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Chinese tourists drive Swiss watch sales

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Chinese tourists drive Swiss watch sales
Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP
09:50 CEST+02:00
Swiss watch exports may be declining in Asia but purchases by Chinese tourists are driving up sales in many parts of Europe, a spokesman for the industry says.

In the first six months of 2013, Switzerland’s watch industry on Friday reported near-zero growth over the first half of 2012 at 10.2 billion francs, up just 0.8 percent.

Switzerland’s largest single market for watches, Hong Kong, recorded an 11.1 percent reduction in the value of exports over the period, the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry (FH) said.

China, the third-biggest market, saw an even bigger drop of 18.7 percent.

But markets rebounded in Germany, Italy (fourth and fifth biggest markets respectively) and the UK, while France bucked the trend with lower sales.

The US, the second-biggest market, posted a slight (1.1 percent) increase in the value of exports, following a significant increase the previous year, according to FH figures.

“In fact we are seeing a crossover of trends,” Philippe Pegoraro, statistics chief for the watch federation, told Tamedia’s Newsnet.

“The most dynamic markets for the past few years are settling down while the (previously) fairly lifeless markets are holding up well,” he said.

However, it appears that Chinese buyers are responsible in part for the boost in European markets.

One in two Swiss watches globally is bought by a Chinese customer, and the sales are strong in Europe, particularly in tourist centres, Pegoraro said.

A significant fall in the sale of gold watches is attributed as a major cause for the overall drop in Swiss watch exports in June compared to the same month a year earlier.

Exports fell 3.1 percent to 1.9 billion francs, although the decline is also in part the result of one working day less in the month this year than in 2012, FH said.

The value of gold wristwatch exports fell 12.9 percent last month to 617.4 million francs from June 2012.

Steel watch exports, accounting for 678.5 million francs in value remained stable (up 3.6 percent), the federation said.

Fewer luxury timepieces were exported, with models selling for more than 500 francs experiencing a drop of 3.4 percent in value.

Watches priced for export between 200 and 500 francs saw 20 percent growth, confirming a trend seen in May, FH reported.

Exports of inexpensive models priced under 200 francs, meanwhile, saw the biggest percentage drop in volume, off 14.8 percent.

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