Exports of Swiss watches to the United States in December registered their worst annual decline since May with monthly value down 9.5% to CHF 162 million.
It brings a challenging 2017 to a close, with the total value of exports to the US dipping by 4.5% to CHF 2.05 billion.
Last year saw global exports of Swiss watches notch their first annual rise since 2015, with the total value rising 2.7% to CHF 19.92 billion, driven by a bounce back by China, which ended the year with imports up by 18.8%.
The USA remains the second largest market in the world for Swiss watches, trailing only Hong Kong, the epicenter of luxury retail for the whole of Asia.
Europe had a mixed year in 2017. Exports to the UK rose by a further 7% after the stellar 2016 caused by the devaluation of the pound following the Brexit vote. Luxury watches in Britain are still cheaper than in other European Union countries, which has caused high spending tourists to flood in.
France (-0.4%) and Germany (-2.2%) both registered small declines in imports of Swiss watches in 2017.
Europe’s biggest luxury watch and jewellery retail groups now have significant positions in the United States following last year’s acquisition of Mayors by Aurum Holdings and this week’s buyout of Tourneau by Bucherer.
These European giants see an opportunity because of the current low level of spending per capita on Swiss watches in America. The per capita spend for every citizen in the United Kingdom was three times higher than in the United States.
At the luxury end of the market, the difference between European and US levels of spending on Swiss watches is even more dramatic. Dividing the total value of exports into a country by the number of millionaires resident there, it is Italy that is streets ahead with exports worth almost CHF 4000 per millionaire (and that is the wholesale value).
The comparison value of exports to the United States is just CHF 289 per millionaire in 2017.