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Company typeSubsidiary
Health care
Beauty care
Founded1828; 196 years ago (1828)
HeadquartersHong Kong
Area served
Key people
Dominic Lai
Malina Ngai
ParentA.S. Watson Group
Chinese name
Japanese name
Korean name

Watsons (Chinese: 屈臣氏; Jyutping: Wat1san4si6) is a Hong Kong health care and beauty care chain store in Asia and Europe. It is the flagship health and beauty brand of the A.S. Watson Group, which is majority owned by CK Hutchison Holdings.

It operates near 8,000 stores and 1,500 pharmacies in 15 Asian and European markets, including Hong Kong, Indonesia, Macau, mainland China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Qatar[1] [2][3]



Founding and move to Hong Kong


Dr. Thomas Boswell Watson (1815–1860), from Scotland, was the first member of the Watson family to arrive in the Far East, where in 1845 he set up a private practice in Macau.[4] After selling his practice to a fellow doctor, he moved to Hong Kong in 1856 where he became part owner of the Hong Kong Dispensary, an offshoot of the Canton Dispensary which operated from 1828 to 1858.

Known as the "Big Medicine Shop" (Chinese: 大藥房; Cantonese: Dai Yeuk Fong), the dispensary's main customers were soldiers and sailors. The dispensary was not known as A.S. Watson until 1870, although Alexander Skirving Watson took over in 1858 following management changes.[4] T. B. Watson sent his family back to Scotland in 1857, and he himself followed two years later.

Following the death of Dr T. B. Watson in 1860, the Hong Kong Dispensary was leased to A. S. Watson and two other doctors, and onwards from 1862, the name A.S. Watson featured prominently at the Hong Kong Dispensary. In 1871, the Watson family leased the company to Dr John David Humphreys and Dr Arthur Hunt, and thereafter trading was executed under the name A.S. Watson & Company.

The company entered China and the Philippines in 1883, but withdrew from both countries in 1910.[5]

Retail outlets were known as "Watsons the Chemist". The current owners, Hutchison Group, acquired a controlling interest in A.S. Watson & Co., Ltd in 1963. In 1981, it became a wholly owned subsidiary of Hutchison Whampoa Ltd.[5] At this time, the group had 75 retail outlets.

International expansion


In the late 1980s, the chain expanded to other parts of Asia. The first modern Watsons store outside Hong Kong opened in the Portuguese territory of Macau in late May 1987.[6][7] The first Watsons in Taiwan opened in September 1987, and by May 1991 the number of Taiwanese locations numbered 25.[8][9] The first Watsons store in Singapore opened on 29 April 1988, with the chain expanding to operate 27 outlets across the city-state by 1993.[10][11]

The first Watsons store in China opened in April 1989. Located in Beijing's newly opened Palace Hotel, the shop's products were all shipped from Hong Kong, and were therefore for sale in foreign exchange certificates only. Watson's management thus expected the shop's customers to mainly comprise foreign tourists. The Palace Hotel was partly owned by the People's Liberation Army, which required all shop staff to complete a month-long boot camp.[12]

Watsons personal care stores were subsequently opened in Malaysia (1994), Thailand (1996), and a revival in the Philippines (2002) after 92 years.[5][13] The first Watsons store in Indonesia opened on 13 January 2006 in Jakarta.[14]

In 2019, Watsons reached 7,800 stores and expanded to Vietnam, the 13th operating market of Watsons.[15]

In 2020, Al-Futtaim and A.S. Watson Group have signed a franchise agreement to open stores of healthcare and beauty chain Watsons in the Gulf. Watsons opened its first flagship store at The Dubai Mall in October 2020.[16]


A Watsons store in the Philippines
A Watsons store in Hong Kong

As of 2021, there are around 8,000 stores and more than 1,500 pharmacies in 14 Asian and European markets, including Mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Qatar.[3]

A.S. Watson Retail, as well as the Watson chain of stores in Hong Kong, is headquartered in Watson House, Fo Tan, Hong Kong. An 11-story distribution centre opened in April 1983.[17]


  1. ^ "Watsons Expands into Middle East with New Stores Across GCC". A.S. Watson Group Corporate Website. 27 January 2022.
  2. ^ Ray Chan (22 March 2014). "Li Ka-shing sells nearly 25pc of AS Watson to Singapore investment giant Temasek". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 21 January 2019.
  3. ^ a b "Watsons". A.S. Watson Group. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  4. ^ a b Dan Waters (1990). "Hongs Kong's Hongs with Long Histories and British Connections" (PDF). Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society Hong Kong Branch. 30: 219–256. ISSN 1991-7295. p. 221
  5. ^ a b c Lord, Richard (27 October 2018). "The story of A.S. Watson: from a Hong Kong pharmacy to world's largest health and beauty group". South China Morning Post.
  6. ^ Leung, Carolyn (24 May 1987). "Watson's in Taiwan expansion". South China Morning Post. p. Money 1.
  7. ^ "Watson's opens in Macau". South China Morning Post. 3 June 1987. p. Business 2.
  8. ^ Browne, Andrew (5 September 1987). "Taiwan – a retailer's dream". South China Morning Post. p. Review 5.
  9. ^ Chung, Lynda (29 May 1991). "Watson to open 200 stores in Taiwan". South China Morning Post. p. Business 3.
  10. ^ "Major expansion for Watson". South China Morning Post. 30 April 1988. p. Business 3.
  11. ^ "Watson's to report gains in Singapore". South China Morning Post. 24 October 1993. p. 3.
  12. ^ Faison, Seth (17 April 1989). "Watson's comes home with new Beijing store". South China Morning Post. p. Business 12.
  13. ^ "Who We Are". Watsons Philippines. Retrieved 27 May 2023.
  14. ^ "First Watsons Store Opens in Indonesia". A.S. Watson Group. 13 January 2006.
  15. ^ "Hong Kong's Watsons dives into Vietnam's crowded beauty market". Nikkei Asian Review. Retrieved 14 September 2020.
  16. ^ "Watsons Opens its First Store in the Middle East at The Dubai Mall".
  17. ^ "Watson's new centre opened". South China Morning Post. 28 April 1983. p. Business 1.