Are Watches Cheaper in Dubai?

Dubai International Airport

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Buying watches when we go on vacation or on a trip is pretty common, especially if they are going to end up much cheaper than at home. However, this is not always the case, and there are some important factors to consider when buying a watch in Dubai.
The Middle East has been growing in popularity over the last couple of decades, and become a hotspot for luxury culture, and of course, luxury watches. But just because there has been an increase in demand, does not mean the watches will be cheaper.
In this article, we are going to briefly look at if luxury watches are actually cheaper in Dubai or not, and highlight some factors you need to weigh up when purchasing your new timepiece.

What Defines a Luxury Watch?

Rolex Oyster Perpetual Day- Date and Oyster Blue watch on white
Although there is not a formal definition of what makes a watch ‘luxury’, they are some things that can help you identify them.
For starters, the quality will be incredibly high, alongside a premium price tag. Typically speaking, luxury watches follow a very traditional, and rich legacy of watchmaking.
In addition, they are often made in more expensive markets such as Europe (most notably Switzerland) or Japan.
Authentic Swiss-made watches will have been certified by the Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres (COSC).
Price – again, there is no universally accepted definition. However, in some reports, you’ll see the Swiss Federation of Watch Manufacturers define true luxury watches as those with prices over 10.000 CHF (roughly $11K USD in 2021). But the distinction between high-end, entry-level luxury, and true luxury is vague and much of the general public would still consider watches priced at less than that to still be luxury.
You probably recognize the names of many luxury watch brands, even if you are not a watch expert, it is rare to find someone who does not know Rolex, for example.

Where Can You Buy Luxury Watches in Dubai?

Dubai International Airport
Finding a luxury watch in Dubai is fairly straightforward, but that does not mean that you should just waltz up to the first place you see to buy one.
You have a few options when it comes to buying a luxury watch in Dubai, let us briefly look at a few:
Dubai Airport – one of the most common places to purchase a luxury watch in Dubai.
Buying watches in the airport offers you the benefit of no VAT (Value Added Tax) and Duty-Free shopping. This does give you a lower cost but might lead to customs charges upon returning home.
Official Retailers – due to the high-profile visitors and residents in Dubai there is an abundance of brand stores and official retailers. These prices are typically fairly universal matched, so you are unlikely to find a deal here.
Third-Parties – buying watches from other retailers is not a problem if you pick a reputable seller, and you can often get a good deal. With this being said, make sure you do your due diligence and ensure you get all the warranties and assurances a brand store would offer.
Second-Hand Stores – no denying this is most likely the cheapest option, but that does not mean it is the best and could cost you more in the long run. You are unlikely to be covered by the manufacturer and their warranty on your watch, so ask all the right questions before purchasing.

Factors that Affect Your Watch Price in Dubai

Below we have listed a few of the factors that will affect how much you pay for your watch, some you might not have even considered. This is by no means an exhaustive list, just some things to look out for on your next trip.

No/Low VAT

As we mentioned a little earlier, if you are buying in Dubai airport, you will not be subject to Value Added Tax (VAT) which can significantly reduce the price of your timepiece.
However, this does not mean the overall cost will be cheaper, as you are likely to encounter additional charges such as international payment fees, or customs upon returning home.
If you are outside of the airport the VAT rate in Dubai is still very low (at around 5%) in comparison to other countries, and especially compared to Europe which are mostly 20% and above.

Currency and Exchange Rate

Scoreboard exchange rate at the Airport
As with any trip to a foreign country or destination, you need to factor in the impact of the exchange rate and local currency into your costs.
You need to find a time where your currency is doing well against the United Arab Emirates currency, Dirham.
Compared to a lot of other currencies it has been fairly stable for a long time, but the nuances between your home and Dubai could affect your price by a lot.
Even though luxury brands keep their prices fairly similar across markets, they are not completely identical and you may be able to score yourself a deal depending on where you are coming from.

Economy and Inflation

Following on from the above point, the economy, both locally, and globally will have an effect on the price you end up paying.  As a rule of thumb, luxury goods tend to not fluctuate with micro-changes in the economy or inflation.
This is often because people willing to pay thousands for a luxury item or watch are probably fairly disinterested in the smaller changes, and will still want to buy a timepiece regardless.
With this being said, paying attention to flux in the system may give you some leeway, and help reduce external costs related to your trip, and reduce the overall price you pay.

Second-Hand Watches

A second-hand luxury watch is still a well sought-after item, but there are some caveats to think about before you splash out on your pre-owned Breitling watch.
If you are buying a second-hand watch you could be subject to a voided warranty and coverage from the manufacturer, this varies from brand to brand.
In addition, you may even have a refurbished model that was sent back for being faulty and might have different parts inside to that of a new model.
Purchasing a luxury watch that you can actually go to the brand with if you encounter any issues, is vital to buying an expensive timepiece. It is no use having your receipt for a second-hand store in Dubai that you can not get back to.

Reduced Ties with Brands

As you can imagine, when you are a tourist and buy a watch in a foreign market you may not be buying from the best place. This is nothing to do with the country, but your lack of knowledge or a good price, norms, or where to buy, and more importantly where not to!
You may end up buying a watch from a location that is not directly associated with the manufacturer, watchmaker, or brand. This could impact your ability to obtain the original warranty or coverage from the brand.
This may not be an immediate issue but will cause you problems down the line when you try and get your watch fixed in your home country and find out your warranty card is unstamped or invalid.
Ensure you do your research and buy your luxury watch from reputable sellers, and legitimate businesses. There are plenty of places you can get a luxury watch in foreign countries that are covered worldwide by the manufacturer or brand.

Cost of Flight and Stay

Going to Dubai with the sole purpose of saving money on your luxury watch is not a smart move, because there are so many additional costs you need to think about.
It may sound fairly rudimentary, but it is something that people often overlook when they are factoring in their expenses.
You will need to think about the cost of your flights, your accommodation, and your food expenses while you are in the UAE. The area is not renowned for being cheap, in fact, it is quite the opposite!
If you are already planning a trip, or are visiting for work, then there is a stronger case for buying one when you are there. Click here to read more tips about traveling with watches.


Customs control sign.
If you have traveled internationally, you know that some border patrols and customs officers are much stricter than others. If you are not honest about your purchases you can incur fines, penalties, and even jail time depending on your home country’s laws.
The one thing to always remember is to declare anything you have purchased overseas that is high-value, such as a luxury watch. Not declaring this could incur a lot of issues in the future.
A common misconception is that if you buy something abroad you will not have to pay the customs fees on it. That is definitely not the case, and the fees are basically deferred to where the final destination of the luxury watch is, in this instance on your wrist back at home.
The main mistake people make is thinking they are smarter than the officers, who are trained to spot new purchases or know the routes people take to get luxury watches, such as UAE or Switzerland.

So, Are Watches Cheaper in Dubai?

As you can see from the above, there are a lot of different variables to consider and the answer is not so black and white.
You could argue that yes the price you will pay on the day will be lower, but the overall cost is often distorted by hidden figures.
As long as you do your research you will not fall victim to any distorted deals or bad investments.
Buying a luxury watch will never be cheap, but you may be able to find ways to reduce your costs by being a savvy shopper and knowing how to approach the situation.
As we’ve discussed in other articles about buying watches in Switzerland – it’s not exactly a clear-cut answer but hopefully, the considerations above will help you make an informed buying decision.

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