Japan Vs. Swiss Watches

by Rina Shah ; Updated September 28, 2017

Historically, timepieces have been inextricably linked with Switzerland. Within the last century, however, Japan has fast become a driving force in the watch industry. Watchmakers in the country have created strong brands at a reasonable cost, making them a competitive rival to Switzerland in the quality manufacturer stakes.


Swiss-made watches can be traced back to the15th century, beginning with the highly regarded watchmakers of Geneva. The Japanese watch industry began much later in the 20th century but soon became a success with many high-quality brand names of its own.


Although Japan has not been manufacturing watches as long as Switzerland, the country has become a leader in innovation. Recent designs have included kinetic watches that do not require batteries and watches complete with built-in cameras.


Swiss-made watches are often considered luxury items and therefore tend to be in the higher price bracket, retailing for several thousands of dollars. Japanese-made watches are often not priced as high but are still built to a very high standard.

Watch Movements

Contrary to belief, most of the moving parts for Swiss watches are built by an outside company, then are shipped to the watchmakers to be made up and distributed. Japanese watch movements, however, are largely made in-house.

Brand Names

A majority of the mainstream watch brands are currently made in Japan, including Seiko, Casio and Citizen. The more luxurious brands such as Geneve, Raymond Weil and Oris are made solely in Switzerland.


Swiss watches are easily identifiable as they are branded with the logo "Swiss Made" on them. This is a symbol of their quality and the care that has gone into the making of the timepiece. Japanese watches are identified in the same way as they are branded with "Made in Japan."

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About the Author

Rina Shah is a law student with degrees in psychology and business administration from the University of Texas and a Master of Science from the London School of Economics. She has worked in law, nonprofits, information technology and teaching. Shah has over five years of experience writing for various purposes on the job and more than 10 years of academic writing.