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Civil unrest Swiss watch sales plummet in Hong Kong

Hong Kong protestors

Civil unrest in Hong Kong threatens to bring its economy into recession.

(Keystone / Fazry Ismail)

Exports of Swiss watches to Hong Kong fell nearly 30% in October as unrest in the Asian territory continues to intensify. Hong Kong is the most valuable global market for Swiss watchmakers as a staging post to wealthy buyers on the Chinese mainland.

However, sales to most other international markets have risen so far this year, particularly to the United States, Japan, key European countries and to China. As a result, total global sales between January and the end of October have picked up 2.7% to nearly CHF18 billion ($18.2 billion).

The severe civil unrest in Hong Kong, which has been escalating since June, has dented its economy and hit sales for many luxury goods makers. Swiss watch exports to the country are down 8.8% for the year to date, according to figures released by the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industryexternal link on Tuesday.

But October saw the worst monthly drop – a fall of 29.7% to CHF191.3 million.

Mainland China soaked up some of the losses by increasing exports by 17.6% in October. And given the buoyancy of a number of other markets, total Swiss watch exports for October were slightly up year-on year.

High value watches are in most demand, according to the Federation. Pieces valued at more than CHF3,000 saw sales improve, but demand cheaper watches is not so robust.

Last year Swiss watch exports recorded a value of CHF21.2 billion (up 6.3%) with Hong Kong the most important destination with sales of CHF3 billion (+19%).

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