Citytrip to Lisbon: on the hunt for watches

And it’s extraordinary sides of luxury.

Lisbon is referred to among Portuguese as the least popular city in the entire country, most likely because stars, the super-rich and expats have made the once beloved city unaffordable. Where luxury blossoms, one sees this drawback. In each store I visited I heard a sigh of discontent; Lisbon has been changed and rendered out of reach. Surely something to dwell on before diving deeper into what excites us so much.

Lisbon is a remarkable and vibrant city with narrow streets and steep trails that make for tightly trained buttocks. Speaking of tight buttocks, you will find plenty of them, dressed at their best, in the bustling shopping streets of the long chic avenue: Avenida da Liberdade. Consequently, this is where you will find most of the luxury stores with famous brands, such as Rolex, Omega & Prada.

As I am not a travel blogger, I won’t delve deep into all that Lisbon has to offer. The city is fantastic and I fell in love with it a few years ago. But in terms of Luxury shopping, Lisbon has various faces and types of experiences and I’ll take you through a few peculiarities.

Lisbon; its offerings

Avenida da Liberdade is the hotspot when it comes to luxury. All major fashion brands own boutiques here and they are complemented by jewellery houses Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels and various brand boutiques such as the aforementioned Rolex boutique. In addition, you will find numerous multi-brand jewellers with extraordinary Portuguese jewellery brands and the more well-known watch names such as IWC, Hublot as well as Franck Muller. A gem I stumbled upon was Suzanna Kalan, which makes beautiful bracelets that are a change from the traditional brand.

“You can read all about my particular experience during luxury shopping in Lisbon further down the article.”

Missing names and old favourites

Notably, of all the household names, Tiffany & Co. is missing, as well as Breitling and A. Lange & Söhne. Given the urge for expansion of LVMH, I found it somewhat remarkable that they have not yet opened a Tiffany & Co. boutique. Lange is of course a personal preference and I imagine the market for them remains limited. A Breitling boutique was nowhere to be seen and was somewhat underexposed among the available jewellers.

In addition, one thing that was sorely lacking; was dedicated pre-owned and vintage specialized boutiques. I sought for them but they were hard to find. An occasional jeweller did offer pre-owned models, but their selection was very limited.

A little farther down the Avenida da Liberdade sat a small old dusty vintage store still lit with fluorescent lights and watches presented on American-style counters. Although the selection of watches was diverse (from steel Daytonas to Ulysse Nardin-encrusted divers) the prices were still at peak 2022 levels, which was far from attractive. As the difference with the market price was so steep, I did not bother to negotiate or offer them feedback.

A neo-vintage steel Daytona

The other small vintage stores I encountered may have existed for several years, but only followed the upwards market trends. Some of them did reside, entirely in modern fashion, on Chrono24, but I question whether they were selling anything there.

Unfortunately, the knowledge about the watches they offered was very limited; with answers like “I don’t have to say much about this Seamaster” or how stretchless the bracelet was from the Oysterquartz whilst it dangled loosely on my wrist… Well, the urge to sell was strong shall we say.

The experience

Luxury shopping sets itself apart from other cities around the globe. Whereas in Paris on des Champs-Élysées you will find cosy but overpriced cafés just around the corner, in Lisbon there was hardly anything to be found on its fanciest street. However, I did find a little place that, comparatively wise, offered even vastly more expensive lunches than in Paris.

Its obscure name had something to do with fashion which made me not realize that it was a restaurant at all. Only when walking past the narrowly cordoned-off soulless terrace it struck me this could be a hotspot. As I saw numerous men with expensive watches leaning over the terrace railing, I thought to myself, this is so much different than Paris, London or even Amsterdam. Where most people tuck their watches safely away on the streets, here people show them off in an old-fashioned way.

On the last day, we were able to find some seemingly pleasant spots here and there, which were slightly more friendly and priced. But the majority of these were bars run by hotels, while there is nothing wrong with that, they do lack their own identity.

Rolex boutique

In most international cities I visited, apart from the default reply “nothing available (especially for tourists)”, you will receive far from a warm welcome. I recall walking into the Rolex boutique in Singapore and asking for a 31mm Everose Datejust with purple dial, to which I got the strange answer “Only to buy, not to look.” Thus, I just avoided the various Rolex boutiques in Singapore.

A big contrast was the experience in Lisbon and although this article is about the whole shopping experience in Lisbon, I want to elaborate on how things went at the Rolex boutique.

228345RBR with diamond pave dial

Gazing, not buying

The first thing you notice is a glimpse of several unusual models in the window, accompanied by the familiar “Exhibition Only” sign, of course. But what is different from, say, the Netherlands, is the sheer variety of models with an exotic character. Anyone who knows me will know that I love diamonds. Therefore my heart was racing for the Day-Date 40 with the diamond pave dial, which I noticed staring back at me in the window.

After gazing at the display window, I entered the shop without expectations. The striking feature is that the boutique is spacious with a dedicated area for VIP customers, which was occupied. Between the sliding glass doors, I caught a glimpse of an unusual Yachtmaster that I was not familiar with yet; yellow gold and what appeared to be fully set with diamonds.

I continued browsing through the store and received a friendly introduction. I have been looking for the new white gold Daytona on Oysterflex featuring a black dial for some time now. But alas, they did not have it on display. I could however try out the Everose- or yellow-gold variations but I already tried those on several occasions.

The friendly welcome and compliments on my Lange reduced the threshold which made me ask if it was possible to view the Everose Day-Date from the display window, as I already own the same model but with a white dial. This was no hassle!

The ease and hospitality that accompanied it was a first for me in a Rolex boutique in which I am not a (regular) customer. I was therefore genuinely and positively surprised. After trying on the gorgeous paved dial, we spent some time talking about our collection and desires. Following my rather different taste for sparkly specimens, the off-catalogue models were mentioned. Meanwhile, the VIP room became free, and the client advisor asked if I was interested in trying them on.

Off-catalogue Yachtmaster 40 in white gold on Oysterflex bracelet

Needless to say, I just couldn’t refuse this offer and tried on the models below. They were, of course, not for sale. But one of the oddities was that one of them had been released a few years ago. I didn’t ask, but why is this model still there for exhibition? I think if I had made an offer there would’ve been possibilities for this “exhibition only” piece. Unfortunately, the yellow gold Yacht master was “just” outside my holiday budget with its asking price of €170,000.

After the extraordinary visit to Rolex Boutique, we went to several other jewellers. We were recommended to stop by Torres, as they would still have some Lange’s in stock here. But, somewhat expected, the selection was very limited. But again, we were heartily welcomed, and I tried on the beautiful JLC below with a red dial.

Three delicious Reverso’s

With open doors

The lengthy shopping street is a recipe for unusual scenes. Numerous jewellers still operate an open-door policy, a practice unimaginable in London and Amsterdam. You walk straight in through the open door. Very low-key. The experience sometimes felt so uncomfortable that I would give my watch (Little Lange 1) to my partner rather than placing it on the table at many jewellers. I just couldn’t get accustomed and felt like there was a chance someone might come storming in after all.

This feeling of uneasiness peaked during a bizarre moment. At an undisclosed jeweller where they sold Breguet, Cartier and other high-end brands, we walked through the open door. Security was not present – or at least not visibly present – like at most luxury stores. A large group of tourists, recognizable by the large touring bus outside, were sprawled throughout the shop. In a noisy setting, they occupied the vendors, with several pieces of jewellery and watches dispersed across the counters.

We were calmly queuing, as I had seen a Cartier that I was keen on trying. No one seemed to notice us and, judging by the Cartier display, they also didn’t have the time. I bet a person with no conscience would have walked into the shop in no time and could have taken a few free souvenirs. A rather unusual and hectic experience!

A quick stop at the Omega boutique


I am not a fan of vintage myself, but frequently buy used watches. I consequently did, I think, thorough preliminary research on good pre-owned dealers. Regrettably, I could only find a few. Especially in the old part of town, I found a few traders, as mentioned earlier who sold roundly polished watches in fluorescently lit shops. While the shops were vintage, the offerings were anything but.

Luxury shopping in Lisbon, and watches in particular, is a pursuit. Spread across the city but concentrating on the most famous street presents an experience of different dimensions. You may feel safe, or rather uncomfortable, ending up from a chaotic hectic jeweller in a tranquil boutique. But the main takeaway is that for pre-owned there is little to enjoy. Especially for vintage.


Vintage connoisseurs I was unable to discover and that is a great pity. But, as one dealer told me, Portuguese are not traditionally watch enthusiasts and the market has never been big there. So really, as a tourist watch lover, you should be lucky enough to find any kind of variety. And for the high net worth individuals, there are plenty of places to satisfy your shopping urge; or drink an overpriced latte.

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