Watch out! Swiss watch market collapses in pandemic


In spite of certain key markets increasing or remaining stable, watch exports overall continued to fall significantly in July. However, the downturn was only half of that seen in June. Swiss watch exports over the month amounted to 1.6 billion francs, a fall of 17.0% compared with July 2019.

While there were declines in all materials, the drop in value was due mainly to watches made from steel and precious metals. Total volumes contracted even more sharply, falling by 35.6%, i.e. 650,000 fewer items than in July 2019. The negative trend was particularly marked for steel and for the Other materials and Other metals categories.

Less expensive watches saw a more significant fall, while those at the other end of the scale held up better, posting only a third of the decline in comparison. Volumes, in particular, decreased sharply for watches under 200 francs (export price), falling by -41.5% compared with last year. Watches priced at over 3,000 francs saw a dip in the value of 11.1%.

Performance in the main export markets for Swiss watches varied significantly in July. China (+59.1%) posted a second consecutive month of very strong growth, illustrating the early recovery in this market and the gradual resumption of domestic rather than foreign sales. Exports to the United States (-0.6%) were stable compared with July 2019, after three months of extremely poor performance. The situation in Hong Kong (-42.9%) showed no real signs of improvement, although the decline was slightly less sharp than in April. Surprisingly, the United Kingdom (+2.5%) showed some signs of recovery ahead of other European markets, which were either stable (Germany -1.1%) or down sharply (Italy -33.6% and France -30.6%). Japan, in fourth place (-32.1%), another country deprived of Chinese tourists, remained clearly in the red.

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