U.S. Watch Imports Increase

By Melanie Kletter
Assitant Editor

US Watch Imports ChartWashington - The total value of watches imported into the United States rose 2% to $2.21 billion in 1996, compared with $2.17 billion the year before, according to a recently released report citing U.S. Commerce Department watch data.

The report, compiled by the American Watch Association, includes import and export data for watches, movements and components.

Emilio G. "Toby" Collado, executive director of the American Watch Association, said value as defined by the Commerce Department refers to the monetary value of the watch listed by the manufacturer overseas on custom documents.

According to the report, total watch imports into this country increased in 1996 to 227 million units, up from the 218.8 million units in 1995, but still down from the 240.4 million units imported in 1994. The majority of watches imported into the United States come from China and Hong Kong; Japan, the Philippines and Switzerland are among the other leaders.

Swiss Product Posts Gains

Switzerland exported 21% more watches to the United States than it did in 1995, the data shows. In 1996, 7.7 million watches were shipped from Switzerland, compared to 6.4 million in 1995. The average value of watches imported from Switzerland is $108.87. Switzerland accounts for 36% of total imports in terms of value, but only 3% of volume.

Peter Laetsch of the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry branch in New Jersey said he thought the Swiss watch export seemed a bit high.

"While I know that the U.S. watch market is strong and solid, I have some difficulty explaining the increase," Laetsch said. "Our figures do not show that much of an increase."

China (including Hong Kong) accounted for 54% of total imports to the United States, the report shows. China and Hong Kong shipped 123 million watches, but that region only captured 17% of total value. The average Chinese watch is valued at $3.06, according to the report.

Japan Numbers Are Up

Japan shipped 63.4 million watches, 10% more than the 57.5 million shipped in 1995. Watches from Japan represent 28% of total volume, and were valued at $727 million, a 3.3% increase from $703 million in 1995.

Watch units from the Philippines declined 5% in 1996 to 20.4 million units, down from 22 million units.

Other findings from the report: