A Chat With Mr Norio Takeuchi, Managing Director of Citizen Watch Co. Ltd
The vision of Citizen Watch Co. Ltd continues to grow and shine, illuminating brilliantly what lies ahead for the watchmaking giant as explained by Mr Norio Takeuchi
Having just celebrated its 100th anniversary, Citizen has certainly not wasted time basking in the glory of a century of breakthroughs, triumphs and successes. Instead, its immediate course of action is to move forward with new mandates.
Whether emblematic of being Japanese or galvanised by an energising motto, Citizen is truly committed to progress. Its “Better Starts Now” philosophy drives the game-changer towards achieving the impossible, guided by a mission to create products that people will love and find useful through the trajectory of changing zeitgeists.
Citizen’s regard of environmental sustainability is commendable—leading to the invention of its light-powered Eco-Drive quartz movement, an antidote to throw-away batteries of quartz watches. For more than 40 years, the Japanese brand has passionately pursued higher precision for its proprietary Eco-Drive movement.
There is no better way to mark its next chapter than with a trio of novelties equipped with the Caliber 0100, which delivers the world’s most precise timekeeping accuracy of within ±1 second per year. The movement— unveiled last year for Citizen’s centenary— was a proud achievement, being a world’s first, and it now powers the three new limited-edition Caliber 0100 models.
Led by a spirit of innovation, Citizen never stops evolving in pushing technologies to extreme limits of precision timekeeping, taking its watch manufacturing to world-leading heights. For an overview of what is in store for the global brand, our conversation with Norio Takeuchi, Managing Director of Citizen Watch Co. Ltd, during BaselWorld 2019 offers valuable insights into the watchmaking behemoth’s plans and strategies for the near term.
What is the mood at Citizen like after the centennial milestone?
We are now in our 101st year and for us, the important thing is to keep challenging our role in the watchmaking industry through the pursuit of precision and accuracy in timekeeping.
What were the challenges faced in the development of the new Caliber 0100 model?
At Citizen, we have evolved from mechanical watch movements to quartz and now the Eco-Drive—the three main stages. One of the biggest influences of making the (new) model came from the quartz movement we launched in 1975. Back then, we did not utilise the AT cut oscillator, which had a higher frequency of 250 times that of quartz. Comparing the AT cut crystal oscillator to the crystal for the quartz movement, the former is not affected much by external factors such as temperature fluctuations and gravity effects, which makes it a very accurate oscillator.
Cutting to the chase, we were able to achieve ±5 seconds accuracy with quartz and importantly, we stopped the use of the AT cut oscillator. Now, in order for us to have watches more accurate than this ±5 seconds, we went back to history and used the AT cut oscillator. To use an oscillator 250 times higher in frequency, obviously, there would be more energy consumption so that was the technology issue we had to solve. Additionally, we wanted to update it with the Eco-Drive and to do that, we combined the technology with that of the Eco-Drive. That is how we were able to come up with the Caliber 0100.
How long did the process take?
We were not able to develop it, in say, one or two years. Our accuracy building (efforts) have been in place since the 1970s. On top of that, it has been more than 40 years of the Eco-Drive…so it has definitely taken us more than 40 years to come up with this caliber.
What were the design factors for the Caliber 0100 model?
While we essentially needed to make a beautiful watch in an artful way, it was not just about design. Primarily, it was about the second hand striking each second index perfectly—that is the beauty of this watch. With the ±1 second accuracy, you cannot even miss a single second. Most quartz watches either do not display these indices or they bring them further out so the second hand does not cover or go over them as it sweeps around the dial.
How was that achieved for the Caliber 0100 watch?
Again, for the watch to accurately strike each second, perfect internal mechanism is mandatory. Gears that are usually made from machine cutting and pressing do not result in perfect-sized gears so we resorted to new technology to produce perfectly aligned gears to enable the second hand to strike each index with perfect precision. Also, the indices are thinner with the second hand tipping down, showing how much confidence we have in the watch. This feature is common in mechanical watches but rare in quartz watches where the second hand strikes the second indices.
What is the price point and production quantity?
The 100-piece 18K white gold limited edition is priced at USD$16,800. For the two super titanium models, the price is US$ 7,400 for both the black and mother-of-pearl dials limited to 500 and 200 pieces respectively.
Who is the target customer for the Caliber 0100 model?
In a nutshell, people who understand the beauty of ±1 second accuracy. In a connected world where everyone connects easily, the important thing is to have an alternative mindset to the connected world. In an unconnected world, people can take a step away from the crowd, and carve out their own identity and thinking. It’s about having the courage to be disconnected. These are the customers we are targeting.
Citizen is developing the Riiiver watch—a connected watch. Can you share more about why and how Citizen is putting the focus back on smartwatches?
There is a trend for the smartwatch or connected watch. For a company like ours, our DNA is to be involved in all the activities within the watch industry. That is why we are focusing not just on the smartwatch, but also mechanical and luxury watches. In the connected segment, we launched the Bluetooth watch that can be connected with smartphones earlier but now we need to go one step further. For a hardware company that makes watches to go to the next level, we require software support from outside partners. We have a partnership with Veldt, a Japanese company helping us with the software. It is also building the platform for users to interact with the functions and capabilities of the Riiiver watch. It is a totally new and different kind of smartwatch we are trying to do.
How is Riiiver a progression from what Citizen has produced in the smartwatch category?
We have been making connected watches since the 1990s with our history of Bluetooth watches and other smartwatches. The last was the Eco-Drive Bluetooth watch, which we launched in 2012. It is not digital but analogue, and can be connected to iPhones and smartphones. The recently launched Riiiver analogue watch can be customised to react to a range of conditions in conjunction with the Riiiver platform. It is not just about connecting to the watch, but to the IoT (Internet of Things): household equipment, cars, air-conditioners, speakers and so on—basically to connect people, things and services to create and share new lifestyles. We made this announcement at SXSW (South by Southwest), the world’s largest annual event for interactive media, music and film.
Are there any updates on your multibrand strategy?
In 2012, we bought Swiss watch movement maker La-Joux-Perret to allow us to interact with our partners at the technical level with regards to the development of mechanical watches within the Citizen group. Also, with the interaction and learning, we will eventually develop special mechanical Citizen watches. The other reason for our mergers and acquisitions is because Citizen is a mid-priced brand, not exactly high or low-end. We are acquiring brands to leverage on them to cover all the price segments within the Citizen group. Among the watch brands we have acquired are Bulova, Arnold & Sons, Frederique Constant and Alpina. We are now in the final stages of merging our back offices for greater efficiency.
How does “Better Starts Now” translate for Citizen in 2019?
It is our tagline or philosophy. For this year, it is very modest: the Caliber 0100, the most accurate watch, and the Riiiver connected watch. Our role in the industry is always to open new doors in watchmaking to reflect the “Better Starts Now” philosophy.