Traveling With Watches – The Complete Guide


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With the sheer variety of watches available in the modern marketplace, there are lots of options that all have their own unique looks and benefits. When you are traveling you want to ensure you have taken the right steps to pack, protect, and care for your watches. Whether you are looking at buying a watch when you are overseas, picking the right ones to take with you, or are interested in purchasing a watch at the airport, this guide is for you.

While I haven’t been traveling much this past year due to the current situation, I just booked a summer trip through Europe. I’ll be taking a few of my watches along, and most likely buying a couple of new watches for my collection while I’m there, so I thought I’d share these useful tips with other globetrotting watch aficionados.

We will be running through some tips, FAQs, and other information you need to know when traveling with watches. This will be a quick overview of the topics around travel and watches to give you a good grounding before you fly.

Tips For Traveling with Watches

In this section, we are going to be looking at some tips for when you are traveling with your watches. Some of these may be fairly obvious but you would be surprised at how many people overlook the importance of your timepiece when traveling.
Consider Taking a Durable Watch

Most people who have an interest in watches will have a few different watches so they can dress up or dress down with the right timepiece. When you are going on vacation, it is a good idea to have a more durable watch in your collection.

This does depend on where you are going and your reason for traveling but as a rule of thumb a rugged watch such as G-Shock or Garmin, two brands renowned for their sports and outdoors markets.

We would tend to recommend wearing a bulkier watch on the plane and at the airport as you are more likely to be in situations that might scratch or damage a lighter watch, such as moving your baggage around and negotiating crowds.

Only Bring What You Need

Regardless of how much of a watch connoisseur you are, there is often no need to bring more than 2-3 watches when you are on a trip.

Do not overcomplicate your packing by trying to transport your whole watch collection just in case you want a specific model for something.

Instead, think about packing a watch for informal and one for more formal occasions. Pack for the trip you are doing, it may sound simple, but you would be surprised how many people take their family heirloom or prized watch on a backpacking trip around Europe.

Protect Your Watches

If you are serious about your watches you will not let your nice timepieces rattle around loose in your baggage.

You should always think about how to protect your watches when you are traveling, this does not have to be a costly solution, and often using the box it came in is the simplest.

In addition, you want to think about what watch you wear to the airport and when in transit, to keep your more high-end watches for the right occasion.

Consider One Watch for Many Occasions

No, we are not talking about committing a fashion faux pas, and there is definitely an occasion for every watch, but when traveling sometimes you want to pack light and multiple watches might not make the cut.

If this is the case, you could consider taking a watch that is versatile and can work in a few different situations. If you add in one with easily interchangeable straps you can change your look on the fly and adjust to the environment. Check out our favorite Everyday Carry Watches.

Be Careful at the Airport

Be aware of carrying watches with you and keep a close eye on your carry-on baggage and who is around you when you take off your watch at the security gates.

There are always cases of people being targeted in the airport due to carrying recognizable watch brands; these are often luxury watches such as Rolex, Omega, and Patek Philippe, any watch that has a high resale value.

Customs and Watches

Understanding how to approach customs when entering or exiting a country will help you have a much smoother traveling experience. So let us look at a few things you can do when traveling with your watches.

Honesty is the Best Policy

A good rule to have regardless of what you are doing, but especially when traveling and speaking to customs officers.

It is always best to be honest and declare any watches or jewelry you have purchased overseas. if you do not you may incur fines, jail time, or be indirectly smuggling.

Always Be Upfront

If you are unsure you can always ask the officers, they are there to keep everyone safe and to help keep the borders running efficiently.

There is a common misconception they are there to trick you, but they are just doing their jobs, so be upfront and transparent.

Do Your Research

Each country has its own set of rules and regulations for how their borders work and how their customs enforce different items coming from overseas.

If you are looking at buying a watch abroad make sure you have done your research on both your home country and the one you are visiting. This will put you in a better position and you won’t be surprised by either country’s rules.

Know Your Market

As a follow-on from the above point, you do not want to look like you are part of something shady, so understand what does and does not look like a suspicious set of luggage.

Customs are on the lookout for stolen or counterfeit items, luxury goods smuggling operations, and evidence of money laundering. So try not to be carrying a lot of high-end items otherwise you will likely be stopped.

Watch Traveling FAQs

There are a lot of questions that people consider when they are traveling with watches. With this in mind, we have grouped some of the most common questions people ask when traveling for or with a watch.

Is it Cheaper to Buy a Watch at the Airport?

Hong Kong International Airport Rolex Store

There is no quick answer to this, but there are often a lot more costs than people consider when purchasing a watch in an airport from duty fees and customs to travel costs, to exchange rates, to the local economy.

For a more in-depth analysis of this, check out this post – Are Watches Cheaper in Airports?

Are Certain Countries Cheaper to Buy Watches?

Swatch watches in a store at Dubai International Airport

Similar to the airport question, there are a lot of factors that go into the final price you will pay for a watch and it can even end up being more expensive.

For example, a lot of people believe it is cheaper to buy a Swiss Watch in Switzerland while others think you can get watch deals in Dubai, but there is a lot more you need to think about.

You will need to consider things from the exchange rate to the local economy, to the cost of your trip to one of Europe’s most expensive nations.

Should I Pack My Watch in My Checked Luggage?

The short answer is no, it is technically at your discretion but it is recommended to keep them near you for a few reasons. Some countries are less secure and cases may go missing either accidentally or on purpose.

Keeping your watches in your eye line and in your carry-on is always the best decision and limits the likelihood of theft or misplacement.

Where Should I Store My Watch on Vacation?

One disadvantage of the increase of Airbnb and other similar platforms is the lack of safes to store your valuables. This is why it is always good to stay at a hotel when you are traveling with your higher-end possessions.

Finding somewhere that has the security you need for your valuables is important, especially if you are shopping for luxury watches or timepieces.

Can I Fly With Multiple Watches in My Baggage?

Technically yes, but the more watches you have the more attention you will attract. If your case or carry-on is filled with watches you are fairly likely to raise a lot of eyebrows from customs.

There is no set rule, but it is down to the customs officers’ discretion to determine what is or what is not for personal use. As we said before, just be upfront about what you are carrying, and if you just love watches, try and bring evidence to prove they are for you.

Traveling with Watches Summary

Hopefully, now you have a better idea about traveling with watches. So whether you are just packing for your vacation or planning to buy watches overseas you have a good understanding of what to do and what not to do.

Always make sure you research before buying a watch or trying to travel with your personal collection. Knowledge is power, and as long as you abide by the rules and limits, you will be able to travel with ease wherever you go.