Robert Pliskin, Watch Industry Leader, Dies

Robert Pliskin, one of the most successful U.S. watch industry executives of the late 20th century, died at his White Plains, N.Y., home on Sept. 26. He was 77.

Pliskin is best known for making Seiko a household name in the United States. But he was also a founding member, and later chairman, of the American Watch Association, the industry’s lobbying group. In the mid-1980s, he was instrumental in forming the Coalition to Protect the Integrity of American Trademarks (COPIAT), a multi-industry lobbying group that fought the influx of “gray market” watches sold by unauthorized dealers.

Pliskin began as a jewelry salesman in 1945, but his career in watches took off in 1947 when he joined the former Norman M. Morris Corp., the distributor of Swiss-made Omega watches at the time. Over the next 20 years, he rose to the position of vice president of marketing. In 1972, he joined Longines-Wittnauer Co. as president and boosted the company’s sales 79%-from $28 million to $50 million-in less then seven years.

In 1979, he was named president of Seiko Time Corp., then a division of Hattori Corp. of America (now Seiko Corp. of America). By 1986, he had become executive vice president of the HCA Timepieces Group.

Under Pliskin’s 11-year tenure, Seiko became one of the best-known timepieces in America. Its distribution expanded to 18,000 authorized retailers, and its share of business grew to almost half of all $125-plus watches sold in the U.S. market.

In 1989 Pliskin became president of Jean Lassale, then SCA’s Swiss gold watch line. He retired in 1990 but continued for a time 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, IL 60466.