Should you take an expensive watch on your next trip?

Have watch, will travel. Or maybe not...

By Felix Scholz, February 11 2020
Should you take an expensive watch on your next trip?

Deciding what to pack for a trip can be stressful, requiring some hard choices. But one item that doesn't even make most packing lists because it’s usually an automatic inclusion is your watch.

Maybe you should take a few of ticks of that beautiful dial to consider the pros and cons of travelling with an expensive timepiece. It can be a little more complicated than you imagine.

The key pillar of the argument against wearing that special watch when you jet off overseas is simply that there's one more thing to lose. That's true of any watch, of course, but compounded if it cost you a lot of money or has special significance beyond price alone.

When caution counts

Here's an immutable fact: luxury watches are highly portable and easy to sell. This means they're an enticing target for the less scrupulous elements of society.

This Richard Mille is a look, but maybe think twice about traipsing around the world in it.
This Richard Mille is a look, but maybe think twice about traipsing around the world in it.

Add to this that your travels might take you to parts of the world where you don't speak the language or know the lay of the land, and you’ve a compelling argument in favour of leaving the Rolex at home.

After all, if things go south, losing your watch is pretty much a best-case scenario. Even if theft isn't a concern for you, accidents happen. And when they do, it’ll often be in the most inconvenient and/or far-flung location.

There’s one obvious solution: don't wear a watch when you travel. It also takes a lot of the enjoyment out of owning some special timepieces, more so if you like to change your wristwear to suit the occasion, such as having a daily 'work watch' and a sharper dress watch.

So if that's not an option you’d contemplate, there are things you can do to minimise your risk.

The Longines Conquest V.H.P. GMT is made with travel in mind.
The Longines Conquest V.H.P. GMT is made with travel in mind.

You could wear a different watch, something less precious and easily replaceable. Perhaps something rock-solid and ubiquitous like a Casio G-Shock or a Seiko diver. Or a smartwatch.

Yes, the daily recharge requirements can be frustrating, these tech-packed timepieces do offer undeniable travel advantages. One watch that neatly bridges this gap – offering some of the utility of a connected device with the robustness of a regular watch in a relatively unassuming package – is the Longines Conquest V.H.P. GMT ($2,325 on a rubber strap).

Alternately, if you do find yourself suddenly aware that a gold watch might not have been the right play, you can always be a bit more discreet. Make sure the watch is under your shirt sleeve, pop your hand in your pocket, avoid flashing it around, or leave it in the hotel safe – commonsense stuff.

Why you should wear a watch when you travel

While I've just outlined why travelling with a watch (especially an expensive one) is a Bad Idea, there are a few points in favour. First of all – watches are obviously useful. They tell the time which, if you've ever experienced the hell of truly existential jet lag, isn't something to take lightly.

And yes, you likely have a phone in your pocket, but in a world of data roaming charges and rapidly draining batteries, I tend to be a lot more judicious when it comes to whipping the phone out.

The functionality argument extends a bit further, too – if your watch does anything else, like tell the time in two places at once, it moves up the ranking from 'handy' to 'essential'.

For many people, watches are emotional objects – something carried with us on life's journey.
For many people, watches are emotional objects – something carried with us on life's journey.

The other pro of travelling with a watch – especially if it's a nice one that you're quite attached to – is that, well, why shouldn't you? Here's a cardinal Marie Kondo-style rule: if you like it and it makes you happy, wear it.

For lots of people, watches are emotional objects: something carried with us on life's journey. And a watch that stays tucked up safely at home won't have many stories to tell. But one that proudly bears the marks of a life well-lived (like that scratch from when you banged it into a bar in Barcelona) has a charm all of its own.

What to do about it

If you're sure that you want your watch as a travel companion, make sure it's up to the task.

Planning a beach-heavy trip? Check your watch has the water resistance to handle the waves. Even if it does, it might be worth checking that the seals and gaskets are up to scratch: any competent watch repair place should easily and painlessly be able to do this for you.

Going somewhere tropical? Leave the leather band at home (trust us when we say no one wants a mildewed watch strap).

Preparation is the key to success, so check your travel insurance. Usually standard policies have caps for watches and jewellery. Make sure your pride-and-joy is covered and if you're super prepared, take a photo of the watch and make a note of the model and/or serial number, and store it in the Cloud.

Knowing that your precious watch is well-protected will ease your mind and help you enjoy your trip. Is a watch an essential part of your travel kit? If so, what do you wear, and why? Let me know in the comments below.

Felix Scholz

Felix Scholz is Executive Traveller’s watch editor, and one of Australia’s most respected authorities on the subject. As you might expect, he travels to Switzerland quite a lot.

20 Jan 2017

Total posts 46

I love my Seiko SKX007, great and affordable all-rounder. Looks just as good in a suit as it does casually and when swimming.

Singapore Airlines - The PPS Club

20 Apr 2015

Total posts 32

I always wear my Rolex GMT BLNR when travelling. The GMT function is great and easy to use (why else have it?). It looks good in the office. I can wear it at the pool or catching a few waves on the beach. It is tough enough to handle knocks - a plane is a scratch magnet with the confined spaces and metal seat belts. I can check the time in the middle of the night when I wake up forgetting that I am in a hotel somewhere.

I try not to draw attention to myself while wearing it as I spend most of my travel time in South East Asia. Generally though, it is safe to wear and many locals in the region wear far more expensive and exclusive watches.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Aug 2012

Total posts 74

not just the value of the watch. Wearing it makes you a Target. If thats just your timepiece, what else are you worth?

Never, never, ever. :)

I've got a classic TAG Carrera dual-time which I bought long before smartphones and I still bring it on my overseas trips, it looks sharp and helps me know at a glance the time back home, which I find comforting on a very casual basis, I can just look at my watch and know the time and think of what my wife is doing, what's happening back at home or the office. I also have a JLC Reverso but I would never want to take this on a trip, it stays at home as my indulgent everyday watch.

27 Aug 2017

Total posts 22

Wristwatches are like personalised car number plates, they are only important to the wearer who wishes the device will be recognised and the wearer will be stared at in dumb admiration. Fooey. There's the reverse snobbery of wearing a Timex that start around $30.00. Youngsters go for smartphones to tell the time. I vote that the Town Crier paces the aircraft isles every 15 minutes. Alan Myatt holds the world record as the loudest town cryer at 112.8 decibels.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

19 Jul 2017

Total posts 19

I take my Christopher Ward GMT on a steel bracelet, it is a great watch, not showy and didn't cost so much (about $1500) so that if I lost it or had it stolen it would not be the end of the world. It is stylish enough and smart ,I also take a G-Shock if I am spending lots of time in rough terrain or on boats and beaches.

Emirates Airlines - Skywards

23 Mar 2018

Total posts 2

My 50 year old Omega Speedmaster Professional very rarely leaves my wrist and has travelled the world. By today's standard it is very much understated and doesn't warrant a second glance except when someone sees me wind it up!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

31 Jan 2016

Total posts 92


My Tissot with the four time zones is a great looking watch with its blue face but my phone can do so many more towns and cities and as an older iPhone is almost theft proof... No one wants it... :)

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 May 2016

Total posts 4

The theft of my wife's TAG watch in the busy security screening at Frankfurt Airport convinced me that it is not a good idea to take an expensive watch. The hassle of reporting it and ensuring that we obtained a police report (for insurance purposes) made us nearly miss our flight to Prague. We now take cheap and reliable watches instead, and do not care if we lose them - and so far, we haven't. I also take an iPad with a very battered case so that it doesn't look very tempting.


05 Jun 2012

Total posts 128

I have a JLC Reverso Geographique - a beautiful watch which goes with me everywhere, except in water (it's not even remotely water-resistant, andI have a diving watch for that). Two beautiful faces, two time zones, a jumping hour hand and timezone indicator on the reverse dial, rose gold with a black leather strap, and all mechanical. Classy, elegant and understated but a thing of beauty. Cost me 35,000 pounds and I wear it every day (unless I'm swimming/diving). And you know what? I live in Hong Kong (ok sub-tropics rather than tropics) but mildew on the leather strap has NEVER been an issue. I have travelled to plenty of dodgy places, but I still wear it, and never had a problem (touch wood!)

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