Gulf region has always been a significant territory for the Citizen family: Keiji Kato, General Manager of Citizen Gulf
January 27, 2019
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A true manufacture d’horlogerie with a comprehensive manufacturing process that extends from creating a watch’s individual components to its final assembly, Citizen is today a name renowned for pioneering time-piece technology. To mark its 100th anniversary this year, 2018, Citizen announced a 100th Anniversary in 2018 with a Limited Edition special collection. In a short chat, Keiji Kato, General Manager of Citizen Gulf, spoke about the brands plans for the Middle East, expanding target audiences, and how technology is a key element to all things Citizen.

Citizen celebrated 100 years last year, tell us about the brand’s presence in the MEA region.

The past year had been a very exciting year for us as we celebrated a centennial of watchmaking. The evolution of the brand from a regular pocket watch to the technologically advanced and path-breaking inventions such as the Eco-Drive technology, Satellite GPS watches, World’s thinnest light-powered watches etc. has been unprecedented.

Citizen has been operating in the Gulf Region since 1989 and has been very successful in establishing a stable business in this region over the years. With over 126 sales points across Middle East, North Africa and CIS countries, 13 sales points are exclusive Citizen stores.

The Gulf region has always been a significant territory for the Citizen family and a major contributor to global sales. This is a very potential market which is the reason why the brand’s headquarters in Japan regard Dubai as being one of the best destinations to conduct major events as part of our annual campaigns. We also fully understand the strong “spill- over” effect Dubai has on the entire Gulf region.

What are your strongest markets in the region and where do you see new opportunities emerging (geographically)?

KSA has the youngest population in the region and we would like to tap this for future growth. UAE also is the window of the region therefore we would continue to increase our presence in the market.

With the new collections, what are the new demographics that you are seeking?

As mentioned earlier, both UAE and KSA has a very young population, therefore it would be a good opportunity for us to target the millennials of these regions who are turning out to be the biggest spenders.

What would you say are the key technologies that power Citizen today?

Citizen’s biggest achievement is the invention of the technology called Eco-Drive which is present in most of its watch categories. Eco-Drive watches are powered by light and do not require battery replacements. This breakthrough technology was invented by Citizen back in 1976. This feature has been very well received by people all over the world.

Other achievements include the high-end convenient watches such as the Eco-Drive Satellite Wave GPS – that adjusts time, date and location automatically anywhere in the world via time signals received from GPS Satellites, and, Eco-Drive Global Radio-Controlled watches that automatically set to the correct time by radio waves received from four regions around the world. Citizen takes pride to be the first watch brand in the world to introduce these functionalities into timepieces.

We were also the first watch brand to introduce a collection called Super Titanium watches which are 40% lighter and 5 times harder than stainless steel watches.

Citizen is also carving out a reputation in the manufacture of prestige-end professional sports watches called Promaster, which combine robust heavy-duty materials with a wealth of functions.

For ladies we have Citizen L, a collection that reflects the women of today through very aesthetic designs inspired from the beauty of nature.

As someone who has introduced different watches from the Citizen portfolio to the region, how would you describe a Citizen Fan?   

There is no one definite fan, rather, Citizen resonates with a consumer that appreciates timeless designs, impressive craftsmanship with a stylish aesthetic and latest technology. Citizen boasts an exclusive range of timepieces to suit distinctive tastes, that will provide fashion and function for years to come.

Citizen has been making watches for over 100 years, and such is the breadth and scope of our range that our target audience now comprises a very diverse selection of people and lifestyles – from the outdoor adventurer who appreciates our high durability titanium collection, through to lovers of satellite and light technology, through to individuals who appreciate that affordability can partner aesthetics and wearability.

Considering the ratio of total sales, it is fair to say Citizen is extremely strong with gent’s watches that account for 70% of the total sales. Our team has been extensively planning several activities in the online and offline space to promote Citizen L –  our ladies’ category-  through various campaigns. We are confident our ladies’ collection will result in their being a 50:50 ratio in the near future.

How does Citizen as a brand embrace technology like IoT and AI, and what can we expect from the brand going forth?

AI will change our society, but it isn’t about domination but streamlining. It will create a whole new area of creative labour. AI is all about making things more efficient. We at Citizen are aware of it and that is an endeavour that we intend to create.

by Anil George
Avid follower of all things tech. In between his quest for the ultimate gizmo, Anil fiddles with light meters, collects rare books and feeds his fetish for Jap horror movies. As Managing Editor of T3 Middle East for the GCC, Anil oversees content direction across print and digital. He was a CES 2018 Innovation Awards Judge, reprising his role as an Innovation Awards Judge at CES 2017, 2016. and 2015. Anil is also the Middle East's first Brand Ambassador for Ashdown Engineering. Reach him at: editor@t3me.com.
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