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It perplexes me that what Grand Seiko is now doing looks very Swiss, which is why I don't think it will work.
It feels as though they realized that the rut they'd been in for years was a dead-end, panicked, and instead of coming up with a new way to shift the market just looked over to see what the Swiss had been doing. It suggests a lack of confidence that doesn't bode well for Seiko's future.
 

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Discussion Starter · #242 ·
It feels as though they realized that the rut they'd been in for years was a dead-end, panicked, and instead of coming up with a new way to shift the market just looked over to see what the Swiss had been doing. It suggests a lack of confidence that doesn't bode well for Seiko's future.
I think it was Einstein who defined insanity as doing the same thing repeatedly yet expecting different results.

I always figured they were killing it in Japan and some other parts of Asia, and were just happy enough with whatever the rest of the world gave them in sales.

But even if that was right, if they want growth, it has to come from somewhere, and the US is a good market for getting it.

Maybe the Japanese don't see the mistakes the Swiss have made any more than the Swiss do.

I can't explain it.

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It feels as though they realized that the rut they'd been in for years was a dead-end, panicked, and instead of coming up with a new way to shift the market just looked over to see what the Swiss had been doing. It suggests a lack of confidence that doesn't bode well for Seiko's future.
I think it was Einstein who defined insanity as doing the same thing repeatedly yet expecting different results.

I always figured they were killing it in Japan and some other parts of Asia, and were just happy enough with whatever the rest of the world gave them in sales.

But even if that was right, if they want growth, it has to come from somewhere, and the US is a good market for getting it.

Maybe the Japanese don't see the mistakes the Swiss have made any more than the Swiss do.

I can't explain it.
Well, there's undoubtedly a bit of pride and envy behind it all, a sense of "We make watches that are as great or better than Rolex, so we should be able to charge Rolex prices."

But I think they underestimated what they might have done if they aggressively exploited the weak spots in the Swiss industry instead of trying to beat the Swiss at their own game. They're settling for a slice of a pie rather than going for the lion's share.
 

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Discussion Starter · #244 ·
Well, there's undoubtedly a bit of pride and envy behind it all, a sense of "We make watches that are as great or better than Rolex, so we should be able to charge Rolex prices."

But I think they underestimated what they might have done if they aggressively exploited the weak spots in the Swiss industry instead of trying to beat the Swiss at their own game. They're settling for a slice of a pie rather than going for the lion's share.
Agreed. Offering a better alternative to what the Swiss were selling is what got them to the dance.

Selling Grand Seiko as a prestige purchase in Japan makes sense. Selling GS as an alternative to Omega or Rolex in the USA doesn't, at least not to me, unless they're willing to spend decades, and who knows how much money marketing the way Omega and Rolex have.

Taking big bites out of the bottom section of the Swiss range has been a winning strategy for Seiko, for decades. They could keep doing it, and expand on it. I don't know who convinced them to pursue the luxury market in developed economies, or how they were convinced, but I'd love to hear the rationale.

I really admire Seiko's place in history. I'd love to see their actions lead to industry reform. I doubt it will, but I hope I'm wrong.
 

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My point with Orient earlier was just that-- people *think* of them being connected as they ultimately report to the same parent, but that's not how business works in Asia.

If Seiko stumbles in the market, Orient is as free as anyone to try to come in and take their lost market share. They're positioned better in some ways very well, since they're ready to go with mechanical watches.

Citizen *could* expand beyond what they're doing now in the <$500 range, but it looks like they're doing kinda sorta what Seiko is doing, except they're busy acquiring the Swiss rather than copying them...
 

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I miss the good old days of “disrupting the watch industry “ by cutting out the middleman.
Cue the graphic of easy to understand watch msrp pricing savings to the customer.


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By some margins, ditching the failing network of ADs is indeed cutting out the middleman.
 

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Discussion Starter · #248 ·
My point with Orient earlier was just that-- people *think* of them being connected as they ultimately report to the same parent, but that's not how business works in Asia.

If Seiko stumbles in the market, Orient is as free as anyone to try to come in and take their lost market share. They're positioned better in some ways very well, since they're ready to go with mechanical watches.

Citizen *could* expand beyond what they're doing now in the <$500 range, but it looks like they're doing kinda sorta what Seiko is doing, except they're busy acquiring the Swiss rather than copying them...
That's the thing, they don't report to the same parent. There is no parent. They're both separate, publicly traded companies. It's a misconception for people to think they're connected in any way.

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Orient is certainly poised to become the new affordable WIS darling as Seiko winds down or alters many of its more beloved offerings, especially if the SKX really does go away.

Orient has admittedly done some smart things in the past year or so to improve their lineup. They released their best-ever Bambino and the successor to the Mako/Ray that is coming to the US market this year is one of the most attractive contemporary watches they've released to date and is sure to be a hit:

Watch Analog watch Watch accessory Fashion accessory Jewellery

But I don't know that Orient has the will or resources to aggressively go after market share. Orient certainly hasn't indicated as much so far; they seem very content to continue along the trajectory they've set for themselves. Unlike Seiko, though, its US arm is aware that e-commerce and social media is a thing, so that's something, and Orient is still small enough to be nimble and respond to shifting demand.

Provided Swatch's machinations in 2020 don't bring about a dearth of affordable movements, it looks like the microbrands still have the run of the "affordable" space, at least as far as WIS-friendly automatics are concerned.
 

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After more useless thoughts this morning, I think what bothers people about some of Seiko moving upmarket is a four-point problem, where people get stuck on the first issue and that's the least important by far.

1.) The assume that by going up-market, the affordable products will be abandoned. People are up in arms about this, but there's no evidence yet that this will happen. Yet.

2.) Seiko is moving against the market, but may not have the power to *move* the market. If they decide their mid-to-nice stuff should be in the $1k (presage) to $10k (GS) range, their current competitors are unlikely to do the same thing. If joe consumer bought a $200 Seiko a few years ago and when he went back to buy another watch and finds similar stuff is now going for >$500 in the Prospex line? He's probably more likely to buy a Citizen or Bulova or whatever than pay the markup.

3.) The price ceiling for a lot of customers, for non-luxury brands, is going to be set against smart devices. The risk here is that if Seiko stuff isn't perceived as sufficiently "luxury", and that's a hard image change to make among some consumers" then as time goes on, they really can't afford to have mediocre product that costs more than an Apple Watch etc.

4.) And probably the one most likely to p**s off enthusiast watch buyers: I don't see Seiko making the investments to justify the cost in most cases. You can point to Urushi dials and Zaratsu polished cases moving into the mainstream, but there are plenty of counter examples where Seiko is using 4R36es in price categories where competitors have 28,800 bph movements and the Grand Seikos of today and tomorrow are nice-and-all, but trying to sell them for $7-10k is rough when they're not adding anything *more.* Yeah, spring drive is cool, their quartz is about as good as it gets and GS automatics are top notch, but if you can get that today for say $4k, why pay $8k for the same thing in a few years? I don't think Seiko will be prepared to have a good answer that doesn't involve celebrity ambassadors and Instagram influencers...
 

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That's the thing, they don't report to the same parent. There is no parent. They're both separate, publicly traded companies. It's a misconception for people to think they're connected in any way.

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Japan is weird in many delightful ways, and they are both publicly traded companies that are in competition with each other and both part of Seiko-Epson group.

This just isn't as big of a deal in large Asian conglomerates and the way Westerners think is that big company buys small company to "increase synergy" by shutting down all the redundant departments and combine them under the same umbrella and marketing and then cooperate on product lines to be sure they make stuff as cheaply as possible and don't cannibalize each other's business. That's NOT the relationship here. That the Mako *happens* to slot into a market niche that's slightly different from the SXK007 (for example) is not an intentional way to make sure one company or the other captures a customer who might prefer one or the other. That decision is just how Orient wants to market their product. It wasn't 'directed from on high.' As you say, there's no 'there' there. The ownership ties don't imply managerial input.
 

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1.) The assume that by going up-market, the affordable products will be abandoned. People are up in arms about this, but there's no evidence yet that this will happen. Yet.
I don't think they're going to be immediately abandoned, but I think they'll be maintained without substantial reinvestment. Seiko's stated expectation is that demand will continue to shrink due to the collapse of department store retailers, the rise of smart watches, and the popularity of fashion brands like Daniel Wellington that operate in the same segment.

That said, I suspect WISes will still be able to find nifty affordables. The border between JDM and the American market is very permeable thanks to e-commerce.

The price ceiling for a lot of customers, for non-luxury brands, is going to be set against smart devices. The risk here is that if Seiko stuff isn't perceived as sufficiently "luxury", and that's a hard image change to make among some consumers" then as time goes on, they really can't afford to have mediocre product that costs more than an Apple Watch etc.
Yeah. The gamble here, I guess, is that promoting Grand Seiko as ultra-luxury will raise the profile of Seiko overall. I think you could potentially thread the needle on that, but it's a strategy that's likely the fail unless you know how to really influence popular Western perception.

I see no evidence that the Japanese really know how to speak to American consumers in a language they understand, and I'm extremely skeptical that hiring a former Omega exec will help matters, since I don't think the Swiss know how to speak to American consumers in a language they understand.

And probably the one most likely to p**s off enthusiast watch buyers: I don't see Seiko making the investments to justify the cost in most cases. You can point to Urushi dials and Zaratsu polished cases moving into the mainstream, but there are plenty of counter examples where Seiko is using 4R36es in price categories where competitors have 28,800 bph movements and the Grand Seikos of today and tomorrow are nice-and-all, but trying to sell them for $7-10k is rough when they're not adding anything *more.* Yeah, spring drive is cool, their quartz is about as good as it gets and GS automatics are top notch, but if you can get that today for say $4k, why pay $8k for the same thing in a few years? I don't think Seiko will be prepared to have a good answer that doesn't involve celebrity ambassadors and Instagram influencers...
Yeah. Following on my reply to Chris above... what made Grand Seiko so wonderful to WIS-types was that it offered such superb craft at non-Swiss prices, essentially revealing the lie behind Swiss "prestige." By pricing Grand Seiko at the Rolex tier, they lose that compelling sales hook and now just have to fight as one of many luxury brands fighting it out in the shadow of Rolex, and on top of that, they're fighting against all the baggage associated with the Seiko brand.

In a market where Omega's pricing has actually gone down--the SMP is now being sold at around the $5000 mark--are you really going to be able to convince American consumers that Grand Seiko is a substantially superior product to Omega? That's a very tough sell.
 

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4.) And probably the one most likely to p**s off enthusiast watch buyers: I don't see Seiko making the investments to justify the cost in most cases. You can point to Urushi dials and Zaratsu polished cases moving into the mainstream, but there are plenty of counter examples where Seiko is using 4R36es in price categories where competitors have 28,800 bph movements and the Grand Seikos of today and tomorrow are nice-and-all, but trying to sell them for $7-10k is rough when they're not adding anything *more.* Yeah, spring drive is cool, their quartz is about as good as it gets and GS automatics are top notch, but if you can get that today for say $4k, why pay $8k for the same thing in a few years? I don't think Seiko will be prepared to have a good answer that doesn't involve celebrity ambassadors and Instagram influencers...
This is what gets me. I used to own a 4r36 equipped Seiko "Presage." I put that in quotes because I'm told it was called a "Presage" even though the model number was SRP and not SAR or whatever the newest ones are. Anyway, it was clearly meant to compete against entry-level Swiss automatics. It cost only slightly more than my old Tissot Le Locle. But, given their roughly comparable prices, the Seiko was vastly overpriced. A 3 beat movement vs. a 4 beat movement. Accuracy was something like -30 seconds a day. Within spec, but my Tissot with the standard 2824 was running close to chronometer spec. The bracelet was light, rattly and felt like it was poor quality. The hour markers were on the dial with a piece containing the minute and sub-seconds markers attached on top of that. This piece with the minutes/sub-seconds was visibly mis-aligned. The perennial Seiko problem. I was never sure if handwinding the movement worked or not. At least, it didn't seem to get the movement started after it wound down. The Tissot was an objectively better watch in every way and, at the time, slightly cheaper.

It left me wondering just what Seiko was thinking. Compete with the Swiss just by charging as much as them for an inferior product? Count me out. Now it seems like the 4r is permeating their entire range. Okay, maybe it is still better than the 7s. But so much better that their watches seem to have jumped in price, suggesting that the 4r is a serious competitor to the 2824? No.

And then of course ETA rolls out the Powermatic 80, raises the prices, and the 2824 starts disappearing from their product range. Then they introduce the "Swissmatic" as the less expensive cousin of the Powermatic 80. I'm not interested in a glorified Sistem 21 movement, nor do I want to shell out Powermatic 80 prices.

Still, I guess that's how things go. C'est la vie. I certainly have no control over the market, but I do have control over my wallet.
 

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Yeah don't get me wrong, I like the 4R. I own three of them. That said, they're not a 'pretty' movement with lots of decoration and while I find them accurate, they're not 4 bps nor rated for extremely high accuracy. That's all well and good, but I think the most I paid for a 4R was still <$250.

I'd obviously pay $200-250 for a 4R36 because I have paid that already, but that tolerance isn't infinite *as long as there are competitors in the market.* I might pay $300 or $350 depending on the whole package, but at some point the competitors are going to look like better options.
 

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Personally, I'm not especially concerned with movement accuracy or ornamentation (I'll gladly take a hit to both if it means the movement is more durable overall), and I really like my Presage Cocktail Manhattan (which I got for well under $250 new). But I do care about the overall build quality of the watch and the design, and I'm not sure that even on that score, Presage does all that well against the Swiss stuff you can get for the same price, especially once you climb up to the $700-800 price point that some of the models are sitting at.
 

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Yeah don't get me wrong, I like the 4R. I own three of them. That said, they're not a 'pretty' movement with lots of decoration and while I find them accurate, they're not 4 bps nor rated for extremely high accuracy. That's all well and good, but I think the most I paid for a 4R was still <$250.

I'd obviously pay $200-250 for a 4R36 because I have paid that already, but that tolerance isn't infinite *as long as there are competitors in the market.* I might pay $300 or $350 depending on the whole package, but at some point the competitors are going to look like better options.
Exactly. At half the price, my Seiko "Presage" would not have elicited such strong criticism from me. And, where I am, the new Turtles are even more expensive but with the same movement. I like the Turtles (no idea if they would fit on my wrist), but I just can't justify the price to myself.
 

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Discussion Starter · #257 ·
Japan is weird in many delightful ways, and they are both publicly traded companies that are in competition with each other and both part of Seiko-Epson group.

This just isn't as big of a deal in large Asian conglomerates and the way Westerners think is that big company buys small company to "increase synergy" by shutting down all the redundant departments and combine them under the same umbrella and marketing and then cooperate on product lines to be sure they make stuff as cheaply as possible and don't cannibalize each other's business. That's NOT the relationship here. That the Mako *happens* to slot into a market niche that's slightly different from the SXK007 (for example) is not an intentional way to make sure one company or the other captures a customer who might prefer one or the other. That decision is just how Orient wants to market their product. It wasn't 'directed from on high.' As you say, there's no 'there' there. The ownership ties don't imply managerial input.
Forgive my OCD making me occasionally pedantic. The "Seiko owns Orient" thing makes my eye twitch whenever I see it, like someone putting ketchup on steak.
 
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Discussion Starter · #258 ·
Regarding what Seiko is or isn't doing to justify their moves...

I met a VP at the Seiko booth in Hong Kong last year, who hinted that they were working on a calibre to compete with the 9015, possibly replace the NE15 (6r15).

I don't know if this is it, and it's not like Seiko sends me a weekly update email, but someone recently showed me this:

Product Watch Font Fashion accessory Stopwatch

That's the caliber in the SARA015, which retails for $2300, a price tag which probably isn't very well justified, but makes sense to me within the context of what I think of as "Seiko-world".

Only as long as I've been paying attention, I've noticed Seiko has a pattern of keeping certain movements out of their wholesale supply channel, and using them exclusively in their higher-priced JDM offerings, then, later, making the movements available, and always at a wholesale cost which enables remarkably lower retail prices on the watches which use them.

As an example, the NE88, when it was only used in Seikos, resulted in Ananta chronos with retail prices between $3000 and $5000, but now can be found in watches around the $1000-$1500 price points.

If that pattern holds with the 6L35, that could be the movement to bridge the gap between the NH3x series and Seiko's higher end stuff, with retail prices in the $400-$1000 range.

What strikes me is the beat rate and thinness, plus the PR (45 hours). On paper, it edges out the 9015, and if it performs as well or better, at a comparable price, then it's a winner, hands down.
 
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Orient is certainly poised to become the new affordable WIS darling as Seiko winds down or alters many of its more beloved offerings, especially if the SKX really does go away.

Orient has admittedly done some smart things in the past year or so to improve their lineup. They released their best-ever Bambino and the successor to the Mako/Ray that is coming to the US market this year is one of the most attractive contemporary watches they've released to date and is sure to be a hit:

View attachment 13812973

But I don't know that Orient has the will or resources to aggressively go after market share. Orient certainly hasn't indicated as much so far; they seem very content to continue along the trajectory they've set for themselves. Unlike Seiko, though, its US arm is aware that e-commerce and social media is a thing, so that's something, and Orient is still small enough to be nimble and respond to shifting demand.

Provided Swatch's machinations in 2020 don't bring about a dearth of affordable movements, it looks like the microbrands still have the run of the "affordable" space, at least as far as WIS-friendly automatics are concerned.
I was thinking something along these lines reading through this thread last night. The more I learn about and the more I try out both companies, the more I find I prefer Orient. For me, as a fairly new watch nerd collecting affordables, the only thing Seiko has on Orient is variety. With that being said, I suppose it could be argued that Seiko has a bit too much of that anyway.
 

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This is what gets me. I used to own a 4r36 equipped Seiko "Presage." I put that in quotes because I'm told it was called a "Presage" even though the model number was SRP and not SAR or whatever the newest ones are. Anyway, it was clearly meant to compete against entry-level Swiss automatics. It cost only slightly more than my old Tissot Le Locle. But, given their roughly comparable prices, the Seiko was vastly overpriced. A 3 beat movement vs. a 4 beat movement. Accuracy was something like -30 seconds a day. Within spec, but my Tissot with the standard 2824 was running close to chronometer spec. The bracelet was light, rattly and felt like it was poor quality. The hour markers were on the dial with a piece containing the minute and sub-seconds markers attached on top of that. This piece with the minutes/sub-seconds was visibly mis-aligned. The perennial Seiko problem. I was never sure if handwinding the movement worked or not. At least, it didn't seem to get the movement started after it wound down. The Tissot was an objectively better watch in every way and, at the time, slightly cheaper.

It left me wondering just what Seiko was thinking. Compete with the Swiss just by charging as much as them for an inferior product? Count me out. Now it seems like the 4r is permeating their entire range. Okay, maybe it is still better than the 7s. But so much better that their watches seem to have jumped in price, suggesting that the 4r is a serious competitor to the 2824? No.

And then of course ETA rolls out the Powermatic 80, raises the prices, and the 2824 starts disappearing from their product range. Then they introduce the "Swissmatic" as the less expensive cousin of the Powermatic 80. I'm not interested in a glorified Sistem 21 movement, nor do I want to shell out Powermatic 80 prices.

Still, I guess that's how things go. C'est la vie. I certainly have no control over the market, but I do have control over my wallet.
You hit the nail on the head. The issue isn't only Seiko doing it, it's Swatch doing it first, then Seiko following their lead, instead of occupying the space vacated. I can't imagine Seiko being in cahoots with Swatch, so for them to both make the same move independently is revealing.
What it says to me is whether we like it or not, decent mechanical watches are now a luxury item, and both Swatch and Seiko foresee that in the future the only people buying these will be the upper classes.

Watches are basically going the same path as healthcare.
 
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