Top 7 Tips – Importing Watches

When it comes to importing and exporting watches, there are some risks you should know about. Every single time I am importing, I understand that the risks are much higher compared to buying watches in the USA if you reside here.

It took me a lot of time to figure out the pros and cons of importing watches. Here are the lessons I have learned so far:


#1 Not Every Deal is a Good Deal (So Be Extra Careful)

This is a tricky one, even if the price is very attractive, and I have done my research. The key is to buy a watch in excellent condition from sellers who have a good reputation.

One time, I bought a watch overseas, and when I got the watch, it was a Franken-watch. I was like “FML”. It was close to $8,000 buy price, and these watches are reselling for $10,000. I thought it would be a significant flip. Nope, I almost got burned, and it took me two months to get my money back.  It would typically be less but due to it being an international seller, the turnaround time was much longer.


#2 Focus on the Seller and Condition Details

Buying watches from overseas is a bit more complex because sometimes, the pictures don’t portray the exact condition of the watch. Every single detail in the images will help you understand if the condition is up to your standards. The key is not to rush and focus on every detail of the watch.  This way, by being even more diligent than with a regional or local deal, you can make sure to avoid errors due to translation and quality standards in different countries.


#3 Pay With Credit Card

Dealing with international sellers can be risky if you don’t know the seller. I always purchase with my credit card to cover my ass. I know of people who purchased a watch online and never got the watch. Thanks to purchasing with a credit card, they have been able to get their money back.


#4 Customs Fees

Customs fees range anywhere from 5-8% when importing swiss watches. Sometimes, if you import watches worth more than $2,500 and Customs thinks you are a business, you will need to have a formal entry. That means you will need to hire a customs broker and/or customs brokerage to help you clear the watches into your country. If you are importing one watch at the time, you should be fine; however, when you import two or more watches at the same time, the watch might get stuck in customs.  So just be aware.


#5 Avoid Watch Getting Stuck in Customs

This one is not fun because sooner or later it will happen to you if you import watches. The key is to keep on checking the tracking because you might not even get notified that your watch is stuck with the agency. There is a grace period around 5-7 days before they will ship the watch back to the original sender, so be proactive when watching watches you purchased being imported.  Also, it’s wise to have some proof of purchase and or sale because they may ask you for that to release the watch. 

One time, when I bought a watch, I found out a day before the return deadline that I needed to submit additional paperwork.

All they need to know is more information about the watch. You will get a form from the shipping company which you will fill out, and they will submit it to their customs brokers.


#6 Ensure No Service Is Needed

This is one of the most significant issues when buying watches overseas. You might have to get service done on them more than you’d like. From my experience, I have to repair 1 out of 4 watches I import. That’s not to scare you,it’s just been my personal experience.

Here are the options I consider when deciding if I should keep the watch or return it after I see it needs potential repair. 

  • What’s my potential profit in the watch? 
  • What’s my current risk exposure in the watch? (meaning what’s the downside financially I could potentially be facing to repair it with my resource network?  And how much will the repair, polish, or replacement parts cost?)

If I decide to return the watch, I will have to pay return shipping (approximately $100), and I have already paid customs once on the inbound route.  In other words, I will lose $100 + the 5-8% customs fees on the watch declared at whatever value is on it. So if the repair is going to be less than that it may be worth it to do it myself.  If not, I’ll return it.


#7 Don’t’ Buy If You Can’t Risk Losing It

This was one of my mottos when I first started trading watches from overseas. If I know I will be fine losing the money, I’m willing to take the risk. I will not go buy a watch from overseas if I am not ready to lose the money.  That’s part of the business, and why when starting out you should buy local until you get some deals under your belt.



There are great deals in the USA and many other countries that we call our own.  My suggestion is don’t go buying overseas if you don’t have many transactions under your belt. Importing watches is a different rodeo, and you should be able to ride a small bull before you take on the big one!

Honza Hroch

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