Listopedia: Luxury Watch Shopping Destinations
I find it strange that consumers have no qualms paying the listed price for some retail goods and services, but not for others. We pay RRP for our clothes, our food, our dry cleaning and dining out, but somewhere along the way everybody decided watches (like new cars) were open to aggressive negotiation. This haggling trend, combined with the boom in online retailing has created healthy competition amongst retailers, and kept the manufacturers true to their pricing, thus creating a position of power for watch buyers. With so much choice, here are a few cities on my list of best destinations for watch shopping.
The Big Apple’s size, money, multiple manufactures and plenty of modern and vintage retailers, dealers and auction houses means the selection is as about as good as you can find anywhere in the world. Alongside Flagship retail stores from the likes of Rolex, Audemars Piguet, Panerai and Omega are mega retailers like Tourneau Time Machine (go here for an unmatched selection of brands), Motion In Time or Wempe Jewellers (stocking some of the most expensive watches in the world). Those searching for the finest vintage watches should check out the Aaron Faber Gallery, link up with some of the world’s best dealers including Andrew Shear of Sheartime, or align their trip with an upcoming auction at Antiquorum, Bonhams or Christie’s.
Singapore has become an undisputed mecca of watch retailing in the last decade and I think the majority of it can be attributed to the strength of the Chinese market. With the super wealthy now flocking to Singapore to benefit from the country’s attractive taxes, the luxury retail industry has boomed. The very best in haute horology can be acquired at countless locations, from the impressive mall networks to individual hotels – the Marina Bay Sands has roughly 30 retailers alone including Richard Mille and Roger Dubuis. The Hour Glass, Asia’s leading luxury watch retailer, has multiple boutiques throughout the city, my favourite being the stunning ‘More Passion’ in Paragon Shopping Centre. Knowledgeable buyers can also head to Lucky Plaza, Republic Plaza or People’s Park Complex to window shop a plethora of independent stores selling new and second hand watches. Successful shoppers can also take advantage of Singapore’s Tourist Refund Scheme returning roughly 5.5% of the 7% consumption tax after commission.
Walking down Bond Street dressed to impress is a quintessential London experience, regardless of your desire to shop or not. Being a keen shopper looking for a new timepiece is an added bonus. Along New and Old Bond streets you’ll find an array of brand specific stores such as Rolex, Hublot, IWC, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Cartier and Piaget. This famous stretch is also home to the Kronometry 1999 group’s largest store, stocking a more boutique selection of brands like De Bethune, DeWitt, Hautlence, and HYT. The real highlight of the strip however is Marcus Watches, which at any one time might house the most impressive (and expensive) selection of timepieces in the world. Serious buyers will travel from all corners of the globe to see highly complicated pieces from Greubel Forsey, Urwerk and Audemars Piguet as well as an entire floor dedicated to the AP brand. Don’t expect a bargain at any of these stores but remember you can claim the 20% VAT when you leave!
I had to include Dubai in this list because I was blown away by the offering at the famous Dubai Mall when I was there last year. A football field sized area of the mall accommodates absolutely every brand you can imagine, it’s not even worth me listing them all – there’s even a Glashutte Original boutique. Each boutique is allocated a selection of the brand’s rarest pieces to cater for a market where image is everything. While in store at A.Lange & Sohne, I was shown a Richard Lange Perpetual Calendar Terraluna, one of a small handful worldwide and in Audemars Piguet I was invited to try on the Platinum Royal Oak Offshore, one of ten ever made. I must say I was just as impressed when I walked into the Panerai boutique and queried as to whether they had a PAM0000 in stock, the brand’s highly sought after entry level Luminor model. To my surprise, they did.
Once upon a time Hong Kong used to be the ‘go to’ place for watches. Today it’s rather expensive and not a place I’d prioritise when shopping for modern watches. But, if you’re a fan of vintage watches, in particularly Rolex and Panerai, a trip to The Vintage Concept is an absolute must for a serious range of Milsubs and Daytonas.
The city of Rome is historically significant for many reasons, and watches just happen to be one of them. While there’s no harm exploring the stores in the Spanish Steps area (Hausmann & Co. is particularly good) my two highlights are undoubtedly Only Vintage and Watches in Rome, where you will find some of the world’s finest examples of vintage Patek Philippe and Rolex.
Whilst San Francisco doesn’t present as many options as NYC’s vintage watch scene, I thought it was worth mentioning two dealers based in the city. The first is Eric Ku from 10 Past Ten who is recognised as an expert in the Vintage Rolex game. The second is the team at HQ Milton – Scott Kaplan and Jacek Kozubek have built a dedicated and trusting client base on the Rolex Forums and in their showroom.
I couldn’t leave Geneva off this list. Whilst I wouldn’t recommend Australians going to Geneva to buy watches, not since the cap was lifted off the Swiss Franc, I can’t deny one of my bucket list experiences is travelling there and buying a watch at one of the Important Watch auctions at Phillips, Christie’s or Sotheby’s. It doesn’t get any better than the selection offered by these auction houses in the city so intrinsically linked to watchmaking.
For the technically minded watch fans I thought it was worth noting that the Apple Watch will be available to buy in multiple countries on April 24. Expedia will be one of the first apps users can experience providing travellers with quick access to important travel information on the go. Smart watches were a big feature at Baselworld this year with a handful of brands announcing tech partnerships and models for the future. It’s clear the Smartwatch is here to stay and while I’m yet to get my hands on the Watch, I can’t deny its sheer functionality, especially for travelling.
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