Seiko stands at a crucial and exciting moment in its history. With Grand Seiko, which bears an extensive history since 1960, becoming an independent brand, and the parent brand Seiko, itself, carrying a legacy of more than 130 years, these are momentous times. Presenting Hours and Minutes Australia in conversation with the man who helms Seiko, President & COO & CMO, Shuji Takahashi.
The year 2017-2018 for Seiko…
As you know, in the watch industry, from the latter half of 2015 to 2016 we have been seeing negative growth. However, 2017 turned out to be a year of good steady growth. This was also the year when Grand Seiko turned independent as a brand. We are sensing a good response and the potential of Grand Seiko. I am also happy to say that both in the European market and the American market, we are seeing a rise in sales as well as in the number of stores.
Which collections are particularly popular?
Of course, the Grand Seiko has done extremely well. In terms of the other watches, the Seiko Prospex Divers watches and the Presage Cocktail series have also done very well. Our mechanical watches sold very well last year.
What is the focus for this year?
For the Grand Seiko, in 2018 you will see two major topics. Firstly, one of the main products, the 9S mechanical movement which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. There are two models with enhanced accuracy where this movement will be used. Another topic is the launch of a new calibre for the ladies – the first in 50 years. It will stay true to the Grand Seiko standard and the high accuracy that is required. It will also be apt for a women’s size wristwatch.
For the Seiko brand, Prospex will be a central driving force. We have two different anniversary models for the Prospex. This honours the first Japanese Hi-Beat Diver in 1968 and the first quartz saturation diver in 1978. As for the Presage, we have turned to the Shippo enamel work, which is a testimony to Japanese craftsmanship. It is really about being unique.
How does Seiko approach a new watch design, especially in the context of making it relevant to the DNA of the brand?
For any brand, I believe the most important thing is its unique quality and its own character. In the 130 years as a company, we have a rich heritage. When we look at the Japanese culture, it has been fostered over thousands of years. That gives us a rich historical background. What is Seiko’s DNA? It is the history and heritage as a company and the cultural heritage that we carry on. We think that in this digitalised world, especially in the luxury segment, we must show our DNA.
Every decade has specific technological challenges. Do you see a specific trend for the industry?
In the watch industry each company will tap into their strength to pursue technological developments. But, given recent trends I believe it is not so much about different complications, but it is more about technological enhancements and innovations. What many of us are trying to do is to improve the basic functionality of watches. We are always looking into this, especially in Grand Seiko. It is all about what goes into the substance. We want to offer the best functionality available. I think that the 8 day power reserve and the V.F.A. model are a testimony to this.
What does authenticity mean to Seiko in today’s scenario?
I think I would interpret it to be true reliability and trustworthiness which is important for any watchmaker. At Seiko when we think of authenticity, we do take pride in that we are a manufacture. We take pride in the fact that we offer the best quality and the watch must be enjoyed for a very long time which means we have to have good durability. We make sure we use the right materials for the right design. We have great integrity. Our products have a new line now – ‘Since 1881’, thus emphasizing on our history.
Your association with Athletics…
Seiko, being the Official Timekeeper for the sport, this is an important event for us. Since 1985, we have been Official timer for the World Athletic Championships. In our history, we’ve been standing next to athletes making history!
Seiko continues to combine quality, apt functionality and great design at a reasonable price point, even as it seeks to incorporate elements of its rich Japanese legacy in its timepieces.