Robert Pliskin, one of most prominent and successful U.S. watch industry executives in the late 20th century, died quietly at home in White Plains, N.Y., early on Sept. 26. He was 77. Pliskin is best known for making the Seiko watch brand a household name. However, he was also a founding member, and later chairman, of the American Watch Association, the industry’s lobbying group, and in the mid-1980s, helped form the Coalition to Protect the Integrity of American Copyrights (COPIAT), a multi-industry lobbying group which fought the influx of ‘gray market’ watches sold by unauthorized dealers.
Despite 30 years of successfully selling Swiss watches–first for the Norman Morris Corp. and then as president of Longines-Witternaue–it was with the Japanese brand Seiko that Pliskin was most effective and gained his greatest prominence. In 1979, he joined as president of Seiko Time Corp., a division of Hattori Corp. of America (now Seiko Corp. of America). By 1986, he was executive vice president of the HCA Timepieces Group, overseeing all Seiko brands sold in the United States. Under his11-year tenure, Seiko became one of the best-known timepieces in America and its share of business grew to almost half of all $125-plus watches sold in the U.S. market. He was especially proud, he told JCK later, of his role in ‘the Americanization of Hattori Seiko.’
In 1989, Pliskin gave up his other duties to be president of Jean Lassale, then SCA’s Swiss gold watch line. He retired in 1990, but continued for a while as a consultant to SCA and as AWA chairman (1989 – 1991). Donations in Pliskin’s memory can be made to the Kadet Cancer Research Foundation, c/o Firstar, Park Forest Bank, 99 Indian Wood Blvd, Park Forest, ill. 60466.
– By William George Shuster, JCK senior editor