Swiss watch exports to the UAE, among the top 10 markets for the watch industry, dropped 34.1 percent in the first five months of 2020 in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic. However, this statistic is in line with the 35.8 percent drop in overall exports of Swiss watches in the same period when compared to the same period in 2019.
According to date released by Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry (FH), exports to the UAE were at 273.5 million Swiss Francs in the first five months, as opposed to 415.1 million Swiss Francs (CHF) in 2019. While the UAE has seen a 34.1 percent drop, the Middle East region has seen a 56.3 percent decline accounting for CHF 568.4 million. There were significant declines in Saudi Arabia (-49.3 percent at CHF70.4 million) and Qatar (-98.9 percent at CHF64.5 million).
A lockdown in in its most important markets has taken a heavy toll on the industry. April was a particularly tough month for Swiss watch exports, reporting an 81.3 percent decline. Things improved marginally and the month of May saw exports drop 67.9 percent reaching 655.6 million Swiss Francs.
Hong Kong was down 52.5 percent at CHF593.5 million from the same period in 2019.
The value of exports across main markets have all fallen by more than half when compared to 2019. The United States, which sits atop of the list of exports, reported a drop of 79.2 percent in May and a 25.6 percent drop over the first five months. The US accounted for 709.8 million Swiss Francs in the first five months of 2020, as opposed to 954.7 million Swiss Francs in the same period last year. China and Hong Kong, the world’s most important market for luxury goods, have also seen dwindling sales. Swiss watch exports to China were down 24.6 percent at 603 million Swiss Francs while Hong Kong was down 52.5 percent at CHF593.5 million. Hong Kong, in particular, has had a rough few years thanks to the ongoing pro-democracy protests.
The industry will be hoping for a stronger second half of the year following the announcement that some countries in Europe and the Middle East (including the UAE) are planning to welcome visitors in the summer months. In a recent interview with WatchTime Middle East, Ricardo Guadalupe, CEO of luxury brand Hublot said, “This year is going to be tough, I am seeing −20 to −30 percent for us and I believe the watch industry will see similar levels. I do not anticipate a recovery next year. It will maybe take two or three years. We don’t know - it really depends on whether the virus disappears or not. There are not too many parameters here to predict what’s going to happen in the long term.”