Hunting for Vintage Watches in Tokyo

Tokyo’s vintage and second hand watch scene is unlike any other you may have experienced. It’s so unique, in fact, that earlier this year Bill Yao of MK II traveled all the way to Japan to do a tour of these shops, which run the gamut from those that focus solely on vintage to those that specialize in modern luxury. He kindly offered to recount his trip for Worn & Wound readers. So check out his story below, and I’ll warn you now; it might end with you booking a flight to the land of the rising sun. -Ilya Ryvin, Managing Editor

I first became enamored with Tokyo watch culture in 1999 after stumbling onto a Smiths 6B, a watch that at the time I had only ever seen in a book, in a store in Shinjuku that also sold candy (yep, you read that right—candy). When I examined the watch, it was gaining a solid 15 seconds every minute, but I purchased it anyway because after years of collecting I had never seen one come up for sale. And though it was pretty beat, it was also all original (side note: that watch spent a year with my watchmaker).

As you would expect, Tokyo has all the standard jewelry stores and brand boutiques, but what makes the collecting scene here especially interesting are the stores that specialize in second hand and vintage watches. You can find them all over Tokyo and in some of the most unlikely places (I repeat— a candy shop), and the experience of walking into one of these shops is truly unique. The vibe is casual, the staff are true professionals, and the selection is, simply put, mind-blowing.

The stores profiled in today’s article are a group of watch stores that have been on my radar for almost 15 years. I have visited Tokyo five times, but 2017 was the first time I was able to carve out time specifically to visit these shops.

If you’re ever in Tokyo but have a limited amount of time, Jack Road in Nakano—a ward in Tokyo just west of the bustling Shinjuku area—should be your first stop. Occupying three store fronts within the Nakano Broadway mall, Jack Road has the largest and most diverse selection of any of the stores I visited on this trip. The walls are quite literally covered in watches. And if you’re worried about a potential language barrier, don’t fret. The staff speaks English, Chinese, and of course, Japanese.

Some of the eye candy at Jack Road. Counterclockwise: walls full of watches, watches, and more watches; a fun assortment of vintage from Breitling, Omega, and Glycine; there’s some Panerai too; and a whole load of Patek. You can see more on their Instagram.

Jack Road is actually two separate shops. Jack Road proper deals in men’s watches. Betty Road, located across the hall, sells women’s watches. And adjacent to both stores is one well-appointed room where you can inspect your potential purchase.

The selection at the time that I visited ran the gamut of vintage and second hand to new watches at almost every price point. The vintage selection was what I was there to see and it did not disappoint. I was able to see, on one shelf alone, three generations worth of Rolex Explorers and Explorer IIs. The fourth generation (a 1016) was located in a separate case. I had seen most of these watches in one form or another over the years, but never together in one place. The selection of Submariner’s was equally inspiring.

That’s a lot of Rolex action.

Other notable watches included a selection of Heuers, Smiths, and a series of limited edition Panerais. The second hand watches ran a range that included entry level Seikos to Moser and a collection of ultra-complicated timepieces from Patek. I had never seen a Moser before, but that day I saw 12 on sale.

In addition to Jack Road, the Nakano Broadway building hosts at least half-a-dozen additional vintage and second hand watch stores. Belle Monde and Ippuukishi are two smaller shops offering a tightly curated selection of vintage pieces (Ippuukishi also sells second hand watches). Kaitori Agent focuses on second hand modern watches. Kami-Kichi boasts a large selection of second hand modern watches with a sprinkling of vintage pieces. Finally, The Watch Co. (TWC) sells second hand haute-de-gamme modern watches.

The next shop on my list is Carese Co. I can’t say enough about this place. It’s a true connoisseur’s store focused exclusively on vintage pieces and, in my opinion, it’s one of the anchor stores in Tokyo for the vintage watch scene. I have been aching to go here for at least 10 years, so this was a real treat.

There are three shops in the Tokyo area: the one I visited in Morishita, a store focused on women’s watches in Shibuya, and a men’s and women’s store in Roppongi. These stores have been featured prominently in Japanese watch magazines and they’ve published two books detailing some of the extraordinary vintage watches that have passed through their hands and workshop. I have owned a well-thumbed copy of their earlier book for a number of years now.

I loved the displays here.

In addition to a selection of rare vintage watches, Carese Co. also operates a service center located on the second floor. There are 10 watchmakers on site and an extensive inventory of vintage parts for service. The service center inspects and services each piece as needed before it is offered for sale.

Next stop is Cotton Tail, a beautiful shop located in Taito that focuses primarily on early-to-mid 20th century watches. At the time of my visit, I saw a varied selection of watches and pocket watches, including some American Railroad pocket watches, IWC Ingenieurs, and Eterna pilots.I stumbled into Hirob (which, interestingly enough, happens to be a chain) while searching for another shop in Shinjuku, which just goes to show you how ubiquitous vintage watches are in Tokyo. This store was tucked into a corner of a shopping mall and featured a selection of largely women’s vintage and second hand Rolex, Cartier, Hermes, and Omega watches. The selection also included second hand and vintage jewelry and handbags. Stores like this challenge the silly assumption that women don’t want to wear mechanical watches, especially vintage ones. It’s big in Japan.


For those interested in modern luxury, there’s NJ Time in Ginza. This store carries a large inventory of second hand haute-de-gamme watches with a little bit of vintage thrown into the mix.

And finally, there is Private Eyes, a store that I have been following for quite some time. They had recently relocated to their current location in Takinogawa (Kita-ku), a relatively quiet part of Tokyo. The shop specializes in watches made from the 1920s to the 1960s—only in Japan can you get that kind of niche specialization.

A great spread of vintage here.

At the time of my visit, they had on offer a variety of interesting vintage pieces, among them Hanharts, Enicars, and a lovely Cyma chronograph, as well as the usual suspects like Rolex, Omega, and IWC. The store also offers their own re-creations of vintage leather straps and metal bracelets. In the back, there is a beautiful appointed room where you can admire and inspect your next purchase in more detail and at your comfort. In addition to the physical store, Private Eyes also sells online and they’re active on Instagram.

The stores I highlighted here are just that, the highlights. There is a much larger universe of watch destinations in Tokyo that I didn’t have time to see, but are definitely worth checking out (I had to leave some time for a few of my favorite Japanese denim shops, which are first class).

All of the stores listed here were easily reachable using either the JR lines, Tokyo Metro, or a combination of the two, and getting around the city is incredibly easy as most of the signs are available in English and the data network in excellent. I was able to navigate through Google Maps with pretty much no data lag. I hope this inspires you to take in some watch (window) shopping the next time you find yourself in Tokyo. It’s truly a treat if you love watches.

Words and photography by Bill Yao.

Related Posts
From time to time, Worn & Wound publishes guest posts from other collectors, experts, and enthusiasts from this account.