Watch exports remained positive over the year, despite a gradual loss of momentum. While the first half- year saw an increase in value of 3.1%, growth was only 0.8% in the second half. Meanwhile the fourth quarter was marginally negative, with a decline of -0.3%. Even if this downturn is not hugely significant in itself, the emerging trend in recent months points to a more difficult situation for Swiss watch exports, not to mention serious consequences attributable to the strength of the franc.
In an environment which is clearly less robust, forecasts have been revised. In 2015, watch exports are expected to remain stable in relation to 2014. Exchange rate fluctuations in particular will continue to be monitored closely and the results of the first months of 2015 will be decisive in assessing the general situation.
Exports by the Swiss watch industry consisted essentially of wristwatches. With a value of 21.0 billion francs, these accounted for nearly 95% of total exports. This result exceeded that of 2013 by 1.7%. In parallel, the number of timepieces exported also rose by 1.7%. Thus, 28.6 million watches left Switzerland in 2014, almost half a million more than in 2013.
Growth was buoyed by mechanical watches, which recorded upturns both in value and volume terms (+3.4% and +8.8% respectively). They accounted for just over a quarter of timepieces exported and generated nearly 80% of sales. Quartz watches stagnated in volume terms (-0.9%) and lost several points in terms of value (-4.1%).
The main materials progressed uniformly by value, staying very close to the sector average. In volume terms, steel, which accounted for more than one in every two watches exported, registered the same high level as in 2013. For the year as a whole, the category of other materials rose sharply by volume (+14.7%), whereas the category of other metals recorded a steep downturn (-19.4%). These contrasting trends offset one another, resulting in an overall increase of 1.7%.
Among the different price segments, growth was a common feature of 2014. Watches costing less than 200 francs (export price) accounted for half the rise in volumes. The 200-500 franc category slowed its rate of growth but remained the most dynamic of 2014. Watches between 500 and 3,000 francs remained relatively stable compared to 2013. The higher-price segment rose by 2.7% (in value and volume terms) and contributed greatly to the increase in total value.
The American continent (+4.5%) recorded above-average growth, thanks mainly to the United States (+6.2%) where the rate of growth was higher still. Asia recorded an upturn of 2.8%, albeit with disparities between markets. Hong Kong (-0.0%) attained the same level as in 2013. The leading market for Swiss watch exports staged a recovery in the first half-year, but showed little movement in the second half, before hitting a wall at the end of the period. On a broader scale, China showed the same profile however the final result was negative (-3.1%). Despite a slowdown which took effect in September, Japan (+15.2%) ended the year with an excellent result. Middle Eastern markets also registered strong increases, however the best performer was South Korea (+18.5%) which continued to surge ahead.
After a neutral first half-year, Europe ended the period with a decline of 1.2%. Not all markets followed the same trend. Italy remained stable (+0.5%), whereas Germany (-6.4%) and France (-6.0%) recorded downturns of similar magnitude. The United Kingdom (+2.3%) and Spain (+9.8%) recorded above par results, while Russia (-1.2%) ended the year slightly below its 2013 level.