A Gaijin’s Timely Travels (Part Two): A Three-Part Series of a Watch Aficionado’s Travel to Japan


Don Camacho in Japan

This article is part two in our three-part series. Check out part one here.

Ni: The Eclectic Japanese Watch Market

As we mentioned earlier, wristwatches are a part of Japanese life. It is a necessary tool in order to go about in their daily life. Wristwatches need to work when they need it the most and must be accurate in order to stay competitive amongst their peers.

As such, the watch market is more competitive, more advanced, and more diverse than the North American market. Because it’s a tool, they look for the best, and will pay for the best… whatever ‘best’ the consumer takes their pride in.

The Japanese market is a haven for a diverse collection of watches: from the traditional, hand-crafted timepieces, to the most accurate watches available today, anything and everything can be bought in Japan. You just need to know where to look and we at Gracious Watch can help you out with that.

Tax-Free Goodness

Tax Free Shopping in Japan

First, you have to decide whether you’re looking for a new or used watch. Either way, good news: you may be eligible for tax-free purchases as a tourist. A more detailed approach is available here, but the gist of it is you may get an 8% refund for any purchase over 5,000 yen! That’s a big difference if you’re planning to buy your first luxury watch in Japan. There is a maximum limit as well, so keep that in mind when buying a big-ticket item.

There are various department stores that offer this incentive which will boast this sign but some big retailers include:

  • Isetan
  • Takashimaya
  • Odakyu
  • Keio

If you’re traveling in Japan, you’ll notice that some of these names will look familiar when you’re taking the train and that’s because some retailers are also part of the railway economy in Japan and feature their stores in the train lines they own/maintain. That’s what you call investment diversity.

Daikokuya Used Market

Now if you’re hunting the used market, never fear as some retailers may be eligible for the tax-free incentive but it’s not as big of a guarantee like the department stores but here some used retailers that are included, but not limited to, in the incentive:

  • Daikokuya (Look for the bright orange signage like the one above)
  • Komehyo
  • BrandOff

Japan’s Overwhelming Used Watch Market

The used luxury watch market is flourishing in Japan because the Japanese are very fashion-forward when it comes to luxury goods and with space being a luxury in Japan (you’ll get what I mean once you’ve stayed in a Japanese-sized hotel), every item has a perceived value and are usually part of the buy-sell market. Some second-hand stores have multi-level floors, filled with luxury bags and watches, so if you’re in the market for a Louis Vuitton holdall and an Omega Speedmaster, you can get it all in one shot, used or new!

If you’re ever worried about counterfeit items, the laws around selling counterfeit goods are tighter in Japan, so if you’re buying used from a big retailer such as Komehyo, they have dedicated agents that will verify and authenticate pieces that they sell so that should put a level of comfort to your big purchase. There are many stores all over metro Tokyo and while it may be intimidating at first, if you stick to your usual districts, then you should be in good hands. You should be able to find a watch around:

  • Ginza
  • Shibuya
  • Shinjuku

There are many new/used stores when you leave the station, so you’re in good hands! The tricky part about used watches is that Japanese culture and bargaining doesn’t really go hand-in-hand. You can lower the price, but the language barrier will make it trickier and bartering when it’s already tax-free is stacking the odds: You can’t have your cake and eat it! But miracles are possible and doesn’t hurt to pull some hands to make some magic happen, but it’s not a guarantee unlike in Hong Kong or in North America.

Japanese Exclusivity

Shopping for a Vintage CitizenWhile the Swiss market is present in Japan, the Japanese watchmakers are aware of keeping their stance in the market by offering very exclusive brands and timepieces that caters to the Japanese taste. The same Japanese reliability present in cars is also expected in Japanese wristwatches.

While Swiss watches are expensive to maintain, Japanese watches are more affordable to keep and are as reliable as the Swiss-counterparts, if not, more. Japanese brands are releasing meticulous, very detailed timepieces under luxury banners specific to the Japanese market such as Grand Seiko or Campanola (If you’re unfamiliar with the latter brand, stay tuned for more!)

Every price tag, every taste, and design are catered so you should be able to find something you’re looking for. Happy hunting!