There are, nonetheless, two major drawbacks to this system. Firstly, these are export figures rather than sales to end customers, which gives an imperfect, slightly blurred picture of activity within the sector. Secondly, as their name suggests, they do not include sales in Switzerland. Estimated at around 5% of the global market, they carry a non-negligible weight, not least considering the CHF/EUR tsunami of recent weeks.
Occasionally, the possibility is raised that the watch industry follow the automotive industry’s lead and publish retail sales figures, Switzerland included, that would give a reliable and accurate account of the situation in the markets. Utopia or reality?
Best not to dream and focus instead on a more down to earth reality. Towards the end of last year, I ventured several forecasts for 2014 which proved to be fairly near the mark, as the year ended with a rise in wristwatch exports of 1.7% in both volume and value. While we’re on a roll, let’s hazard a guess at what the current year holds. I expect exports to consolidate at around CHF 21 billion in 2015; this would be an increase more or less in line with the worldwide inflation rate.
Tiresias, the blind prophet of Ancient Greek mythology, has even dropped a few clues that I will now share with you. The very high-end segment (export prices above CHF 6,000) could progress by some 5% while the high-end segment (CHF 3,000-6,000) should grow in the region of 2%. This ought to compensate the no doubt inevitable drop in exports of wristwatches priced under CHF 3,000. The higher prices which the majority of brands introduced in the euro zone in response to the rocketing Swiss franc are unlikely to have an adverse effect on watches with a retail price above CHF 20,000. Watches in the under-CHF 5,000 segment, in contrast, risk being harder hit.
Blind Tiresias can only feel which way the wind is blowing. As someone who likes to keep his feet on the ground, I expect the situation to be more nuanced than these general predictions, depending on the market and geographic zone. But I shall leave it to the analysts to provide additional clarification.