U.S. Buyers Lead Record Swiss Watch Sales

February 5, 2001

U.S. Buyers Lead Record Swiss Watch Sales

With sales to the U.S. leading the way, Swiss watch exports reached a record high $6.3 billion in 2000. Last year's strong fine watch market in the U.S., the Far East and most of Europe generated a 14.4% increase globally by dollar volume. This occurred even as the number of Swiss watches sold overseas fell 4.6%, indicating greater sales of higher-priced models.

The heightened interest in automatic and manual-wind models continues in the U.S. and abroad. Quartz watch sales by units dropped 5.1% while mechanical watch sales held at1999 levels. Consumers continued to buy steel watches. Last year, 1 million steel watches were sold abroad – a 9.2% gain over 1999. This means four out of 10 watches bought last year from Switzerland are made of steel. Sales of 18k gold watches were up about 7% in 2000 after a stagnant 1999. Sales of two-tone models increased slightly, up 2.2%. Buyers were less enthusiastic about plastic, aluminum and gold-plated timepieces. Sales for each fell as compared to 1999.

Overall, the U.S. – the largest timepiece market – led the buying spree with an increase of 20.7% in 2000. Hong Kong followed with an increase of 13.8%. Sales were up 10.6% in Japan, 10.6% in Italy, 1.3% in Germany and 21.9% in France. Officials noted the growth in 2000 will probably slow in 2001. Manufacturers expect this year "to be a year of consolidation."

- by Michael Thompson