Shinji Hattori, the great grandson founder Kintaro Hattori, has been the chairman of the board and Group CEO of Seiko Holdings Corporation since October 2012. Hattori also serves as CEO and president of Seiko Watch Corporation. WatchTime Middle East was the only publication from the region to interview Hattori during a recent trip to Japan. Here are the excerpts from our chat.
Grand Seiko has a cult following among watch connoisseurs, however, it still doesn’t have the mainstream appeal that a comparable Swiss luxury brand has. What is being done towards changing this perception?
As you mentioned, the brand awareness among general consumers outside Japan is not as high yet as we might like, but please remember that it has been available internationally for only six years. In this short time, we have steadily increased its distribution and its reputation. International sales are growing steadily as a result.
We are working in three ways to raise the awareness. First, we are expanding its distribution. We are steadily increasing the number of retail partners for Grand Seiko and are putting the brand in the most prominent positions in our boutiques. Distribution may not be the fastest way to increase brand awareness, but it is the best because our experience is that when people see, touch and feel a Grand Seiko, they really understand its quality and they understand the brand.
Second, we are creating events and campaigns that show Grand Seiko to a new, wider audience. For example, in each of the past two years, we worked with famous photographers. They created images that communicate the Grand Seiko story or they contributed some of their most iconic photographs to its limited edition. We will create similar activities in the future.
Third, we will give Grand Seiko more exposure in the media, both through advertising and through discussions with watch experts like you. Through these three actions, we will slowly raise the awareness and reputation of Grand Seiko. Grand Seiko is central to the future success of our company and I promise you that we will focus more energy and resources on telling the world about Grand Seiko in the coming years.
What has the response been the Credor Fugaku Tourbillon? Why did it take Seiko so long to produce a tourbillon considering the brand has such a high level of watchmaking competency?
The Credor Fugaku Tourbillon attracted a great deal of attention and admiration at Baselworld. I was delighted and very encouraged by this reception as it demonstrated that Seiko’s high watchmaking skills are appreciated around the world. It was our first tourbillon and perhaps it was a surprise for many to realize that we had not made one before. We have introduced Spring Drive Sonnerie and Minute Repeater but it was the first complication in traditional mechanical watches.
This year was good timing to launch this watch. Now, we are marketing high-grade mechanical watches worldwide in both Grand Seiko and Seiko. One example is Presage. It is a 100 per cent mechanical collection that we launched at Baselworld this year. Our intention is to introduce more mechanical watches than before, so it is good timing to have a flagship model like the Fugaku tourbillon to showcase our skills in mechanical watchmaking.
Furthermore, now we have a global network of 70 of our boutiques and these boutiques are the right places to introduce our unique watchmaking skills and craftsmanship. Fugaku tourbillon was created to be displayed in the leading boutiques. In addition to the movement, Seiko’s unique engraving method and Japanese traditional crafts compose this watch.
Why is there such a low focus on mechanical watches in the Middle East?
Our affordable price-range mechanicals such as Seiko 5 and 5 Sports have been well accepted in the Middle Eastern market for a long time, and the mechanical watch is definitely our most important category. However, our advertising has not been focused on these affordably priced mechanical watches. This may give you the perception that Seiko has not been focusing on mechanicals.
We try to raise the brand positioning of Seiko. We are expanding a network of our boutiques around the world. At our boutiques, we can explain our rich heritage, our technologies and the fact that Seiko is the only manufacture with every watchmaking expertise. The price range will be higher because it is here that we can offer watches that are unique with our own technologies. In terms of collections, we are focusing on the five Global Elite Collections. They are Grand Seiko, Astron, Prospex, Presage and Premier.
In the Middle Eastern market, we are going to try to expand the mechanical watches in Grand Seiko. However, considering the current sales proportion, our main focus is both Presage, which is mechanical, and Prospex, which includes many mechanical watches. We are trying to communicate more with our mechanical watches.