Swiss Watch Exports Set Record in 2004

The value of Swiss watch exports in 2004 set a new record, for the first time topping 11.1 billion Swiss francs ($9.2 billion). This is a 9.2 percent gain over 2003 figures (up more than $775 million), says the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry FH, which represents more than 90 percent of Swiss watchmakers.

June and August posted especially strong increases, and October and November recorded the highest monthly values ever. FH credits the gains to a more stable worldwide geopolitical situation as well as sustained economic recovery in the United States and Asia, and expects growth to continue in 2005.

Products. Exports of finished watches rose 9.9 percent in value to almost $8.5 billion. The number exported grew 2.1 percent, to 25.1 million units. In materials, the value of exported stainless-steel timepieces rose 10.9 percent, and gold timepieces by 10.2 percent. Bimetallic and platinum watches also performed above average, up 11.4 percent and 15.4 percent, respectively.

Stainless-steel timepieces accounted for more than half of the watches exported, up more than a million units to a new level of 12.8 million pieces. Exports of bimetallic timepieces rose 3.5 percent and gold timepieces by 3 percent.

Other related product exports (movements, cases, dials, hands, and bracelets) also showed an increase, but exports of larger items like clocks and alarm clocks posted a steep decline of 15.6 percent.

Markets. The United States ranks first among the Swiss watch industry’s major markets. Its Swiss watch imports increased in value by 12.9 percent over last year’s figures, totaling more than $1.5 billion. The report cited a positive economic climate in the United States as the primary reason.

Swiss watch exports to Hong Kong, the second-biggest market, rose 15.6 percent to more than $1.3 billion. The report cited Hong Kong’s recovery from the SARS epidemic of 2003 as well as renewed economic growth throughout 2004 as key factors.

In Asia, despite Japan’s economic recovery, watch exports showed almost no gain, while China registered an increase of 41.7 percent. In Europe, Italy increased the value of its exports by 5.7 percent, but France, Germany, and the United Kingdom showed losses or no gains in Swiss imports. Only Spain showed a healthy gain of 8.3 percent.

Top 10 Swiss Watch Export Markets (2004)

Swiss Francs U.S. Percent
Source: Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry FH
(in Millions) Dollars Change
United States 1,875.9 $1.5 billion +12.9%
Hong Kong 1,641.8 $1.3 billion +15.6%
Japan 990.0 $817.6 million +.5%
Italy 777.2 $641.8 million +5.7%
France 611.0 $504.6 million .0%
Germany 564.9 $466.4 million -.6%
United Kingdom 552.4 $456.1 million -4.8%
Singapore 439.3 $362.7 million +11.2%
Spain 379.4 $313.2 million +8.3%
United Arab Emirates 301.9 $249.2 million +27.0%