Swiss watch exports returned their lowest March figures since 2011, the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry revealed this morning.
The organisation said the “deterioration” in sales since July 2015 gathered further pace last month as year-on-year figures plummeted 16%. The value of the market totalled CHF1.5 billion (£1.07 billion), which the FSWI said was the lowest it had recorded for six years.
“The scale of the downturn is also unusual, since we must go back to the crisis of 2009 to find rates of variation of this order,” it said.
The UK proved more resilient than the majority of other key markets as exports fell by 6% year-on-year. In comparison, exports to the Hong Kong and US, the two largest consumers of swiss watches, fell by more than 30% in both instances.
Swiss watch exports to the UK during March reached CHF85m (£61m) compared with CHF93m (£67m) in February.
All materials used for watch exteriors were affected by the decline in overall exports. The fall in value was influenced in particular by precious-metal and steel timepieces.
In terms of volumes, steel dragged the results down, as did the category of other materials, which covers all non-metallic products.
Watches with an export price of between CHF500 and CHF3,000 (£359 and £2,153) showed a more moderate decline, albeit very significant. Their value contracted by 7.1% compared to March 2015. At the extremities of the price scale, timepieces costing less than CHF200 francs (£143) and those above CHF3,000 francs (£2,200) lost ground by around 20%.
The 200-500 francs (£143-£359) category registered the least satisfactory result, falling sharply by 27% both in value and volume terms.
The main markets were particularly hard hit. Hong Kong recorded one of its steepest downturns, down38%. The US followed a similar trajectory in March (-3%), throwing the country’s poor performance into sharp relief.
China was negative (-14%), undermining the recovery which had begun to take hold at the end of last year. Germany was an exception and registered a level of growth (+2%) which confirms the steady improvement in its situation. Italy recorded a moderate decline (-3%), while Japan (-9%) failed to live up to the promise shown at the start of the year.