Mr Hattori, during the past weeks, Baselworld announced many new concepts and measures for the 2019 edition. What are your expectations of the show?
Shinji Hattori: I am positive about Baselworld’s new concepts. An upgraded Press Centre and the new Central Plaza will stimulate communication and information exchange within the industry. I also expect to see the basic infrastructure improved to help the exhibitors. For example, I believe that the Wi-Fi environment will be better and that will help everyone. We have been at Baselworld ever since 1986 and, over these three decades, the role of Baselworld has changed, just as the market has changed. Baselworld has always been the best occasion of the year for us to meet our customers and the media and it still is. When the changes were made in 2013, we were able to have a much larger space which allowed us to showcase Grand Seiko as well as Seiko in separate areas. This development was very important to us as it gave us the opportunity to show our luxury collection to its best advantage. So, we are optimistic about Baselworld 2019. These days, when everyone is aware of the growing power of the digital world, it could be easy to forget the importance of face-to-face contact with customers and the press people. Our products, luxury watches, are ones that people can only understand when they touch and feel them and when they can be demonstrated in person. Because of this human dimension to our industry, a show like Baselworld, if properly organised and economically viable, will always be important.
The industry is undergoing rapid changes. How do you perceive them? Where do they have the strongest impact?
Shinji Hattori: The watch industry is facing several challenges, but I think the most crucial one is the change in the behaviour of the younger generation of watch buyers. For them, a watch is neither just a tool to tell the time nor an item they have to wear when they reach a certain age. They see watches either as fashion items or as an aspirational luxury. For all watch manufacturers, this situation is a challenge, but at the same time, I see it as an opportunity. Today’s young generation collects information from SNS, websites and other digital media. To approach this youth population, we are constantly enhancing the appeal of our brands in the digital world and creating as many opportunities as possible for them to find out about the charm and value of our watches and to experience the world of our brands.
How do you deal with these changes? How do you address them and how is this reflected in your products and through your distribution channels?
Shinji Hattori: In terms of distribution, we are always seeking to strike the best balance between the traditional face-to-face communication that only retail stores, including our own boutiques, can offer and the fast-growing online opportunities that e-commerce offers. Both are important. Both are here to stay. In terms of products, we are doing two things. First, we are developing our luxury offering, most notably with Grand Seiko. Second, we are expanding the profile of collections like Seiko Prospex through digital media. Prospex is well positioned to attract the interest of the young. It has all the heritage of Seiko, but it also offers a wide range that allows the young watch fan to find a watch that really suits his or her own style.