What the interview with the Seiko president could mean for the brand’s future What the interview with the Seiko president could mean for the brand’s future

What the interview with the Seiko president could mean for the brand’s future

Ricardo Sime

In many ways, the goings-on of a watch brand are heavily guarded secrets to us collectors. Yes, we can guesstimate what is happening behind those large manufacture doors but, really, we have no clue. That is, of course, until someone spills the beans. Maybe it’s someone from public relations or a Powerpoint presentation leaked from employee trainings. We’ll happily take whatever we can. What we’d rarely expect is for the disclosure to come from the president of the company. Yet, that’s exactly what we got from the Financial Times interview with Akio Naito, president of Seiko Watch Corporation. Let’s take a look at what he said.

Seiko Building
Morioka Seiko Instruments Inc. Factory ( Shizukuishi Town, Iwate Prefecture, Japan)

Firstly, the article provided some eye-opening revelations. The fact that Seiko watches went from 70% of sales coming from exports to just 42% of sales, over the last 40 years, may be a cause for concern. With Seiko being such a large watch brand, they would want to diversify their portfolio of buyers. Furthermore, with the pandemic and the lockdowns in Japan, a large dependency on domestic sales all of a sudden becomes a risky business proposition. It has led to Seiko finding themselves still recovering, when other brands have already passed that phase.

Secondly, Mr. Naito’s perception of the brand reflects something many of it’s fans have worried about for some time now. “‘Everything for everybody’ ended up being ‘everything for nobody’,” he said. “That has to be changed.” With hundreds of references out there, and multiple headlining collections, it’s hard at times to answer what it is the brand is currently best known for. Mr. Naito believes Seiko “have to go back to our origins and clearly define who we are and communicate that”.

55th Anniversary
Seiko Prospex SLA043

Now, instead of sitting here and continuing to hark on what Mr. Naito said, I want to look forward. What does all this means? Or better yet, what do Seiko fans hope it all means? The references to their past has many predicting more reissues. The Seiko “Pogue” 6139 is definitely something fans have been wanting for years. Though the brand hasn’t answered calls for a Pogue, Seiko hasn’t been cheap with reissues. There was the reasonably priced SPB143 and its limited, more expensive brother, the SLA043. Both watches scratched that 62MAS itch. And for those fans of Apocalypse Now, there was the SBDC109, the “Captain Willard”. Yet, even with these reissues, Seiko still finds themselves in the position they’re in. Which begs the question, will more reissues help?

Seiko Prospex LX
Seiko Prospex LX SNR045

Another area fans feel the brand needs to address is how the line between Seiko and Grand Seiko can get blurred at times. With some Seiko models floating in the $4000-6000 dollar range, collectors start asking themselves where are the differences? Especially when what many would consider Grand Seiko exclusive tech, like Spring Drive, is now found in Seiko-branded watches like the SNR033 or the SNR045. This all leads to that lack of identity referenced to by Mr. Naito. As a man who spent years running Grand Seiko US, building it up to the level of luxury it’s known for today, this lack of division between the brands helps no one.

Grand Seiko SoHo Boutique, New York

In conclusion, the greatest takeaway from Mr. Naito’s comments and probably the number one hope of Seiko fans, has now been addressed. It’s the fact that the brand acknowledges that there are issues. Yes, Mr. Naito’s comments could simply be the result of a changing of the guard, with a newcomer trying to shake things up ( Mr. Naito became president of Seiko Watch Corporation only earlier this year). But it still gives fans hope. Because for many of us, this is the company that made the first watch we ever owned or the watch a parent wore on a daily basis. Such memories are rarely forgotten and represent a huge part of what Seiko is. By building on this relationship and perhaps streamlining their offerings, Seiko Watch Corporation can bring their watch brands to new heights.