The Swiss Watchmaking Industry Reports a Softening in Decline

December 29, 2016

Rolex Chêne-Bourg Site (photo: Jean-Daniel Meyer)
According to the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry FH, the decline of exports for the Swiss watch industry softened from October to November of 2016. While exports of precious metal configurations saw a decline, stainless steel models offset the loss with a small increase. Watches priced over 3,000 and between 200 and 500 Swiss francs saw the most significant decline, with wristwatches at other export prices showing a small increase.

Sales rose in mainland China and the United Kingdom, with Hong Kong remaining stable. The rest of Europe and the United States saw declines, however, bringing exports down. These numbers are seen as somewhat positive according to the Swiss watch industry, as the months prior showed a steady decline in imports overall. Whether the steadying of exports will signal an end to the decline remains to be seen. With watchmakers buying back inventory this year to offset their declining sales, it seems that they have their work cut out for them in the first quarter of 2017.

Rolex is not a public company, so their sales figures and production numbers remain shrouded in mystery. However, these numbers make it clear that the Swiss watchmakers need to create a significant amount of fanfare at Baselworld 2017 in the hopes of changing the negative trend in watch exports in the coming year. It would be wise to focus on the segments that are currently trending upward, so I don't expect as many precious metal configurations as interesting stainless steel models. Rolex is known to focus on their long-term goals as compared to other companies that tend to go with current trends. This will make it interesting to see how they position themselves at the trade show in March.


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