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Time to set things straight: Domestic watchmakers seek to change image with Ginza flagship stores

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Visitors look at watches at the Citizen Flagship Store Tokyo.

By Keiji Saito / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterDespite their world-class technology, domestic watches have struggled to shrug off their reputation of being “functional and cheap.” Aiming to boost their brands’ profiles, three major Japanese watchmakers have opened flagship stores in Tokyo’s upscale Ginza district, where famous foreign rivals also serve discerning consumers.

In this trendsetting location, Seiko Watch Corp., Citizen Watch Co. and Casio Computer Co. are promoting the quality of their products, which can go toe-to-toe with that of foreign luxury brands.

The Citizen Flagship Store Tokyo, for example, opened in April at the Ginza Six shopping complex. In the bright, 300-square-meter space decorated in white, there are about 700 models from the company’s six brands, including Eco-Drive One, the world’s thinnest solar-powered wristwatch, and ranging from quartz products for about ¥20,000 all the way up to mechanical watches in the ¥20 million range.

The store offers a unique “try-on corner,” where customers can examine the functions and fit of 32 models that are always available and are not kept in showcases.

“We hope to make this shop a place that helps us win more fans as customers can get to know the spirit of our brand and our technology through [trying on] real products,” a company spokesperson said.

Just a few minutes’ walk from Ginza Six is the Seiko Premium Boutique, which opened in July 2015 and handles Grand Seiko, the maker’s high-end series, as well as the Credor and Galante luxury lines.

The store’s wood-paneled walls and display cases, along with its traditional craftwork motifs, create an impression of finely wrought Japanese beauty. The store offers a wrapping service using furoshiki cloth as part of its efforts to present a luxurious image, particularly to wealthy foreign customers.

Foreigners account for about 70 percent of the store’s visitors. “We hope to promote our image as a high-class brand [among customers from] overseas,” a company spokesperson said.

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  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

    A man tries on a watch at the Citizen shop.

  • Courtesy of Seiko Watch Corp.

    The interior of the Seiko Premium Boutique has a relaxed ambience.

  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

    The Seiko Premium Boutique wraps products in colorful furoshiki cloths upon request.

  • Casio Computer Co.

    The G-shock Store Ginza has a maintenance service booth, back right, a glass-windowed cubicle that allows customers to see the technician at work.

In March last year, Casio opened a shop dedicated to its G-Shock series at the Tokyu Plaza Ginza shopping complex near the Sukiyabashi intersection.

These watches are particularly popular with young people for their bold designs and excellent durability, but the store is also visited by many elderly and foreign customers.

A technician is always available at a maintenance booth to change batteries and conduct waterproof checks, as part of a strategy to remain loyal to long-time customers.Speech

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