Casio eyes premium watch market

Casio eyes premium watch market
The Premium Production Line at Casio’s flagship factory in Yamagata.

Casio is famous for its tough, shock-resistant and water-resistant G-Shock watches, which have been on the market since 1983. However, it has been actively pursuing the premium timepiece market as well.

G-Shock's creator, Mr Kikuo Ibe, wanted to come up with a new line of watches which would break away from the casual image of the original line.

Mr Ibe said: "I thought that if users could change their G-Shock watches to suit their lifestyle or situation, I could make them lifelong G-Shock fans."

He and his engineers decided on a full-metal G-Shock watch which would be suitable in casual settings and formal occasions. In 1996, the MRG-100 was released as part of the newly created MR-G series.

However, the MRG-100 was still a digital watch and Casio's digital-watch sales, after peaking in 1997, were on the decline. "If we had stuck to digital watches, there was a limit on what we could do," said Mr Yuichi Masuda, senior general manager of Casio's timepiece product division

So, it was back to the future. In 2004, Casio shifted its focus from digital to analogue movements using physical dials and hands. Having made digital watches since 1974, it decided to leverage on its digital expertise, such as solar power and radio-controlled timekeeping.

"It is a new type of analogue watch driven by two main things - our digital engine and our original analogue movement with our electronics capability," he said.

That year, the company created the Oceanus line of luxury analogue watches and has seen its sales steadily increase since.

From 2009 to last year, its watch sales grew by 68 per cent, and its analogue watch sales by 56 per cent. "We have been quite successful in our strategy," said Mr Masuda.

This year, it is targeting its premium analogue watches at road warriors. A Casio survey of business executives in Asia found that close to 90 per cent of them often checked the time in cities elsewhere.

With this in mind, Casio showed off its new G-Shock MRG-G1000 and Oceanus OCW-G1000. Both watches come in titanium cases with analogue movements and have solar-powered, radio-controlled and Global Positioning System (GPS) timekeeping capabilities.

Digital Life recently visited the company's research and development centre in Hamura, on the fringes of metropolitan Tokyo, as well as its flagship factory in Yamagata, on the western coast of Honshu, to see the rigorous research and intricate manufacturing process behind these premium timepieces.

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