JAPAN WATCH REPORT


Seiko: “We want to go beyond functionality”

JAPANESE BRANDS

July 2019


Seiko: “We want to go beyond functionality”

How to convey not only the functional aspect of Seiko’s and Grand Seiko’s collections, but also the Japanese sense of beauty found in these timepieces? An interview with Shuji Takahashi, President, COO and CMO of Seiko Watch Corporation.

H

ow successful so far is your strategy to make Grand Seiko a global brand?

After gaining its independence, Grand Seiko attracted a great deal of interest from media, retail partners, and consumers as a luxury brand. The number of retail stores has increased significantly, and sales outside Japan have tripled since then. In the United States, which is our biggest market overseas, the number of Grand Seiko retail stores has doubled. In Italy, where there are many watch fans and aficionados, Grand Seiko was launched just a few months ago, and I feel there is even greater potential in the luxury watch market. Our goal now is to extend our fan base to the wider public, not just watch fans, and for Grand Seiko to be a serious choice for them as they consider purchasing a fine watch.

 Shuji Takahashi, President, COO and CMO of Seiko Watch Corporation.
Shuji Takahashi, President, COO and CMO of Seiko Watch Corporation.

“I feel there is even greater potential in the luxury watch market.”

“Heritage” is today as important as function. What steps are you taking to act on it?

In previous years, we released re-creations of milestone watches as limited editions for anniversaries. That being said, instead of just focusing on our past, we often release a “modern interpretation” of the original at the same time. The Prospex LX line, which we announced at Baselworld this year, takes this idea one step further by using a recognised heritage piece and re-creating it into a series of modern premium sports watches. For this series, we collaborated with world-renowned sports car designer Ken Okuyama.

“Our goal now is to extend our fan base to the wider public, not just watch fans.”

How do you see the secondary market: as an opportunity or as competition?

We are not involved in sales of preowned watches, however we are aware that popularity in the second-hand market is a reflection of a brand’s popularity. So we keep a close eye on it. We are also aware that providing a structure for repairing vintage watches is important.

The world is becoming ever more interested in Japan and its culture. Can you draw on that to increase the popularity of your production?

We have no intention of incorporating just any kind of Japanese art or craftsmanship simply for the sake of expanding our line-up. We will continue to make watches where one can feel the quality of the watch as well as its unique “Japanese-ness”. A good example is the Presage collection, which has introduced many dials reflecting Japanese craftsmanship, such as Urushi lacquer, porcelain enamel, Shippo enamel and Arita porcelain. Combined with our high-grade mechanical movements, these watches show our brand’s unique Japanese-ness.

Seiko Presage Arita Porcelain Dial
Seiko Presage Arita Porcelain Dial

What is the best-selling collection in the Seiko range of products today?

Globally, Prospex, our leading range of sports watches, is the highest selling collection and is the core of our Seiko range. Seiko sports watches started in 1965, when we created Japan’s first diving watch, and the collection has now developed into timepieces that can be used under any extreme conditions. Sports watches are one of the most important elements of Seiko’s heritage. The balance of price and functionality is part of the reason for the strong support we receive from fans.

Which countries are the most important markets for Seiko and Grand Seiko?

The Japanese market is our largest. Outside of Japan, the United States is the biggest market for both Grand Seiko and Seiko, and both brands are growing there. We are seeing market growth in Asia too, and we expect further development in the future. At the same time, we are seeing good growth in Europe, and we will be making considerable efforts there, considering Europe’s influence in the industry. In 2018, Grand Seiko drove our sales, and the most exclusive Seiko collections, especially Prospex and Presage, are growing.

“We want to communicate the emotional value reflected in the very Japanese natural flow of the seconds hand.”

What are your strategic ambitions for 2019?

Now that digital information is so dominant, the emotional values of our watches could get lost, because digital media are better at communicating facts than ideas. So we have to find new ways to communicate. For the 20th anniversary of Spring Drive, in addition to its functionality, we want to communicate the emotional value reflected in the very Japanese natural flow of the seconds hand. Our exhibition at Milan Design Week was one of the ways we chose to share this message. “The nature of time”, which is the theme we use to communicate on every platform, is a way to convey not only the functional aspect of Grand Seiko, but also the Japanese sensibility, and the uniquely Japanese beauty found in every Grand Seiko.

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