Record Sales for Swiss Watches in 2006

The Swiss watch industry had another record year in 2006, aided greatly by luxury timepieces, according to the Federation of Swiss Watching Industry (FH). The total value of watch exports was 13.7 billion francs (over $10.9 billion), a new record, and generated double-digit growth (10.9 percent) for the second consecutive year.

“A very solid performance,” said the federation report released Feb. 1, with “no reverses whatsoever.”

Demand was strong throughout 2006, particularly for luxury watches, which the report said, “acted as a locomotive for the industry.”

The Swiss watch industry has now had three years of solid growth, with a 9.2 percent gain in 2004 and an 11.5 percent increase in 2005.

For 2006 as a whole, in value terms, wristwatches increased 11.6 percent. Watches of 18K gold increased 17.6 percent and steel up10.3 percent “contributed greatly” to that, said the federation. Platinum timepieces, which rose 23 percent, were also a key factor. The strongest growth (59.6 percent) was recorded by gold-plated products.

The number of timepieces exported grew 2.1 percent over 2005, due mainly to steel (up 2.7 percent) and “other materials” (up 7 percent). The latter included plate (rolled), hard metals, plastic and mineral-based materials. Other metals, mainly aluminum, however, dropped 7.3 percent.

The industry’s results were “influenced greatly” by luxury products, which showed very strong growth throughout 2006, said the federation. Wristwatches with a value of more than 3,000 francs (export price, about $2,400) increases 27 percent by value and 34.7 percent by volume. Below that, the value of exported timepieces remained stable, while volume increased by 1.2 percent, generating slightly more than half of the total increase.

Exports of movements, watch cases, dials, and bracelets also increased in 2006. Exports of alarms and other clocks rose by 5.1 percent.

For 2006 overall, the United States was again the top market for Swiss watchmaking products (up 6.1 percent), followed by Hong Kong (up 8.9 percent) and Japan (up 10.4%), a top-three ranking that’s been in place for some time.

Europe overall had an increase of 12.7 percent for 2006, France and Germany both posting gains of more than 20 percent. China remained in tenth place with an increase of 14.9 percent. However, 2006 ended in December with a decline in exports to several market, including the United States (down 2.7 percent) and Hong Kong ( down 8.7 percent).