Swiss watch exports plummet: China, Hong Kong lead decline

    Swiss watch exports to mainland China and Hong Kong plummeted by 41.5 percent and 44.2 percent, respectively.
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    Jing DailyAuthor
      Published   in Hard Luxury

    In March 2024, Swiss watch exports fell 16.1 percent year-on-year to $2.16 billion — a drop largely attributed to slowing demand in China and Hong Kong.

    Exports to mainland China and Hong Kong plummeted by 41.5 percent and 44.2 percent, respectively. Consequently, for the first quarter of 2024, Swiss watch exports decreased by 6.3 percent compared to the same period last year.

    As we have reported, buyers from mainland China accounted for roughly 30 percent of global Swiss watch sales in 2023, according to Morgan Stanley.

    Meanwhile, the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry announced last week that in February, Swiss watch exports fell by 3.8 percent year-on-year to 2.15 billion Swiss francs, with shipments dropping by 5.2 percent year-on-year to 1.2 million pieces.

    This marks the second monthly decline in Swiss watch exports in the past three years. The federation primarily attributes this to reduced shipments of Swiss watches to mainland China and Hong Kong, two major export destinations. Currently, Swiss watch exports to mainland China have dropped by 25 percent compared to the previous year, and exports to Hong Kong have also declined by 19 percent year-on-year.

    Last year in China, Omega topped the sales charts, with Longines and Rolex following closely behind. Rolex commanded a 30 percent market share in the luxury watch industry and was the most popular watch brand in the world. Additionally, in 2023, it surpassed 10 billion Swiss francs ($11.32 billion) in revenue, making history as the first Swiss watch company to do so.

    According to the survey, Rolex performed better than any other brand in the hard luxury category, including Louis Vuitton.

    As a result, some luxury watch companies are reducing their reliance on the Chinese market, while others continue to bet on the region. Around four years ago, Breitling had very little distribution in China. By 2023, mainland China and Hong Kong are expected to account for 10 percent of Breitling’s global sales.

    Given that China will continue to be the primary growth market for luxury in the foreseeable future, it is imperative that brands continue to cater to Chinese consumers and their evolving needs.

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