rose 2.8% ($76.1 million).

Cheaper Swiss watches saw the biggest sales drops. Aluminum timepieces, for example, accounted for one in six exported watches, down from one in five in 2000. They also dropped 23.3% in value. A total of 4,317,259 units of watches of “other non-precious metals” (primarily aluminum and copper) were exported, at a total worth of $188 million. Exports of watches made of “other materials” (i.e., synthetics, plastics, wood) totaled 8,622,661 units, worth $351.5 million.

In other major Swiss markets, Hong Kong retook first place in the year’s last two months and had a 6% gain for 2001. Japan, despite a sluggish economy, rose 13.3%, and overall growth in Asia is up 24.5% since 1999. In spite of economic downturns, Europe saw “significant growth” in Swiss watches in Germany (+9.4%), France (+10.3%), and Great Britain (+18.7%) in 2001.

Swiss Watches’ 15 Top Foreign Markets (2001)

Country Exports ($$ approx) % Chg
Sources: The Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry
1. USA $932.8 million -14.1%
2. Hong Kong 888.7 million +6.0
3. Japan 620.1 million +13.3
4. Italy 494.9 million -4.9
5. Germany 461.5 million +9.4
6. France 424.4 million +10.3
7. Great Britain 300.4 million +18.7
8. Singapore 258.3 million +3.8
9. Spain 201.7 million +3.9
10. Taiwan 115.2 million +.3
11. United Arab Emirates 111.5 million +4.8
12. Thailand 104.6 million -7.8
13. Saudi Arabia 101.8 million +21.7
14. Austria 74.5 million +16.4
15. The Netherlands 68.6 million +1.7