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Wristwatches sit on display at the Jaquet Droz booth, a unit of Swatch Group AG.

(bloomberg)

(Bloomberg) -- Switzerland exported the fewest quartz watches in 33 years as competition from fitness bands and smartwatches pummeled the low end of the market and forced the industry to refocus on more expensive mechanical timepieces.

Swiss watchmakers shipped 17 million quartz and electronic timepieces in 2017, the lowest number since 1984, according to statistics published Tuesday by the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry. By value, that was worth 3.5 billion francs ($3.7 billion), down 3.8 percent from 2016.

Apple Inc. has rattled a market it joined only three years ago by snatching the rank of the world’s largest watch brand. Still, the industry grew overall for the first time in three years as demand for luxury watches began to recover. Total exports rose 2.7 percent to 19.9 billion francs, as the bulk of the value Swiss watchmakers produce comes from mechanical timepieces.

Competition in mechanical watches is increasing, as Baume & Mercier and Tissot introduce cheaper versions of automatic timepieces.

To contact the reporter on this story: Thomas Mulier in Geneva at tmulier@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Eric Pfanner at epfanner1@bloomberg.net, Marthe Fourcade

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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