Economy, Sci & Tech

Apple Blamed for Sinking Swiss Watch Sales

Apple Blamed for Sinking Swiss Watch Sales
Apple Blamed for Sinking Swiss Watch Sales

It was Swiss watchmaking legend Jean-Claude Biver who said in 2014 that the Apple Watch (and smartwatches more broadly) “wouldn’t create another crisis for the Swiss watch industry”.

 It now appears that Biver may have spoken too soon. According to a Swiss customs office statement released on Thursday, October saw the biggest decline in the export of Swiss timepieces in six years: a 7.6% dip in global shipments, including a 12% decline in shipments to the U.S. alone, and a drop in total revenue of 2 billion Swiss francs ($2 billion).

According to Digital Trends, it’s the continuation of a trend that began earlier this year. In August, exports fell 9.3% year-on-year—then the steepest monthly decline since November 2009. September witnessed a 9.9% drop in Swiss luxury wristwear shipments, bookending a Q3 that saw sales decline 8.5%. Since January, Swiss watch exports have slid 3.2% overall.

These sustained, precipitous drops are especially dramatic in context. In October 2014, Swiss watch exports made one of the highest year-on-year gains of the year—5.2%. And 2014 was a record year for the Swiss watch industry overall, generating $23.9 billion in sales.

The natural inclination is to blame smartwatches, a market segment expected to reach $32.9 billion by 2020, but they’re far from the biggest factor.

Analysts point to weak demand in Asian nations, especially Hong Kong, which saw its sales share of Swiss wristwear tumble 10% in October from the same period a year ago. Other overseas markets have not fared much better—in August, sales to China were 40% of total sales, down from 49% in July 2014, and in the same month the South Korea market shrank to 29%.