22 March 2019
Helen To, who admits being a material girl, recommends buying Swiss watches before makers raise their prices in view of a strong Swiss franc. Photos: internet,
Helen To, who admits being a material girl, recommends buying Swiss watches before makers raise their prices in view of a strong Swiss franc. Photos: internet,

All that glitters is a Swiss watch

Watch out: Rolex and other Swiss watches may run out of stock soon.

To be fair, shoppers aren’t exactly scrambling to get into luxury watch stores, the way mainland tourists used to do in front of a famous handbag shop on Canton Road in Tsim Sha Tsui. Let’s just say that many are keen to own them after an almost 20 percent jump in the Swiss franc the past week.

At least that’s a good excuse for people to spend their fortunes or bonuses on European goods amid the region’s faltering economies.

Even pro-Beijing Wen Wei Po came up with an Apple Daily-like cover story that said several outlets in Central saw a 60 percent jump in sales after posting the headline of a free sheet that reads, “Price of Swiss watches to shoot up 20 percent.” 

The paper said that Swiss products, from chocolates to watches, will get more expensive after the Swiss decided to remove their currency’s peg to the euro. In fact, one store reported making daily sales of eight watches, compared with five in a good day. 

Elsewhere, Singapore’s venerable Raffles Hotel is said to have taken the atmosphere of a noisy mall as shoppers rushed to snap up Rolex watches from its snooty stores in anticipation of steep price hikes.

Rolex will raise the price of its steel Submariner Date with a black bezel by 8 percent to 810,000 yen (US$6,800) while Patek Philippe is also contemplating a 4 to 5 percent price hike, according to Bloomberg.

That is to suggest that the price of Rolex and other Swiss timepieces is not driven by Damas (middle-aged Chinese women who famously loaded up on gold at the peak of the gold rush two years ago) or Dashus (middle-aged men who are fond of watches).

As a matter of fact, Rolex and other luxury brands have been badly hurt by Xi Jinping’s ongoing campaign against corruption and lavish lifestyles as mainland cadres tried to stay away from the crosshairs of anti-graft probers.

In Hong Kong, which still has huge inventories of premium Swiss watches, prices may not rise until March, distributors say. Besides, they say, mark-ups may be limited, given the local demand for luxury goods has not been robust in recent years.

But remember that luxury watches are long-term investments. Dealers note that those who bought theirs at the height of the financial tsunami in 2008 are now sitting on unrealized gain of over 70 percent.

For short-term spending, many Hong Kong people already know how to make the best out of a weak euro, which has dropped to an 11-year low of below HK$9. Paris, Milan, Frankfurt and other European cities — except Zurich or Basel in Switzerland — are hot spots for Hong Kong families wishing to oblige their wanderlust.

Helen To Yu-fung, a local television star who has worked hard to earn the reputation of a “world-class Hong Kong-style girl” (read: material girl), recommends a “strong buy” for Swiss watches to those who are traveling to Europe. To, who has run into arguments with netizens about her looks, age and shopping habits, may not be wrong this time.

However, the watch that will be in nearly every Hong Kong consumer’s lips is not a Rolex or any Swiss-made timepiece but Apple’s highly anticipated iWatch, which, like iPhone 6, is certain to spark another worldwide frenzy come springtime.

Watch this space.

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EJ Insight writer

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