Swiss watch exports to the Middle East dropped 9.7 per cent in 2017 with the UAE – the tenth largest market in the world - recording a 3.5 per cent decline, according to results published by the FHH, the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry.
However, the good news is that the Swiss industry has shown a year of growth finally with a 2.7 per cent increase in sales. For the year 2017, the Swiss watch exports fell just short of CHF20 billion with a final figure of CHF 19,924 million ($21.4 billion).
In what will only be seen as encouraging news in Switzerland, exports to China, one of the industry’s most important client base grew 18.8 per cent in 2017, up 15 per cent from the lows of 2015. It may be recalled that the pall of gloom hanging over the industry the last few years had been attributed to slowing demand in China following a crackdown on corruption and gifting. So the industry will gladly take the almost 19 per cent growth in China in 2017.
Hong Kong, the biggest market in terms of volume, was also up six per cent with a CHF2.5 billion ($2.7 billion) finish in 2017. Hong Kong may have grown this year but it is still a 20.6 per cent drop from the $3.4 billion that it accounted for in 2015.
The UAE, the tenth most important market for the Swiss watch industry, finished 2017 at CHF891.4 million ($958 million), a 3.5 per cent drop from 2016 and a 6.3 per cent drop from 2015. Saudi Arabia was down 6.4 per cent with CHF325.1 million ($349.4 million). However, Bahrain grew at 11.3 per cent to record CHF115.6 million ($124.2 million) in 2017 while Qatar was up 3.7 per cent with CHF141 million ($151.5 million). Turkey, which boats a WatchTime edition in the Turkish language now, saw a 17.7 per cent increase at CHF132.9 million (142.8 million).The main Asian markets generally saw steep increases in the final months of the year. Hong Kong grew 11.8 per cent and China 12.3 per cent in December.
Incidentally, the UAE grew 2.2 per cent in the same period. The United States, the second biggest market for Swiss watches in 2017, experienced a decline of 4.4 per cent. The country pulled in just over CHF2 billion ($2.2 billion). In Europe, the charge was led by The Netherlands with a 17.7 per cent hike with CHF273.2 million ($293.8 million) while the UK, the fourth largest market, was up seven per cent with CHF1,290.5 million ($1.3 billion).