French watch retailers bounced back in 2017 as Chinese tourists returned

Place Vendome was back on the tourist hot spot trail in 2017 (Picture: LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP/Getty Images)

French watch retailers enjoyed a strong recovery in 2017 as Chinese tourists returned to the country.

A report by Franceclat, a trade association for the watch and jewellery industry, says that sales of watches priced at over €5000 rose by 8% last year after falling by 6% in 2016.


Major terrorist incidents in 2015 had a significant effect on Chinese tourism to France in 2016. The total number of Chinese tourists dropped by 13.4% in 2016 as compared to 2015 according to the Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau, although visitor numbers were recovering strongly by the end of the year.

In the last weeks of 2016 and the first months of 2017, Chinese arrivals to Paris increased by 40% compared to the same periods a year ago.

French watch retailers also lost out to their peers in Britain because of the weakness of the pound following the Brexit vote gave them a major price advantage.

A number of price rises in 2016 reduced this price differential, although it remains significant for tourists coming to the UK or Eurozone if they are paying in dollars (or dollar-pegged currencies) and can reclaim the 20% VAT on British purchases.

Exports of Swiss watches to France dipped slightly in 2017 from CHF 986 million in 2016 to CHF 982 million last year.

Exports to the UK increased from CHF 1.2 billion to CHF 1.3 billion over the same period.

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