Switzerland is on track to export fewer watches than it has in any year since 1984 as demand for low-end timepieces plunges and the industry increasingly focuses on reselling secondhand Rolexes and Patek Philippes.
The country shipped 18.9 million watches in the 11 months through November, down 13% from a year earlier, the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry said Thursday. That’s the latest sign it’s getting harder to find buyers for new timepieces.
The last year exports were so low was in 1984 at 17.8 million pieces, when the industry was in the tail-end of a crisis caused by competition from quartz technology. That’s also when the plastic Swatch emerged, breathing new life into Swiss watchmaking.
The Apple Watch and fitness bands have weighed on demand for lower-end watches, driving shipments of watches costing less than $200 down 20% in November. The slump bodes ill for Swatch Group AG, which relies on low- and mid-priced brands for the bulk of its earnings, according to estimates by Zuercher Kantonalbank.
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