French swank watch sales tick up as Chinese tourists return

Paris (AFP) - Luxury watch sales in France surged last year as deep-pocketed tourists, notably Chinese, returned after terrorism fears waned, an industry body said Thursday.

Sales of watches worth more than 5,000 euros ($6,200) each saw an increase of eight percent in 2017 over 2016, a year when visitor numbers dwindled following a series of terror attacks in France, the Franceclat body said in its annual report.

"The return of tourists, notably Chinese, explains much of the rebound in watch purchases," the report said.

Overall sales of jewelry, watches and gold accessories rose one percent year-on-year to 5.6 billion euros, after a two-percent drop in 2016.

"Watches have become the main contributor the sector's overall development in 2017," Franceclat said.

Watches across all price ranges clocked up a four-percent increase last year, after a drop of six percent in 2016.

The luxury watch segment accounts for just 0.5 percent of unit sales in that market, but for one third of overall revenue.

"The whole high-end market is back on track, boosted by the Place Vendome houses," Franceclat said, in reference to a traditional Paris neighbourhood for luxury accessories.

Paris saw a drop of 1.5 million tourists in 2016 as fears linked to terror attacks scared off visitors, especially from China and Japan.

In November 2015, 130 people were killed in Paris when gunmen and suicide bombers from the Islamic State jihadist group attacked bars, restaurants, a concert hall and the Stade de France national stadium.

That attack came 10 months after two jihadist gunmen shot dead cartoonists and journalists at the Paris offices of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.

France is the world's number one tourist destination.