The latest estimates and analyses by the Vontobel private bank show that it is important to offer lovers of fine watchmaking exceptional products rather than just try to increase volumes. In 2013 more than 1.2 billion timepieces were produced worldwide. But the 28 million units made in Switzerland alone account for over half of the turnover generated within the watchmaking industry, some 22 billion Swiss francs. The uninterrupted growth of major groups such as the Swatch Group and Richemont proves that high-end watchmaking is an expanding business, even though sales as a whole are slowly declining.
Worldtempus lists the ten biggest contributors to the Swiss watchmaking industry based on their 2013 sales.
1. Rolex. The brand with the crown remains the undisputed champion in the watchmaking world. Totally independent and not listed on the stock exchange, the prestigious brand is almost an exception in this top ten, along with Patek Philippe. Although the group is very discreet about its figures, the Vontobel report estimates that its sales in 2013 topped 4.3 billion Swiss francs.
2. Cartier. The French feather in the Richemont group’s cap is also a heavyweight in the list and accounted for nearly 46% of the group’s total watch sales in 2013. At 2.33 billion Swiss francs, its watch sales make it one of the biggest watch manufacturers.
3. Omega. The brand founded in 1848 and based today in Biel is hot on Cartier’s heels. Straddling the Swatch Group’s luxury and prestige segments, Omega makes a big contribution to the parent company’s results. In 2013 it accounted for nearly 27% of the group’s watch sales with a volume of 2.26 billion Swiss francs.
4. Longines. Fourth place goes to the oldest trademarked brand still in operation. The Swatch Group’s outpost in Saint-Imier generated around 1.24 billion Swiss francs in turnover in 2013.
5. Patek Philippe. The second independent brand in this list celebrates its 175th anniversary this year. In the hands of the Stern family since 1932, the brand likes to remind us that it is one of the few manfactures that is still family owned. It produced 55,000 watches in 2013, which brought in 1.2 billion Swiss francs in revenue.
6. Tissot. More accessible to the general public than the brands further up in the table, Tissot aims to make watchmaking excellence affordable. It’s a strategy that has paid off for this Swatch Group brand, which closed its 2013 financial year with a turnover of 1.06 billion francs.
7. TAG Heuer. The reference for luxury sports watches is the only representative from the LVMH group in this top ten. In 2013 its total sales amounted to 880 million Swiss francs.
8. Swatch. The emblematic plastic watch continues to appeal. Last year, over 12 million of them were sold worldwide. This astronomical figure puts the affordable brand in the top ten with a turnover of 770 million Swiss francs.
9. IWC. Known for its grand complications, this brand from the Richemont stable sold 760 million Swiss francs worth of timepieces in 2013.
10. Breguet. To seal its domination of the list, the Swatch Group takes the tenth place as well. The brand named after the inventor of the tourbillion had a turnover of 730 million Swiss francs in 2013.
The top ten presented above reveals one champion: the Swatch Group, followed by Richemont, which continues to progress, and a discreet presence from LVMH through TAG Heuer. But two independent brands, including Rolex way ahead in first place, hold important spots in the list. Other independent brands such as Audemars Piguet are looking to stake their claim in the top ten, as are other Richemont brands, which could balance out the dominance of the Swatch Group in the future.