— At Baselworld, WorldTempus spoke to Seiko’s General Manager, Brand Promotion Department 1, about the brand’s new divers’ replica watches for sale, silicon components and smart watches.
When presenting the new Prospex models you stressed Seiko’s love of metal for regulating organ components and joked that the best use for silicon is in the watch strap. Do you think that silicon escapement parts are not good enough in a diver’s watch?
Our philosophy dates back to when the cheap replica watches was an instrument to tell the time and the main requirements of it were to be precise, durable and legible. These three elements are the most important elements for watches that are to be used practically. Nowadays the role of the watch has changed, partly because we introduced the quartz technology that is now found in many different objects (computers, car dashboards, machines etc.). So telling the time is now almost a minor function of the watch’s role. But we still think that the watches we produce should be of practical use at a very high level and Prospex is an expression of this idea.
When we make a precise mechanical watch we have to work with today’s high-end, cutting-edge production techniques to make components, because the traditional methods for cutting could not produce precise enough parts. We found out that UV-LIGA was one way of making very small components with precise measurements and a super-flat surface. Silicon can be produced to precise tolerances, is very flat and has the extra advantage of being very light. So a number of brands adopted it for their regulating organs. We did some experiments but we were not satisfied with silicon as it is now. It is not very resistant to shocks because it lacks a viscosity that is inherent in metal parts. We are open to any new developments and we don’t have any prejudice against silicon, it’s just that metal is the best solution for our watches in our opinion.
For Swiss brands, this year’s Baselworld has been the year of the smart watch. One could say that Seiko has legitimate grounds to launch such a watch. What are your thoughts on this?
I’m not ruling it out entirely. We have been listening and reading the information on the different new product launches. The thing is that before the Apple Watch was announced smart watches were not really taking off. I think everybody agrees that the Apple Watch will sell in millions. Apple manages to create demand where no demand ever existed before. Other brands such as Samsung were unable to do this. But if you take a step back and look at the product, it’s not much different to what is already available. The big question is what can Apple add to this? The first generation will automatically sell, because people will be interested. But what will happen with the second generation? It is very difficult to find the right position, right use, right function and right applications for smart watches.
Do you think there could be potential with the Astron, which already has the solar power and the GPS built in to the watch?
Observing other watchmakers like TAG Heuer, Breitling and Frédérique Constant, for example, you can see that they are not taking the same direction as Apple. They are adding very minor functions to a normal watch. I wonder whether this really adds value. We have to think very carefully. If we are going to come up with something then it needs to have a real use. The way we manage energy in the Astron is highly complex. It is geared to maximum energy generation and minimum energy consumption. If you add too many new functions then the balance could be lost. To make a piece practical, meaningful in function and still beautiful as a watch is very difficult.