I’ll be the first to confess to mechanical watch snobbery — ever since learning about the history of watchmaking and the engineering and artistry that goes into creating these anachronistic machines, I’ve gravitated toward automatic and hand-winding watches. But ignoring what a quality quartz watch offers can result in a myopic approach to watch appreciation (guilty as charged). For me, wearing the Citizen Chandler chronograph over the past few weeks has been an eye-opening reminder of just how refreshing (and useful) a quartz chronograph can be.
Driven by Citizen’s Caliber B642 Eco-Drive movement, the only power the Chandler needs is a bit of light to run accurately for months. Bright light, dim light, soul-crushing overhead fluorescent lights — it doesn’t matter; the Eco-Drive will power up and keep running for up to six months. For someone used to the morning routine of choosing a stopped watch and having to set the time and date before strapping it on, grabbing the Chandler from the dresser was a refreshing change.
Those of you who have transcended mechanical watch snobbery are likely rolling your eyes. But for the rest of us not-quite-enlightened (or mechanically inclined), spending time with a quality quartz watch can be a not-so-subtle reminder of just why quartz watches nearly decimated the traditional watch-making industry: they’re affordable, durable, and accurate and, in the case of Citizen’s Eco-Drive, don’t even require a battery change. But none of that matters if it’s not a quality watch that you enjoy strapping on your wrist. For many consumers, the Citizen Chandler will be a watch that they’ll wear every day, in all situations. So, that’s exactly how I wore it: indoors, outdoors (including on some double-black bike trails that certainly tested its shock-resistance), in the pool (it has 100m WR), on the town, you name it. Before I get to how it holds up as an everyday watch, let’s take a look at some of the details.
The stainless steel case of the Citizen Chandler measures 43mm — a measurement that surprised me when I went to look it up. If you’d asked, I would have guessed 41-42mm due to how it wears on my 6.75” wrist. This perceived smaller size is due to several factors, including a lug-to-lug measurement of ~50mm, a flat caseback, and generously sloping lugs that provide a snug, wrist-hugging fit. Likely more important, however, is the visual effect created by the polished, sloping bezel and inner (rather than bezel-mounted) tachymeter scale. These elements work together to minimize the effective dial size, creating the impression of a smaller watch. Ultimately, this results in a watch that wears slightly smaller than its measurements would suggest, having plenty of wrist presence, without looking oversized.
When it comes to the dial, Citizen appears to be channeling classic two-register chronographs from the 1960s and 70s. The dial features a deep, saturated blue, with two silver sub-dials: a 60-minute register at 12 o’clock and running seconds at 6 o’clock. The orange central chronograph hand adds a pop of color that perfectly complements the dark blue hue of the dial (someone was studying their color wheel). Combined with a framed date window at 3 o’clock and minimal branding at 9 o’clock, the Chandler is nicely balanced, if not symmetrical. To pick nits, the date window is a bit small and inset.
While the overall effect pays homage to the past, it’s not overtly neo-vintage like so many re-issues currently cropping up on the market. With the mix of brushed and polished surfaces, applied markers and high-polished hands, the Chandler nudges toward the classy side of the classy-sporty spectrum. And, I think that’s exactly what Citizen was going for with the Chandler — a classically styled chronograph that can work easily as a day-in-day-out watch, whether you’re at the beach in shorts and a t-shirt or in a work environment.
Around the outside of the dial runs a tachymeter scale, but for better or worse, the scale is distorted at most angles by the highly-domed mineral crystal. Personally, I think tachymeters are rather pointless for a vast majority of us (but hey, so is a watch with > 100m of water resistance), so the magnification and distortion actually provide a rather fun visual effect. However, if you’re actually trying to use the tachymeter to, say, measure your dog’s running speed, then it may become an issue. Tachymeter aside, the watch is quite legible, with nicely proportioned hands, prominent applied markers, and generous lume. Though it’s a bit ridiculous if you think about it for a minute, telling time on chronographs can sometimes be a bit challenging (ahem, Rolex Daytona), so I was very happy about the legibility of the Chandler.
Seeing as this is, of course, a chronograph, let’s get into how it functions. The lower register at 6 o’clock provides a running seconds hand, while the upper register provides a 60-minute counter. A quick push of the top pusher starts the central timing seconds hand, which sweeps at five beats-per-second. A second push stops the timer and the re-set is activated by the lower pusher. Like most quartz chronographs, the seconds hand re-sets smoothly and quickly but without the immediate snap-back you experience with a mechanical watch. Similarly, the pushers provide decent feedback but without a strong positive click when engaged.
As mentioned above, the Chandler wears quite comfortably and that is also due in part to the 22mm Milanese strap, which is essentially infinitely adjustable without the need for micro-adjust pins or a Dremel tool (like some mesh straps). Simply open the clasp, pop up the closure, slide to where it fits, and pop it back on. Mind you, it’s not the kind of adjustment that’s easy to make on the fly like a glide-lock clasp, but a few seconds with a small screwdriver does the trick. The downside to this mechanism, however, is that the bracelet comes fully open so the drop risk is increased — at least for clumsy people like myself. That said, it’s a quartz watch, so, if you drop it, you’re unlikely to damage the movement. Regardless, the strap is quite comfortable and a solid match for the style of the piece. The Chandler would also look sharp on a brown leather strap or dressed down on a grey NATO.
At just over the $300 mark, the Citizen Chandler is a watch that I could easily recommend to friends who aren’t as far down the mechanical watch rabbit hole and are looking for a classy, durable, and reliable chronograph. For those more mechanical-watch-inclined, the only sticking point may be the rise of watches in this price range utilizing Seiko’s mecha-quartz movement. The main advantage to the mecha-quartz being a mechanical module is that it that allows for satisfying pusher action and instant re-set. Two options that come immediately to mind are the Undone Urban Vintage ($265 USD) and the Dan Henry 1962 Racing Chrono ($260). Both offer a similar throwback aesthetic in a variety of colorways and a range of customization options in the Undone. A lot comes down to whether you value mecha-quartz or the battery-less Eco-Drive.
It’s been a while since I consistently wore a quartz watch, but the Citizen Chandler has been a good reminder of how nice it can be to have a worry-free grab-and-go quartz watch in your collection. I’m not one to baby my watches and, frankly, I think the fragility of mechanical watches is often a bit overblown. That said, there’s no way I’d be taking a mechanical watch downhill mountain biking. The Chandler? Sure, why not!
Personally, I think Citizen nailed it with the Chandler. The size and shape are going to work for a wide range of wrists, the Eco-Drive movement is time-tested and reliable, and the dial is restrained and attractive with just the right amount of color pop. I do wish that Citizen had just foregone the tachymeter track, given the distortion created by the box crystal, but since I never use the function, it’s not a major gripe.
I can see the mesh bracelet being a bit divisive, but it’s comfortable and suits the aesthetic of the watch. With the high-polished hands and indices, the Chandler has a classy vibe that can dress up and down with ease. This watch would be a solid choice for anyone looking to have a grab-and-go quartz chronograph in the collection (something I now definitely value) but also a great recommendation for anyone looking for an affordable, high-quality, everyday watch. Learn more at citizenwatch.com.
>Model: Chandler Chronograph
>Price: $395 MSRP ($316 list price at citizenwatch.com)
>Size: 43mm-wide, 22mm lugs, and ~50mm lug-to-lug distance.
>When reviewer would personally wear it: As a grab-and-go when I need a watch that will work just about anywhere.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Friend on a budget looking for a quality quartz watch they’ll wear every day.
>Best characteristic of watch: Versatility and dial styling.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Mesh strap won’t be for everyone; distortion from the crystal.