UAE sales help push Swiss watch exports to record year

Ten million timepieces were sold in the past 12 months, trade group says

A display of Omega SA watches in the window of a Watches of Switzerland Group shop on Regent Street in London. Bloomberg
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Swiss watch exports set a record for the third year running in 2023, rising 7.6 per cent to the value of 26.7 billion Swiss francs ($31 billion).

Exports were boosted by sales in their largest market, the US, where they rose 7 per cent for the full year, the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry said.

Shipments to China rose almost 8 per cent during the year to about 2.8 billion francs, accounting for about 10 per cent of exports.

Demand from the UAE was also buoyant, with customers spending an estimated 1.2 billion francs on Swiss-made watches in 2023.

That is an increase of 12 per cent year-on-year and up a quarter from the previous year, data showed.

Buyers from Saudi Arabia also purchased Swiss watches worth 354 million francs last year, representing an annual increase of 2.6 per cent.

"Swiss watchmaking benefitted from steady demand in the luxury goods market," the federation said in an annual report.

"2024 looks calmer for both exports and the number of people employed in the sector, with results expected to remain high or increase only slightly."

In December alone, exports to Hong Kong rose strongly (up 15.2 per cent), Japan (up 26.8 per cent) and the UAE (up 11.8 per cent).

The industry group said the strong franc was expected to keep pressuring watchmakers this year, particularly in the entry-level and mid-range markets.

Volumes rose 7.2 per cent to 16.9 million units as shipments of the popular Omega-MoonSwatch collaboration pushed exports of Quartz watches above 10 million units.

Swiss watch exports rapidly rebounded after the peaks of the Covid-19 pandemic, setting records in 2021 and 2022.

Expensive watches from top manufacturers continued to drive gains, with timepieces priced higher than 3,000 francs accounting for 92 per cent of overall value growth.

Sales were lifted by "revenge spending", with consumers splashing built-up cash on luxury products as confinements eased.

Updated: January 31, 2024, 6:47 AM