In this Orient watches interview, LoveToKnow Watches had the privilege of chatting with Mark Kim, Director of North American Sales, about this interesting line of watches.
Orient Watches Interview
A Little About Mark Kim
LoveToKnow (LTK): Tell us a little about how you first got interested in selling watches...
Mark Kim (MK): Watches have always been part of my life. My family has been involved in the watch manufacturing industry since the late seventies, so I consider myself born into the work. As far I can remember, I have had a strong affection for mechanical watches. I was regularly scolded for disassembling any watch that I could find. Although this is not my fondest memory between me and my father, this is exactly where the interest started. After proving my interest to him, Dad was forced to take me into the office every Saturday morning. Today, we still work together.
LTK: What watch does Mark Kim have on his wrist right now?
MK: I am currently wearing CFA05002B. This is part of our new World Time collection. I travel often and this timepiece is perfect for my life. I have five reasons why this is on my wrist.
First, it's mechanical, which for me is a must. Second, it has a power reserve indicator, which lets you know how much more power you have left in your spring. Third, it has a carbon fiber dial, which gives the watch a sophisticated texture and nontraditional look. Fourth, the solid bands and solid case design were designed for comfort, using thin designs to minimize weight. Fifth, I can check the time anywhere in the world. For your reference, this watch retails for under $600.
I mentioned before that this watch has a power reserve. I challenge anyone to find another true power reserve indicator for less than $1,500. Orient delivers this type of complexity in our movements for approximately $300.
Orient in the US
LTK: Orient has been around since the 1950s. When did the watches first come to the United States?
MK: We had a soft launch towards the end of 2008 for marketing research; however, 2009 marks the official release of the Orient brand in the United States.
The Design of Orient Watches
LTK: Who designs Orient watches?
MK: Orient Watch Company, LTD (Tokyo) has a team of engineers and designers who work closely with the sales department to design all the watches in-house at their office in Tokyo. The design team creates anywhere between 20 to 40 new styles per year. Orient is traditionally known for their conservative designs. Earlier this decade, Orient began to hire a new breed of young and enthusiastic designers to expand the collection. This, among others, is the reason why we're ready for the American market.
LTK: I am absolutely in love with the red-faced Orient urban styling watch. It is gorgeous! Tell me a little about the idea for this watch and more about its features...
MK: CDBAA004H is a fine example of where Orient Watch is leading the market. In my opinion, this is a perfect entry-level mechanical watch. The semi-skeleton design (that allows you to see the inside workings of the watch) along with the IP-coated case makes this a stunning piece. It's attractive because of its accessibility to today's fashion, and the price (MSRP $210) is unquestionably the best value in the industry. Orient has a real ability to deliver price and quality. This is simply because we produce over 1,000,000 mechanical pieces each year with 0 percent OEM sales (all of our mechanical movements are in Orient watches; we don't supply them to other watch builders).
Popular Orient Watches
LTK: Which watch or line of watches is your best seller and why?
MK: Our Diver series has traditionally been our best-seller in the United States. Our survey of the US market suggests that diver watches are the best sellers, and we're no exception. Our strongest model is the CEM6500 series, which has been an international success. In fact, even before Orient was in the United States, collectors imported our mechanical diver watches from foreign sources.
Orient on Television and Amazon
LTK: You've been on ShopNBC. How did that help your company grow and is it an experience you're likely to repeat?
MK: ShopNBC was a great way to introduce our brand on television. We like exploring sales venues beyond the traditional brick-and-mortar stores because we feel it gives us a chance to establish a dialogue with our customers and really educate them on Orient's unique benefits.
LTK: You recently made an exciting deal with Amazon.com. Can you tell us more about that?
MK: In addition to selling directly on our website, we also sell our watches on Amazon.com. In order to commemorate this partnership, we released a limited-edition version of one of our best-selling divers with an Amazon-yellow dial.
LTK: You mentioned in another interview that online sales are helping your company through the economic downturn. Can you tell us more about that?
MK: Although brick-and-mortar store sales are declining, in many industries, online sales are increasing. By focusing online, we are able to be cost-conscious both in marketing and message. It's important to me that we take a grass-roots approach and do not pass on exorbitant marketing costs to our consumers; if you look at many brands, over two-thirds of the price tag goes to advertising.
We're using everything from blogger partnerships and free giveaways, to videos and direct sales. This allows us to reach quality-conscious deal-finders and comparison shoppers who are doing their research on the Internet. It also allows us to educate consumers while presenting our watches as a substitution brand -- our economies of scale allow us to offer a watch that has the same quality and features as a watch three times its price.
Cost of an Orient Watch
LTK: Your watches seem quite reasonably priced. What is the price range on them?
MK: The collection starts at around $100 and goes up to $1,800. Our average priced watch in the USA collection is $250. The important thing is to remember that we're talking about fully-automatic watches, not battery-powered models.
We are not reasonably priced, we're exceptionally priced. This is a Japanese product, made in Japan, with almost 60 years of manufacturing history. We're also one of a few companies in the world that design and manufacture their own movements in-house and use all their movements for their own production; these qualities are extremely rare and allow Orient to produce quality for far less than their competitors.
LTK: Anything you'd like to add?
MK: Because Orient is just now officially entering the United States, it is important for people to confirm that they are buying direct from an authorized vendor. The best place to get additional information about this is at www.orientwatchusa.com.
A New Force
A big thank you to Mr. Kim for taking the time to talk to us about where Orient has been and where the company is headed. Since they are a new force in the US market, you'll likely hear the name Orient again. In the meantime, you can find the watches through any of the authorized retailers listed on their website.