(Mar 19): The Swiss watch industry has survived lickings before, but Rolex, Omega and Cartier now face a combination of economic punches putting them back on their heels.
The industry was just adapting to the downturn from political protests in its largest market, Hong Kong, when the coronavirus outbreak hit. Now China’s economic slowdown threatens to engulf the rest of the world. Meanwhile, the strong Swiss franc, surging gold prices, and store closures are set to saddle companies like Swatch Group AG and Richemont with higher costs.
Rolex shut down all its plants in Switzerland for at least 10 days starting Tuesday. Richemont has been offering price cuts of as much as 49% for second-hand Cartier timepieces in a one-week special offer on its vintage resale site, Watchfinder. Watch fairs in Basel and Geneva have been cancelled. Swatch has prepared a special-edition Omega for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, which many believe will be cancelled.