GENEVA, Switzerland — Swiss watch export growth ground to a halt as weakness in low-end timepieces portends a difficult market for brands such as Swatch.
Shipments fell 0.4 percent in April. Growth in the first four months of the year was 2.1 percent, compared with the industry’s annual pace of 6.3 percent last year.
The number of watches exported with wholesale prices below 200 francs ($199) slumped 24 percent, showing how hard it’s getting for Swatch Group AG to find buyers for its most accessible brand. The label may be losing money, or breaking even at best, Luca Solca, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein, said in April.
The only sweet spot in the market is the top end of timepieces, and growth there isn’t exactly vibrant. Switzerland’s exports of watches wholesaling for more than 3,000 francs rose 4.3 percent in April.
Japan has shown unexpected strength so far this year, with exports up 23 percent in the first four months. The market, which historically has been weaker than the rest of Asia, has become the number 4 destination for Swiss watch exports.
Swatch shares fell 44 percent in the past year, while Richemont declined 20 percent.
By Thomas Mulier; editors: Eric Pfanner and John J. Edwards III.