Our History

From the humble beginning as a local dispensary to the world’s largest international health and beauty retailer, A.S. Watson Group has been putting a smile on our customers’ faces since 1841.

As one of the longest-standing retailers, A.S. Watson witnessed changes in retail over the past 180 years, but what remains unchanged is the spirit of putting customers right at the centre of our business, and the love to everyone we touch.

This spirit is deeply rooted in our culture and you are invited to take a journey through our history.

Read more about Our 180 Years of Love.


Text version

1841 milestone Our History


The Canton Dispensary, the forerunner of A.S. Watson, opened in Guangzhou, China.


Established the first soda-water factory in China (one of the very first companies in the world to manufacture soda-water).


1841 1 Our History
The Hong Kong Dispensary is founded in Hong Kong.


Alexander Skirving Watson, a British pharmacist, joins the company as Manager


The name A.S. Watson (after Dr. Alexander Skirving Watson who joined the company as Manager in 1858) begins to feature prominently with the Hong Kong Dispensary.


1869 Our History

Hong Kong Dispensary is appointed the chemist of the Hong Kong Governor and the Duke of Edinburgh


Dr Sun Yat–sen Our History

A.S. Watson sets up scholarship to support local medical school. Dr Sun Yat–sen, the renowned politician and revolutionist in China, is also one of the beneficiaries under the scholarship scheme


1871 1 Our History

The Hong Kong Dispensary begins trading under the name A.S. Watson & Company.


1883 1 Our History

A.S. Watson expands overseas to the Philippines and China; establishes a pharmacy and a soft drink factory (1884) in Manila.


ASWCo CI 1 Our History

A.S. Watson becomes the 15th company registered on the Hong Kong Company Registry.


A.S. Watson operates 35 stores and produces about 300 dispensary, toiletry and perfumery lines.

1900 milestone Our History


1903 1 Our History

There is a deadly plague in Hong Kong in 1890s-1920s, costing over 10,000 lives and hygiene of drinking water becomes a major health concern. Many people become ill due to the unclean water.
Watsons Water is established to provide safe and reliable distilled water in Hong Kong.


The Japanese invasion of China halts A.S. Watson’s China operations.


1941 1 Our History

A.S. Watson celebrates its centenary just months before the Japanese force attack on 13th December.


A.S. Watson resumes business on 1st September.


1963 1 Our History

Hutchison Group (forerunner of CK Hutchison Holdings Limited) acquires a controlling interest in A.S. Watson & Co., Ltd.


1972 1 Our History

A.S. Watson establishes PARKnSHOP supermarkets.

1980 milestone Our History


Hutchison House 2012 crop Our History

A.S. Watson becomes a fully-owned subsidiary of Hutchison Whampoa Group (forerunner of CK Hutchison Holdings Limited). At the time we have 75 stores


1987 Our History

Watsons expands to Taiwan and Macau.


Watsons expands to Singapore.


Watsons reopens in China.


1990 Our History

FORTRESS joins the A.S. Watson Group.


Watsons expands to Malaysia.


Watsons expands to Thailand.


1997 Our History

Acquires Shanghai Sparkling Drinking Water.


Watson’s Wine opens its first store.
1998 WatsonsWine Our History

2000 milestone Our History


Savers Our History

A.S. Watson enters European market by acquiring the Savers health & beauty retail chain in the UK.


Kruidvat Group Logos Our History

  • A.S. Watson acquires the Dutch-based Kruidvat Group, adding famous European brands into the portfolio, including health and beauty retailer Superdrug, Trekpleister, Rossmann and luxury perfumery ICI Paris XL.
  • Watsons Water launches its signature bottle design.


  • Superdrug opens its first new identity store in the Bullring Birmingham in the UK

y2003 001 1 Our History

  • Watsons Water celebrates its 100th anniversary of purity & persistence.

y2003 002 1 Our History

  • Watsons opens Asia’s first third generation store at Pacific Place, Hong Kong.
  • FORTRESS launches a new brand identity in Hong Kong

y2003 003 1 Our History


  • Enters Eastern Europe through acquisition of Drogas health & beauty retail chain in the Baltics.
  • y2004 001 1 Our History

  • Purchases a 40 percent stake in Rossmann Germany, adding 786 stores to the Group’s retail portfolio.
  • y2004 003 1 Our History

  • TASTE launches in November
  • y2004 004 1 Our History

  • Watson’s Wine introduces a new store concept in Hong Kong


  • Watsons celebrates 100th store in Mainland China and 300th store in Taiwan
  • y2005 001 1 Our History

  • Enters Turkey through acquisition of Cosmo Shop.
  • Acquires UK specialist perfume retailer Merchant Retail Group including The Perfume Shop in August.
  • y2005 004 1 Our History

  • Acquires Spektr in Russia in October.


  • Opens the first Watsons in Indonesia.
  • y2006 001 1 Our History

  • Watsons celebrates its 200th store in Mainland China in June
  • Enters Ukraine through acquisition of DC, the largest health & beauty retail chain in the market in July.
  • y2006 002 1 Our History

  • PARKnSHOP Hong Kong launches the MoneyBack loyalty programme, which is later extended to Watsons and FORTRESS Hong Kong, and PARKnSHOP China in 2009.


  • A.S. Watson launches MoneyBack loyalty programme in Hong Kong.
  • PNScard08 Our History

  • New store concepts for Watsons in Asia, Kruidvat and Trekpleister in the Benelux and Superdrug in the UK.
  • y2007 001 1 Our History

    y2007 002 1 Our History


  • Watsons launches its loyalty programme in Asia, first in Taiwan, and subsequently in Mainland China, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia in 2009-2010.
  • y2008 002 1 Our History

  • Watson’s Wine celebrates its 10th anniversary serving wine-lovers in Hong Kong


  • Rossmann reaches its 2,000th store milestone in Germany, Poland, Czech Republic and Hungary.
  • Watsons openes its 500th store in China
  • y2009 001 1 Our History


2010 WTC card Our History

Watsons membership card reaches 15 million members in Asia.


  • DC Ukraine is rebranded to Watsons as a strategic move to sustain its leadership in the market
  • photo 52 l Our History


  • Watsons undergoes a major rebranding exercise to modernize the customer experience

ASW 2014.JUL .23. 5 new FINAL Our History

  • SU-PA-DE-PA opens in September to bring one-stop shopping experience to Hong Kong customers

photo 50 l Our History

  • Kruidvat reaches its 1,000th store milestone in the Benelux

photo 51 l Our History


  • A.S. Watson opens its 10,000th store worldwide.

2013 10000 Stores Our History

  • Drogas celebrates its 20th anniversary

photo 55 l Our History

  • Superdrug launches its skincare & makeup collection B., making a big hit and ranking as a top seller in the market

photo 57 l Our History


Temasek alliance Our History

Hutchison Whampoa Limited (forerunner of CK Hutchison) forms a strategic alliance with Temasek. The Singapore investment company takes an indirect equity interest of 24.95 per cent in A.S. Watson Holdings for HKD44 billion


12000 store Our History

A.S. Watson Group opens its 12,000th store worldwide in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong


    ASW 175 Anniversary Shopping Bag Logo English Our History

  • A.S. Watson Group celebrates its 175th anniversary in 2016.


IMG 2620 Our History

Watsons expands to United Arab Emirates, Middle East


100M Members PR image 1 Our History

Watsons members reach 100 million


    logo with gold bg 01 1 1024x768 Our History
    A.S. Watson celebrates its 180th Anniversary. We will continue to work tirelessly everyday to put a smile on more customers’ faces.