Grads return to watches as job-hunter prop

by Shinichi Tokuda

Kyodo News

Junior high students used to receive wristwatches as gifts for getting into high school, keeping them until they graduated from university. But the growing availability of cell phones has led many high school and college students to forsake this tradition.

Of late, though, amid the current economic slump, students are buying watches to aid their job-hunting efforts.

“For the last several years, ‘job hunting’ has been the buzzword in product development. We are targeting university sophomores and juniors,” said Kiyoshi Mochizuki, a section chief at the product planning department of Seiko Watch Corp.

“With the spread of mobile phones, young people shied away from wristwatches. But in the restricted labor market, students are buying wristwatches again to show that they are well-organized,” he said.

According to a survey by the company, students in their 20s have developed a large appetite for wristwatches in recent years.

From last November through January, the company has marketed watches priced around ¥20,000 to cater to job-hunters and new employees.

“Job-seeking students have around ¥100,000 to spend on a business suit, a bag, a pair of shoes and a wristwatch,” Mochizuki said. “We figured on around ¥20,000 for a watch.”

And sales have been favorable.

Young men looking for employment also need to have a black or navy blue business suit, and lately the fashion has been for a slim fit.

“To match their suits, they favor watches in black or silver with few frills.” Mochizuki said. “Even first-time buyers have no trouble making a purchase, and the design is one that can last for a long time.”

In a tieup with Yodobashi Camera Co., Seiko created a special corner for job hunters at Multimedia Akiba in Tokyo’s Akihabara district in early February.

“In spring, there used to be great demand for watches to be given as gifts to successful students. But students themselves are now coming to buy for job-hunting purposes,” said Toshiaki Shindo, a Yodobashi Camera manager.

Citizen Holdings Co. is focusing on young females.

“We are targeting women who are using the lifestyle change that a job represents as an opportunity for a new look,” said Akio Okabe, director of the company’s publicity department.

The company is carrying out a campaign from mid-February through the end of March to attract female customers by offering interior goods and a set of dishes in a lottery. It is the first major spring sales promotion for the company in several years.

“In the past, high school entrance exam results and wristwatch sales went hand in hand,” Okabe said. “But that demand has all but dried up.”

But referring to the renewed demand for wristwatches in spring, he said the view is spreading that it is bad manners for employees to check the time by looking at their cell phones.