Swiss watch exports to the United States, the industry’s most important market, dropped 17.6% in value to 119 million Swiss francs ($68.9 million) in March (compared to March 2000), after more than two years of uninterrupted growth, says a report by the Swiss Federation of Watchmakers. Overall, total value of March exports by Swiss watchmakers to all markets fell 3.3%, to 789.1 million Swiss francs ($454.7 million). For the first quarter as a whole, however, the value of exports rose to a record 2,461.9 million francs ($1.4 billion), a 12.4% gain over the first quarter in 2000.
However, the number of all Swiss timepieces exported dropped 15.7% in the first quarter, to 6.7 million units. Demand by consumers for high-end watches, though, remained strong, with exports of gold watches up 49.6%, to 117,700. Steel-cased watches, though, account for two (38%) out of every five Swiss watches.
March was not a difficult month in all markets. There were exports in Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan, and in Europe, exports to France rose 30.6%. The strength of those markets, said a Swiss watch industry report, ”cushioned the effects of the [economic] slowdown in the US, which will probably continue over the next few months.”