November proved to be a remarkable month for the Swiss watch industry, with total watch exports surging to nearly 2.5 billion Swiss francs, equivalent to a robust $2.88 billion. This milestone, reported by the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry, brings much cheer to the sector.
While the pace of monthly growth had decelerated somewhat since the summer, November still posted a commendable 3.1 percent year-on-year increase. Importantly, this is part of a broader trend, as the industry boasted a cumulative 7.7 percent growth over the first 11 months of the year. Such performance is being likened to the remarkable feats achieved in 2022, showcasing the industry’s resilience.
The total volume of watches exported in November saw a minor contraction of 1.3 percent. However, the real highlight was the overall value of these exports, which soared by an impressive 3.3 percent. This boost in value was primarily driven by a decline in the steel watch category and a significant uptick in the “other metals” segment, encompassing gold-and-steel watches as well as full gold timepieces.
Notably, despite a recent slowdown in luxury goods and the continued macroeconomic challenges, the demand for Swiss watches remained intact. In the United States, a market known for its discerning tastes, November saw a growth rate of 0.9 percent. This may seem modest, but it’s a testament to the enduring appeal of Swiss timepieces. Remarkably, the U.S. led the global watch export markets by a substantial margin, contributing 400 million Swiss francs, almost matching the combined results of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and China, the second and third-largest markets.
In an unexpected turn, the Chinese market experienced a 3.7 percent contraction, causing it to slip to third place. Meanwhile, Hong Kong witnessed a remarkable leap of nearly 13 percent, securing its second-place position. The relative weakness of China’s performance, especially during a typically favorable fourth quarter, raises questions about the factors influencing these dynamics.
Other countries within the top 10 export markets also contributed significantly, with the United Kingdom and Japan leading the way with growth rates of 16.7 percent and 11.9 percent, respectively. However, France, Italy, and South Korea saw modest declines, underscoring the variance in global demand.
The Swiss watch industry’s growth was not confined to a single price category. Watches at both ends of the price spectrum demonstrated resilience. Watches priced under 200 Swiss francs even exceeded their 2022 high, while watches in the 3,000-plus francs category expanded by 5 percent, with a nearly identical number of units sold compared to the previous year.
These trends align with a broader shift in the luxury goods market, characterized by an “elevation” of the market due to higher average retail prices. Additionally, the decrease in the export of watches priced between 200 and 3,000 Swiss francs may suggest that aspirational consumers are grappling with affordability challenges.
In conclusion, the Swiss watch industry’s performance in November, despite some deceleration, demonstrates its enduring appeal and resilience. It also reflects broader trends in the luxury goods market, highlighting the significance of high net worth individuals as key drivers of sales. This shift in dynamics is shaping the future of luxury retail, where a select elite clientele continues to wield substantial influence.