Coronavirus impact: Bad times for luxury watch industry; Rolex shuts all manufacturing facilities

Luxury watch makers are feeling the heat of the coronavirus pandemic and are preparing for the worst as sales dwindle and manufacturing plants being shuttered down. Swiss watchmaker Rolex announced on March 17 that it would close all plants for the next 10 days, over concerns of COVID-19.

The luxury watch industry was already under pressure following political unrest in Hong Kong, which is the biggest market for the product. According to Bloomberg, a 49-percent discount is being offered on second-hand Cartier timepieces in a week-long sale on the site Watchfinder.

Brokerage firm Sanford C. Bernstein said that the next six months will be the worst for the luxury goods industry. Luca Solca of the company said, “This scenario is worse than in 2008, as there doesn’t seem to be any offset — other than possibly a quantum of solace from online.”

Other factors such as surging gold prices and the global slowdown will further impact the luxury watch industry. Exports from Swiss watchmakers dropped the most in February, especially to China and Hong Kong. Bloomberg reported that shipments slumped 52 percent and 42 percent to both the destinations, respectively.

Over 59,000 people are employed by the Swiss watchmaking industry, who could be affected by the slump in sales.

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