For the first time, Grand Seiko was at Watches & Wonders, and rest assured, they left a lasting impression. We spoke with Niladri Mazumdar, the president and COO of Seiko Watch India Pvt Ltd. at Watches & Wonders 2022 in Geneva, who is ever-so elated to be there. Taking us through the brand’s experience and future plans, he, along with marketing head Rajesh Patel discuss the Maison’s global standing and how it has established itself among its competitors, especially Rolex. At the outset, he affirms, “Grand Seiko is privileged to be part of this entire group of luxury watchmakers across the world which are being showcased at Watches & Wonders. This is, of course, our first year of this event and it’s been really good.”
Basking in global glory
Grand Seiko has a history spanning 60 years, but its global dominance is only 12 years young. Still, their growth over the decade has been nothing but surprising—and rather inspiring—to Mazumder. He exclaims, “This level of success was unprecedented. We are very happy with the response by consumers and viewers, whether it’s internationally or in India.” In fact, during Covid-19, the brand was able to keep their head above water as, even though “a lot of people couldn’t travel”, they continued to buy luxury watches in their home country. He adds, “We’ve created a lot of aspirational value for this brand, and watch connoisseurs swear by it.”
For the most part, Mazumder credits the Grand Seiko’s success to its customers. He divulges, “[They] teach us about the nuances of a variety of our models, which amazes us. They are so knowledgeable. They know everything about the product. They’re passionate about it.” He believes that the watchmaker has reached this stage because of their passionate fans across the world.
On comparison with Rolex
He knows this grand following has resulted in the brand’s success; after all, the testimony is online, open for all to see. “I keep telling my retailers and whoever asked me about Grand Seiko saying, do not take my spiel on this. Just go out and type some two or three words like Grand Seiko comparison and check out the YouTube videos. You’ll find 1,000 videos comparing us to just one more brand, which is Rolex,” he notes. For him, this is an honour given Rolex’s popularity and long history.
While browsing articles online, he found some that compared Grand Seiko’s diver’s watch to the Rolex Submariner. While the former is priced at US$11,600, the latter costs US$10,800.
Mazumder confides, “That gives you an idea how confident we are about our product. They have compared it with the Rolex, the new Omega Seamaster and the like.” That shows you where Grand Seiko is positioned.
Catering to the Indian consumer
Currently, Grand Seiko watches are sold from the maison’s boutiques and seven multi-brand outlets, mainly belonging to the Ethos Summit stores. He expounds, “We have Kamal Watch in Hyderabad, we have City Pandora in Pune. And, of course, we have our Grand Seiko Watch boutiques. Other than that, every luxury retailer wants to have Grand Seiko in their portfolio, which is a change from the past.”
That said, Mazumder admits that Grand Seiko is still not huge in India, even though they are expanding quickly. Of their existing markets, China and the U.S. are some of the biggest. In fact, he tells us, “In Europe and the U.S., we had to start different companies because the volume had become so big.” Selling Grand Seiko demands different kinds of sensibilities, he admits. “You can’t have everything for everyone. And when you’re not everything for everyone, for luxury, then you need that luxury mentality to sell. You have to be living that life. You have to be appreciating the best in all products. You have to understand the finesse of these products, what makes them so distinct and why do they command such great prices and why are consumers willing to pay for them for that matter?” he details. And to achieve that, they have a team in India who has shown positive results.
What sets Grand Seiko apart
Grand Seiko is all about embodying Japanese sentiments, be it aesthetics, technology, art or culture. Though Europe has been a harbinger in the watch world; with Grand Seiko, Japan has cemented its space in the luxury watch world, claims Mazumder.
As for production, he confesses, “I cannot give you the numbers, but suffice it to say that we can’t keep up.” In fact, there is already a production demand and supply difference, something he experienced personally. He points to the White Birch timepiece on his wrist, winner of Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève’s (GPHG) men’s watch of the year in 2021. “This is the White Birch, which was the best watch at the GPHG last year in November, which is basically the Oscars of the watch industry.” Despite being the company’s president, Mazumder only got his hands on this timepiece in the third round. “I kept saying please give me the watch, please. He (Rajesh Patel, the marketing head) said no, I already have consumers who booked this watch, they come first. You don’t get it.” And so, he sheepishly put his name down as a customer and got the watch in the third round. Evidently, Grand Seiko makes no bias when it comes to the sale of their watches.
The new consumer’s guide to Grand Seiko
As the average watch aficionado, what should your first Grand Seiko be? Rajesh Patel, marketing head at Seiko, affirms, “It has to be the Spring Drive.” Exclusive to Grand Seiko, it is sure to become a prized possession in your collection. He encourages you to buy it “simply for the fascination and marvel of the movement, the way it is designed and the accuracy of the spring drive watch”. Plus, he shares, “Spring Drive today is affordable, being priced at INR 4,50,000 and going up till 30 lakhs currently in our Indian portfolio.” And their second renowned calibre, the hi-beat mechanical, starts at INR 3,90,000 and goes up to INR 24,50,000.
Plans of expanding in India
Patel shares, “One of our key brand-building aspects is creating two statement boutiques for Grand Seiko. We’re looking at the two biggest cities in India, which are Bombay and Delhi.” And they are aiming for the most iconic locations. However, it’s not so simple. Though they are ready to start a boutique, finding a right location has been challenging. “Unless I get the best location, I’m not going to go for it,” claims Mazumder. He credits that to the fact that Grand Seiko’s boutiques around the world are located in some of the most renowned locations: Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles, Knightsbridge in London, Victoria Harbor in Sydney and so on. He divulges, “Sadly, we don’t have a Rodeo Drive in Mumbai. And so, we will have to create our own Rodeo Drive!”
Patel affirms that the brand is ready to expand and create these boutiques. It’s not only what the consumers want, but also Mazumder’s goal; after all, that’s his path to securing the Kodo tourbillon timepiece—priced at INR 3.5 crores—for himself and the Indian audience.
A peak at Mazumder’s personal favourite: the Diver’s watch
A part of the watchmaker’s Evolution 9 collection, the 200 m titanium diver’s watch inspired by Japan’s Black Stream is Mazumder’s top pick from Grand Seiko’s Watches & Wonders 2022 releases. “The dial is inspired by the ripples or the current waves in the Japan sea at night,” he says. He points out that this timepiece has been compared with the Black Rolex submariner, Blancpain Fifty Fathoms and Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean Ultra Deep. As for whether this timepiece will sell at a premium, they can’t say. After all, premium does not equal luxury anymore. It’s all about the demand. Speaking of demand, for avid fans, Mazumder reveals that there will be a second edition of the famous Seiko 5 Brian May collection coming out soon, priced at INR 60,000. So, keep your eyes peeled.
Finally, Mazumder admits, “If the world is comparing us with one of the best brands in the world, I think Grand Seiko is here to stay. Whether it is at Watches & Wonders, whether it is worldwide, whether it is India, and we’ll take it that way.”