Does the launch of the new Trume brand from Epson signal a new direction for the company in the watch market and a shift in strategy?
The new Trume model watches appear to be based on the same core technologies as the Astron movements. There are a number of new features and functionality that have been added to the new Trume model but before the announcement of the brand these advancements are something we would have expected to be added to the Astron lineup.
Trume may be a test bed for new technologies to see how these are accepted by the market or it is possible that this is a change from Epson as they want to have greater control and presence in the market.
Trume focused on GPS based technologies
When Trume was registered as a trade mark the following was presented as the type of goods and services that the company would produce.
“Wearable activity trackers; wearable activity trackers with Global Positioning System function; personal digital assistants with Global Positioning System function; Global Positioning System navigation device; Global Positioning System receivers; wearable activity trackers that also feature watch, pulse meter, barometer, altimeter, directional compass, temperature indicator, acceleration sensor, and Global Positioning System functions; personal digital assistants that also feature watch, pulse meter, barometer, altimeter, directional compass, temperature indicator, and acceleration sensor functions”
Seiko Epson has been, and continues to be, a major supplier of products to Seiko Watch Corporation. They are responsible for the production of key models like Astron, the quartz Grand Seiko and Credor models and all Spring Drive models.
Changes at Orient sales & support and branding
In addition to being a supplier to Seiko Watch Corporation Seiko Epson is the 100% owner of Orient Watch Company. All of the watch marketing and sales functions (excluding JDM) of Orient Watch Co. Limited were absorbed into Seiko Epson Corporation from January 31st 2017. The JDM sales will be handled by Epson Sales Japan Corporation. From the 1st of April 2017 Orient Watch integrated the domestic service functions into Epson Sales Co. Ltd. The new service centre is called the “Watch / Wearable Repair Center”.
By centralizing their sales and support resources it is extremely likely that the same group that handles the sales for Orient Watch will also be responsible for Trume and other watch products.
The latest high profile watch from Orient is the Orient Star Mechanical Moon Phase. On the rear of this watch the Epson branding can be clearly seen.
Other Epson watch brands
In addition to Orient Watch Epson also produces and sells the Smart Canvas range of products under the Epson branding. The Smart Canvas products are a series of watches that utilize Electronic Paper Displays (EPD) and have a range of different designs. These watches are clearly branded as Epson.
Another Epson range of products are marketed under the WristableGPS brand. These are a series of wearable products that can display time, distance, speed, heart rate etc. These are designed for runners and athletes. As can be seen the Epson branding is prominently displayed on these products.
With these different product ranges it seems that Epson is making their branding more conspicuous and building their association with the watch market.
Epson future directions in wearables
In the 2017 Annual Report and 2017/2018 Corporate Profile they state that “In wearable products, Epson will lay the foundation for building wearables into a core business by refining watch resources and combining them with sensors to create families of differentiated products.” “Drawing on our watchmaking heritage and refining our timekeeping and sensing accuracy, we create distinctive products and provide enjoyment for wearers.” “Epson is uniquely positioned with precision technology and leading-edge sensors to deliver new value in watches.”
Competition between Seiko Group Companies
If the launch of the Trume brand proves to be successful it will be interesting to see how, if at all, this impacts the relationship between Seiko Epson and Seiko Watch Corporation that is part of Seiko Holdings Corporation. Both companies have obviously had a long and successful relationship so the introduction of a competitor to their major customer will be intriguing to see develop.
Throughout the history of the Seiko group companies from both the Seiko and Epson sides have competed to develop products. This competition drove innovation between the companies and much of the success of Seiko can be attributed to this.
Will Epson allow some of the new functionality in the Trume models to be integrated into the Astron line up or will they keep these developments for themselves. My guess is that Epson may begin to hold more technology developments exclusively for their models for a period of time, e.g. 12 months, before allowing these to appear in other company products. With the focus on GPS based technology for Trume the most obvious area of impact would be on the Astron range but there may also be a move to higher end models in the Orient line up.
As Epson is responsible for the production of key models like Astron, GS quartz, Spring Drive etc. for Seiko Watch I am sure many people will be keeping a close eye on the evolution of the Epson sales activities.