China continues to act as the beacon of hope for the luxury watch industry. Exports to China were up 78.8 percent in September even as numbers fell sharply everywhere else. Cumulative results for the Swiss watch industry after nine months of 2020 saw a decline of 28.3 percent, with the total value of exports equivalent to CHF11.4 billion.
According to figures released by the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry (FH) last week, Switzerland exported the equivalent of CHF1.6 billion in September, down 12 percent from the same period last year. Fueled by increased demand at home, China accounted for CHF1.5 billion worth of exports in the first nine months of the year, up 10.6 percent from last year. The domestic market in China has benefited from the fact that wealthy Chinese have not traveled to Europe on holidays this summer on the back of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The United States came in second on the charts clocking CHF1.3 billion worth of exports in the period between January and September, down 22 percent from last year. Hong Kong came in third with exports worth CHF1.1 billion, down 44 percent from 2019. Closer home, the United Arab Emirates is in eight place with CHF501.3 million in the first nine months, down 27.2 percent from the previous year.
According to the report, watches priced at less than CHF500 (export price) recorded the sharpest declines in September, falling by 23.9 percent by value and 30.5 percent by number of items. The most lucrative segment right now seems to be the CHF500-3,000 category, which saw a marginal increase in value of 2.7 percent. Watches priced at over CHF3,000 tumbled 13.5 percent in value compared to how they fared in September 2019.
If September’s numbers are anything to go by, the popularity of two-tone (gold and steel) watches seems to be dwindling. Exports fell sharply at 27.8 percent in the month compared to the same period last year.