The Best Countries To Buy New Watches

It's all in the VAT.
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Since seeing the Cartier Santos at SIHH 2019 I've been pretty compelled to purchase one myself. It's an elegant and timeless piece with a lovely interchangeable bracelet that will complement all occasions as I grow old. 

With a number of international trips on the horizon, I decided to do some research on global pricing for the Santos Ref.WSSA0009 and each location's tourist refund scheme to work out where I might find the best price. Aside from the fact that there are huge discrepancies in the global RRPs, what I discovered was very interesting. 

Interestingly, Australia isn't as bad a country to buy this watch as I had assumed, and the Asian countries I thought would offer significant savings on AU prices are only marginally better, even if you're not claiming a GST refund here. 

While this is a Cartier specific example, a quick look at Breitling's global sites shows similar discrepancies in retail pricing. Ultimately it's each countries VAT or GST refunds that will net you the lowest possible price even if the retail price is higher, to begin with. 

Check out the list of 11 popular destinations to discover the best countries to buy new watches.

11. Brazil (Average VAT Rate: 17%)

Cartier Santos Price Brazil

R 32,300 = AU$11,978.58 (1 AUD = 2.69648 BRL // 05.06.2019)
RRP - VAT = R26,809
TOTAL PRICE = AU$9,941.53

10. United States

Cartier Santos Price US

US$6,850 = AU$9,795.32 (1 AUD = 0.699314 USD // 05.06.2019)

The US is tricky because each state has its own tax, so shopping in states without taxes may prove beneficial. See below.

  • Oregon
  • New Hampshire
  • Delaware
  • Montana
  • Alaska

Louisiana and Texas offer a sales tax refund on tangible items purchased at tax-free stores.

9. Hong Kong (No VAT)

Cartier Santos Price Hong Kong

HKD$52,000 = AU$9,470.74 (1 AUD = 5.48538 HKD // 05.06.2019)

8. United Arab Emirates (VAT Rate: 5%)

Cartier Santos Price United Arab Emirates

AED25,300 = AU$9,851.15 (1 AUD = 2.56823 AED // 05.06.2019)
RRP - VAT = AED24,035
TOTAL PRICE = AU$9,351.16

7. Singapore (GST Rate: 7%)

Cartier Santos Price Singapore

S$9,450 = AU$9,900.05 (1 AUD = 0.954541 SGD // 05.06.2019)
RRP - VAT = S$8788.5
TOTAL PRICE = AU$9,198.63

6. Switzerland (VAT Rate: 7.7%)

Cartier Santos Price Switzerland

CHF 6,800 = AU$9,801.66 (1 AUD = 0.693760 CHF // 05.06.2019)
RRP - VAT = CHF 6,276.4
TOTAL PRICE = AU$9,046.13

5. Australia (GST Rate: 10%)

Cartier Santos Price Australia

AU$9,600 (05.06.2019)
RRP - GST = $8640
TOTAL PRICE = AU$8640

The Cartier boutique at DFS Galleria in the Rocks Sydney has a duty free price set at AU$8750 - you still have to present the item and receipts at immigration. 

4. United Kingdom (VAT Rate: 20%)

Screen Shot 2019-06-05 at 12.21.08 pm

£5,900 = AU$10,709.20 (1 AUD = 0.550928 GBP // 05.06.2019)
RRP - VAT = £4,720
TOTAL PRICE = AU$8,567.84

3. Germany (VAT Rate: 19%)

Cartier Santos Price Germany

€6,550 = AU$10,546.32 (1 AUD = 0.621070 EUR // 05.06.2019)
RRP - VAT = €5,305.5
TOTAL PRICE = AU$8,540.54

2. Spain (VAT Rate: 21%)

Cartier Santos Price Spain

€6,700 = AU$10,787.01 (1 AUD = 0.621117 EUR // 05.06.2019)
RRP - VAT = €5,293
TOTAL PRICE = AU$8,518.30

1. Italy (VAT Rate: 22%)

Cartier Santos Price Italy

€6,750 = AU$10,868.54 (1 AUD = 0.621059 EUR // 05.06.2019)
RRP - VAT = €5265
TOTAL PRICE = AU$8,474.70

Other Locations

Cartier sites for many other countries and EU locations (including Ireland, Denmark, Sweden) seem to resort to the UK address even using a VPN. If you're looking to make a purchase and the location is not on this list, it's worth looking at the countries with the highest VATs. Be sure to investigate as to whether those countries have a tourist refund scheme to support the tax. e.g. India has a high tax rate on luxury goods but is yet to initiate a refund scheme. 

Top 5 highest VAT rates in Europe:

  • Hungary (27%)
  • Denmark (25%)
  • Norway, Sweden (25%)
  • Croatia, Finland, Greece (24%)
  • Ireland, Poland, Portugal (23%)

Happy hunting lads. 

Feature Image via: OC Watch Guy