Swiss Watchmakers Eye India’s Potential For Trade

Tue Apr 16 2024
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GENEVA: Swiss watchmakers are increasingly setting their sights on India, spurred by a new free trade agreement set to gradually open doors for luxury timepiece exports.

Yves Bugmann, president of the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry, expressed optimism about India’s immense potential during Watches and Wonders, the Geneva watch fair. Despite India’s vast population of 1.4 billion, it ranked 22nd in Swiss watch exports in 2023, highlighting significant untapped market opportunities.

The value of Swiss watch exports to India stood at 218.8 million Swiss francs in 2023, a fraction compared to top markets like the United States, mainland China, and Hong Kong. High taxes, including customs duties of around 20 percent and an 18 percent goods and services tax, historically deterred watch brands, particularly luxury labels.

However, after 16 years of negotiations, the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) signed a landmark free trade agreement that will progressively reduce customs duties over seven years. Bugmann emphasized the market’s potential while acknowledging uncertainties about its future trajectory.

A study by Deloitte projected Swiss watch exports to India could surpass 400 million francs by 2028, propelling India into the top 10 export markets. This growth is driven by India’s ultra-high net worth individuals and expanding middle class.

Karine Szegedi, from Deloitte, noted the momentum created by the EFTA agreement, highlighting the sense of opportunity among watchmakers. Edouard Meylan, CEO of H. Moser, expressed enthusiasm for India’s appetite for luxury watches, emphasizing the importance of establishing an early presence.

Thierry Stern, president of Patek Philippe, identified India as an emerging market, particularly appealing to brands with large production volumes. Stern highlighted challenges for exclusive brands like Patek Philippe due to limited watch availability.

Raymond Weil, an established player in India, welcomed the EFTA agreement as a facilitator for business growth. Elie Bernheim, representing the third generation at Raymond Weil, expressed confidence in India’s market potential, reflecting on the brand’s longstanding reputation and current five percent turnover from India.

With a proactive approach, Swiss watchmakers are positioning themselves to capitalize on India’s burgeoning luxury market, leveraging the benefits of the EFTA agreement to expand their footprint and tap into the country’s growing demand for high-end timepieces.



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