|Photo credit: Ulysse Nardin|
Each month in 2011 had double-digit growth, year-over-year, except for June, which posted a 9.2 percent increase. The steepest increases (above 30 percent) were reported in April and May. However, the final three months were the biggest in history, the association said.
The association went on to say that it was “penalized” by the strength of the Swiss franc, which placed a strain on margins and selling prices. However the sector drew strength from steady demand and a greater presence worldwide, particularly on high-potential markets less affected by exchange rate fluctuations.
Nearly all the main markets of the Swiss watch industry showed double-digit increases in 2011, absorbing more than 20 percent of Swiss watch exports by value. Hong Kong, the industry’s largest market grew by more than 28 percent. The United States, the second largest market, increased by 18.4 percent, which the association said “confirmed its gradual recovery.” China moved up one place in the ranking, thanks to the biggest increase among the main markets (48.7 percent). European markets all registered below-average performances. While France, Germany and the United Kingdom recorded two-digit growth, Italy and Spain failed to match this level. Singapore also moved up one place, following the same trend as Hong Kong. Japan offered concrete signs of recovery, but from a particularly low base.
The association said that 2012 will continue to see robust growth for the Swiss watch industry based on the “appeal of its high-quality products, growth potential in important markets and investments made by watchmaking firms to ensure their development offer grounds for confidence in the future.”
Wristwatches accounted for the major share of exports, generating 94 percent of total value. The value of timepieces rose by 19.3 percent, year-over-year, to 18.1 billion francs. Nearly 30 million watches left Switzerland (up 13.8 percent), the highest level since 1999 and well above the average figure of 25 million units over the past ten years.
More than half of all watches exported were manufactured from steel. This material showed a positive trend (up 12.8 percent) to exceed 15 million timepieces, on a par with their value, which increased by 13.9 percent. The category of other materials, which includes all non-metallic finishes, saw volumes rise to nearly 8 million units (up 18.8 percent). Among the important materials, the category of other metals, mainly aluminum, registered more than 4 million units (up 8.1 percent).
In value terms, gold watches recorded the highest increase (26.5 percent), linked to an upturn in volumes of 24.2 percent. Bimetallic timepieces were not far behind with an increase of 24.7 percent.
All price segments saw robust growth in 2011, denoting interest among consumers for the entire range of Swiss watches. Timepieces costing less than 200 francs (export price) greatly influenced volumes with an increase of 2.2 million units (up 11.7%). Between 200 and 500 francs, growth was close to 20 percent, both in value and volume terms. The 500-3,000 francs range saw its value increase by 14.9 percent. Watches costing more than 3,000 francs recorded the highest rate of growth in value terms at 21.8 percent.
Other products exported by Swiss watchmaking firms, mainly components, also experienced a sharp upturn in value (18.1 percent to 1.2 billion francs).
The top 15 markets for the Swiss watch industry (total value in million francs and percentage variation by comparison with 2010):
1. Hong Kong 4,085.9 +28.3%
2. USA 1,984.6 +18.4%
3. China 1,636.3 +48.7%
4. France 1,296.4 +10.9%
5. Singapore 1,146.4 +27.5%
6. Italy 1,011.8 +9.5%
7. Japan 909.2 +12.6%
8. Germany 899.2 +17.0%
9. United Arab Emirates 682.9 +17.9%
10. United Kingdom 659.0 +10.4%
11. South Korea 394.5 +29.2%
12. Taiwan 366.9 +18.8%
13. Spain 355.5 +3.4%
14. Saudi Arabia 286.0 +11.6%
15. Thailand 278.6 +35.1%