That Time When A Seiko Watch Did an Interview
Nope, it's not a clickbait title, and yes, it's an actual Seiko watch that did an interview. Back in the day, when Seiko was not as globally known as it is today, the company had to do all sorts of gimmicks to expand their presence beyond the local Japanese market. Often this included full page ads with walls of text that demonstrated how they are better than the competition, which is the marketing norm in these times when people still had long attention spans. Celebrity endorsement was used a lot as well.
Seiko combined these two techniques and released the below ‘interview’:
Ladies and gentlemen, the Handsome Seiko Chronograph. Source: Fratello Watches
“The world’s first interview with a Seiko Chronograph” is a witty way to promote their then newly-released watch. Instead of just reading through long paragraphs, which can sometimes feel like you’re listening to a boring pitch from an inexperienced salesman, this format is entertaining yet informational. We’re not sure how the results of this campaign went, but we’d imagine that quite a number of people would have known about the watch that gave an interview.
It's like it didn't age at all! What's its secret? Source: Fifth Wrist
In this piece, they’ve detailed its functions, including the stopwatch, tachymeter, and timer. They’ve highlighted that it works underwater too, although we always have reservations for underwater usage of chronometers. The line about being “as rugged and as handsome as the man that wears it” does sound a bit archaic, but being attractive to the opposite sex by wearing watches was a common theme with watch advertising back then.
Now that you’ve seen this ad, you might be wondering what other kind of gimmicks they tried for their marketing. Let’s talk about a few more interesting Seiko ads, both vintage and recent.
More Vintage Ads
Walk Away Ad
Featuring another Chronograph, this ad was made for the Seiko 7A28-7040 which is the world-first watch to have an analogue quartz movement with chronograph functions. Before this watch was released, these two watch features have always been separate, making the 7A28-7040 a special timepiece. Between 1985 and 1986, 850 of these watches have been issued to the South African Air Force and engraved with a serial number starting with an ‘AF’ prefix.
A staple scene in any action movie. Source: The Spring Bar
The macho poster above may have been inspired by a real story. In this forum thread, the OP talks about a previous pilot from the South African Air Force. He was issued a Seiko 7A28. He was wearing it during an incident during training where he had to eject from his jet, ripping the watch away from his wrist. He landed safely and later found the Seiko on the crash-site, battered but still working. This soldier apparently wrote Seiko to use his story for advertising but never heard from them. Perhaps they used his story after all?
Grand Seiko Hi-Beat
The 61GS watches from Grand Seiko were produced in two variants from 1967 to 1974. It runs at 36,000 beats per hour or 10 beats per second, making it less susceptible to going out of accuracy due to external disturbance, and can recover much more quickly if it suffers from such.
A marketing gimmick that may or may not have paid off. Source: Professional Watches
This high precision is the key feature of their marketing campaign for the watch that drew parallels between the Hi-Beat and the Atomic-UHF Time System, the official timekeeping unit at the World Expo (a showcase event for the latest technologies of the time) of 1970. It’s quite bold to liken a wristwatch to a timekeeping unit that is accurate to one second in 1.4 million years, but Seiko did it anyway!
The All-Man Man’s Watch
This vintage ad promoting another Seiko Chronograph is very reminiscent of the ‘70s. Instead of the usual where the brand talks and boasts about a watch’s features and how it’s better than what others have, this one tries to play on someone’s masculinity by basically saying that as a man, wearing a Seiko will make you more attractive to women.
You have to imagine how the pitch went for this ad. Source: Plus 9 Time
And while watches can be a tool and a fashion statement, this type of ad will not fly in today’s climate. A lot of people may even cringe at the copy, if not at the background image. Still, it takes a great shot of the 6139, and the ad would make for a good case study for Advertising majors of today.
There’s a lot more of these interesting Seiko ads from the last century that you can find online, mostly on forums where people share their findings from old magazines re-discovered from the long unvisited attic. But how is Seiko promoting its watches these days?
Seiko Ads Today
Seiko Prospex Brand Story
Still remember the watch interview style ad at the beginning of this article? Seiko actually kind of reused this concept for a brand story for the Prospex. This time it’s a video featuring the adventures of Naomi Uemura and important milestones in Seiko Prospex’s history, with the voiceover being the personification of the brand.
Watch the video here: https://youtu.be/d4g764OZiIk
It’s a rather serious video, but it does a good job of showing off the accolades of this line without being overly dramatic. Read the comments section and you’ll find a lot of Seiko owners sharing their proudly owned Prospex watch.
We think Seiko’s marketing strategies did not change much at all through the years. Brand ambassadors and celebrity endorsement has always been in the advertising toolbox, and in this age of media, we imagine that this technique is working better than ever before. Some of their notable brand partners are:
A living legend in the MLB scene. Source: Seiko Japan FB Page
Shohei “Shotime” Ohtani - Baseball fans will recognize the name instantly. The Japanese pro baseball player plays for the Los Angeles Angels of MLB, and is a long time Seiko endorser. He’s well-known in the sport, with excellent performances that rival that of American legend Babe Ruth.
Novak Djokovic - Another top name in his sport, he is a Serbian pro tennis player that is actually ranked as the number 1 player for 358 total weeks by the Association of Tennis Professionals, and has been wearing Seiko since 2014.
Daniel Wu - He is a Chinese American actor, director and producer starring in over 60 films, most of them in the action genre. He launched the Criteria line of Seiko Chronographs, later being nicknamed as the “Daniel Wu Seiko.”
Seiko works just fine, with or without an atmosphere. Source: AZ Fine Time Blog
Richard Garriott - He was best known as a video game developer, but he is also an astronaut who went to space with a Seiko watch in 2008. He notes that the Spring Drive Spacewalk (SPS005) worked perfectly during training, and of course, the actual flight into space.
Is Modding Free Advertising?
Though they have not officially acknowledged it, Seiko has silently supported the modding of their watches by releasing spare parts through authorized service centers and appointed dealers. This has encouraged plenty of people to do repairs or part upgrades by themselves instead of sending them to service centers which can take weeks if not months to return the refurbished piece.
This has inspired and fostered a growing community of watch tinkerers that every day share hundreds of their creations online especially on Instagram. One shows off their Seiko with a swapped bezel insert, and another gets fascinated and wants to try out modifications for themselves, eventually buying a Seiko of their own to personalize.
It’s like word of mouth marketing, but stronger and more effective. And it’s no surprise - anyone who has tried it out and successfully customized their watch will attest to the fulfilling and addictive feeling of completing a watch mod with their own hands.
And if you’re one of the people who can’t get enough of watch modding and the creative satisfaction it brings, you might be on the lookout for new parts that you can use for your next idea. Take a look and be inspired by our latest available watch mod parts - we offer everything from cases to dials, to the gaskets you need for water resistance and the tools necessary to mod. Our latest released case is the NMK926 conversion case: it takes the shape of a Patek Philippe and is compatible with SKX007 parts so you can customize it to your heart’s content!
We also just released new rotors for a more subtle upgrade. By pairing this with a see-through display caseback, you have a little surprise for people curious enough to want to see the underside of a watch. It’s not a part you’ll always be looking at, but when you do, it’ll be stylish.
Admit it or not, advertising is crucial for any business, whether it’s an online startup or a gigantic watchmaking company. It’s not enough that you have a very good product, you also have to know how to tell people about it and get them interested, because if you don’t, you’re not going to last more than a few years.
That’s why with all the quirky and sometimes questionable ads that Seiko released in the past, we’re thankful that they were able to market their offering of watches well. Their message is clear: “Seiko offers watches with accuracy and beauty”, and this message is well-received by their countless international fans, us included.