Japan has a large watchmaking industry that will change your life forever. Home to the likes of the astounding G-Shock and Seiko to newer brands like Minase and Knot, there’s no denying that Japan is helping shape the future of the modern watchmaking industry.
The land of the rising sun is challenging swiss watches with some of the finest and affordable watches on the market. Ever since the quartz crisis in the 1970s and early 1980, there’s been a notable decline of the Swiss watchmaking industry, as they have remained focused on mechanical watches, and the majority of the world has embraced the new electronic technology. Of course, that doesn’t mean that Japan doesn’t make some great fully-mechanical watches.
Shopping for the best watch for your hard earned money can be intimidating, but we’re here to help you out. Here are our top 8 Japanese watch brands picked by our ZenPlus watch enthusiasts.
This comes as no surprise. Seiko was the leader of the Japanese quartz movement and built the first quartz watch, which helped change the watchmaking world as we know it. Seiko continues to push the boundaries and continuously releases the best quality watches at reasonable prices. In 1965 Seiko released their first Prospex Sea watch that helped pursuit their excellent reputation. They are one of the few watch manufacturers that continue to build everything in-house and have world-class high-end models.
Unlike their Swiss counterparts that use different names for their diverse lineups, Seiko’s entire lineup is called Seiko (except their most expensive Credor-line), so some non-watch enthusiasts may mistake your luxury Seiko watch for a $60 mall pickup. Seiko makes the best quartz watches in the business, and have more hand-time from a professional human watchmaker than almost all other famous brands.
The word ‘Seiko’ translates to ‘exquisite,’ and they are one of the most reliable watchmakers on the market. Even their cheap line-ups are made excellent, and for under $150 you can get a great automatic watch that will be reliable for countless years. The price you pay for a Seiko is way below its actual value; you won’t be disappointed.
Seiko manufactures kinetic, solar, and quartz watches in their Grand Seiko, Astron, Prospex, Presage, and Premier collections varying between $50 - $8000.
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Although Orient hasn’t received their limelight like Seiko (who owns them now), they are excellent value for money. The origin of Orient Watch dates back to 1901 when Shogoro Yoshida opened a watch shop called “Yoshida Watch Shop” in Ueno, Tokyo. Due to his success in selling imported pocketwatches, he expanded his business to producing gold wristwatch cases, table clocks, and gauges. He later began producing wristwatches, which led to Orient Watch as we know it today. Being in the Japanese watchmaking industry for almost seven decades gives them extensive experience, and gives you a broad range of designs to choose from.
Orient is most famous for its self-winding and hand-winding mechanical watches; they also produce some of the most elegant quartz and solar-powered models. Although the Seiko Group owns them, they continue to produce all their watches in-house in Japan.
Orient is one of those rare Japanese watchmakers that give their consumers much more luxury than they bargained for. If you aren’t fussy about brand names, then we recommend you check out Orient.
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Citizen is a household name that we all know. They are ahead of their game when it comes to affordable watches that are of high quality and look great on your wrist.
Most Citizen watches make use of Eco-Drive technology, which allows your watch to be powered by artificial or natural light. They also offer shockproof and waterproof capabilities, making them perfect for any active endeavors. Citizen has created lots of luxury watches such as the Bulova line that provide great sturdiness and precise timekeeping which is essential for any watch.
Bulova was founded way back in 1987 and is one of the oldest watchmakers in the world. In 2007, Citizen took over the brand and continued to make quality watches. Their price range from around $100 to $600, so their watches aren’t the priciest, but they are well worth the money if you’re on a budget. Some of our favorite Bulova watches are from the Accutron line and use the ETA 2892-A2 movement.
Citizen also partners with big brands such as Disney and Marvel to bring you timeless collections with their best selling silhouettes. These limited watch collections are specially designed and are featured in distinctive themed boxes featuring selective artwork. Each country has its limited edition collaborations, so be sure to check out ZenPlus for the latest Japanese collaborations or pre-owned watches.
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When it comes to cheap Japanese watches of excellent value, how could we miss one of the most famous high-tech Japanese brands perfect for almost any lifestyle? For many of our ZenPlus staff, Casio watches were the first they owned. They had a light, an alarm, they were water resistant, and supported multiple different time zones. They had everything that we ever needed in a watch, even a stopwatch!
Fast forward time and Casio is still well-known for their quality and innovation of their watches, take a look at Casio’s PRO TREK series for example which is changing how we interact with the outdoors. Casio’s PRO TREK’s nature is found in its name, yes, it’s a fantastic watch for enhancing your outdoor experience. It hooks up to Wear OS by Google, so it can do almost everything other smartwatches can do, but it also includes a GPS, Location Memory, Moment Setter, and more. PRO TREK isn’t just brilliant for trekking it is also astounding for conquering the snow slopes, seeing how far you’re away from the golf green, catching more fish, controlling your pace, finding the best waves, and improving your fitness. This smartwatch does everything the outdoors throws at it! The PRO TREK is quite expensive, but it is entirely worth the investment if you want to improve your lifestyle and have a GPS on your wrist.
Although G-Shock (which we will get to later) is Casio’s reign supreme in the world of fashion, Casio’s Edifice line is where they have been continuously experimenting with the latest technology. The best part? Some of the newest Edifice models are priced under $220.
Unlike other Casio lines, the Edifice watches are designed for professional careers in mind. However, Casio wouldn’t be Casio without multiple functions, ranging from world time and reoccurring alarms. Some Casio Edifice watches use Tough Solar (Casio’s original solar charging system that turns light into electrical power to charge your watch). Some of the latest models have Bluetooth connectivity which helps to simplify certain watch operations by performing them on your phone screen. Edifice watches come in a range of different displays from purely digital to purely analog and a combination of the both called ana-digi.
Shop Casio Watches on ZenPlus
We know that Casio makes G-Shocks, but they deserve their own category. The G-Shock is built with active people in mind from skaters to athletes and is regarded as the most robust watch in the world. The raised bezels around the watch face adds extra impact protection, and excellent water resistance allowing G-Shocks to be the perfect sports watch suitable for almost any activity in any environment, even diving.
G-Shocks wouldn’t be part of Casio if they didn’t have basic features like a stopwatch, timer and lots of other advanced features for specific outdoor activities. But G-Shocks go a lot further than that, some have Tough Solar power that allows your watch to be charged by sunlight and fluorescent lighting. The quartz movement of G-Shocks are incredibly accurate, and some models even have automatic time syncing features.
G-Shock’s high-end line the Master of G has Triple Sensor technology which includes an altimeter-barometer, compass, and thermometer. Bluetooth mobile link is also being added to popular mid-range and high-end models allowing watches to sync through the internet.
G-Shock watches have become famous among street fashion and have collaborated with Takashi Murakami, Maison Martin Margiela, BAPE, and most recently Ader Error. They will soon move into making more smartwatches, but they will always maintain their legendary toughness
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Minase is a microband compared to all the big Japanese brands we have talked about so far, but they are one of our top brands due to their unique story and certainly original products.
In 2005, the first Minase watch was created by Kyowa and Co., a Japanese specialist tool maker in a small watch factory located in the North of Japan. Minase manufactures less than 500 watches a year and most of them only available in Japan. This makes a lot of sense when you understand the quality and originality of their watchmaking craft. All of the watch components are crafted in-house with an astounding finish.
The way that the watches are constructed is so unique. They follow their own historical Japanese method treasured for over 100 years that is inspired by Japanese wooden puzzles where everything is placed perfectly. This unique method allows you to assemble and disassemble exterior parts, as many times as your heart desires. Check out the video below to see how they handcraft every watch.
They currently have four different watches in their HiZ series: Seven Windows, Divido, Five Windows, and Horizon. HiZ comes from the Japanese word “Hiizu” meaning “outstanding.” HiZ also comes from “Hi Izuru Kuni” which translates as “The land of the rising sun.” Mimase is not afraid of any challenges in the future and will work hard to push the boundaries of Japanese watchmaking.
Shop Minase Watches on ZenPlus
When it comes to Japan challenging Swiss luxury watches they also take a lot of inspiration from them. Meet the Osaka company behind the Frank Miura wrist watches, does it sound familiar to you? Yes, it is a Japanese wordplay of Franck Muller. Franck Muller timepieces are considered to be some of the most complicated in the world, and can only be created by the best in-house Swiss watchmakers in Haute Horlogerie. Their watches are instantly recognizable, and their unique designs are considered to be part of the brands DNA. Due to such complexity and uniqueness, these watches can cost over $8,786.
The Japanese watch brand, Frank Miura, play on Franck Muller’s uniqueness and add their own twist at a much lower price point. Although they may look similar at first glance, their appearances are clearly distinguishable. Frank Miura also collaborates with Japanese companies and makes some of the most cutest designs, including these Doala (a professional baseball mascot) watches, shown above.
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Knot is Japan’s newest and hottest watch brand that is even challenging the biggest names in the business including Seiko. This small company located in central Tokyo has started to create a media frenzy both in Japan and overseas due to their stylish, high-quality watches.
Hiromitsu Endo created knot in 2014 to provide exceptional quartz watches at half the price of other brands. High-grade quartz movement models go for lower than $200, and mechanical models cost less than $500, that’s a bargain for any ‘made in Japan’ watch.
In this era, where most people use their phones to keep track of the time, watches need to be something that you want to look at, and Knot does this so well. Unlike a lot of the major Japanese brands, Knot doesn’t lack any bit of individuality. Each watch is unique and customizable, and everything is made in Japan, from the movements to straps. Matching your style and taste to your watch has proven to be a popular choice for most Knot owners.
There are currently seven Knot Gallery Shops in Japan, but if you’re unable to visit them don’t worry, you can buy all the movements and belts separately straight from Japan with ZenMarket. What variation would you choose?
Shop Knot Watches on ZenMarket
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