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Swiss Watch Exports Struggle as Luxury Slowdown Persists

Swiss Watch Exports Struggle as Luxury Slowdown Persists

Swiss watch exports rose modestly in January as growth slowed and weak demand for luxury and mid-priced watches dragged on the sector.

Monthly exports increased 3.1 percent to 1.9 billion Swiss francs ($2.2 billion) by value, the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry said Tuesday. Growth was as high as 11.8 percent in the first half of last year. The number of timepieces exported rose 2.9 percent to 1.2 million as shipments of the Swatch brand’s Blancpain and Omega collaborations drove demand at the low end.

Citigroup analyst Thomas Chauvet said the numbers showed “a weak start to the year.”

Buyers of pricey Swiss watches are reining in spending amid economic and geopolitical concerns after a pandemic era boom in demand. The strong value of the Swiss franc is also putting pressure on producers which have raised prices to protect margins.

Some consumers are now balking at higher prices.

The number of exported watches priced above 3,000 francs fell 4.5 percent in January, even as their value rose 4.3 percent, the Federation said in a statement. At the same time, the number of watches exported with a wholesale price of less than 200 francs surged 5.5 percent driven by the Swatch Group AG’s namesake brand.

Exports to the US, the biggest market for Swiss timepieces, rose by a modest 2.2 percent by value. Mainland China exports gained 5 percent while shipments to Hong Kong fell 4.7 percent.

Exports of watches hit a record 26.7 billion Swiss francs by value in 2023, but the rate of sales growth slumped to just 3.6 percent in the second half of the year as consumers pulled back.

The luxury watch industry is the third largest export sector in Switzerland and employs about 60,000 people. High-end watchmakers from Rolex to Patek Philippe to Vacheron Constantin are set to unveil new models at the annual Watches and Wonders fair in Geneva in April.

By Andy Hoffman

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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.