Switzerland’s most successful watchmaking brands entered 2020 in good health, with the majority notching a rise in sales last year.
The latest Watch Report from Morgan Stanley in conjunction with Switzerland’s LuxeConsult consultancy, shows that six out of the top ten brands grew sales last year, three saw a dip and one was flat year-on-year.
The numbers are compiled every year by investment banker Morgan Stanley in consultation with LuxeConsult, whose founder and CEO Oliver Müller contributes to the estimates. Mr Müller told WatchPro recently that it is far from easy to penetrate the secrecy surrounding Swiss watchmakers, but the Morgan Stanley report is widely respected. It is mainly based on financial reports to stock markets, Swiss export figures, conversations with the brands and analysis of supply chains.
Vontobel, another investment bank, produces similar research every year and figures between the two reports rarely vary significantly.
The total value of Swiss watch exports rose by 2.4% last year, according to the Federation of Swiss Watch Industry, despite a significant drop of 11% to the Hong Kong, the world’s largest market. China, Japan and Singapore appeared to have taken up the slack with double digit rises in exports from the Swiss when street protests in Hong Kong shut down most luxury retail for months.
Rolex performed roughly in line with the wider Swiss market with sales up 3% to CHF 5.2 billion in 2019.
Omega was virtually flat year-on-year, increasing sales by 0.6% to CHF 2.4 billion.
Cartier outperformed with a rise of 10.5% to CHF 1.8 billion, while Richard Mille notched an increase of 181% from CHF 320 million in 2018 to CHF 900 million in 2019. If true, that lifts the brand from 19th in the list of the largest watchmakers, to eighth, and closing in on Audemars Piguet, which saw sales fall slightly by 1% to CHF 1.02 billion in 2019.
Richard Mille opened its largest flagship in the world in New York in 2018 and relocated its central London store to a larger unit in Bond Street, the city’s premier thoroughfare for luxury watches.
Patek Philippe also had a good year, with sales rising by 7.4% to CHF 1.45 billion, with the number of units sold rising from 56,000 to 62,000.
TAG Heuer and IWC had the sharpest contractions in sales in 2019. TAG Heuer was down 13% to CHF 857 million while IWC dipped by 8.7% to CHF 812 million.