Swiss Exports Up 7.6% Despite U.S. ‘Slowdown’

Despite a “slowdown” in the United States, Swiss exports of finished watches and components rose 7.6% in value to 5.1 billion Swiss francs (about US$2.9 billion) in the first half of 2001, according to a new report from the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry (FHS).

The industry is “still going strong,” although the double-digit growth seen last year (17.2% in the first half) is “no longer being achieved,” says the report. A drop in the volume of exports, it continues, is “accelerating.” Some 12.7 million units were exported by the Swiss watch industry between January and June 2001, compared with 14.6 million last year.

However, the value of finished watch exports grew 7.3% to 4.55 billion Swiss francs (about US$2.6 billion). Much of that growth was in precious-metal watches—especially 18k gold watches, up 19%—whose export value grew 35.5%, or 1.48 billion Swiss francs (about US$864.3 million).

Because of that, the average price of the exported Swiss watch is “rising fast once again,” says the report. It reached 357 francs (US$208.51) for the first six months of 2001, compared with 291 francs (US$169.96) last year, and 242 francs (US$141.34) in the first half of 1999.

However, precious-metal watch gains weren’t enough to offset other declines. There were export drops in stainless-steel watches (one of every four Swiss watches made), both in volume (-5%) and value (-0.9%). The value of all other materials (except precious metals) dropped 2.4%.

Exports to the United States—the largest and most important market for Swiss watches—dropped 5.3% in value during the first half to 769.9 million francs (about US$449.6 million). The drop, said the Federation report, was “predictable” because of “the slowdown in the American market.” However, most of the other national markets of the Swiss watch industry’s top 15 export destinations showed gains, except for Thailand and Australia.

Regionally, North America—including both Canada and the United States—saw a drop in value of -5.6%, for a total of 793.5 million francs or US$463.4 million. Eastern European countries showed a 33.5% gain (to 98.3 million francs, or about US$57.4 million), while Latin American markets rose 22.4%, to 226.3 million francs (about US$132.1 million).