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Industry News – Historic Fall of Swiss Watch Exports in 2020


The FHS, the Federation Horlogère Suisse (or the Swiss Watch Federation), has just released export statistics for 2020 marking a year of profound global change. Although the full impact of the coronavirus outbreak cannot be calculated accurately, the pandemic has had a strong impact on the watch industry. Exports dropped by 21.8% in value to CHF 17 billion, below their 2011 level. It is the sharpest decline since 2009 (-22.3%). If the comparison basis will be much lower and some recovery is probably in sight, the outlook remains uncertain for 2021.

The luxury industry has taken a big hit during the pandemic. The FHS has just released its exports statistics for 2020, and as expected, the Swiss watch industry shipments fell sharply at CHF 17 billion (- 21.8%) while the number of wristwatches exported dropped to 5,480,878 units (-33%). Following the collapse seen at the beginning of the year, the industry has seen a gradual slowdown of the decline. Over the last quarter, exports were only down 4.3% – and specifically, down 2.5% in December.

Accelerated shift to local purchasing

This gradual stabilization of the situation has mostly to be credited to sales in China, with shipments up 20% at CHF 2,394 million. China has been the first major economy to recover from COVID-19. Since the pandemic has stopped international travel, Chinese consumers have spent a growing proportion of their luxury budget on their domestic market. This has long been encouraged by government policies and the pandemic is accelerating this reshoring of luxury consumption on a local basis. Mainland China has become in 2020 the number one destination for Swiss watch exports.

Source: FHS

On the contrary, in addition to the lockdowns, markets such Hong Kong (CHF 1,696 million; -36.9 %), Singapore (CHF 933 million; -26.4%) or some European countries such as France (CHF 667 million; -37.9%) or Italy (CHF 647 million; -33.3%) have borne the brunt of the collapse in global tourism. Exports to the USA were down 17.5% at CHF 1,986 million.

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