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Patek Philippe has only introduced one new watch for the year so far, the Calatrava Ref. 6007A. Image Credit: Supplied

Swiss watch exports to the UAE, among the top 10 markets for the watch industry, dropped 34.1 per cent in the first five months of 2020 in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic. This figure is in line with the 35.8 per cent drop in overall exports for Swiss watches in the same period.

According to data released by Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry (FH), exports to the UAE were at 273.5 million Swiss Francs in the first five months, as opposed to 415.1 million Swiss Francs in the same period in 2019. While the UAE has seen a 34.1 per cent drop, the Middle East region has seen a 56.3 per cent decline accounting for 568.4 million Swiss Francs worth of exports. There were significant declines in Saudi Arabia (-49.3 per cent at 70.4 million Swiss Francs) and Qatar (-98.9 per cent at 64.5 million Swiss Francs).

A lockdown in its most important markets has taken a heavy toll on the industry. April was a particularly tough month for Swiss watch exports, reporting an 81.3 per cent decline. Things improved marginally and the month of May saw exports drop 67.9 per cent reaching 655.6 million Swiss Francs.

The value of exports across main markets have all fallen by more than half when compared to 2019. The United States, which sits atop of the list of exports, reported a drop of 79.2 per cent in May and a 25.6 per cent drop over the first five months. The US accounted for 709.8 million Swiss Francs in the first five months of 2020, as opposed to 954.7 million Swiss Francs in the same period last year. China and Hong Kong, the world’s most important market for luxury goods, have also seen dwindling sales. Swiss watch exports to China were down 24.6 per cent at 603 million Swiss Francs while Hong Kong was down 52.5 per cent at 593.5 million Swiss Francs.

The industry will be hoping for a stronger second half of the year following the announcement that some countries in Europe and the Middle East (including the UAE) are planning to welcome visitors in the summer months. In a recent interview with WatchTime Middle East, Ricardo Guadalupe, CEO of luxury brand Hublot said, “This year is going to be tough, I am seeing −20 to −30 percent for us and I believe the watch industry will see similar levels. I do not anticipate a recovery next year. It will maybe take two or three years. We don’t know - it really depends on whether the virus disappears or not. There are not too many parameters here to predict what’s going to happen in the long term.”