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Horobox Special: Interview with Robert Wilson of Seiko

Burak BAYRAM

Our Baselworld 2016 continue with Robert Wilson from one of the biggest far eastern watch manufacturing companies Seiko.

BB: Welcome to Horobox Mr. Wilson..

RW: Thank you..

BB: How do you arrange the distribution of your products through different regions..? How do you decide which product line will perform best at a certain region..?

RW: Well, considering our head quarters are located in Japan, yes we do have divisions for different regions. Turkey is covered in Europe and the definition of Europe for us is pretty broad covering all the countries you would imagine. It is amazing to me that the average price of Seiko in Turkey is significantly higher than many much richer countries you might think of. That’s  not because our prices are higher in Turkey, it’s because Turkish people appreciate great watch making and they do like to explore the higher range Seiko products. Therefore Turkey is a very European market to me in several ways.

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BB: You have a very wide price range for your products. Can you tell us about the advantages and disadvantages of this situation..?

RW: The advantage here is not actually about the range but it’s about having the ability to produce every type of watch and to manufacture every type of component in every kind of watch. We can offer a very wide price range but not as a marketing function of an idea, it’s because we have this extraordinarily  rich manufacturing tradition and resources. The advantage here is being a good enough watch company to be able to offer a wide range of products.

There are of course disadvantages.. When we launch the Astron, many people thought it was going to be extremely difficult to sell an electronic movement Seiko at 2000 EUR. We smiled politely and carried on. Now we are doing it with an enormous success. At every level in Seiko if it’s a 150EUR quartz watch or whether it’s a 2000EUR Astron, Seiko offers an ‘’honest’’ value.. A real, tangible, practical value.. Yes, you might think it’s difficult to have such a wide price range from a marketing point but there is a common thread runs through all of them which is this honest value and as long as we stay true to that ideal that wide price range will continue.

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BB: There is a growing trend in the market nowadays which we might call ‘’Re-Issue Models’’. We have seen some very nice examples from Seiko and we wonder if we will see any others in the near future..?

RW: We enjoy making watches that look back to some aspects of the past of Seiko and we do that for a very clear reason which is most people today don’t know that Seiko is a 135 years old company with a very rich heritage. It’s also true that in one particular area as lots of people talk about the new versions of our very classic diver’s watches or other models.

BB: The Spring Drive was a revolutionary design for the watch industry. Do you have plans in terms of improving the Spring Drive..?

RW: Spring Drive is a growing proportion of our company’s sales. Spring Drive is now reserved for Grand Seiko as you know so when I talk about our sales I mean Grand Seiko sales and it’s wonderful for us to see Spring Drive in Grand Seiko is having a kind of breakthrough. Will we make other versions of Spring Drive movements..? Absolutely.. As you know we have a Spring Drive chronograph as well and we present a higher accuracy version here in Baselworld 2016. In the Credor brand we use Spring Drive as the base movement for Sonnerie, Minute Repeater and 8 Days Power Reserve models. Spring Drive is not a movement, it’s a platform.. We already have several different calibers and I am certain that in the long term future we will bring more.

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BB: What do you think about smart/connected watches..? Will Seiko launch any new product in this group..?

RW: It would be natural for any observer of the watch business to think of all the companies who might bring out a smart watch, Seiko be number one because everybody knows about the capabilities we have in that kind of area. It’s also true to say that in our group, we already have some products those are very close to what people are now considering to be smart watches. However, they don’t have the Seiko name, they have the Epson name. The reason for that is our president Mr.Hattori imagines Seiko as a traditional watchmaker by which he does not mean that we are only interested in manufacturing mechanical watches, he means that a traditional watch stands alone.. It doesn’t require any outside energy input. We would be thrilled to make any kind of watch, let’s take Astron as an example, delivers amazing functionality talking to satellites etc. so, as long as we can do it with a power source that does not require an external input, we will do it.

BB: What is your favorite Seiko..?

RW: That’s such an easy question for met o answer.. When I first was aware of Grand Seiko like ten or fifteen years ago I wanted to have some of it’s beautiful products and then when Spring Drive was put on to the market, I thought that was the most spectacular movement, mechanical watch perfected.. Grand Seiko and Spring Drive belong together.. As soon as I saw this watch (Hi Beat GMT SBGJ013G ) I was sold immediately. Since I own this watch, I can’t wear anything else honestly.. It’s a wonderful watch to wear, it’s supremely accurate and very comfortable. 

BB: Thank you very much for granting us this opportunity Mr.Wilson.. Hope to see you in Turkey too..

RW: Thank you very much..

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