UAE Swiss watch sales up 23% to $835m

Sales in the UAE are almost double that in the next biggest market, Saudi Arabia in 2012
The UAE is leading the Middle East with imports of Swiss watches. (AFP/Getty Images)
By Shane McGinley
Sat 02 Feb 2013 11:06 AM

The UAE was the largest market in the Gulf for Swiss watch, soaring 23 percent year-on-year to $835.4m during the first eleven months of 2012, according to figures from the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry (FSWI).

Reflecting the buoyant watch market in the UAE, sales rose 47.3 percent between 2010 and 2012. This is a dramatic turnaround, with FSWI figures reporting a 34.7 percent slump in year-on-year sales during the first nine months of 2009.

The next biggest market was Saudi Arabia, which accounted for $331m of sales during the same review period, up 17.3 percent since 2011 and up 32.1 percent since 2010. Qatar rose 23.1 percent to $127.5m, while Kuwait saw sales increase 17.5 percent to $87.3m.

The growth in the Gulf was way ahead of the top 30 countries, which increased overall by 12.5 percent since 2011. The biggest markets were Hong Kong ($4.395bn), the US ($2.213bn) and China ($1.681bn), while the strongest growth was in Austria, where sales rose 73 percent between 2010 and 2012. Of the top 30 nations, the only ones to see a slump in sales were Thailand, Mexico and Turkey.

The FSWI has been looking to crackdown on sales of counterfeit watches and last month it reported that Dubai Police had seized around 10,000 fake watches in a raid on an apartment in the Deira district, part of ‘Operation Habibi’, the force’s crackdown on fake goods.

According to the FSWI’s December 2012 newsletter, representatives from the association travelled to Dubai and accompanied police as they made a successful raid on the apartment.

“Arranged in more or less orderly fashion, by brand, there is a large quantity of watches, perhaps 10,000 in all; enough to supply 20 or more points of sale,” the report said. While no date for the raid was given, it was carried out using the help of undercover informants based in the area, the report said.

In a bid to curb the supply of fake watches into Europe, Bern-based FSWI last year sent investigators to Dubai to track down those involved in the manufacturing of counterfeit timepieces.

“New investigators were put on the case, using more direct and invasive methods,” the FSWI said. “In just a few weeks, our men discovered an assembly workshop run by Chinese nationals, concealed in a private apartment. The police raid seized nearly 17,000 fake Swiss watches... a major breakthrough,” it added.

Owners of designer clothing stores, gaming distributors and music shops in Dubai have long called for better regulation to tackle piracy and counterfeit products in the emirate.

Companies say their revenues are taking a hit where imports of counterfeit goods go undetected, dropping anywhere between 20 and 60 percent due to lower sales.

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