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Apple Watch hits Swiss watch industry hard, suffers biggest slump in six years


Jony Ive’s year-ago prediction that the Swiss watch industry would be in trouble once the Apple Watch launched appears to have been correct (his actual language was said to have been stronger). Bloomberg reports that Swiss watch exports suffered their biggest slump in six years.

Shipments declined 12 percent to 2 billion Swiss francs ($2 billion), the Swiss customs office said in a statement Thursday. Adjusted for fewer working days, the drop was 7.6 percent. Exports to the U.S. dropped 12 percent.

“2015 has been one to forget for the watchmakers,” said Jon Cox, an analyst at Kepler Cheuvreux in Zurich.

The figures show that both higher- and lower-end brands are being hit hard, especially in the world’s biggest market for Swiss watches, Hong Kong … 

The industry is pulling back in the island city, with TAG Heuer shuttering a store there in August. Richemont, , the maker of Cartier jewelry and IWC timepieces, has said its sales declined in October on weak watch demand.

Swatch and Fossil are likewise suffering, report analysts.

Swatch co-inventor Elmar Mock had said the day after the Apple Watch was launched that “anything in the price range of 500 francs to 1,000 francs [US$500-$1,000] is really in danger.”

Tag Heuer CEO Jean-Claude Biver’s hope that “Apple will get young people used to wearing a watch and later maybe they will want to buy themselves a real watch” is not looking too good right now. The company launched its own $1500 smartwatch earlier this month, but appeared to have extremely low sales expectations.

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  1. PhilBoogie - 7 years ago

    I wonder where all the nay-sayers are, saying Apple could never take on these century old companies.

    Actually, I don’t wonder at all.

    • Doug Aalseth - 7 years ago

      Well I was very publicly and openly skeptical of the AppleWatch and I have no problem saying I’m astonished by how well its selling. I honestly never thought Swatch and other Swiss makers of mechanical watches had anything to fear from an iPhone accessory. I’m totally amazed.

      • PhilBoogie - 7 years ago

        Trolls (if there are any on this site), take not. Here we have an honest person, sharing his vision of what he first thought about an a mew Apple product, and admitting he was ‘wrong’. This is the way to communicate, something others could learn from (again, not saying there are trolls here, but I do know of _some_ sites…).

      • PhilBoogie - 7 years ago

        mew = new.

        (my dislike of WordPress has reached an ultimate high)

      • Joe Belkin - 7 years ago

        The bottom line is that watches have been falling out of favor since it’s last hurrah in the 1980’s – when mobile phones came with a reasonable way to tell time, that was the end for most people. When your big selling point is that you’re keeping it safe for your kids means its competing against anything else you’d spend $10k-$100k on something/anything – whether it’s a speedboat, hunting rifle or a Porsche … and really for the most part, you’re paying all that money and the thing does maybe three things (time, calendar and stopwatch) so for $350 to $1k (most people) – an applewatch does literally hundreds of things including some pretty cool features already like opening hotel doors, checking in at airlines and monitoring your health signs (including saving one guys life already). The bottom line is that watches are jewelry – nothing really wrong with that as it’s your money but it just doesn’t do that much.

    • rnc - 7 years ago

      And Apple didn’t take down century old companies, those are just a few, most are just a facade of c nutty old companies.

  2. 89p13 - 7 years ago

    Adapt or Die – Natures law of Survival!

    While I don’t see Rolex or some of the other Ultra-Luxury brands fearing much – I do see swatch and the lower tiers suffering greatly.

    • Alex - 7 years ago

      Richemont has brands like Jaeger-LeCoultre in it’s portfolio. Not exactly your average mid tier shitty watches.

      • rnc - 7 years ago

        Yep, that group, their lowest end brand is Baume et Mercier, which sells watches starting at 2000€, which is 1000€ more than the highest priced Apple Watch.

  3. Alex - 7 years ago

    You (author) realise that this is due to the value of the Swiss franc right? Has nothing to do with the Apple Watch.

    • Ben Lovejoy - 7 years ago

      The strength of the Franc certainly won’t be helping, but I think it would be naive to imagine that the Apple Watch hasn’t played a significant role.

    • rnc - 7 years ago

      The Apple Watch could have sold better in Europe if it weren’t for the strong dollar.

  4. Jake Becker - 7 years ago

    I’d love to see Apple making a dent but I’m not sure I can jump to that from this article alone. I do think though that the product suffers a little bit and is misunderstood being called a Watch……….. I understand the parallel with iPhone, where the phone function is only a small part of it, but I think people have a narrower idea from the get-go of the “watch” term and haven’t really grasped yet that it’s a potentially revolutionary piece of wearable tech, not just a Watch and something which can necessarily be discussed in the same contexts as Rolex, despite its fashion sense.

    • 89p13 - 7 years ago

      I continue to be amazed at the software integration between the iPhone and the Watch. I bought my Watch and assumed the inter-dependability between the 2 products would be tight – but I had no idea that it would be as co-dependent as it appears to be. I continue to be amazed at the integration.

  5. mytawalbeh - 7 years ago

    Wow Great job Apple !
    Haters gonna hate hate hate ..

  6. Look, I don’t know who decided to censor my previous comment…. But it’s ridiculous. Hope this one gets through.

    I’m a Swiss journalist not related in anyway to the watch industry. But this report seems to vastly exaggerate the impact of the Apple Watch. Although I do use one and love it, you should know the Swiss watchmakers greatly overestimated the Chinese market in the past years. Hence they produced a lot of watches that just stays but in warehouses around the world. Why? Because the miscalculated the Asian/Chinese market interests. Because the Chinese market crashed, and because the Swiss Frank is at an all time high.

    I´m certainly not a hater, but you gotta be a bit more accurate when reporting stuff like that. Complex mechanisms are at play here. I´m not saying the Apple Watch didn’t play a role, but probably a less important one than you´d think.

    • Ben Lovejoy - 7 years ago

      Thanks for your comments, Mathieu. I’m sure you’re right that there are multiple factors at play here, but I’m also sure that the Apple Watch is a significant one. Swatch saw this coming.

  7. acslater017 - 7 years ago

    I guess I’m just used to seeing tech industry revenue figures, but $2 billion for the whole Swiss watch export industry is surprisingly small. Apple could equal that in one year if they sold ~5 million Watches.

    I guess auto makers should learn a lesson or two! When the whole concept of your product switches from “machine we’ve been doing for 100 years” to “sensor-laden computer/internet service thing”, your entrenched mind share, revenue and institutional knowledge count for less and less.

  8. RP - 7 years ago

    Tradition watches will stay to on the -high end jewelry end to make money, everything else is just a novelty item now. The Smart watch is taking over the middle, the workhorse end of the market. And it will only continue to cement itself there even further.

  9. tsitsipikos - 7 years ago

    It’s funny how things are presented. The real and main reason for the decline of sales of Swiss watches isn’t of course the Apple Watch. The real reason is the very strong and expensive Swiss franc that has made the watches extremely expensive abroad.

  10. macnificentseven48 - 7 years ago

    There must be something wrong with these figures. The Swiss watch manufacturers said AppleWatch will have no effect on the traditional watch industry and Wall Street said AppleWatch is a huge sales failure, so exactly what is happening with the Swiss watch industry. Maybe people are simply giving up on wearing watches and depending upon their smartphones for the time. Then again, it’s could be a cyclical slump or a generally poor economy. Still, Wall Street will definitely claim it’s not AppleWatch that’s hurting the watch industry. They’ll say it’s Android Wear smartwatches killing the Swiss watchmakers.

  11. bdkennedy1 - 7 years ago

    That means that Swiss watch manufacturers were already in trouble 6 years ago. This has nothing to do with Apple Watch.

  12. Jimmy Hauser - 7 years ago

    Explains why I am seeing billboards and ads everywhere for high end watches lately.

  13. rogifan - 7 years ago

    You mean the NY Times story that alleged Jony Ive said Switzerland was in trouble. Btw, at the Condé Nast luxury summit earlier this year Ive said Watch was not competing with luxury timepieces. I’m skeptical that people who bought high end mechanical watches gave them up for Watch. My guess is people buying Watch are those who weren’t wearing a watch.

    • scumbolt2014 - 7 years ago

      I’ve met some people with money to burn that were wearing regular Apple Watches that said they had the gold edition at home because they only wear it at certain times.

  14. Michael (@MichaelWChaps) - 7 years ago

    Title is very misleading. There is no evidence to suggest that the decline in watch exports is directly due to the Apple Watch; more likely to do with the large global slump in demand every industry has been facing this year and currency fluctuation. Also, this isn’t an anti Apple Watch comment. I own one and like it.


Avatar for Ben Lovejoy Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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