Is it better to buy Seiko Watches in Japan?
January 12, 2019
We all love Seiko as they provide us with affordable mechanical watches that can stand the test of time. They have been producing and manufacturing watches for more than a century and they are pretty good at it.
Throughout the last couple of decades, they have released a plethora of successful watch models and designs and has steadily gained a wide global audience year by year. (See my article on “8 Reasons on Why to Collect Seiko Watches”)
As a global brand, the Japanese watch maker would also need to expand its operations outside of its country of origin. It is a known fact that they have different factories outside Japan that design watches, produce watch parts, and assemble them. But to this day, there are still watches that are stamped with the illustrious “Made in Japan” imprint.
The Wako Specialty Store in Ginza houses Seiko's Flagship Store
Because of this, many Seiko fans still ask the same lingering question. Is it better to buy Seiko watches in Japan? Would they get a better watch if it has the “Made in Japan” stamp on the dial?
The answer would greatly depend on a particular watch, make, and model. But to answer the question of whether its better to buy a Seiko watch in Japan; then I would say yes to this.
See below the top 3 reasons on why it would be better to buy Seiko watches in Japan. Whether its brand new or a vintage model.
1. JDM Models and the "Made in Japan" stamp
Popular watch models have been known to have its JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) model which is usually visually and mechanically similar to its global siblings. A good example of this is last year’s 62MAS reissue in its PADI version. There are 2 models. The SPB071J1 (Global model number) and the SBDC055 (Japanese model number).
Both watches are actually made in Japan (as evidenced on the back case) but what sets them apart? Nothing really as both SPB071J1 and the SBDC055 have all the same parts and movement. But what makes Seiko fans and collectors desire watches with the Japanese model number?
The Seiko SBDC055 flaunts the "Made in Japan" on its caseback
My best guess is that since Seiko is a Japanese watch maker, people would equate better quality if a watch was marketed for the Japanese market only even if in paper, it is equally the same as the global model.
However, there are still a handful of watches (especially older models) that have a few slight differences between the global model and the Japanese-only model watch. Take for an example the undying and reliable SKX007/009 dive watches. This particular line of entry level mechanical divers has two distinct versions; the (SKX007K/SKX009K) and the (SKX007J/SKX009J).
There are two major differences between the K and J series watches when it comes to the SKX lineup.
The dial on the K series basically is a bit cleaner as it lacks details such as the number of jewels used in the 7S26 movement. The J series has the “21-Jewels” stamped on it. Also, the J series flaunts the illustrious and highly regarded “Made in Japan” stamp on the dial making it a more premium choice among collectors.
The Seiko SKX009J showing the "Made in Japan" on its dial
On the back case, the J series has an additional text (“Japan”) while the K series has none. Also, the J series has a different day wheel (Arabic) as opposed to the (Roman) day wheel of the K series.
To sum it up, it would depend on a personal preference if a collector would want the JDM model Seiko or not. Looking into the Seiko watch market, it is obvious sellers and retailers would give a little bit more premium to the JDM models because of the slight iterations and details that differ from the global model. But from a functionality perspective, the JDM and Global models should be the same.
My personal preference as a collector is, I always go with the JDM model if I can because of the slight rarity over the supposedly global models. Might be my perception but that is my experience in buying watches over the last decade. I urge you to set your own preferences first and go from there.
2. Wide Variety and Options for Vintage Models
When it comes to buying Seiko watches in Japan, its not the new watch models that buyers are after for but there is also a huge demand for finding the right vintage model for them. Especially since a lot of the vintage Seiko models are made and widely distributed in Japan; it would make it the perfect haven to source and find the ideal piece.
One good reason why people go for vintage pieces is that they are looking for their birth-year watch. (Check out my article of Seiko’s 10 Best Birth Year Watches for reference) What makes this search fun is that buyers would scour and go on a treasure hunt for the exact BMBY (Birth Month, Birth Year) watch which indicates when the vintage watch was manufactured, and it should align with the BMBY of the collector.
In fact, buying vintage Seiko in Japan is like buying toys in your local Toy’s R Us (if you still have it…). Japan has just the best inventory for vintage Seiko models because as I mentioned earlier, most of them were made and manufactured in Japan and a lot of them are still within the country.
The only downside to this is that as of the last several years, prices for vintage Seiko watches have increased steadily because of the huge demand for both local and international buyers/collectors. If you can buy your target vintage Seiko pieces now, you better do so because prices will just continue to shoot up as Seiko becomes more popular than ever.
3. Excellent Pre-Owned Quality for Watches
Another wonderful factor why watch collectors love to buy pre-owned watches in Japan is because of the quality. A lot of the secondhand and pre-owned pieces that you see in watch shops are generally well-taken care of and rarely you see badly beaten up pieces.
This is not just limited to Seiko’s but to almost all other watch brands. Iconic shopping areas like Nakano Broadway in Tokyo just has almost all hot watch brands and models (especially Vintage watches).
What really impresses me is the condition these watches. Most of them look barely used and can be rated between 85%-90% condition. I guess it either the Japanese really know how to take care of their watches or these stores did a good job in reconditioning the watches.
To note as well, there are few places on Earth that people rarely have doubts on watch authenticity and Japan in one of those places. The Japanese (especially the stores) take pride and honor in dealing with authentic pieces because its just the right thing to do in order to maintain the customer’s trust and good business.
So there you have it. Is it still better to buy Seiko watches in Japan? Because of the three factors I raised above, Seiko shopping is still better (and more fun) in Japan.