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The headline on the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry’s report on December, 2009 exports reads “Recovery Confirmed.” This is perhaps a case of news that is less bad being viewed as good. Swiss watch exports for December were down only 7.2% compared with the same month in 2008, though for all of 2009, Swiss watch exports declined 22.3% to 13.2 billion Swiss francs.

On the bright side, December followed November as the second month in which the steep declines reflected in the the 12 month moving average leveled off, and December’s single digit decline is perhaps a sign that the fever has broken, though the patient remains in guarded condition at best.

Markets that registered growth in December were mainly those in the Far East. China enjoyed a 43.5% increase while Hong Kong was up 27%. The U.S. market’s decline slowed from -21.4% in November to -15.7% in December. The decline increased in France (-24.8%), and Italy suffered a 33.6% decline in December. Japan also continued its downward trend.

The fall in value in December was due mainly to platinum and gold watches, while bimetallic gold and steel timepieces recorded strong growth, indicating that the two-tone watch is making a comeback. Steel watches held steady at their level of December 2008. Overall, export volumes increased in number, thanks to the category of other materials and to steel and bimetallic timepieces.

The recovery was not apparent in all price segments in December. Wristwatches costing less than 3,000 francs (export price) showed marked growth generally, with the biggest increase seen in the 200-500 franc export price range. The overall value for watches under 3000 francs increased by 11.6%, with unit volumes up by 6.1%. However for watches priced at 3000 francs and up, results were well below those of December 2008.

Source: Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry (.pdf format)
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