Purchasing a high-end watch in Europe as opposed to the U.S.

I need help in figuring this one out. I have priced some high-end watches in Europe and the U.S. and found that the price in the U.S. (dollars) is not too far off from the price (Euros) in Europe. Once you figure in the exchange rate and deduct the VAT, it seems that the prices should be very close. Any thoughts out there in RickStevesLand? Should I purchase at home or have a great souvenir of my travels?

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
10888 posts

I played that game with a Tissot. It was actually a hundred or so cheaper at the duty free shop in Zurich. BUT, decided that buying it local made more sense. The Tissot will require a battery change in three years and that is fairly expensive change requiring a return to Tissot and new waterproofing seals. Not at all like a new battery in your Timex at Target. The local dealer will handle the battery change for a min fee (I think $20) if I buy it from him. However, if it is not his watch, then I pay the full bill which is more than my original savings. Unfortunately expensive watch require expensive maintenance. So I decided in favor of the local dealer. However, the watch remind me of our Switzerland trip.

Posted by Scott M.
Dallas, TX, USA
1166 posts

Actually, I'm looking at high-end watches that cost several thousand dollars each (Zenith, Panerai, Blancpain, etc...). So, any percentage difference in price between Europe and the U.S. adds up to a lot of money. Hope that clarifies things a little. Maybe someone who is a jeweler specializing in these types of watches can chime in.

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
10888 posts

Pardon me !!! for assuming that a $1200 watch was high end. Realize that is chump change for some Texans.

Posted by Scott M.
Dallas, TX, USA
1166 posts

Frank--I meant no offense. I only intended to clarify what type of watches I was speaking of so that anyone who wanted to put in their 2 cents would know what kind of savings I was trying to accomplish. It could be quite a tidy sum of money. Normally, I would purchase such a watch from Little Switzerland or A.H. Riise in the USVI, but not all watch manufacturers are represented.

FYI, my everyday watch is a Casio.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17792 posts

John,

If you're willing to pay for a "high end Watch", it probably doesn't matter where you buy it. However, buying in Europe has somewhat of a "souvenir value" and that would make the purchase that much more interesting, at least for me.

As a matter of fact, I'm presently wearing a Casio Digital that I bought at a Manor department store in Locarno, Switzerland after much research. I won't bother getting into the reason I had to buy a new Watch (don't ask! It involves a night in a Bar). It was about SF$50 as I recall, so nowhere near the range you're considering. One thing I learned is that Europeans still seem to prefer analog Watches, as I had a hard time finding a digital model.

As long as you're over there shopping, check with the dealer in terms of battery changes requirements. I'm sure there will be some models that don't have to be returned to the dealer for a battery change.

The best Watches I found in Switzerland were at the Bucherer stores. I have a photo of a SF$10K Rolex (it was still there when I returned to Locarno in June so they're no doubt waiting for you to visit the store LOL).

Happy shopping!

Posted by Scott M.
Dallas, TX, USA
1166 posts

Thanks Ken, I'll keep that Rolex in mind. Their U.S. service center is located in Dallas. And, I won't ask where or how you lost your watch (what happens in Europe, stays in Europe).

Posted by Randy
Minneapolis, MN, USA
1509 posts

Last year our family came back from a month in France with over 1700 souvenirs, all on memory cards. To each his own, I guess.

Posted by Andreas
Frankfurt am Main, Germany
2511 posts

Given how "cheap" the US$ has become for us €-paid people I'd buy pretty much anything in the US at the moment ;-)... I found out that for items in the >$500 range even if you include taxes, insurance and shipping from the US to Europe it's cheaper to buy them in the US or Canada...

Posted by Terry
Rochelle, IL
262 posts

My daughter gave me a Tissot watch she bought near where she lives in Switzerland. I had a local dealer adjust the band and eventually replace the battery. He he first looked at it he said, "That is a very nice watch." with an emphasis on very. I know it's not a high end watch, but for me it replaces a Bulova, which was high end for me! Point is, I beleive most dealers here will be able to perform the battery changes, band replacements and any other minor problem that might crop up. I guess where you buy it is determined by if you want a souvenier and story to tell or a watch.

Posted by Richard
Scottsdale, Arizona, United States
116 posts

FYI. Many of the "high" end watches do not use batteries but they still require periodic maintenance. Often every 5-7 yrs and it is pricey and usually requires the watch being sent back to the company (e.g. not done in the local jewelry store).

I think I got this right. I've stuck with battery powered quartz watches due to the cost differences (the battery version of a battery is usually at least several hundred dollars cheaper, at least when I was checking out Omega watches).

I found it somewhat comical how you could find watch stores virtually everywhere in Switzerland. Even up on top of a glacier (Jungfraujoch) there was at least one shop.

Posted by Alfred
New York
11 posts

I have bought 2 watches in Europe, one in Place Vendome in Paris and another in Lisbon, Portugal and the price difference from here in the US is about $500 dollars when you deduct the VAT. I find that asking for discounts or haggling for a better price even in high end watch stores in Europe work well. I have tried doing that all over: Paris, Lisbon, Berlin, Hamburg and Madrid and never fails , just dont get intimated by the appearance and location of the store. Bottom line, its your money and its not just a couple of thousand we're talking about, so more often than not, they are willing to accomodate your request for a better price. Good luck on your search.

BTW, I bought a Panerai GMT in Paris and a Rolex Dayjust in Lisbon.

Posted by Scott M.
Dallas, TX, USA
1166 posts

Bless you Alfred!! That is just the kind of information that I was looking for. By the way, a Panerai Luminor Marina is tops on my list of future watches. You have good taste. Overall, did your purchases cost you less in Europe, taking into account the exchange rate, VAT, and haggling over price? I would think that the exchange rate would be a real stumbling block. Perhaps the haggling negates the downside of the exchange rate.

Posted by Bill
San Leandro, CA, USA
631 posts

For those who want a good analog Swiss watch at a very good price I can recommend Costco (either at the store or Costco.com). I bought two watches (10 years apart) a Rolex and a Tag Heuer and saved about 40% over retail. For those who want a souvenir, go ahead and splurge, but don't expect any bargins.

Posted by Scott M.
Dallas, TX, USA
1166 posts

I just checked the Costco website for watches. They had a Baume & Mercier watch listed, however, it is not a model that I recognize, nor is it listed on the manufacturers website. I own several Baume & Mercier watches, so I am up on new models as well as old ones. Costco is not listed as an authorized retailer, and I don't believe that B & M authorizes online sales. This watch, therefore, is of dubious origin. It may be a "gray market" watch, one intended for a market other than the U.S., and therefore not eligible for warranty service here. I have purchased gray market Seiko watches in the past and they have not held up over time, nor were they covered by a warranty. They were cheap though (40% off). I still wouldn't trust buying an expensive watch from a company (Costco) where you can buy funeral caskets online.

Posted by Bob
Gettysburg, PA
1364 posts

My cell phone keeps fairly accurate time. lol

Posted by Alfred
New York
11 posts

John, as I mentioned earlier, I saved around $500 for both watches after all the VAT exemptions, 3% credit card surcharges and exchange rates. I made the purchases in 2006 and 2007. Another good place to buy watches is in the Bahamas, the store John Bull carries most good brands including Panerai. I saved around $800 for a Cartier Tank Francaise Chrono from their Cartier boutique there. Your choice of Panerai Luminor Marina is a good one, I also liked the titanium one, 40mm. Good luck!

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
10888 posts

This is a 3 and half year old posting. Why are so many old posts being dug up?

Posted by John
Tualatin, Oregon
6 posts

I visited Bucherer in Lucerne today where I purchased my original Rolex Submariner in 1974 for less than USD 300. I visited Bucherer last in 2002 and the price was then 4,400 Swiss Francs per the pic I took at the time. Today the same model Rolex was marked at 7,100 Swiss Francs at Bucherer. I had been considering buying a new Rolex as a retirement gift to myself, but not at those insane prices! While my old Rolex does not glow in the dark anymore, it still runs good. These sharp price increases can't just be simple inflation. Can anyone justify or explain? My wife and I have spent the last month vacationing in Italy and France where we felt the prices were fairly reasonable, then we come to Switzerland where the prices are simply outrageous. Interestingly, we encountered other tourists from the US in Switzerland and I wonder if they have been priced out of the market. Interestingly, there were mobs of Chinese all over Lucerne today and while in Bucherer, they appeared to be buying, almost as if in a frenzy. Can't wait to get back to France tomorrow and I won't spend another cent in Switzerland, ever. John