Thread: Buying watches in the duty free Carribean

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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2006

    Buying watches in the duty free Carribean

    While I was on the cruise I just returned from I shopped at a few Ports that we stopped at to look at watches. There was a pretty good selection and I looked at a bunch of them. However I did not find the discounts to be that significant. The Rolex DSSD was quoted to me at 16% off retail and the Omega PloProf 1200M Seamaster was about the same. A guy on my cruise who bought a Portugese told me that IWC was slightly better as well as Panerai.

    Now it is true that there is no sales tax in Grand Cayman where I found the best selection but I believe that you must pay duty on anything over $900 per person, so I am not sure how that works out vs the 7% I pay at home. But I recently bought the Rolex DSSD and got a full $500 less on the price locally and since I was trading a watch I only paid sales tax on the actual cash paid.

    Have any of you guys purchased a watch in a similar situation, and how do you think you faired? Also did you declare it upon return home and was there additional duty to pay?

  2. #2
    Member hooyah22's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2009

    Re: Buying watches in the duty free Carribean

    I have not purchased under those conditions but I spoke with a couple other guys on the last cruise I went on. The prices in the shops aboard ship weren't that great at all IMO, but one gentleman got quite a significant discount on his sea-dweller (16600) in St. Thomas, or at least what he claimed he paid was quite good...

  3. #3
    Member iinsic's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Southwest FL

    Re: Buying watches in the duty free Carribean

    The only true duty-free shopping in the Caribbean is on St. Maarten/St. Martin, as a consequence of its being shared by the French and the Dutch. There is no customs whatsoever on the island. However, if you return to the USA, you can expect to pay duties on any declared purchases that exceed your allowance. You are allowed a duty-free amount and then another set amount (used to be $1,000 per person) at a fixed rate. Anything over that is assessed at the duty rate for that particular item. But, unlike other islands, they do not report tourist purchases to US Customs (as is done every day in the USVI).

    The most important aspect of St. Maarten (and, yes, the best deals are on the Dutch side) is that merchants of every stripe will wheel and deal. A Rolex AD in Philipsburg might quote you a 15% discount, but with shrewd bargaining you can get it to 20-25%. The same applies to other major brands as well. The economy has been in the crapper world-wide and tourists on the islands have been contenting themselves with much less expensive trinkets. How low they will go depends on how much demand there is for the watch, how many they might have in stock and how long they've been sitting on that inventory. Don't expect a lot of give-and-take on a Daytona, but a DSSD is a different matter. And, if you can get it for a fourth off, the duties become less important over what you would pay in the States. For the best deal, take cash (in the form of traveler's cheques), because nothing will put the gleam in a merchant's eyes like a nice stack of $100 TC's waiting for your endorsement. Of course, if you've got the stones to carry $8-10,000 in Benjamins, you probably can expect an even better deal.

    I have bought a half-dozen Rolexes on St. Maarten over the years (including three Subs) and flipped every one of them for a profit when I tired of them. For a Caribbean duty-free experience, it's everywhere you want to be.


  4. #4
    Member Rhyalus's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2010

    Re: Buying watches in the duty free Carribean

    I have done a lot of watch shopping in Grand Cayman, and never actually bought anything there.

    The deals are only "ok", and I personally find that a good AD in another US state can usually get me a better deal than what I can get down there, and there is no tax charged by the dealer.


  5. #5
    Member surfguy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Florida, USA

    Re: Buying watches in the duty free Carribean

    Bought Rolex for years in Caribbean and Mexico from AD's at 15%-25% off (20% off steel sport models) - w no tax and wore them on my wrist and never paid any customs.
    Michael: What is the most inspiring thing Iíve ever said to you?
    Dwight: Donít be an idiot - changed my life. Whenever Iím about to do something, I think, Would an idiot do that? and if they would, I do not do that thing.

  6. #6
    DOXA Forum Moderator subkrawler's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    United States

    Re: Buying watches in the duty free Carribean

    We've bought multiple watches on the Searaider trips in Grand Cayman, and they've all been duty free. Not one of us has ever paid anything in customs upon return either. The key is to not get too descriptive on your claims form, and make sure you list other items other than a watch. My claims form normally looks something like this:

    Plush toy
    Wrist watch

    It seems that if you buy other stuff, aside from a watch, they pay no attention. I was told to do this by one of the watch shops and it seems to work quite well. Most of the time, when coming back through, they just ask me if I had fun diving.

    Have a nice day.

    Looking for stolen DOXA Sub 300T reissue #444

  7. #7
    Member 20DYNAMITE07's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2009

    Re: Buying watches in the duty free Carribean

    Sorry... no duty free watch purchase experience.

    My Caribbean duty free shopping list usually looks like:
    Dark Rum
    Aged Rum
    Rum Cake

    Raymond Weil Freelancer 2730-ST-65001 / Seiko Sumo SBDC001 / Maranez Layan / Deep Blue Ocean Diver 500 #110 / Deep Blue DayNight OPS #325 / Citizen BJ8050-59E "ECOZILLA"/ Citizen BL5345-59H Titanium / Citizen BL5280-52X / Skagen Chronograph 331XLSLB / Garmin Forerunner 305 / Timex IRONMAN 30 Lap T5K412 / Swatch Irony Chrono

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