Quick one this week on STW: the Chief Editor was in Seoul for a vacation last week, and spotted two watches in the wild in the city.
While travelling on the subway and buses, in restaurants, and visiting touristy places, I was not quite able to spot any interesting watches in Seoul. While I was travelling mainly on touristy areas, I hardly spotted any interesting watches on the wrist of Koreans or visitors. So, what’s up, South Korea? Any readers in Seoul can debunk our current hypothesis that there is perhaps a relatively low interest in high end watchmaking in South Korea?
I did see lots of high end televisions and mobile phones. 8K OLED TVs and 5G equipped mobile phones are all the rage. Cars too, though mainly domestic brands like Hyundai and Kia. But also many domestic only models not seen outside of Korea. Like like Genesis, who seem to be a rather popular make, and looks like pretty good luxury vehicle. But there seem to be a dearth of haute horlogerie. Yes, the customary high end stores from Rolex, Patek Philippe, the Richemont Group, the Swatch Group and LVMH are present. But not as present as in Singapore, a city/island/country of about 60% of the population of Seoul. And it was difficult to spot other than the standard Apple Watches, Samsung Watches and other inexpensive quartz ones on the wrists of the people who take public transport. Even Rolex was a rare sight, or rather I did not encounter even one during the trip.
Here are two casual spots I managed last week:
We spotted this gentleman with a Cartier Tank Francais Large in SS. We don’t see this watch listed in the current Cartier catalog, only a duo tone, SS and gold version exist in the current catalog in the Large edition, so the model is possibly discontinued. The watch is an automatic movement, and features a date at 6. Cartier makes the Tank Francais in small and medium sizes as well, but equipped with a quartz movement, and no date.
Next, in the shopping street by the Ewha Women’s University in Seoul, we spotted a gentleman wearing an Omega Deville Prestige Red gold chronometer.
The watch is from the Omega Deville collection and in 41mm red gold with a coaxial chronometer movement.
This concludes our spots in Seoul. Perhaps our South Korean readers can help us understand the market better. If so, please comment below.
South Korean in Seoul, can confirm. There isn’t all that big of a cultural interest for watches here. Brands like Franck Muller, Harry Winston, Jaquet Droz, or Glashutte Original maintain little to no presence here. This might be part of a larger lack of interest toward craftsmanship (think dress shoes, tailored suits, etc.). For many people, the only “good watch” they buy are the obligatory Rolexes or Cartiers bought as wedding gifts, which most often end up as safe queens. Seoul’s public transportation system is very nice, but its most regular users will likely nonetheless save up to buy a car than a watch because cars are much more potent status symbols than are watches. Even those with cars would save up to upgrade their car rather than their watch(es). On a side note, South Korea’s economy is currently at its worst in a long while, which may have an effect on what the Chief Editor has observed. These are my honest 2 cents, thank you for reading.
thanks for your comments.
I was in Tokyo, Japan a couple of weeks ago. My first time. During my 7 days trip I have been watch spotting as well and couldn’t believe starting at the airport I spotted at least 3-5 Rolexes everyday and a few Omegas, Cartier, Seiko. Most of the Rolex’s seen are from tourist wearing modern SS sports while locals sports the vintage sports and a lot of datejust or day-dates. Of course Grand Seiko are among the many I have spotted. All in all at least 6-7 luxury watches. I have the impression the Japanese like the best in precision their watch. Cheers. Giuseppe
Thanks Guiseppe. I think Tokyo is the opposite. Certainly the Japanese have a fine appreciation for high end watches.