Export of Switzerland Watches Hits 35-Year Low
Mon, April 19, 2021

Export of Switzerland Watches Hits 35-Year Low

Patek Philippe, Cartier, Breguet, Rolex, Omega, and Audemars Piguet are some of the most expensive and famous watches made in Switzerland / Photo by: Rama via Wikimedia Commons

 

Patek Philippe, Cartier, Breguet, Rolex, Omega, and Audemars Piguet are some of the most expensive and famous watches made in Switzerland. Swiss watches have such magical appeal on a lot of people who are willing to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on watches. One of the reasons why Swiss watches are popular is because the country has a rich history of watchmaking

 

Swiss Watchmaking

Although Switzerland is not the first country to make wristwatches, it seemed to have perfected it, and the art still exists today there. Swiss-made watches are popular for being made with century-long knowledge behind them, fine craftsmanship, and rich history of perseverance and setbacks. Swiss watches are not just a temporary accessory but is built to last for generations as they serve as family heirlooms.

Swiss-made watches are popular for being made with century-long knowledge behind them, fine craftsmanship, and rich history of perseverance and setbacks. Swiss watches are not just a temporary accessory but is built to last for generations as they serve as family heirlooms / Photo by: Marco Verch via Flickr

 

Signs of Stagnation in the Watch Industry

However, the country’s watch industry is now seeing “signs of stagnation,” according to international news agency Bloomberg. Switzerland is expected to export fewer watches than it has since 1984 because the demand for the timepieces has plunged. The watch industry is also focusing more on reselling second-hand Patek Philippes and Rolexes instead of creating new timepieces.

From January to November, Switzerland shipped a total of 18.9 million watches but this is 13% below the country’s output in 2018. The Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry, the country’s leading trade association that represents more than 90% of Swiss firms active in the sale and production of clocks, watches, and components, said that the 13% decline of Swiss watches shipment is the latest sign that it is now getting more difficult to find buyers for Swiss watches.

The last time the industry experienced that low number of exports was in 1984 when they only managed to ship 17.8 million timepieces. But it was understandable because the industry was competing with quartz technology at that time. It was also in that period when plastic Swatch appeared in the market, which breathed new life into the country’s watchmaking business. Swatch is also a Swiss-made label.

Time’s Up: The Rise of Android and Apple

On the other hand, fitness bands and Apple Watch have increased the demand for lower-end watches. Global technology market analyst firm Canalys revealed that in the fourth quarter of 2017, more people purchased Apple watches than Swiss watches. Apple is ahead with two million buyers of its smartwatch. 

There are plenty of reasons why Apple’s wearable has become popular such as it can stream music, pinpoint the user’s GPS, and comes with built-in LTE functionality. The most popular new feature for the Apple Watch is cellular connectivity. It also means that the gadget now has wider distribution because more carrier partners are making the product available in their retail stores, reported technology news platform TechCrunch. Apple Watch received the warmest reception in Australia, Japan, and the United States but struggles a bit more in Germany, France, and the UK.

The perceived value of watches may continue to depreciate as more customers are increasingly drawn to buying smartwatches.

On the other hand, fitness bands and Apple Watch have increased the demand for lower-end watches. Global technology market analyst firm Canalys revealed that in the fourth quarter of 2017, more people purchased Apple watches than Swiss watches / Photo by: Maurizio Pesce via Wikimedia Commons

 

Doesn’t Mean Apple Maintains the Lead

Yet, IDC, an American provider of market intelligence, advisory services, and events for the information technology, telecommunications, and consumer technology markets, believe that the world cannot just write off the traditional watch manufacturers just yet. It added that many people are still purchasing Swiss-made watches. In 2017, Switzerland shipped 24 million watches compared to Apple’s 18 million.

Swiss Federal Customs, the administration responsible for regulating and monitoring what comes into and out of the country, shared the five biggest markets of Swiss watches from 2016 to 2018. These were Hong Kong, the USA, China, Japan, and the UK.  However, the main markets changed in 2019, added the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry. The top market is now the USA, gaining 242.9 million CHF (Swiss franc) and 12.2% market share. It is followed by Hong Kong (211.0 million CHF, 10.6% market share), China (177.4 million CHF, 8.9%), Singapore (144.6 million CHF, 7.3%), Japan (140.6 million CHF, 7.1%), and Germany (104.0 million CHF, 5.2%).

German database company Statista revealed that revenue in the watches segment amounted to US$123,642 million in 2019 and the market will continue to grow yearly by 1.6% CAGR between 2019 and 2023. Most of the 2019 revenue in the industry is generated in China, amounting to US$72,509 million.

The Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry pointed out that the decline in the Swiss watch exports was attributable to precious metal and steel watches. Steel watches and those that belong in the other material category were also in sharp fall. The Swiss wristwatches by materials and the change in percentage are detailed as follows: Precious metal (-4.8%), steel (-5.7%), gold-steel (+6.1%), other metals (+2.8%), and other materials (+14.8%). They believe that the sharp fall in Hong Kong had a significant impact on the industry’s overall performance.

Time ticks forward, which means that things and preferences are also changing. Swiss houses will have to do more to cater to the people and the world that continue to move on, preferring multi-tasking gadgets that provide them more than just telling them the time.