Home » Swiss Watch Exports Plunge as China and Hong Kong Demand Dries Up

Swiss Watch Exports Plunge as China and Hong Kong Demand Dries Up

Swiss Watch Exports Plunge as China and Hong Kong Demand Dries Up

Monthly Swiss watch exports suffered their biggest decline since 2020 as demand for premium and luxury timepieces in key markets including China and Hong Kong plunged.

Exports dropped 16 percent by value in March to 2 billion Swiss francs ($2.2 billion) from a year earlier, the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry said Thursday.

Shipments to China, the second biggest market for Swiss watches, slid 42 percent, falling below levels seen in March 2020 when the industry came to a halt due to pandemic lockdowns. Shipments to Hong Kong plummeted 44 percent.

“The negative trend is even worse than we expected and the decline in China is really worrying and probably indicates that inventories in the region were once again too high,” said Jean-Philippe Bertschy, an analyst at Vontobel in Switzerland.

Shares of Swatch Group, which makes the Omega and Longines brands, hit a fresh 52-week low on Thursday, dropping about 1 percent in Zurich trading. Shares of Richemont, the owner of Vacheron Constantin and Cartier, also fell about 1 percent.

The sharp drop in exports underscores a global decline in demand for Swiss timepieces, which enjoyed an unprecedented boom beginning in 2021 that lasted until the middle of 2023.

Higher interest rates, shaky economic growth and geopolitical conflicts have prompted watch buyers to reconsider splashing out on expensive timepieces.

The Federation said the number of watches shipped from Switzerland in March dropped 25 percent to 1.1 million units as retailers pulled back on orders.

Shipments to the US, which overtook China as the top market for Swiss watches in 2021, fell 6.5 percent in March.

The declines were across all price categories, with shipments of watches above 3,000 francs — which account for more than 80 percent of export values — falling about 10 percent by value. Exports of watches priced between 500 francs and 3,000 francs dropped by 38 percent.

Even the lowest category, watches priced below 200 francs — which includes Swatch Group AG’s popular MoonSwatch collaboration — plummeted 19 percent in March from the year before.

Demand for Swiss watches and luxury timepieces surged during the pandemic as consumers stuck at home and flush with cash from government stimulus measures rushed to buy top brands, including Rolex and Patek Philippe.

Hamstrung by supply chain issues after halting production during lockdowns, many Swiss watchmakers couldn’t keep up and most brands drove up prices.

By Andy Hoffman

Learn more:

Swiss Watch Exports Slowing After a Record Run

Swiss watch exports hit record levels last year as watchmakers raised prices and shipments of cheaper quartz watches jumped, though the pace of growth tapered off in the second half.