Rich historical value and tourist attractions like Mount Fuji aren’t the only reasons why people go to Japan. In fact, shopping is one of Japan’s major attractions. Not only do you get unique products that you can’t find anywhere else, but the prices for everyday products can be much lower. But what about watches? Are Japanese watches cheaper in Japan?
Generally speaking, Japanese watches are not necessarily cheaper in Japan. Some models are made to be sold in Japan only, and they can be cheaper in Japan, but most Japanese watches are cheaper in other Asian countries like Hong Kong or Singapore. Japan offers a broader range of watches, though.
The fact that a product is manufactured and designed in a particular country doesn’t necessarily make it cheaper in that country. Export fees and taxes are often strange, with some interesting loopholes that can make them more affordable in other countries. Let’s compare the top Japanese watches and their prices in different parts of the world to see if they are cheaper in Japan or not.
Buying Japanese Watches In Japan
Most people who go to or live in Japan are disappointed about how expensive certain things are. Electronics like cameras manufactured in Japan are more expensive in Japan than in other countries. This is partially due to the exchange rate since one Japanese Yen is worth less than one cent in the US, especially after Japan’s disasters in recent years.
One of Japan’s most popular exports is its watches. Famous watch brands like Seiko, Grand Seiko, Credor, Citizen, and Orient are all designed and manufactured by Japanese watchmakers and exported worldwide. You would think this would make the watches cheaper in Japan, but that is not necessarily the case.
A Case Study: The Seiko 5 SRPE65 Model
The Seiko 5 range is one of Seiko’s best-selling ranges, both in Japan and internationally. One of the most popular models in this range is the SRPE65. Let’s compare its price in Japan and other parts of the world.
In Japan, the Seiko 5 SRPE65 sells for around 37,800 Japanese Yen. In the US dollar, this converts to approximately $277.50. In the United States, you can buy the same model on Amazon for roughly $260. That may not be much cheaper, but there’s still quite a sizeable difference when you work purely with exchange rates.
The same rule applies to other Japanese watch models that are, on average, $20 to $30 cheaper in the US than in Japan.
So what about other countries? In Hong Kong, you can buy the same SRPE65 for 1875 Hong Kong dollars, which is less than $240 in the US.
Are There Japanese Watches That Are Cheaper In Japan?
Some Japanese watchmakers manufacture limited edition watches in smaller quantities. These watches are made specifically for the Japanese population and are not exported anywhere in the world. An example is the Casio Limited Edition G-Shock.
These watches are not necessarily cheap in Japan. Still, since the watchmakers themselves don’t export them, you can only get them internationally if someone from another country imports them from Japan in limited quantities.
Two factors affect the price in this scenario. First is the fact that they are imported in limited quantities, which already makes the price a bit higher than if the watchmaker exported them. Secondly, import taxes and other shipping costs are much higher than they would be for larger shipments directly from the manufacturer.
Because of these factors, these limited edition Japanese watches are much cheaper if you buy them in Japan than if you were to buy them from a small importer.
Japanese Watches Are Cheaper From Japanese Online Stores
One exception where Japanese watches are not more expensive in Japan is if you buy your watches from a Japanese online store. One of the most well-known Japanese online stores is biccamera.com, and here we can find the same Seiko 5 SRPE65 from the previous example for only 15,400 Yen. In US currency, that converts to approximately $115, similar to Hong Kong’s price.
There are some downsides to this, though:
- The price doesn’t include shipping costs, and since you will have it shipped internationally, this could mount up a lot.
- Import taxes are not included, either. If you live in an area where you must pay import taxes, the price could increase considerably. The shipping fees and taxes alone could potentially double the price.
- Most Japanese online stores, including biccamera.com, are in Japanese. English translations of the sites are available, but it’s usually translated on-the-fly by bots, leading to translation errors, and the systems are a bit unstable and unpredictable. Some product pages simply won’t load in English. So if you don’t know Japanese, you could have problems.
The Cheapest Places To Get Japanese Watches
There are a few places to get cheap Japanese watches, some even in Japan. Here are the best options:
- Japanese corner stores. People who emigrated to Japan from other countries often say that the best places to buy in Japan are not the major retailers and jewelers. As in most countries, there are smaller corner stores all over the major cities where you can purchase genuine Japanese watches for about 10% or 20% cheaper than usual.
- Japanese online stores. As we’ve already seen, Japanese online retailers sell products at ridiculously low prices, sometimes as much as 50% cheaper than the usual price. Importantly, though, there are the complications that we’ve already discussed, but you also have to ensure that you buy a genuine, non-fake product from a reputable retailer.
Some popular Japanese online stores include:
- Higuchi-inc.com (This one is in English)
- Chino Watch Company (c-watch.co.jp), also available in English
- International online stores. Some non-Japanese online stores also offer Japanese watches at slightly lower prices. They often import many of the watches themselves, or they have agreements with the manufacturers. Some well-known options include:
- Chrono24.com. An online retailer specializing in watches from all over the world.
- Shoppinginjapan.net. This online marketplace finds products at the best prices in Japan and offers them to you online.
- Hong Kong. If you want to travel to buy Japanese watches, you should travel to Hong Kong rather than Japan. As we’ve already seen, Hong Kong often offers Japanese watches at half their regular price.
Non-Japanese Watches Are Often Cheaper In Japan
If you aren’t necessarily looking for a Japanese watch, chances are that you can find it cheaper in Japan due to the exchange rates and Japan’s lower import taxes. Watch brands like Omega, Longines, and Montblanc often sell at 50% less than the regular price and up to 30% cheaper than in China.
As strange as it may seem, for Japanese watches, you should go to China, but for any other watches, the best place to go is Japan.
Despite many contrary claims, Japanese watches aren’t necessarily cheaper in Japan than in other locations around the world. Hong Kong sells genuine Japanese watches for the best prices. Japanese stores are cheap with other brand-name watches from other countries, though, so if you are going to Japan and you don’t have your eye on a Japanese watch, you can score a huge discount.