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Swiss Watch Exports Hit a Record $31 Billion in 2023

Last year was a testament to the unpredictable nature of the Swiss watch industry.

Swiss watch exports reached a record high in 2023, but sales slowed significantly in the second half of the year.

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Annual exports increased 7.6 percent year over year to a total value of roughly $31 billion (26.7 billion Swiss francs), according to figures published by the Federation of the Swiss watch industry on Tuesday. Growth in the first half of the year was 11.8 percent but dropped to 3.6 percent in the last six months as buyers curbed spending amid economic headwinds.

Even still, the number of wristwatches exported rose 7.2 percent year over year to 16.9 million, meaning that an additional 1.1 million timepieces were shipped abroad in 2023. Mechanical watches generated almost 80 percent of the growth in export turnover, while quartz watches accounted for three-quarters of the increase in volumes. Breaking it down by price, luxury wrist candy costing over $3,480 (3,000 francs) generated 92 percent of export turnover, while watches with an export price of $232 (200 francs) or less accounted for 83 percent of the increase in volumes.

In terms of markets, Asia accounted for almost half (49 percent) of Swiss watch exports, while Europe represented a 30 percent share and the Americas covered 19 percent. The U.S. cemented itself as the biggest market, with watch exports to the States jumping 7 percent to approximately $4.8 billion (4.1 billion francs) in 2023. China and Hong Kong were the next largest, with exports growing to $3.2 billion (2.8 billion francs) and $2.7 billion (2.4 billion francs), respectively.

It’s worthwhile pointing out that the number of employees in Switzerland’s watchmaking sector also grew by 7.7 percent to over 65,000 workers last year, illustrating the ongoing interest in Swiss-made timepieces.

So, what’s in store for 2024? The federation says this year will be “calmer” in terms of exports, with results expected to “remain high or only increase slightly.” It adds that the sluggish economic situation is affecting consumer confidence at all levels, and several brands have already indicated that they intend to be cautious in their forecasts. Sounds like the unpredictability will continue.

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