CEO Speak – Tetsuji Ishimaru

CEO Speak – Tetsuji Ishimaru

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In a tête-à-tête with Mitrajit Bhattacharya, Tetsuji Ishimaru, MD, Seiko Watch India Pvt. Ltd., says the brand believes in simplicity and functionality

What interesting concepts have you been involved with in the past?
In the past, we took a design that was called the standard. Each designer interprets what he considers to be the standard design. Some came up with very basic designs, while some came up with very interesting designs. The standard design defines the DNA of the brand.

What were the interesting lessons from that?
The interesting learning is that there is not one standard. There are many standards. It depends on how you interpret the standard. Seiko has generated its own basic design – a standard design. This could be a signature design. Even though it may be a simple design, it is not easy to do and a lot of thought goes into it. It may not be a Patek Philippe Calatrava but nobody can duplicate the design.

Were your designers more creative?
Yes, that is the whole purpose of it. It is not something we make to show the outside world. The most important thing is to give the designers an opportunity to think by themselves.

You have been launching new boutiques. Will these new boutiques be largely owned by Seiko or will they be a joint venture with retailers?
Because of the latest FDI policy and regulations we cannot do it ourselves. We have to work with retailers who understand Seiko, can provide us prime locations, customer service and have knowledge of the products. We are looking at two boutiques each in Mumbai and Delhi. We are also looking at launching in Bangalore, Chennai, Kolkata, Ahmedabad and Hyderabad.

Would you get Credor and Grand Seiko to India?
We would be getting Grand Seiko and Ananta. You need extremely skilled artisans to make these watches. There are just a handful of them. When Seiko decides to launch top-end watches in the world market, it should be able to fulfill the worldwide demand.

Is it a production-related issue or a brand-related issue?
It is both. Production-related issue to a greater extent because till a year back we had only nine people who could make these watches. Now we have around 20 in the Shiojiri factory. In Morioka we have trained some more and have started an institute for training people from outside Seiko too.

Though your products are much superior to other competing brands, you hardly talk about them. For instance, your Sonnerie is a world-class product, but when there is a talk about the best five Sonnerie, we normally do not hear about the Credor Sonnerie, which is such a brilliant watch. These are products that we would like to see more of in the world market.
There are many people in India, including retailers, who associate Seiko as a mid-priced, good quality watch. In order to convince retailers to open Seiko boutiques with this type of price range, they need to understand that Seiko can offer not only at mid-price but at all levels.

What would the pricing be in the Indian market?
For Ananta, the starting price would be around one lakh and would go up to 4.5 lakhs, but the Spring Drive models would be starting at around 2 to 2.5 lakhs and would go up to 4.5 lakhs.

Can you elaborate on Power Design?
Power Design was conceived about 12 years ago. We have about 30 to 40 inhouse designers. Sometimes, we work with outside designers as well. Everyday, you have to tell the designers to design something that will sell. However, we also have to create our own identity in design. Power Design is the ideal platform where we give them a certain theme and give them the freedom to do anything. Every year there is a different theme. This year it is the commemorative Quartz Astron, while last year it was the City of Tokyo.

How would you sum up the design philosophy of Seiko?
It is basically a simplistic design. Simplistic, functional, easy to understand, but it still has to appeal to you. Brand Seiko is the ultimate expression of design. It is very simple but very strong and easy to read as well as it lasts longer. That is the basic concept behind a Seiko design.