Katsusuke Tokura, MD Citizen Watches India, says the market for his watches in India is bright

Watches are no longer just timekeepers. They are a definite fashion statement. They state whether you are trendy or conservative. The type of watch a person wears speaks a lot not only about the brand but even the model. If watches were once a prized possession, one to be owned for a lifetime, these are times when people shuffle several brands, many models; one to suit every occasion.

Citizen Watches, which has a vibrant presence in the country, has not really taken a plunge into the growing fashion segment. This despite launching its brand of women’s luxury watches. Katsusuke Tokura, Managing Director, Citizen Watches India, confesses that this Japanese brand is still ‘essentially male’ and that they are not ‘in this race’.

“Citizen is not a fashion brand. There are so many other exclusively fashion brands in the market. Our watches are noted for its solidity; it is more mature if you could say so. We do not intend to go into the pure fashion area. On the other side, we recently launched Citizen L the latest series from Citizen Eco- Drive collection. ‘L’ here stands for ladies and luxury.

It is a contemporary designer series that blends beauty and technology. This series comes at a price range of Rs. 15,000-25,000. Yes, it is aimed at an exclusive segment but the truth is that when we introduced a limited edition of this model, all the pieces were sold out,” says Katsusuke Tokura, at the sidelines of the launch of their exclusive store at Lulu Mall in the city recently.

Tokura, however, did not rule out the entry of Citizen in this segment in a huge way. They were, he adds, seeking more demand in this sector before going all out.

One of the biggest threats that Citizen, like any watch manufacturer, faces today is from the growing grey market. Duplicates of all international brands have flooded the market. This has led to shadow boxing against a competitor without a face. “Thankfully it is not much of an issue in India. We have got unstinted support from our customers and dealers who seem to dislike duplicates.

This applies to other international brands also. It is rampant in other Asian countries. In our case we have the eco-drive model, our most popular one. This collection of light powered watches, with models ranging from dress to sport to professional dive watches, runs continuously on any kind of natural or artificial light for a lifetime of use. I don’t think this can be duplicated.”

As Tokura says, when it comes to watches, the more complicated the better. Citizen has a whole range of watches that are not just time pieces but “pieces handcrafted with meticulous attention; a combination of technology and sophisticated styling”.

“In a fiercely competitive market Citizen attempts to place itself firmly in the affordable luxury segment, which means in prices that range between Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 1 lakh. So our competition is with just a few players. Putting it clearly we cannot be bunched with the big and more popular brands you have in India.”

Growth in India

The future in India, Tokura feels, appears bright. Along with introduction of new designs they are looking to enhance the existing products.

“We would like to grow naturally as the market grows; a reasonable growth. We are not going to fix a specific percentage of growth. Being a Japanese company, all the watches are made in Japan. Dials and cases are also made for us in China and Thailand. We realise that we cannot compete on the price range, on discount prices etc. Also we cannot expand by promoting cheap watches.”

Tokura has been with Citizen for the last 25 years. “I started working in 1987 and there have been a lot of changes. One notable change has been brand building. It has been great, especially after we launched eco-drive technology.”

And does he remember his first watch? “Hmmm… It was a Seiko, long before I joined Citizen…,” Tokura signs off with a laugh.