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Swiss watch exports suffer largest decline in 6 years following Apple Watch launch

Swiss watchmakers woke up to news of another steep decline Thursday, as October shipments of mechanical watches declined 12 percent to $2 billion, the largest decline in six years.

The new report, released in a statement from the Swiss customs office, showed total Swiss Watch exports to the U.S. dropping 12 percent.

The country with the most pronounced drop-off was Hong Kong, whose share of shipments dropped just under 40 percent. Traditionally a huge marketplace for Swiss watches, weak demand has led to declining sales from high-end Swiss manufacturers like Richemont, while others like TAG Heuer have closed stores in the country this year.

Swiss Watch sales are said to make up one tenth of the country's total exports, which have declined 3.2 percent over the first ten months of this year. The news follows similar drop-offs over the course of this year, including an 8.5 percent drop-off last quarter, which was reported last month.

At the same time Swiss watch sales are declining, smart watch sales continue to accelerate, with Apple Watch sales reaching more than $1.69 billion in revenue through the end of September, according to numbers extrapolated from the company's recent 10-Q filing. The smart watch category as a whole has also received a lift from Apple's entry into the market, with both Pebble and Fitbit reporting better-than-expected numbers for their respective lines of wearable devices.

Despite earlier bluster and claims that traditional mechanical watch buyers wouldn't be drawn to smart watches, some Swiss watch companies now seem to be doing an about-face and are embracing the idea of smart technology on the wrist. TAG Heuer released a "smart" version of its famous Careera watch earlier this month, which runs on Google's Android Wear platform and retails for $1,500.