Watch exports: Switzerland leads the world

Switzerland led the world in watch exports in 2021, totaling $15.005 billion, a year-on-year increase of 31 percent.

If all global watch exports are considered, Switzerland achieved a 52.3 percent share in 2021; that is, one out of every two watches sold internationally were of Swiss origin.

Who were its main destinations? China, with 2,277 million dollars, followed by the United States (2,118 million), Hong Kong (1,284 million), the United Kingdom (916 million) and Japan (889 million).

According to the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Swiss Federal Council approved on June 17, 2016 a partial revision of the Ordinance on the Use of the Name «Switzerland» for Watches, which came into force on January 1, 2017, with the aim of strengthening the geographical indication «Swiss» for watches and watch mechanisms, in line with the new «Swissness» legislation.

In future, at least 60% of the manufacturing costs of a complete watch (as an end product) must be generated in Switzerland, whereas previously this rule applied only to the watch mechanism itself.

Watch exports

However, the mechanism remains important, as at least half of its value must come from Swiss-made components, and at least 60% of its manufacturing costs must be generated in Switzerland, according to the WTO.

In addition, the technical development of a «Swiss-made» watch or watch mechanism must also be carried out in Switzerland.

In addition, the definition of «watch» in the «Swiss Made» Order has been expanded to include smart watches, in light of recent technological developments.

The contribution to the Swiss economy (in terms of gross value added) of the manufacturing sector increased in recent years.

The increase was particularly prominent in the most important subsector, chemicals and pharmaceuticals.


Other important subsectors are computers, electronics and watches; machines and equipment; and metal products.

Within the Swiss manufacturing sector, there is a long-term trend towards an increasing proportion of high-end products.

Recently, the Federal Council reiterated its opposition to adopting an industrial policy to support certain branches of production. Liechtenstein’s manufacturing sector represents a much higher share of GDP and employment than in other developed countries.

The sector is highly diversified and the most important subsectors are mechanical engineering; vehicle construction; food production; and base metals and metal products. Recently, the government identified research and innovation as a priority in its 2021-2025 strategy.

Major Swiss watch companies include Patek Phillipe, Rolex, Breguet, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Blancpain, Zenith, TAG Heuer and Omega.


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