When Time is a Luxury

by Shogo Hagiwara

wifm_autumn09_low-42 Seeking a quality timepiece? Start here.

How to judge someone’s fashion sense? Conventional wisdom is to look at their shoes. Similarly, a quality timepiece can also impress. So here’s our report on luxury boutiques in Tokyo where the most dashing and upscale timepieces are sold.

ISHIDA Aoyama Omotesando

Since opening in 2006, ISHIDA Aoyama Omotesando has taken the concept of a timepiece store up a notch. Located next to Omotesando Hills, it screams upscale, stylish and exclusive. On entry, you’ll be amazed how spacious it is — with about 600 square meters, it looks more like an exhibition of high-end watches.

There is nothing pretentious here, however, and the sales clerks welcome all who swing by. Whether you’re seriously considering buying or just browsing, there’s no pressure. It’s this friendly atmosphere that is hard to come by elsewhere.

But when it comes to timepieces, it’s a serious business, with the most exclusive brands such as IWC, Zenith, Breitling, and A. Lange & Sohne on offer.

“The three top-selling brands of this shop are IWC, Panerai and Breitling. Customers aged in their 30s to 50s, mostly male, buy these as the second or third watch in their collection,” said Shigeru Nawata, sales promotion manager of Best Co. Ltd., ISHIDA’s parent company.

“These brands are popular because they have the quality and functionality that justify their somewhat steep price tags.” Nawata said October-November is the best time to check out new timepieces as the latest models unveiled at the watch fairs in Geneva and Basel earlier in the year arrive in Japan.

wifm_autumn09_low-44 ISHIDA deals in almost 60 brands, from relatively reasonable ones (such as the company’s original watches produced in collaboration with Star Wars and Kill Bill, among others) to top brands. The most expensive timepiece at ISHIDA is currently A. Lange & Sohne’s “Cabaret Tourbillon.” The price? A staggering ¥28 million. And only one was left in late September, so you’ll have to hurry.


Tenshodo’s line-up includes Omega, IWC and Baume & Mercier. Omega has a section dedicated to the brand on the grand floor of the Ginza store, while the rest decorate B1. These brands are, of course, very popular, but Tenshodo also has a collection of its own originals. They’re part of the “Made in Ginza” line, initiated by Tenshodo President Hideaki Shinmoto, with prices from just under ¥100,000 to ¥777,000.

“These original watches are available only at our shops but are just as popular as high-end designer brands. In fact, they account for a significant percentage of our overall sales,” said Koichiro Yonekawa of Tenshodo’s Planning and PR department.

wifm_autumn09_low-43This year marks the 130th anniversary of Tenshodo, and to celebrate it has collaborated with Swiss watchmakers Zenith and Ulysse Nardin to manufacture special anniversary models. The Zenith version is based on “Elite,” a model once crowned as the best mechanical movement of the year, and the latter “San Marco,” also a very sought-after timepiece. Both are very classical in their respective design and are produced in limited quantities.

In the truest sense of the word, Tenshodo is well established as a watch and jewelry shop, but it also likes to experiment with new ideas. And it is now set to release a new line of timepieces whose faces are decorated with Japanese lacquer. Yonekawa said it’s not always easy to apply lacquer to items designed for daily use such as watches.

BEST Shinjuku

BEST Shinjuku is nothing less than a tower of precious timepieces. Occupying six floors (from B1 to 5th) with 70 staff, the shop stocks everything from Audemars Piguet and Vacheron Constantin to TAG Heuer and G-Shock.

wifm_autumn09_low-45 Each floor has its own theme. The top floor is dedicated to Breitling and their Breitling for Bentley models, while the 4th floor displays the most precious and established of designer watch brands: if you seek Vacheron Constantin, Jaeger-LeCoultre and Audemars Piguet this is your destination. IWC, Zenith, Bell & Ross and Panerai are all showcased on the 3rd floor.

“Customers coming to Best Shinjuku are experts on exclusive timepieces. They’d open a conversation by stating the name of an engineer who’s made a particular movement. What attracts them is not a brand name, but the excellence of a watchmaker’s skills and technology. So we always need to be prepared to answer any inquiries they may have,” said Nawata.

wifm_autumn09_low-47 BEST Shinjuku deals in second-hand watches on the B1 floor, where about 3,000 used timepieces in good condition — including Rolex and Franck Muller — await their next owner. Many are difficult to find elsewhere because they have gone out of production or were produced in limited quantities. Rare antique timepieces can be found here too.

And more!

One more that stands out among its peers is M&R Salon de Montres, a certified dealer of Rolex and Panerai. As its name suggests, the shop aims to be a showroom where customers can try upscale watches in a relaxing environment. If you don’t have a particular brand in mind and would like to browse as many brands as possible, Hosekihiroba in Shibuya deals with new and used watches of various brands

ISHIDA Aoyama Omotesando
B1, 4-25-15 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku
Tel: (03) 5785-3600

4-3-9 Ginza, Chuo-ku
Tel: (03) 3561-0102

BEST Shinjuku Honten
3-17-12 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku
Tel: (03) 5360-6800

M&R Salon de Montres
8-7-22 Ginza, Chuo-ku
Tel: (03) 5537-5805

A2 Building 4-5F
28-3 Utagawacho, Shibuya-ku
Tel: (03) 5458-5429