11 Of The Best Countries To Buy New Watches
— 10 March 2023

11 Of The Best Countries To Buy New Watches

— 10 March 2023
Randy Lai
Randy Lai

A couple of years ago at the 2019 edition of Watches & Wonders, our colleague James peeped the now-acclaimed Cartier Santos and summarily went on to proclaim it one of the best watches of the show. “It’s an elegant and timeless design,” he said, “equipped with a lovely interchangeable bracelet that will complement pretty much all occasions as you grow old”. Impressive stuff. 

More than that release itself though, this Cartier Santos – a classic, on-bracelet sports watch with plenty of everyday sex appeal – helped to precipitate a discussion about the best countries in the world to buy new watches – complete with a punchy tourist refund scheme. 

For those of you who have international work/leisure trips in the immediate future, we’ve decided to update our index on the 11 countries with the best watch prices around the globe – using the classic Santos Ref. WSSA0029 as our benchmark.

Punchy discrepancies in the various global MSRPs aside, we’re pleased to report that Australia remains (by-and-large) a fairly equitable place to purchase new luxury watches – even if you’re not eligible for the nation’s Tourist Refund Scheme

While we’ve used opted to use Cartier as our point of reference in this index, a quick look at Breitling’s global sites shows similar discrepancies in retail pricing. Ultimately, each nation’s VAT or GST refund policy plays a decisive role in determining whether you come away having nabbed the lowest possible price (even if what you paid in-market seemed higher to begin with).

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The Best Countries To Buy Watches And Claim VAT In 2023

11. Brazil (Average VAT Rate: 17.5%)

best countries to buy watches
  • R$45,400 = AU$13,340.93
  • (1 AUD = 3.40 BRL, dated 09/03/2023)
  • MSRP ex. VAT = R$37,682
  • TOTAL PRICE = AU$11,070.97

10. United States (Variable Taxes)

best countries to buy watches
  • US$6,800 = AU$10,320.94
  • (1 AUD = 0.66 USD, dated at 09/03/2023)
  • TOTAL PRICE* = See our comments below

*Unlike other countries in North America, the United States has no single national tax regime. Rather, the final price you come away with will be determined by the country you’re shopping in.

For instance, the following US states do not levy a statewide sales tax:

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

Meanwhile, Louisiana and Texas both offer tax rebates on eligible items purchased in designated stores.

9. Hong Kong (No VAT)

best countries to buy watches
  • HK$53,000 = AU$10,248.69
  • (1 AUD = 5.17 HKD, dated at 09/03/2023)
  • TOTAL PRICE = $10,248.69

8. Australia (GST Rate: 10%)

  • AU$11,200 (pricing dated 03/2023)
  • MSRP ex. GST = $10,080
  • TOTAL PRICE = $10,080

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

best countries to buy watches
  • AED$25,600 = AU$10,576.41
  • (1 AUD = 2.42 AED, dated at 09/03/2023)
  • MSRP ex. VAT = AED$24,320
  • TOTAL PRICE = AU$10,047.59

6. Singapore (GST Rate: 8%)

best countries to buy watches
  • SG$9,650 = AU$10,833.67
  • (1 AUD = 0.89 SGD, dated at 09/03/2023)
  • MSRP ex. VAT = SG$8,878
  • TOTAL PRICE = AU$9,960.12

5. Switzerland (VAT Rate: 7.7%)

best countries to buy watches
  • CHF$6,400 = AU$9,801.66
  • (1 AUD = 0.61 CHF, dated at 09/03/2023)
  • MSRP ex. VAT = CHF$5,907.20
  • TOTAL PRICE = AU$9,620.57

Editor’s Note: It’s important to point out that, according to PwC’s Worldwide Tax Summaries (last reviewed in January 2023), Switzerland will be increasing its VAT rate to 8.1% as of 01 January 2024.

4. Germany (VAT Rate: 19%)

  • €7,150 = AU$11,502.25
  • (1 AUD = 0.62 EUR, dated at 03/09/2023)
  • MSRP ex. VAT = €5,791.50
  • TOTAL PRICE = AU$9,315.77

3. United Kingdom (VAT Rate: 20%)

  • £6,400 = AU$11,593.85
  • (1 AUD = 0.55 GBP, dated at 09/03/2023)
  • MSRP ex. VAT = £5,120
  • TOTAL PRICE = AU$9,275.94

2. Spain (VAT Rate: 21%)

  • €7,300 = AU$11,741.40
  • (1 AUD = 0.62 EUR, dated at 09/03/2023)
  • MSRP ex. VAT = €5,767
  • TOTAL PRICE = AU$9,275.70

1. Italy (VAT Rate: 22%)

  • €7,350 = AU$11,820.01
  • (1 AUD = 0.62 EUR, dated at 09/03/2023)
  • MSRP ex. VAT = €5,733
  • TOTAL PRICE = AU$9,219.18

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 rate of VAT or equivalent consumption tax.

Be sure to first ascertain whether those countries have a tourist refund scheme to support the tax (e.g. India levies a high tax rate on luxury goods but is yet to introduce such a scheme for international visitors).

Top 5 highest VAT rates in Europe:

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

Happy hunting team!

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Randy Lai
Following 6 years in the trenches covering consumer luxury across East Asia, Randy joins Boss Hunting as the team's Commercial Editor. His work has been featured in A Collected Man, M.J. Bale, Soho Home, and the BurdaLuxury portfolio of lifestyle media titles. An ardent watch enthusiast, boozehound and sometimes-menswear dork, drop Randy a line at [email protected].


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