People visiting Japan tend to have a check list of things to buy. Local apparel brands such as Uniqlo are extremely popular as well as toiletries, cosmetics and even food items. The country is practically an oasis for consumers with just about everything available that money can buy. With the weaker Yen, visitors have been visiting Japan with an added reason – to purchase a luxury watch. The country is well known for its watchmaking industry with iconic brands such as Seiko, Casio, Orient and Citizen. In the upper end, it has Grand Seiko which compares favorably with Rolex in terms of finish and quality.
Purchasing a watch in Japan may seem overwhelming at first given the language barrier and the frenetic pace its major cities run. If you are looking to make that investment and acquire the timepiece of your dreams, here are things you should consider.
It is advisable to check the price difference between the watch you are eyeing for in your home country and in Japan. While it is relatively easy to pop over to your neighborhood watch store to check for prices, you might be wondering how you may be able to check prices in Japan. Websites such as Kakaku can give you a good gauge – make sure to translate the website to English thru an online translator like Google Translate. Alternatively, the official websites of watch brands such as Citizen, Seiko and Orient also provide price guides.
source: The Watch Company
One obvious good buy in Japan are Japanese watches such as Seiko where the price difference may be substantial. Take the Seiko Prospex Diver Scuba Automatic which goes for 300,926 Yen or just over SGD 5,100 after the tax refund. In Singapore, the same model costs 20 to 30% more.
source: The Watch Company
While Swiss watches are not automatically cheaper in Japan, there are several brands out there that are slightly cheaper owing to the volatility in the Yen. An example is the Hamilton Jazzmaster Auto Chrono which costs 122,407 Yen or SGD 1,483 after the tax refund. In Singapore, the same model costs about SGD 1,850 and that is providing you buy it from an online retailer like Lazada so you do stand to save a bit especially if you happen to be visiting Japan anyway.
Overcoming the Language Barrier
One of the major concerns about buying watches in Japan is the language barrier. Let’s face it. Few people outside the tourist industries know how to speak English and it doesn’t help most foreign visitors that the Japanese language comes with its own writing system.
There are certain shops in Tokyo that not only have a wide range of brands available – both foreign and local – but also come equipped with English-speaking staff. An example is The Watch Company located in Nakano, just a few stations away from Shinjuku. While there is an obvious focus on foreign clients, prices are competitive and their website shows you just how much their watches are pricing. When it comes to a large purchase such as fine watches, it helps to be able to say more than the usual haggling especially since you’ll also want to take care of other aspects such as tax refunds and warranties.
Japan has very strict laws when it comes to counterfeit goods and that’s another benefit of buying your watches here. As long as you buy from a bona fide store with a strong commercial presence, you can be assured the watches are genuine.
Getting a Tax Refund
Sales tax in Japan is 8% and tourists are able to refund this full tax amount. The tax refund procedure in Japan is relatively easier than in other countries where you need to present your purchased goods in the airport. In Japan, do take note that you will need to purchase your watches in a store that offers tax-free shopping. To qualify, you’ll need to spend at least JPY 5,401 (after-tax prices). Remember to bring your passport with you when purchasing the watch. Depending which store you purchase the watch from, the establishment can either just charge you the price of the watch minus the tax OR charge the full price and have you proceed to a customer service counter to get the refund in cash.
Mode of Payment
Japan is still a predominantly cash society and while most reputable watch stores – especially those that offer tax refund services to tourists – are able to take credit card payments, it is advisable to carry cash for the possibility of obtaining a slight discount on the purchase price. Certain stores charge a handling fee for credit card payments.
This would depend on the type of watch you purchase. For Swiss watches, the warranty is international and valid even when you bring the watch to your home country. For Japanese watches, the warranty is normally valid only in Japan. Customers who live overseas can still register the product and send back the warranty card to Japan. However, if there are any defects, the Japanese watch itself would need to be sent to Japan for repair. In terms of watch servicing that fall outside the warranty period, representative offices of the watch brands overseas can handle the maintenance required.
This article is written in collaboration with The Watch Company