Stable watch exports remain at record levels

Swiss watch exports barely budged in March compared to the same month a year earlier but remained at “very high” levels, according to figures released on Tuesday.

Stable watch exports remain at record levels
Photo: Mike Chapman

Exports were valued at 1.7 billion francs ($1.8 billion), up just 0.6 percent from a year earlier, following a fall in February, the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industy (FH) said in a monthly report.

“While growth has clearly slowed compared to 2012, the levels attained remain very high, with the first quarter closing at 4.7 billion francs, an increase of 2.4 percent,” the report said.

The actual number of timepieces sold fell in March by 160,000 to 2.1 million units, FH said.

Watches selling for less than 3,000 francs (export price) fell by 6.4 percent in value.

But this was offset by a robust increase in luxury watches (those with an export price of more than 3,000 francs), which rose 7.2 percent in value, FH said.

Last year, the Swiss watch industry set an all-time record for exports of more than 21 billion francs. 

The watch industry’s Q1 figures were matched by generally encouraging numbers for overall Swiss exports issued on Tuesday by the federal customs administration (FCA).

Swiss exports rose 3.8 percent in the first quarter of 2013, while imports gained 2.6 percent over the the first three months of 2012, the FCA said.

These figures were “corrected” to reflect the fact there were three fewer working days for the period this year than in 2012.

The actual figures showed a 0.7 percent drop in exports to 49.8 billion francs, while imports dropped 1.8 percent to 43.9 billion francs.

On the plus side, exports of food products, drinks and tobacco rose 11 percent, the FCA said.

Trade with the European Union continued to suffer, with 15,900 fewer motor vehicles imported in the quarter. 

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‘Trade has collapsed’: Germany sees business with UK slump after Brexit

Germany's exports ticked up in January on robust trade with China, but trade with another key trade partner, Great Britain, plummeted after the Britain left the EU.

'Trade has collapsed': Germany sees business with UK slump after Brexit
Southampton harbour. Photo:Andrew Matthews/DPA

The Brexit fallout has continued to hurt commerce with the United Kingdom, with federal statistics office Destatis recording a 29 percent plunge in German exports across the Channel.

Meanwhile, demand for UK goods in Germany collapsed by more than 56 percent, official data showed Tuesday.

Cross-Channel exporters have had to adapt to new customs requirements from January 1, following Britain’s 2016 decision to leave the European Union.

Firms on both sides have since complained of increased bureaucracy and shipment delays as they grapple with the new rules.

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“Foreign trade with Britain has collapsed,” said LBBW bank economist Jens-Oliver Niklasch.

Overall, German exports rose 1.4 percent month-on-month in seasonally adjusted figures, Destatis said.

But imports sank as coronavirus shutdowns sapped consumer demand in Europe’s top economy.

Imports slumped 4.7 percent, widening Germany’s closely-watched trade surplus to 22.2 billion euros.

Compared with a year ago, before the pandemic ravaged the global economy, exports fell 8.0 percent in January and imports almost 10 percent.

“Consumer demand fell sharply in January due to a lack of opportunities” as the government kept non-essential shops, leisure and cultural centres closed to rein in the coronavirus,  Niklasch.

But demand for “made in Germany” goods was powered by vital trade partner China, which has recovered faster from the virus shock.

Exports to European Union countries plunged six percent year-on-year, while demand for EU goods within Germany was down by almost the same.

Combined with Germany’s struggles to bring down Covid-19 infections despite months of shutdowns, “the January reading is not an indication of renewed German export strength, but rather an alarm bell for the first quarter.”