Exports of Swiss-made bi-metallic watches, like this Longines model, rose 24 percent in 2011.

Export sales up 19.2% with every month up on 2010.

Swiss watch exports enjoyed a record year in 2011 with sales hitting CHF19.3 billion (£13.32bn) up 19.2% on the previous year.

The Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry has called the year “a new landmark in remarkable growth over recent years”.


Growth was steadily strong throughout the year with double-digit growth each month apart from June, which registered a 9.2% rise. The best months were April and May, which had increases of more than 30%, but it was the final quarter of the year that put 2011 into the history books as it was the best three months in the history of Swiss watch exports.

Despite a boom year, the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry said that the results were hampered by the strength of the Swiss franc, which in turn put strain on margins and prices.

Wristwatches accounted for the major share of exports, generating 94% of total sales. The value of the watches rose to CHF18.1 billion (£12.94bn), an increase of 19.3% compared to 2010, and the number of timepieces exported showed what the Federation called “a remarkable upturn”. In 12 months, 29.8 million watches were exported from Switzerland, which is the highest level since 1999 and well above the average figure of 25 million units a year over the past 10 years.

More than one in two watches exported were manufactured from steel. This material showed a positive upwards trend of 12.8% to exceed 15 million timepieces and value was up 13.9%. The category of other materials, which includes all non-metallic finishes enjoyed growth of 18.8% to nearly 8 million units. Among the important materials, the category of other metals which is mainly aluminium, registered more than 4 million units, a rise of 8.1%.

In value terms, gold watches recorded the highest increase at an uplift of 26.5%, linked to an upturn in volumes of 24.2%. Bi-metallic timepieces were not far behind with an increase of 24.7%.

All price segments made good progress in 2011, according to the report. Timepieces costing less than CHF200 (£138, export price) was a particularly strong sector and showed an increase of 2.2 million units, up 11.7%. Watches priced at between CHF200 and CHF500 (£138 to £345) showed a growth of 20%, both in value and volume terms. The CHF500 to CHF3,000 (£345 to £2,071) range saw its value increase at a slightly lower rate of 14.9%. Watches costing more than CHF3,000 (£2,071) recorded the highest rate of growth in value termswith an uplift of 21.8%, generating two-thirds of the overall increase.

Other products exported by Swiss watchmaking firms, mainly components, also experienced a sharp upturn in value of 18.1% to CHF1.2 billion francs (£828.6m).

The main markets of the Swiss watch industry all gained ground in relation to 2010. Absorbing more than 20% of Swiss watch exports by value, Hong Kong recorded a very strong increase, indirectly illustrating the dynamism of markets supplied by its re-exports. The US confirmed its gradual recovery by maintaining a high level of growth throughout the year. China moved up one place in the ranking, thanks to the biggest increase among the main markets. European markets all registered below-average performances. While France, Germany and the United Kingdom recorded two-digit growth, Italy and Spain failed to match this level. Singapore also moved up one place, following the same trend as Hong Kong. Japan offered concrete signs of recovery, but from a particularly low base.

The Federation said that it is confident about the prospects for 2012. It said the “appeal of its high-quality products, growth potential on important markets and investments made by watchmaking firms to ensure their development offer grounds for confidence in the future”.

1. Hong Kong (up 28.3% in 2011 vs 2010)
2. US (up 18.4%)
3. China (up 48.7%)
4. France (up 10.9%)
5. Singapore (up 27.5%)
6. Italy (up 9.5%)
7. Japan (up 12.6%)
8. Germany (up 17%)
9. United Arab Emirates (up 17.9%)
10. United Kingdom (up 10.4%)
11. South Korea (up 29.2%)
12. Taiwan (up 18.8%)
13. Spain (up 3.4%)
14. Saudi Arabia (up 11.6%)
15. Thailand (up 35.1%)