Buying at Christie's auction


Has someone from the US purchased a watch on Christies auction? Can you please help me to understand what costs are involved besides from hammer price? I called Christies NY and they told me hammer price plus buyers premium of 25%. I called Geneva and they told me that there is also 5.5% VAT and import taxes. Why 5.5% VAT, I don't get this. If anyone has done this, I really appreicte if you can epxlaoin what is involved.

Thanks so much!
Re: Buying at Christie's auction
05/19/2012 - 06:10
There should be no VAT tax if the watch is exported from Europe although perhaps Switzerlad has a separate VAT regardless of exportation. Alex should know. If the auction is in London for example there is no VAT if the watch is exported. There are import duties if the watch is importaed to the USA (not too bad) or Canada (a lot more). If the auction is in NYC then pf course there is no import duties into the US. It all depends where the auction is held. But Christies Sotheby's and Antequorum all take a big chunk, about 25%more or less. JB
VAT is only due if the watch remains in Switzerland not if you export
05/19/2012 - 11:29
Re: Buying at Christie's auction
05/19/2012 - 14:48
I have purchased multiple watches from Christie's and Sotheby's at auctions in NY, HK and Geneva.  The buyers premium is always 25% of the first $50K and it drops slightly in increments over $50K.  The complete schedule is available in the sale terms that are printed in every catalog and available on-line.  If you buy a watch in Geneva you have to decide how to take delivery.  If you take delivery in Geneva, you will pay VAT.  Alternatively, you can have them ship it to you, which will cost several hundred SF in shipping and duty/customs fees.  If you have it shipped to New York they will probably also charge NY Sales tax, since both Christie's and Sotheby's have an established presence here,  If you have it shipped to most other US states they will not charge sales tax.  If you buy in HK, there is no sales tax to pick it up locally, but you will still have to pay significant shipping and duty/customs fees if you want it sent to the US.  They sometimes do a consolidated shipment from their offices in HK to the US immediately following an auction, which reduces or eliminates the shipping fee if you are willing to pick it up at their NY office, and you would just be responsible for the much smaller duty/customs fees. Good luck. 
Re: Buying at Christie's auction
05/19/2012 - 22:40
Hi everyone, Thanks so much for chiming in and clarifying this for me. I feel much better about bidding now. In my case the shipping is to Pennsilvania, so I take it that I just pay the shiping cost and no taxes and no VAT. Thanks again! Much appreciated. 
Not quite...
05/20/2012 - 00:20
You will still be subject to US import duties as determined by the world harmonized tariffs or HS Code, which can be found here:  Also, any US state sales taxes will apply.  European auction houses require you to use their shipping services or pay the VAT in advance and claim a refund once you prove the watch has left the country. Let's not forget that many of the auction houses collect a seller's premium as well.  Antiquorum takes 15% for a total skim of 40% above the hammer price.  Jeez, a service and certificate of authenticity would be nice for that kind of money.  I'd even forego champagne and canapés enlightened.
Re: Not quite...
05/20/2012 - 05:12
Sometimes a watch purchased at an auction outside the US will be brought into the US office (usually in NYC) by the auction house as a courtesy (as Maberlin pointerd out). And only the state tax will need to be paid. Antiquorum has done this and probably the others as well. Alexe, you might enquire about this in an email to their watch expert. JB
Sellers Premium is paid by Seller
05/20/2012 - 14:09
not by the buyer, so the total price is hammer plus 25% plus whatever duty or tarrifs or custom fees or shipping applies.  Duty tends to be quite low for most watches, a fraction of a percent.
Re: Buying at Christie's auction
05/20/2012 - 05:52
Purchased a watch in Lucern---2008. The salesman told me no VAT tax if I was taking the watch out of the country. Gave me a pink sheet of paper to hand over at the border outside of Basel. The customs agent stll could assess tax. Went in to talk to him and he waived me off. VAT Tax was written on paper. Agent decided not to collect it. So, no VAT at point of sale and no VAT at customs. They did want that peice of paper. Confusing,but I hope this helps.
You put your finger on the right word...
05/22/2012 - 04:33
"Confusing" to be sure!  Attitudes of customs officials seems to vary by country.  Canada Customs is notoriously hard-nosed on paperwork, but I've had much better success with American officials.  I call that the "low-hanging fruit" syndrome when officaldom picks away at those who are trying to follow the rules yet don't seem to have the same engergy for organized smugglers.  One South American country I've dealt with requires a permit to export as well as import watches.  That way they tax at both ends of the transaction...must have picked that up from the aution houses!