1. Your question is based on Swiss exports, I believe, but for Seiko, 2015 was another year of steady growth in our exports. We saw our sales grow for the sixth consecutive year. In fact, we had strong sales and steady growth in many markets from Europe to Oceania and we also posted rapid sales growth in Japan, with much of the increase coming from tourists from Asian countries. In 2016, demand for Seiko may rise or fall depending on the market, but overall I’m confident that total global demand for Seiko, especially in the higher price segments, will grow.
2. I have two main priorities. My first priority is, as always, innovation. At Baselworld, we’re launching a new GPS Solar calibre, a new all-mechanical collection and a new design series in Grand Seiko. Innovation is a big part of the DNA of Seiko and our 2016 collection demonstrates this better than ever. Secondly, we’re going to continue to open more boutiques and Seiko corners so that we can showcase our global collections in the best possible way. We have 65 Seiko boutiques today and we’ll be opening several more in 2016. These are our two main priorities for 2016.
3. The smartwatch is the biggest challenge facing the watch industry for several generations. It’s still too early to know whether people will think of a smartwatch as an addition to their traditional watch or as a replacement of it. My feeling today is that smartwatches will expand our market and I’m certain that in the foreseeable future, high-grade mechanical and electronic watches will retain their value and appeal. However, I do believe that the simple quartz watch will suffer from the growth of the smartwatch. This is why Seiko is focussing its energy on developing only added-value electronic watches like Solar and GPS Solar, as well as on traditional, mechanical watches. In fact, in 2016, we’ll be expanding our collection of mechanical watches with a new all-mechanical series that we will promote worldwide, and also with new creations in Grand Seiko.
4. Baselworld is the first date in my diary every year. As we have so much innovation to offer each year, Baselworld provides a vital showcase for our new products, both for our retailers and the media. For Seiko, Baselworld gains importance each time round. This year is the thirtieth anniversary of our first appearance at Baselworld and I’m more than confident that we’ll still be here thirty years from now.
EUROPA STAR’S FOUR QUESTIONS
1. What are your predictions for 2016? Do you think that exports will recover, or will the markets stagnate or continue to decline after the slump we saw in 2015? And what do you think were the reasons for the downturn in 2015?
2. What are your priorities for the coming year: consolidating your existing markets, actively exploring new markets (if so, which), rationalising / consolidating / expanding your distribution network, launching new products, PR initiatives, etc.?
3. Over the longer term, do you believe that mechanical watchmaking will gradually die out, hybridise, or continue to occupy its own exclusive niche? Do you see the advent of smartwatches as a potential threat, or an opportunity for growth and diversification?
4. What exactly do you hope to achieve from your participation in Baselworld 2016? Do you feel your presence at the fair is essential to your business, or are such forums less important now than they were in the past?