The UK is on the podium for the first time since records began as the third largest market for Swiss watches in the world in November.
In another bad month for Swiss watchmakers, with global sales down 5.6% over November last year, Britain continued to outperform, with imports up 6.5% to CHF 129 million in the month.
Most major Swiss watchmakers, with the exception of the Swatch Group brands, increased prices in the UK by around 10% in September, which brought prices into line with other major markets.
But that has not dampened demand, with UK imports increasing from CHF 121 million per month in September and October to CHF 129 million in November.
The Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry, which compiles the monthly statistics, did not alter its conclusion from earlier months of the year, when it said that the devaluation of the pound following Brexit accounted for the UK outperforming other countries. This month, it said: “The United Kingdom remained one of the few positive markets in Europe for the special reasons with which we are familiar.”
The Federation did not refer to the fact that prices have now been adjusted.
Brian Duffy, CEO of Britain’s biggest watch retail group Aurum Holdings, has his own theory on why sales in the UK continue to beat other Western markets.
Asked by WatchPro why the UK is performing so well, Mr Duffy said: “With the price advantage here, and with the tourist business responding to that, there is no surprise that the market in London and for luxury has been so strong. What has been a surprise is that the domestic business has been improving quite significantly. I think that what this suggests to me, and what is clearer and clearer to me, is that this is the best market in the world for luxury Swiss watches. We get it, we appreciate it, we really value Swiss watches for what they are, and the UK therefore performs so well.”
While the luxury end of the market is strongest in the UK, the rest of the world is moving downmarket. Exports of wristwatches priced at CHF 3000 or more were down by 7.1%. Watches made of precious metals saw exports decline 15% while those made of steel were up 5%.
The UK’s import growth in November has contributed to the country rising from sixth to fifth in the world for the year-to-date, overtaking Italy to become Europe’s largest single market for Swiss watchmakers.