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S'pore imports of Swiss luxury watches spike 90% in Sept

Figure makes Republic third biggest importer of such timepieces after HK and US

Swiss watch exports to Singapore surged 90 per cent in September from a year ago, making the island Republic the biggest importer of luxury timepieces that month - after Hong Kong and the United States.


SWISS watch exports to Singapore surged 90 per cent in September from a year ago, making the island Republic the biggest importer of luxury timepieces that month - after Hong Kong and the United States.

Shipments to Singapore jumped from 94.5 million Swiss francs (S$130.41 million) in September 2016 to CHF 179.2 million last month, figures released by the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry show.

"The value of watch exports to Singapore practically doubled because of the delivery of highly priced watches," the Federation said.

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The Swiss watch export data represents wholesale - not retail - sales, shipments from watch companies to distributors and retail agents.

The Singapore watch market is bouncing back. After barely scraping through with some growth in 2015, Swiss watch exports to Singapore fell 10.4 per cent last year. But for the first nine months of this year, shipments to Singapore rose 11.5 per cent to CHF824.9 million, placing Singapore as the seventh biggest markets for Swiss watch exports.

Hong Kong remained the biggest market (CHF1.78 billion), followed by the US (CHF1.51 billion), China (CHF1.07 billion) and the UK (CHF946.8 million).

Swiss watch exports overall are also on the mend, after falling 3.3 per cent in 2015 and 9.9 per cent in 2016. Shipments rose 3.7 per cent in September 2017 - the fifth straight monthly increase and the sixth in the last seven months.

But while Swiss watch exports rose in value last month, the number of timepieces sent overseas decline 11.6 per cent, dragged down mainly by steel watches and those in "other materials" category.

Through September, Swiss watch exports rose a total 1.5 per cent over a dismal 2016. That may be enough to avoid the first three-year drop in watch exports since 1932, but the exports through September were still 8.9 per cent below those of the same period in 2015.

Nevertheless, the Federation declared that "the trend over a 12-month period shows a continuing recovery".

In the big time

A poll of 60 Swiss watch executives by consulting firm Deloitte between May and July indicated that a majority were bullish about business prospects through the first half of 2018. Only 16 per cent of the executives had a negative outlook for 2017-18.

According to watch blogger Su Jia Xian, industry insiders in Asia attributed the recovery in Swiss watch exports to being driven largely by major brands such as Cartier, IWC and Omega which offer attractive new models at prices lower than before.

"Even in developed, maybe even saturated markets like Singapore and Hong Kong, the value proposition of such watches is strong enough to pull consumers out of hibernation," he said.

Shipments to Hong Kong, the Swiss's biggest market, jumped 13.7 per cent last month, though largely due to a very weak September 2016. Yet, after 25 consecutive months of declines through February this year, exports to Hong Kong have rebounded. They have increased every month since May, an indication that the tremendous glut of inventory there has finally fallen to manageable levels.

But shipments to the US, Switzerland's second-biggest watch market, still dropped in September, the seventh fall in nine months this year.

Swiss watch exports to China, the third largest market, posted a soft increase of 1.2 per cent, "although a distinctly positive trend was maintained". China has led the industry's recovery this year. Swiss watch shipments to China were up 17.2 per cent in the first nine months of 2017.

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