Swatch Group Reports Better Sales of Watches, Declining Demand for Movements

The biggest watchmaking group sounds a positive note for the first half of 2017.
Swatch Group headquarters in Biel

After a bad 2016, the Swatch Group is enjoying a modest recovery illustrated by its results for the first six months of 2017. Group revenue inched up 1.2%, while net income rose 6.8%, at constant exchange rates.

In the watch and jewellery division, the sales of finished watches outperformed production (which is the sales of movements and components). Overall revenue for the division rose just 1.2%, but for watches and jewellery alone the figure was 2.9%. The same disparity can also be seen in the division’s operating margin, which rose by a quarter to 13.2% excluding production. Including production the number was 11.8%.

That divergence was driven by several factors. The situation in the most important markets is positive: watch sales in China grew strongly, while Hong Kong has “stabilised” after several quarters of continuous declines. Equally important is the recovering wholesale business, referring to authorised retailers of watches. According to Swatch, that business has begun to “regain trust in many regions” alongside the “gradual dissolution of uncertainty among individual distributors”. At the same time, growth in Swatch Group’s own stores continued to be strong, with double-digit growth in its higher end brands.

In contrast, tepid demand for Swatch Group movements and components was due to that fact that “third-party brands are very insecure and delay orders”. Left unsaid but also a factor is the that fact myriad alternatives have sprung up since Swatch Group decided to sharply reduce supply of movements and parts to external brands several years ago. With the alternatives available – low-cost Sellita clones of ETA calibres are the most prominent – even affordable Kickstarter brands have been able to secure other movement sources.

Bell & Ross helping out ETA – a 2894-2 inside its Vintage 3rd Generation

Notably, the group’s decision to retain its entire workforce despite poor results helped it “allow[ed] quick response to the positive development” of increased demand for its watches, particularly in June and July with its top end brands like Breguet and Omega. Informed by its experience during the 2008 recession when demand picked up rapidly after a brief decline, the group’s labour friendly policy stands in contrast with rival Richemont, which laid off watchmakers at several of its brands, leading to protests outside the normally tranquil watch factories.

The road ahead 

Swatch predicts “very positive growth” for the second half of 2017 in both its own stores and wholesale. Chief executive Nick Hayek was quoted in Bloomberg as saying the group would probably enjoy sales growth of 7% to 9% for the full year. To underline that confidence, the group invested SFr204m in non-current assets in the first half, which went towards new boutiques, production equipment as well as customer service.


 

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Richard Mille Unveils Lightest Automatic Wristwatch, the RM 67-02

A pair of watches for Olympic medallists Wayde van Niekerk and Mutaz Essa Barshim.
Richard Mille RM 67-02 1

Introduced just before the 2017 IAAF World Championships in London, the pair of new RM 67-02 automatics have been designed for Richard Mille‘s ambassadors who will be both competing at the athletics competition. Created to be worn while on the track – and captured by all the cameras in attendance – the RM 67-02 weighs just 32 grammes, making it the lightest self-winding watch in the Richard Mille collection. That’s just seven sheets of A4 paper.

The green RM 67-02 was conceived for South African sprinter Wayde van Niekerk – a world record holder and Olympic gold medallist – with the colours of his country’s flag echoed on the case and movement. That also explains the purple and white colour scheme of the second RM 67-02, which are the national colours of Qatar, the country of up and coming high jumper Mutaz Essa Barshim.

Richard Mille RM 67-02 Wayde van Niekerk 1

Richard Mille RM 67-02 Wayde van Niekerk 3

While the colours differ both RM 67-02s are identical in materials and movement. The coloured front and back plates of the cases are made of Quartz TPT, while the black case bands are made of Carbon TPT. Both are carbon composites made by North Thin Ply Technologies (NTPT), a Swiss materials specialist, with the banded appearance the result of the carbon fibre layers and coloured resin binders.

The watch has a largish footprint, measuring 38.7mm in diameter and 47.52mm long, but is slim at just 7.8mm high.

Richard Mille RM 67-02 Mutaz Essa Barshim 2

Both new models are based on the extra-flat RM 67-01, and equipped with the same in-house CRMA7 movement that has a rotor with carbon composite spokes and a white gold outer mass. As with many movements used in Richard Mille watches, the base plate and bridges of the CRMA7 are titanium.

Richard Mille RM 67-02 Wayde van Niekerk 2

The RM 67-02 is fitted to a seamless elastic strap, similar to that found on the RM 27-03 Tourbillon Rafael Nadal.

Richard Mille RM 67-02 Mutaz Essa Barshim 1

Price and availability 

The RM 67-02 is priced at SFr118,000 before taxes. That’s equivalent to US$124,000. They will be available later in the year.


 

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