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UK demand for Swiss watches up 48.2%

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Swiss watch export figures for February 2013 recorded an annual decline of 2.5% but demand for Swiss watches in the UK jumped 48.2%.

The figures, collated and released by The Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry (FH), show that despite export volumes of luxury and fine metal timepieces falling, watches with higher price-points continue to exhibit strong export values compared with those positioned at the lower value end of the market.

Figures for Swiss watch exports in February 2013 stood at CHF1.6 billion (£1.11bn) in terms of export value, a stable figure despite the yearly fall in unit numbers being exported.

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The UK maintained its 10th place position in export value compared with 29 other countries, with February’s Swiss watch imports to the UK totalling CHF68.7 million (£47.7m), a growth in annual demand of 48.2%.

UK, figures from retail analysts GfK revealed that February watch sales for timepieces with RRPs of more than £1,000 were up 20.07%.

Gold and non-steel watches experiencing a difficult month, as exports contended with one of the most unfavourable base effects of the year.

However, bi-metallic timepieces continue to show a “more marked decline”, according to the FH, with exports dropping 10.9% in February 2013. Gold-plated silver timepieces fell 56.4% compared to February 2012, while gold watch exports, which totalled CHF526 million (£365m) for the month, fell 13.3%. Platinum Swiss watches have fallen out of favour somewhat, with exports down 11.4%, with a total value of CHF34.9 million (£24.3m).

The FH said of the variance between materials: “The number of pieces [exported showed] a stronger fall than their value. Steel was just a few points lower, while the category of other materials and that of other metals experienced a more difficult month”.

In terms of price point, Swiss watches at the lower end of the export value chain with export prices below CHF200 (£138) fell 18.7%, while the volume of middle price point timepieces between CHF200 to CHF500 (£138 to £347) registered a small decline of about 4%.

Overall, Swiss timepieces priced at less than CHF3,000 (£2,085) exhibited a decline in export volume, while those above CHF3,000 increased a few percent, proving that demand for luxury timepieces remains.

“Only watches selling at more than CHF3,000 performed positively, but only just,” stated the FH.

As for export markets outside the UK, the Far East remains very much in decline as the demand for luxury timepieces there appears to wane. The value of sales to Hong Kong and China fell steeply against February 2012, with Hong Kong falling 24.4% and China exports dropping 33.6%.

In Asia and the Middle East Swiss exports recorded growth. The FH described last month’s exports to the United Arab Emirates as “dynamic”, with exports up 18.9%. Singapore and Japan also increased their imports of Swiss watches.

The value of Swiss watch exports to United States decreased slightly in February 2013 but within Europe – Germany in particular – Swiss exports remained “favourable”, with German demand up almost 20% on February 2012. This follows an increase in January’s figures, when German demand for Swiss watches bloomed by 46.3% compared to January 2012.


This article originally appeared in the April 2013 issue of
WatchPro. To read a digital version of the magazine in full online, click here.

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