The WUS customs experience thread

Thread: The WUS customs experience thread

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  1. #1
    Member Onkel C's Avatar
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    Jun 2006
    Bonn, Germany

    Off topic The WUS customs experience thread

    JohnF described his adventures at the local customs authority in this thread, so I thought it would be an interesting thing to share the WUS experiences with importing watches in General. If the public forum is the wrong place to do this, please move it accordingly.

    I had to go to the local customs office yesterday to pick up an Ocean7 G-1. It seems to be “wristwatch season” at our national customs authorities at the moment, as the customer ahead of me as well as the customer who came after me had watches ordered.

    Let’s describe the procedure for the ones not in the know:

    If you are living in Germany and in the situation to find a green sheet of paper instead of the ordered watch in your mailbox, you are in for a treat (Aka trip to the customs office)!. The green paper is the notification that the customs authorities intercepted something for you and you need to show them some more proof of purchase, like copies of the receipt/invoice or CC billing to determine the correct customs set and “import VAT” (Einfuhrumsatzsteuer). Gather the needed stuff and head to the customs office stated on the slip.

    Our customs office is located in a 1970s brick and mortar building. The “imports” office is located at the far end of a long and narrow corridor, with three or four chairs positioned in line and in front of the office door. Entering the room is allowed only after being called in. The mood is normally a bit “gotcha, SMUGGLER!”, if you know what I mean.

    In “my” local customs office itself, there is an open counter with five workplaces located behind it. Upon entering the room, one of the office clerks greets you, then takes the green slip and heads off to the storage room to get your parcel. The customs clerk in charge for me was friendly and really polite, but couldn’t brighten up my mood too much.

    You have to open the parcel in front of your clerk and on the counter, who then checks the package for its contents and takes the receipts you had to bring along. For the duration of this procedure, you are normally not allowed to touch the contents yourself. He then took the watch to a second person in another room to check if your timepiece has the suspicion of trademark or IP infringements, aka counterfeits, replicas, product piracy, you name it. Everything was fine with my watch in that case (it even got a word of appreciation from the clerk and some small talk started about watches in general). Then an invoice is written which can be paid on site, cash-only, and then you are off to actually enjoy your new watch. If the customs person is a friendly one (like mine was yesterday), he will deduct the cost of shipping from the overall sum to calculate the import VAT, which left me with a declared value of slightly over 200,- USD. My trip took about 75 minutes including wait time and cost me € 0.80 in customs charge and € 31.- in import VAT.

    An afternoon wasted, some cash spent, but that is the case with most German authorities and was an overall tolerable experience with polite servants of the state.

    But let me describe what happens to the not-so-honest buyers/importers on a case study that happened to happen right in front of me yesterday (It is watch-related, too, so I hope you don’t mind that I also share this experience with you).

    The customer ahead of me was headed for some rough sailing.
    He received about two dozen of “Longines” watches.
    In plastic sleeves.
    All rolled up in one small white cardboard box. (20x20x20 centimeters).

    We started a little chat about watches while my receipt was processed, and he told me that those “were not genuine Longines, of course.”
    He also showed me his “Patek Philippe” watch on his wrist, BOUGHT IN TURKEY; and then he said to me (remember, in front of the remaining four clerks who were listening quite interested) that it was a …

    I would never have guessed this.

    I backed off of him.

    When asked by the customs clerk in charge of him what he wanted to do with two dozens of “Longines”, he stated that they ordered them to sell them in his Mothers’ fashion boutique.

    (let this rest for a while)

    I started cringing.

    Needless to say, he wasn’t allowed to take the watches with him. The clerk only told him that his watches will be sent to the brand proprietor “to evaluate if the watches are genuine and to take further actions”. He then asked how long it will take him to get his watches back(!). The clerk only said that “this depends on the brand proprietor” and left with the watches, shaking her head.

    His errand will predictably run for a much longer time than mine did, and cost him a considerable bigger amount of money at best. At least that is my educated guess as a lawyer.

    As somebody has it in his signature around here, “Ignorance can be trained, but stupidity is forever”, I would like to add that all humans are born stupid, but only the smallest part of them actually learns something before they die.

    I ordered a Seiko Samurai and a Citizen AirDiver from Higuchi yesterday, let us see how that comes out. The Dievas watch I mentioned in the aforementioned thread passed customs without a hitch, btw.

    I would like to hear from your customs stories around the world. Please describe your experiences, how much customs you have had to pay and feel free to comment on this little story of mine.

    Greetings from Bonn,

    (he/she who finds typos is allowed to keep them.)
    Mostly divers.

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Jul 2006

    Re: The WUS customs experience thread

    Interesting post, Christian. I read somewhere recently about a way to significantly reduce customs fees in the US. Basically, you can pay customs on the components of the watch - the case, movement, and strap. The benefit to doing this is that US customs charges a flat fee for automatic watch movements. For example, if you buy a $5000 watch and say that $4500 of the watch's value is for the movement, $250 is for the case, and $250 is for the strap, then the customs fee is the total of a very small flat fee for the movement and then a pro-rated fee for the case and strap, which is of course a much smaller total than paying a pro-rated fee for the entire watch. I've only read about this, so I don't remember the exact details.

  3. #3
    Member smurfe's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Baton Rouge Louisiana Area

    Re: The WUS customs experience thread

    My purchase with Doxa has been my only experience with Customs. I ordered my watch from Doxa and Fed-Ex delivered it to my office 3 days later. Thats it. No added Custom fees or anything. Wish all could have as a pleasurable experience. I actually ordered a Marathon G-SAR the same day. Took me a week longer to get it here from California.


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  5. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    London. England

    Re: The WUS customs experience thread

    My experience was very similar, apart from the loon with the fakes!

    British Customs can add considerably to the total cost, specially if they intercept a high value item coming in from outside the EU (from the US, in the case of my IWC doppel) - not so painful if you have taken this possible expense into account before buying.

    VAT on top of the hassle with paperwork, and having to collect the item from some out of the way trading estate, makes it all the more attractive to try and find items from within the EU, although this isn't always possible - don't tell Customs, I'm expecting something from the US!

  6. #5
    Member Tragic's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2006

    Re: The WUS customs experience thread

    Life is easy in the US in this regard.
    I guess every watch I've bought new has been from overseas and only once, for a U1 delivered from Germany did I have to pay any duties, 30$ or so, straight to the UPS (maybe FedEx?) guy.
    Now if only the dollar wasn't so
    "Time is the school in which we learn. Time is the fire in which we burn."

  7. #6
    Member mr2blue's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Modjeska Canyon, Ca

    Re: The WUS customs experience thread

    My experience has been on the shipping end. Of the watch boxes I have sent: Australia opened the package and had to verify my statement of new treated lumber, another caught in Germany and London as well. The US seems a breeze compared to other countries.
    2DARK Hardwood Watch Boxes are the real deal

  8. #7
    Member Scott3670's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    West Virginia

    Re: The WUS customs experience thread

    Wow. A very educating post indeed. I've read that in some countries you can be subjected to a fine of multiples 1000's of dollars (or euros) if you are caught with or selling a counterfeit high-end (read Rolex, Patek, etc.) watch.

    Life is tough. It's tougher if you're stupid.

  9. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    London. England

    Re: The WUS customs experience thread

    I have just had delivery of a little package from Japan (they missed the item from the US!).
    It was stopped in customs but, fortunately, the value recorded on the documentation was in Yen rather than British pounds. This mix up saved me a pretty penny in duties so I'm not complaining, on this occasion.

  10. #9

    Join Date
    Feb 2006

    Re: The WUS customs experience thread

    I get alot of packages from overseas. When I sell, I try to sell in the usa only.Not because I'm a prude or anything like that. I would love to sell my watches to Germany, etc. But you guys have to figure in customs. I sold 3 last year overseas and all 3 buyers emailed me back about how much the final cost was to them. For me to ship, I need to insure for full value. that can add 200.00us to the buyer and cost me 75.00 to ship. Here, its about 14.00 to ship in the conus. Theres no need to have offers made of hundreds less than I'm selling for. I digress.
    Theres no problem for me to get a watch from overseas. The fedex lady shows up, with alot of cleavage and a big smile and leaves it. ups throws it from the truck and tries to come close to my door as they drive by, and usps leaves a slip to come and pick it up because there arse is glued to there seat for 8

  11. #10
    Member EdinLA44's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Southern California, USA

    Shipping a watch to repair from US to Germany - German VAT

    This is an interesting thread....

    Here's my story:

    I recently sent my Sinn 103 Ti Ar UTC back to Sinn in Frankfurt for an overhaul. FedEx will only insure watches to US$500 so I have it insured with a 3rd party insurance company for its full replacement value of US$2500.

    I filled out the FedEx Air Waybill, put on the correct description of the watch and its US$2500 value and also enclosed the FedEx invoice and a US Customs form. On both the invoice and customs form, I wrote that the watch was being returned to the manufacturer for repair. The watch was successfully delivered to Sinn and I am thinking all is well.

    About two weeks later, I get an invoice from FedEx stating that they have charged my credit card US$461 for German VAT. Well, that's not right!!! I call FedEx and they tell me I have to fill out a dispute form with FedEx and submit that along with copies of all supporting documentation and then FedEx would deal with German customs for me. So, I filled out all the paperwork and sent it to FedEx and as of about a week ago, the paperwork had been sent to FedEx in Frankfurt to get my VAT refunded.

    According to FedEx it takes 2-6 weeks to get an answer. FedEx says that if German customs denies my dispute there is nothing else I can do unless I want to deal directly with them myself. I must admit that I was quite surprised to get charged VAT since I clearly wrote on both the shipping invoice as well as the customs form that the watch was being returned for repair as well as the fact that it was a Sinn watch being returned to Sinn. All I can figure is that the German customs just looked at the front of the FedEx air waybill, saw the value of the watch and then assessed the VAT without bothering to read any of the documents that were included along with the shipping paperwork.

    Hopefully I'll hear back from them soon with some good news (fingers crossed).


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