t’s on visiting the museum dedicated to Casio in the house of its founder Toshio Kashio (1917-2012) in Tokyo that you take full stock of the exceptional technological adventure that the brand represents.
In a small room, the years are ticked off innovation by innovation, from the introduction of the first watch, the Casiotron in 1974, by a brand whose first product was a cigarette-holder and which then moved into calculators. At Casio watches have quite simply been combined with just about everything: computers, radios, cameras, altimeters, televisions, GPS, music and even a radiation detector!
Toshio Kashio’s philosophy can be summed up in a single phrase: he believed in the infinite possibilities of technology, which is capable of performances far superior to those of the human brain. And what is timekeeping if not the addition of figures – and mastery of the infinite!
Today, the brand is headed by his heir, Kazuhiro Kashio, and technology still takes centre stage, notably with the introduction of Bluetooth into an increasing number of its lines. This is what the brand defines as the ‘Advanced Global Time System’, which enables the time of smart watches connected to smart phones to be set automatically. Alright, they have fewer features than a ‘traditional’ smart watch, but the brand intends by this means to retain the unique identity of its watches. The watchwords are: self-adjusting, self-charging and self-updating.
But behind this strategy is a nagging question: how to convince fans of G-Shock, the brand’s icon, to continue wearing a Casio as they mature? After all, this watch is 35 years old – which means that its first buyers are today 50+, or older! The brand has experienced two golden ages in its watchmaking history: the success of G-Shock, which peaked between 1995 and 2000, and more recently a strong increase in sales over the last couple of years through what it calls a strategy of ‘analogue intelligence’ – the development of hands to the detriment of digital screens. The next step is the development of new metals.
“The challenge is now to reach out also to more mature audiences. Previously we had mainly the younger generations, now we evolve with MR-G and G-Steel to satisfy all generations,” summarises Shigenori Itoh, Senior Executive Managing Officer. These premium collections in steel which Casio is currently pushing hard are intended to round out the brand’s collection and cover as efficiently as possible a price range that today extends from 90 to more than 6,000 dollars. These prices now put it on a level with models offered by Rolex and Omega. Who would ever have imagined that?
“You know, 20 years ago, no one said it was possible to make a chronograph G-Shock… then we launched the solar-powered chronograph G-Shock.”
Shigenori Itoh is upbeat: “Japanese culture and arts are attractive for people all around the world and we have already been using it with the kasumi tsuchime technique in the MR-G line. We will continue the fusion of our state-of-the art technology and Japanese craftsmanship. We will continue to increase the value, technology, material and craftsmanship of our watches.” Yet one massive obstacle looms on the roadmap set out by Casio: today, ‘premium’ is virtually synonymous with ‘mechanical’.
Mr Itoh flinches not an inch at this: “You know, 20 years ago, no one said it was possible to make a chronograph G-Shock… then we launched the solar-powered chronograph G-Shock. So we achieve what we plan and our dreams! And eventually – I cannot tell you a time frame – Casio might also plan on launching its own mechanical production.” Today, the brand achieves one-third of its sales in Japan, slightly more than a third in the rest of Asia and slightly less than a third in Europe and North America. It is in these two regions in particular that Casio aims to expand with this new strategy – in solid steel.