ZURICH, Switzerland — Swiss watch exports rose for the first time in 21 months in March, ending their longest slump on record as shipments to Hong Kong pulled out of a two-year decline.
Exports gained 7.5 percent to 1.6 billion francs ($1.6 billion), the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry said Thursday. The result benefited from two extra working days, without which shipments would have fallen 2.6 percent.
Higher demand for Rolex, Omega and Cartier watches provides a boost for Switzerland, which gets about a tenth of its exports from timepieces. Improving trends in Asia and a rebound in Chinese tourism to Europe has spurred optimism that the worst may be over after the biggest annual decline in shipments for seven years.
“It has finally happened,” said John Guy, an analyst at MainFirst Bank AG. “The comparison base was soft, but the rest of the year should provide more of a tailwind. Hong Kong is benefiting from additional tourism flows, but in general, consumer confidence is coming back.”
Shipments to Hong Kong rallied 18 percent in March, ending 25 months of steep declines. China rallied 38 percent, the biggest advance in two years, continuing its recovery with a sixth consecutive monthly gain. Exports to the US rose 16 percent.
By Corinne Gretler, with assistance from Roxana Zega; editors: Eric Pfanner and Paul Jarvis.