Where Are The Best Places In The World To Buy Watches?

 Zen L. in Bangkok, Thailand asks:

Where are the best and worst places to buy watches in terms of price/selection/legitimacy? Not that flying somewhere to buy a watch would be the cleverest way to save money, but you know, just for reference. I was in China until recently where watches are taxed heavily and it doesn't make much sense to buy there if you'll be have a chance to go somewhere else. But people certainly do. And I hear that all that may be changing in China soon.

Now I'm in Bangkok, Thailand, but still not sure what the situation is here. It seems like the US is a good place to get all kinds of watches, from Swiss to Japanese. If, for instance, I found myself in Switzerland for some reason, will I find better deals there? Will Japanese watches actually be cheaper and have greater selection in Japan? What about Hong Kong? Should I be buying in duty free shops?? I imagine there are other world travelers out there who would benefit from this as well. Thanks!

This is a question I was recently wondering myself while in Hong Kong. For years, Hong Kong was considered a top world destination for watches when it came to price and selection. These days that is different because of a lot of factors. When it comes down to it, the perfect watch shopping destination will have good prices, a great selection, and a safe buying environment where consumers can trust in the quality of what they are buying. The problem is that these places continue to change, and with the Internet being a good place to shop, these issues become less salient.

However, buying a watch in person makes a lot of sense in many instances. First of all, you can see and touch the watch to make sure the quality is good and that you aren't dealing with a fake. Authorized retailers selling only new watches aren't going to have fakes, but some pre-owned dealers may have them mixed in with real stuff from time-to-time. In most instances, they aren't trying to trick anyone, it is just that they themselves don't know they have fakes in their stock. Also, and this is a factor to seriously consider, if you buy a watch from overseas and it needs to be shipped to you, there may be customs implications. Depending on where you live (and how honestly the shipper marks the package), you'll need to pay some type of duty on watches send to you from other countries. There are tricks to this of course, but you always need to measure safety with cost.

Many people overseas tell me that the best place to buy a watch is the United States. Taxes are relatively fair, prices are good, and if you look in the right place there are bargains to be had. There are also ways of avoiding certain types of tax if watches are shipped over state lines. Though this isn't always "good practice." US retailers tend to be relatively honest, easy to work with, and happy to work with you. Selection of product in the US is pretty good, but finding rare or unique watches can be tough.

China (mainland) isn't a good place to get watches because of taxes, and the same reason applies to a lot of countries. One of the main reasons rich people go to the U.S., is to get luxury goods at cheaper prices. This is a main reason why many Latin Americans fly to Miami each day. Another good place to get luxury watches are many of the vacation destinations in the Caribbean. Not only are there a lot of tax advantages, but the selection is really good. But then again you may have to do a lot of Island hopping (which isn't always a bad thing).

Prices in Switzerland proper tend to be high, but so is selection. It is also not a deep part of Swiss culture to bargain or offer discounts. Middle Eastern and Chinese retailers are the ones who are the most used to customers who wish to negotiate. It might seem like a contradiction, but the more expensive someone's watch tastes are, the more they wish to haggle, it seems. So go for it, ask a retailer for the best price. Going back to Thailand, I do hear good things about the market when it comes to price and selection. A lot of the Japan-only exclusive watches can also be found a lot of the time in Hong Kong and Thailand, though if you really want the best selection of unique Japanese fare you need to go to Japan. Though, prices aren't particularly stellar there.

Yes, there are no clear "best places to shop for watches," and it really depends on the rareness of the watches you are looking for and what hassles you are willing to put up with to get what you want. Watches will forever be a complex and difficult-to-acquire commodity when it comes to getting the best stuff at the best price. Brands want you to pay full retail of course, but are at the whims of taxes and customs issues, much like consumers are in a lot of cases. So, if their watches aren't available in your country, there are usually reasons why.

We encourage aBlogtoWatch readers to share their own experiences and opinions on where the best places to shop for watches are around the world. Where have you found the best selections? Prices? Or most amenable shopping experiences? Comment below...


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11 comments
PrestoMan
PrestoMan

It seems locations that are associated with wealth typically offer optimal combinations of price and selection. I would have to assume this is because these places attract higher numbers of wealthy individuals to begin with and can afford to offer lower prices that don't experience as much traffic. Of course you will exceptions such as Switzerland, which has a reputation to maintain so the prices there are understandably higher in accordance to brand representation and respect.

romerobl
romerobl

I am in the US Navy and am deployed to the middle east. we have made port visits to Bahrain and Dubai. I will say, the malls in Dubai have an amazing selection of both luxury and more common watches such as Citizen, Casio and Seiko. Also a lot of Orient. I enjoyed spending my liberty window shopping no less than 15 watch stores. Being that the people that live in Dubai are all about luxury and wealth. it was amazing to see an Omega, Rolex, TAG, and Breitling store all in the same mall. Both Dubai and Bahrain have an amazing selection of "designer" and Luxury brands such as MontBlanc/Patek/Raymond Weil. along with the Gucci, Burberry and so on.  I was able to pick up a Tissot Visodate at the mall in Bahrain for $430.   looking online I couldn't find it for less than about $448 without shipping.  It was the cheapest I had seen it, so i got it. i had been looking at it for some time. I am very happy with my purchase. It would be really easy to spend a lot of hard earned deployment money on a few watches when we pull into port. I have to keep reminding myself that I have a wedding to save for. You Better believe I will be wearing my new Tissot at my wedding though. 


- Brandon

Roger888
Roger888

Hi 

I'm new here, I read this article and that made me wonder. Countries like Andorra, Luxembourg and Sweden should be great countries to shop for watches. i know that many Spaniards and French people drive to Andorra to shop and the reason for the low tax is because you can not fly or take the train to Andorra only bus or car . Luxembourg is known for it's low taxes and the little capital has a wide range of luxury shops. Sweden because of it's cheap currency but they have higher taxes.

RoyChronoPassion
RoyChronoPassion

I went to Hong Kong recently and I tell you, guys, you can find great selections there from block to block. For instance, you can see a Breguet shop here and find another one just across the street! Prices are high though, maybe because of tax. But in terms of convenience, Hong Kong is a good place to shop for your dream watch. For people interested on going there, Tsim Sha Tsui or Causeway Bay is a good place to start. Happy hunting! ^_^


thanatcha
thanatcha

new Zealand is best place to buy I tried in USA many places and aso in Hong kong but NZ much better prices when you bargain

JuanC
JuanC

I purchased a panerai in Italy and saved about 20% over purchasing in the U.S.  Much better selection as well.

Fraser Petrick
Fraser Petrick

Las Vegas. Within a few city blocks you can see, in the flesh, just about everything, you've ever lusted after; watches, that is. Besides that, the ambience makes you feel Great Gatsby rich though you're Dust Bowl poor. However, I did see some $300 Rollex's at our Caribbean resort. At that price I got a couple. I guess they were $300 'cause the guy back at the factory had had a bad spelling day with the label maker.

trickwheel
trickwheel

Schiphol (Amsterdam) Airport. After security. Picked up a Tudor Black Bay at the Rolex Boutique. Cheaper than anywhere else I had seen in Europe and I didn't have to wait in line to get my VAT back. 

thanatcha
thanatcha

I found New Zealand, if buying duty free from the very few official ADs  to be the best pace. Much better value than USA  for Omega and Rolex my Deep sea sea dweller   about  $8800 USA   (retails mostly for $12000 +  local tax  in USA  before bargaining but during my trip through USA most AD would only move around 5% ) My Omega planet Ocean Seamaster  crea god similar result!!

Piero
Piero

It might seem strange but in Tenerife, Playa de Las Americas last august it was full of reliable jewelry shops selling very expensive watches, offering also good discounts.

ZL
ZL

This is of course a complicated topic with lots of potential for further research and debate. I'm also interested in the what countries are good for buying online though. Again the US seems to be great for that also. In China the taxes are just crazy if it's coming from abroad, but if you really do your research, buying from Chinese retailers online can be a decent option (had good experiences with g-shocks that way). Just have to be careful. I also hear they recently made a deal with the Swiss to seriously reduce the taxes making Swiss watches much cheaper in China in the near future. I will get back to you about Thailand.