Recently, my wife and I visited St. Thomas/St. Martin. It has been about 10 years since we were there and I was really looking forward to seeing and handling nice watches and securing some real bargains. Besides having some of the nicest beaches, these islands are famous for being a shopper’s paradise for fine jewelry and name brand watches. The attraction is lots of inventory, good prices and the fact that US citizens can bring back duty-free up to $1,600 of merchandise per person.
On both islands, jewelry shops line the main streets. In St. Thomas within a few blocks on Main Street and in the Havensight Shopping Mall, there are literally tens of high-end shops such as Little Switzerland, Diamond International, Royal Caribbean, Carnival Jewelers etc. Almost all the name brand watches are displayed and for sale at prices lower that in the US.
Did I buy any watches? I did not. There are several reasons why I didn’t. The main one being my lovely wife beat me to the shops. Single handedly she blew our budget by purchasing an “eighty-eight facet” diamond - a new cut that your wives/lady friends probably know more about - before I get a chance to spend my money. Of course, I am happy for her. She deserves it. I only wished that I were quicker to the draw.
So here are my observations about shopping in St. Thomas/St. Martin:
Most tourists are looking for Rolexes. Although you can try on as many as you like, none that I know of are discounted. Lots of Submariners, Dayjust, Day-Dates. However, SS Daytonas, Ceramic GMT are rare and practically non-existent.
There are literally tons of Breitlings, Omegas, Tags, Chopards, IWSs and other mid brand watches. Dependent on the model, they are somewhat discounted at about 10-15% off list prices.
Panerais still rare and not discounted. You can get some decent buys on Patek Phillip and other high end wathces.
Citizens and Seikos are heavily discounted. You can literally buy any Citizen for 41% off and if you are willing to bargain you can get discounts of over 50%. However, some of the highly desirable models such as the Attessa are still only available in Japan and Asia.
What once seemed to be great bargains in these islands are no longer best buys anymore. You can get better prices if you shop carefully on the Internet especially for brands such as Oris, Hamilton, Fortis and Longines.
Is it worth a trip there? You bet, if only for the fact that you can handle every brand of watches within a few blocks on both islands.