Swiss watch exports to the Middle East rose 14.6 per cent in the first quarter of 2018 finishing at CHF533 million ($528 million), as opposed to the 1.2 per cent decline the region faced for the same period in 2017. The UAE finished as the 10th most important market, according to the latest figures released by FH, the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry.

Exports to the UAE grew 6.6 per cent in Q1 over 2017

The first quarter of 2018 has been a year of solid growth for the Swiss brands. After a terrific February when global exports grew  12.9 per cent over the same period last year, the industry finished March up 4.8 per cent over last year. Overall, the Swiss finished the first quarter at CHF4.9 billion ($4.9 billion), a growth of 10.1 per cent, the highest quarterly growth since June 2012.

For the first quarter, Asia climbed 17.7 per cent to $2.7 billion with Hong Kong, China, Japan and Singapore leading the rally. Hong Kong continues to retain its place at the top with a positive growth of 21.6 percent from 2016 and 21.7 percent from 2017 finishing at $724 million. The industry’s optimism about growth in China was justified by the 19.2 per cent growth the market showed in Q1, as compared to 18.8 per cent for the same period in 2017. Exports to China dipped 6.9 per cent this March, but it still finished the third largest market at the end of the first quarter.

Overall the Swiss industry grew 4.8 per cent in Q1

As far as prices go, watches less than CHF200 ($199) saw a 7.8 per cent growth after more than a year of decline. Demand was strongest for watches priced in the $500-$3,000 segment, with a 19.3 per cent increase in exports. Timepieces more than $3,000 in value were up 12.9 per cent.

Finishing at $221.2-million, the UAE emerged from the first quarter as the 10th most important destination for Swiss watches, a 6.6 per cent rise from 2017, but still 11.7 per cent down from 2016. Saudi Arabia, the 14th largest market, saw a 7 per cent growth at $82.6 million. Kuwait was up 17.4 per cent from 2017 at $36.3 million, while Qatar recorded a stupendous 88.1 per cent growth to finish at $91.5 million.

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The US market recorded 8.9 per cent growth and retained its spot as the second largest consumer of luxury watches, although the country has been affected by “an overall downward trend”, as reported by FH. The European region faced a 2.4 per cent drop, despite having a strong 2.6 per cent advance in 2017, with the United Kingdom and Italy (being down 12 per cent and 8 per cent respectively) having admitted to a challenging first quarter.