Traveling with luxury watches can be challenging if you don’t follow the rules. Arnold Schwarzenegger found that out the hard way when he was detained at Munich Airport in Germany when flying in from Los Angeles today. The Terminator was quizzed about a one-off Audemars Piguet he had on him. The unique piece will be auctioned at a special World Climate Summit held tomorrow in Austria. The Governator was quizzed “under tax law” about the unregistered piece for about three and a half hours before he was released. Did Schwarzenegger take a big risk bringing the watch? For those wondering what could get you into trouble while traveling with luxury watches, we have some tips to avoid getting into a situation like this one.

Arnold Schwarzenegger being detained at Munich Airport for traveling with an unregistered luxury watch is not the kind of news you hear every day. Apparently, “Arnie” was on his way to a fundraising dinner organized by his Schwarzenegger Climate Initiative in Kitzbühel, Austria. The unique Audemars Piguet gifted to Schwarzenegger will be auctioned off to the highest bidder at the event tomorrow. Judging by the cover image on the Schwarzenegger Climate Initiative website, this will not be the first time the actor and avid watch collector has auctioned off his watches during one of these events.

A random check got Arnie into trouble

According to German media, customs officials recognized the movie star and asked him to open his bag as part of a random check. That’s when they discovered the unique Audemars Piguet watch, specially produced for Schwarzenegger. A spokesman for the Munich Main Customs Office, Thomas Meister, explained to the German newspaper BILD: “We have initiated criminal proceedings under tax law. The watch should have been registered because it is an import. If the goods remain in the EU, you have to declare them through customs. This applies to everyone, whether their name is Schwarzenegger or Müller, Meier, Huber.”

Reportedly, authorities forced Schwarzenegger to pay the €26,000 estimated value plus €4,000 in taxes and a €5,000 fine after questioning. After being held for 3.5 hours and paying the fine, the first thing Arnie did was light up a cigar. That might be because the estimated value for a unique one-off Audemars Piguet seems rather low. On top of that, with an estimated worth of €500 million, Schwarzenegger does not have problems coughing up that kind of money. After being escorted to a bank — as half of the customs fee needed to be paid in cash —Schwarzenegger paid and continued to Austria. While we do not know what unique Audemars Piguet piece was in the box, it looked like Schwarzenegger was wearing a rose gold Royal Oak Offshore, potentially the impressive ref. 26470OR.

How you can avoid running into trouble while traveling

But not all of us have Schwarzenegger’s spending power. That’s why knowing what you are getting into when traveling with luxury watches can be helpful. Fratello’s own Michael Stockton has traveled the world for 25 years, bringing watches with him. Mike wrote an insightful article discussing all the dos, don’ts, and maybes so that you can travel the world with your watches like a pro. The first thing that Mike pointed out is that traveling with watches takes thinking and planning. How many watches do you take? Will they be vintage or modern? And make sure that you have the proper storage to carry the watches with you.

Regarding customs specifically, Mike can light a cigar with Arnie because he knows what Schwarzenegger went through. After a Swiss adventure in 2019, Mike became acutely aware of the financial dangers of crossing borders with luxury watches. If you are flying to watch meet-ups with multiple timepieces, you are taking a risk. You can avoid that risk by using a Carnet. It’s a document that allows one to take a good into a country temporarily. But the downside is that not every country accepts it. The easiest solution is to travel with only one expensive luxury watch. Additionally, you can take several less expensive watches as it lowers the risk of paying hefty fines.

Do it by the book if you choose to bring expensive watches

If you take multiple expensive pieces across non-tax-union borders, know that you are taking a risk. As Mike explained, wear the most expensive watch on your wrist if you do so. It will likely be seen as personal property. But that advice is not a guarantee for not getting into trouble. We’re still dealing with people, so the matter is highly subjective.

The best advice is not to take a lot of watches if you want to avoid being slapped with huge customs bills and fines. If you are bringing watches on official business or are asked to bring them to a brand-led event, play it by the book. Make sure you have the proper insurance and prepare the correct documentation for border crossings. If you don’t, you risk paying a lot of money. And that means getting in line behind Schwarzenegger at the nearest ATM.

Have you ever had a similar experience when traveling with watches? Let us know your story in the comments section below.