2002 Swiss watch exports match 2001

Swiss watch exports in 2002 were “better than forecast,” with value matching 2001 and volume ending a decade-long annual decline in export numbers, says a Feb. 6 report of the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry.

For the year as a whole, export value totaled 10.640 billion Swiss francs (about $7,86 billion). That is only 0.1% less than 2001’s figures. This “confirms the good health of the Swiss watchmaking industry, despite a fluctuating economic situation and consolidates the results of previous years,” says the Federation.

Export figures in the closing months of 2001 had been “unsatisfactory,” notes the report, but “the export situation improved” as 2002 progressed. Its final months, which also account for the biggest export figures, “were decisive and brought a substantial improvement in the annual result,” says the Federation.

The number of exported completed timepieces rose by almost 450,000 units (+1.7%), to 26.8 million pieces. This marked the end to ten years of an annual decline in the number of exported watches. Their value totaled 9.7 billion francs (almost $7.2 billion), or 0.4% higher than in 2001.

Gold watches showed a 0.9% gain in value terms, while platinum watches-though a tiny niche-grew substantially (+17.2%). Top-selling stainless steel watches (roughly half of all Swiss watch exports) rose 1.5% in value (a gain of almost $43.4 million) and 9.8% in volume. However, plastic, aluminum, and silver watches “performed less well” than in 2001, said the Federation.

Movement rose by 9.8% in volume-just under six million units were exported from Switzerland–and 3.4% in value. Results for watch cases and hands were also good. However, large volume products, especially alarm clocks and large clocks, dropped 21.6%.

Switzerland’s three leading watch customers—the United States, Hong Kong and Japan—account for 40% of the total value of Swiss watch exports. Their 2002 results are: The United States—1.643 billion francs ($1.2 billion), a 3.7% gain. Hong Kong—1.546 billion francs (about $1.14 billion), a 2.6% gain. Japan 1.1 billion francs ($813 million), a 4.6% gain.

The situation wasn’t so good in Europe where the economic situation was difficult. The value of exports to Italy and France was less than in 2001, and fell sharply (-19.5%) in Germany. In Great Britain, however, there was a 10.4% gain.

Outside of Europe, the biggest rises in export value were in the United Arab Emirates (+27.6%) and in China (+161.7%), where sales “rose strongly’ over the 12 months. (A substantial volume of products exported to Hong Kong are shipped on to China.)