During World War II, anxious Britons stockpiled food and medical rations to ensure their survival. In 2019, as the Brexit deadline looms, the style-minded are adding a new essential to the list: Swiss watches. According to a new study, high-end retailers in Britain are scrambling to get their hands on all the Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet and Richard Mille timepieces they can before the country’s scheduled withdrawal from the E.U. later this month.
According to the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry, February saw a whopping 58 per cent surge in shipments of Swiss watches to the UK The study found that the figure “accounted for 80 per cent of [a 3.4 per cent] increase worldwide and is explained by stockpiling ahead of Brexit.” Bloomberg reports that British retailers imported £183 million worth of timepieces from Switzerland during the first two months of 2019 alone.
Economists from across the globe have warned that an exit from the E.U. could have catastrophic financial consequences for U.K. markets, including the possible disruption of imports due to border delays and other trade issues. The watch study’s gob-smacking numbers suggest that retailers in UK.s luxury sector are not only taking those prognostications seriously; they’re pursuing aggressive measures to fortify themselves against the fallout. With Prime Minister Teresa May still unable to secure support for her Brexit plan, that impulse may be wise. According to a recent Quartz report, a no-deal Brexit could cost the U.K.’s luxury markets as much as £6.74 billion.
If and when Brexit does happen, it could make the U.K. more appealing to foreign watch buyers looking for a deal. Following the June 2016 referendum vote, watch sales reportedly ballooned in the country because tourists were able to get more for their money as the value of the pound fell.
For now, it’s increasingly clear that no one really knows what what the outcome of Brexit will be. But if a new deadline is reached, at least there will be plenty of Swiss watches on hand to help countdown the seconds in style.