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GOOD TIMING

Shoppers are splurging on fancy Swiss watches in post-Brexit Britain

A woman looks at watches displayed at the exhibition stand of Swiss watch manufacturer Patek Philippe at Baselworld fair.
Reuters/Arnd Wiegmann
Time to buy.
By Jason Karaian
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Pity the poor Swiss watchmakers. Exports of Swiss timepieces fell for a 13th consecutive month in July, according to new statistics (pdf).

China’s slowing economy is doing major damage to the watch trade in Hong Kong, where many mainlanders buy their luxury goods. Shipments of Swiss watches to Hong Kong fell by more than 30% in July versus the year before. That pushed the monthly value of exports to the city-state into second place, behind the US, for the first time since 2008. For its part, shipments to the US fell by 15% in July.

Amid the gloom, a surprising bright spot for the industry has emerged in post-Brexit Britain:

Exports to the UK jumped by 13% in July, by far the biggest jump among major importers of fancy Swiss watches. The pound has lost around 10% of its value versus the Swiss franc since the vote to leave the EU on June 23, making it cheaper for tourists in London’s toniest shops to splurge on luxury goods.

Swatch, which owns Breguet, Omega, Longines and other high-end brands, said last month that sales were “fantastic” at its British outlets (paywall), even as it issued a profit warning due to weakness in other key countries. Although the UK is only the seventh-largest market for Swiss timepieces, worth around 6% of exports, anything that keeps sales ticking over is welcome news for watchmakers.

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