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Seiko Watch Sales Will Drop in Tohoku Area of Japan

March 24 (Bloomberg) -- Seiko Holdings Corp. said watch sales may decline 10 percent in the Tohoku area of Japan this fiscal year following the country’s worst earthquake on record.

Seiko’s total watch revenue will rise in the fiscal years through March 2011 and March 2012, helped by markets such as Europe, Shu Yoshino, a spokesman for the Japan-based watchmaker, said in an interview. He didn’t give a figure.

The earthquake forced Seiko to close one of its watch factories, which it expects to open in about a week after electricity and gasoline shortages are solved, Shinji Hattori, chief executive officer of the watch unit, said in an interview at the Baselworld watch fair. None of the company’s employees were killed, he said.

Seiko plans to increase promotion of its watches overseas, especially the Grand Seiko higher-end brand, Hattori said.

“I hope we’ll make Grand Seiko into an international brand,” he said.

The Grand Seiko brand went on sale outside its home market last year as the company aims to reduce its exposure to Japan, where it gets about 30 percent of sales. Most Grand Seiko watches sell for about $5,000, and the company has introduced a commemorative model this year for about $25,000. The Japanese watchmaker, founded as a repair shop in 1881, also this year introduced a set of three “minute repeater” watches, that use Japanese chimes to ring the hours, for more than $400,000 each.

The company today announced a three-year partnership with the FC Barcelona soccer team to promote the brand in Europe.

Hattori said he couldn’t say how long the earthquake will weigh on Japanese demand.

“Such tendencies are temporary,” the great-grandson of the company’s founder said. “It will recover.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Tom Mulier in Geneva at tmulier@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Celeste Perri at cperri@bloomberg.net.

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