Bad time for Swiss watch exports as Asia demand falls
SWISS watch exports slumped last year, marking their first fall in six years, an industry body said on Tuesday, as the key Hong Kong market tanked.
After years of record growth, exports last year fell by 3.3 per cent to 21.5 billion Swiss francs (S$30.2 billion), the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry (FHS) said.
In 2014, Swiss watchmakers had clocked a historic 22.2 billion Swiss francs in exports - up 1.9 per cent over the previous year. Last year's drop was the first since the sector was hit by a sharp slowdown in 2009 in the aftermath of the global financial crisis.
Last year's slump was linked to a steep 9.1 per cent fall in demand in Asia, which absorbed exactly half of all the exports last year.
FHS said the decline in watch exports by nearly a quarter to Hong Kong, which is still feeling the impact of the pro-democracy Umbrella protests, exerted "a strong negative effect on the result worldwide".
Exports to China were also down 4.7 per cent last year, although they were seen improving towards the end of the year, bouncing up 5.5 per cent last month, FHS said.
Exports to China have yo-yoed wildly in recent years, first raking in several years of double-digit growth before taking a hard hit following efforts to crack down on corruption in that country by banning extravagant gifts like expensive watches to public officials.
The overvaluation of the Swiss franc since the Swiss central bank last January suddenly decided to stop artificially trying to hold down its value against the euro had also dealt a blow to the country's exports, FHS said.