United States closes in on Hong Kong’s title as the world’s biggest market for Swiss watches


The value of Swiss watch exports to the United States rose by 1.3% year-on-year in July to CHF 192 million.

For the first seven month of 2019, the value of Swiss watches exported to the US is up 7.1% over the same period in 2018.

The US is comfortably the second largest market in the world for Swiss watchmakers, closing in on the leader Hong Kong, which has suffered a 6% fall over the first seven months of 2019 due in large part to the ongoing anti-government protests that have brought its city center to a standstill for 12 consecutive weekends.


Hong Kong has imported Swiss watches to the value of CHF 1.7 billion so far this year while the USA has imported watches worth CHF 1.35 billion.



Globally, Swiss watch exports returned to growth following a downturn in June. The value of exports was CHF 1.9 billion, an increase of 4.3% compared with July 2018.

The top end of the market is driving that growth with watches priced at over CHF 3,000 francs (export price) the only segment to grow.

The majority of other markets saw an increase in July. The United States (+6.1%) maintained a steady pace. In Asia, there was strong growth in China (+16.3%), Japan (+23.4%) and Singapore (+17.9%). The situation in Europe (-0.8%), however, was less satisfactory, the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry reports. The United Kingdom (-0.4%), France (-12.0%) and Germany (-3.6%) all declined while Italy’s monthly performance improved (+1.9%).

Additional detail on the type of watches being exported has also recently been added to the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry reports. Dating back to 2000, the analysis shows how rapidly Swiss watchmakers have shifted focus from making quartz-based watches to pieces housing mechanical movements.

Back in the year 2000, over 27 million quartz watches were exported compared to just 2.5 million mechanical timepieces.

Fast-forward just 18 years and exports of quartz watches dropped to around 16 million units while mechanical watch exports had risen to 7.5 million.



The switch from quartz to mechanical is even more dramatic when you look at the value of exports.

In 2000, quartz watch exports were worth CHF 4.8 billion and mechanicals worth CHF 4.4 billion.

By 2018, the figure for quartz watches had dropped 25% to CHF 3.6 billion while mechanical watch exports had risen in value by 270% to CHF 16.3 billion.


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