back to top

Citizen Eco-Drive One Watch Review

Citizen Eco-Drive One Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

When I first put this Citizen Eco-Drive One watch on my wrist after sizing the bracelet – I had a moment of déjà vu. Suddenly I was much younger, in the college, pre-watch nerd phase of my life, and listening to a then girlfriend’s grandfather proudly showing me his watch. It was easily one of the most memorable “watch” experiences of my early life.

I don’t even recall how the conversation back then started, but suddenly this retired state Supreme Court judge takes off his yellow gold-toned watch on a matching bead-style bracelet and tells me how he recently got it upon retiring. “For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted the thinnest watch possible.” He tells me. It was a Longines actually, and I remember being fascinated by the idea that someone’s aspiration was wearing a very thin timepiece. My mind focused on all the possible practical reasons for such a long-standing desire. Perhaps thin watches were very hard to come by? Perhaps they were very expensive? Perhaps he had a particular qualm with sleeves and never liked to get anything stuck. To this day I don’t remember exactly why the honorable judge grandfather of this historical girlfriend had such a particular fetish for very thin watches, but I do remember how excited he got. Suddenly, I’m excited by a watch in the very same way.

Citizen Eco-Drive One Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Citizen Eco-Drive One Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

From a sheer engineering perspective, the Citizen Eco-Drive One collection is a marvel. I was fortunate enough to be in Japan with Citizen at their Toyko headquarters when this product was officially revealed. The pride on the face of the high manager at the brand was palpable when he first unveiled “the world’s thinnest light-powered watch.” With a case that is just 2.98mm thick, it really just looked like a metal wafer attached to a bracelet. I could tell that to Citizen, this was a major achievement. Now the hard part is conveying that Citizen news to the world and why the Eco-Drive One is a truly remarkable and thoroughly Japanese timepiece. For lovers of Japan’s culture (and their watches) the Citizen Eco-Drive One is everything that is right about the country’s still important watch industry.

Citizen Eco-Drive One Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Citizen Eco-Drive One Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Wearing the Eco-Drive One is a unique experience – both positive and at times mentally unnerving. I say the latter because even though you are wearing a watch, it is so thin that it is easy to forget you are wearing a watch. Forget the relatively light weight of the comfortable, mostly steel case and bracelet, and think about what it feels like to wear a more average-sized watch all the time, and then looking to your wrist and perceiving that no watch case is there! At least that is how the Eco-Drive One looks. It just feels so impossibly thin, your brain doesn’t register the case as even being there.

Citizen Eco-Drive One Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

With the Eco-Drive One watch on, I like to measure it up to other watches and consider how many Eco-Drive Ones I can stack in there. I have watches that could accommodate the thickness of seven Citizen Eco-Drive one cases. The in-house made Citizen Eco-Drive movement is a marvel unto itself, and about 1mm thick. In my article introducing the Eco-Drive One watch, I discussed how much needed to be packed into the case. There is the sapphire crystal, then Eco-Drive dial (a specially made type of prism plastic that allows light to enter), the photovoltaic cell, then movement, battery, and of course the case itself.


Citizen Eco-Drive One Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Citizen Eco-Drive One Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

The movement is simple in purpose given the size, but it works to the watch’s advantage. Japan is a “feature cramming” culture, so when you see something straight forward and minimal like this design – you can’t help but love it. This is an old school-conceived Japanese watch. The design is all about celebrating an aesthetic which merges machine and jewelry, as well as a focus on small material details such as the finishing on the hands and the cermet material bezel. This latter element is important given that it is a stiff material and helps prevent the Eco-Drive One watch from being damaged or bent.

Citizen Eco-Drive One Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Citizen Eco-Drive One Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

The Eco-Drive quartz movement offers just the time with hours and minutes – and holds 100 days of power when fully charged. That is only a bit less than the thicker Eco-Drive movements. I really like the Eco-Drive One with these hands and nothing more. This is design restraint in a way we rarely see from Citizen in products that are sold outside of Japan. If anything, the design alone is reason for enthusiasts to like the Eco-Drive One – the super slim case is just the icing on the cake.

Citizen Eco-Drive One Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Citizen Eco-Drive One Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

At sizes like this, world records don’t really matter. This is the thinnest light-powered quartz watch in the world, but not the thinnest quartz watch in the world. That record likely goes to something much more delicate than the Eco-Drive one. Remember that part of the pride for Citizen isn’t just that they made a very thin Eco-Drive. It is that they made a very thin watch that is practical and meant to last a long time. Sure a thicker watch case is going to offer more durability in general. That isn’t the point. The point is that Citizen spent a lot of time making sure that their thin watch would put up with daily abuse and life like any other watch. This is a message you’ll rarely hear them articulate, but it is an important part of what makes the Citizen Eco-Drive One a special timepiece.

Watch Brands



Disqus Debug thread_id: 5822904046

  • Word Merchant

    I completely accept this is an engineering marvel, and I’m impressed, but I just wish Citizen had got someone else to design the case and strap, both of which are horrible.

  • Saul Sloota

    I used to have a Bulova with a crown that looked just like this one’s. Small and horribly slippery. Not a fan of that kind of crown. But luckily the price is so darned low here that I’d be willing to overlook the crown issue.

    Also love when a watch’s clasp is three times thicker than its case.

    • Gokart Mozart

      Isn’t the crown a smaller version of the AP Royal Oak?

      • Saul Sloota

        I’ve never handled a Royal Oak but the crown does look similar.

  • Mikita

    Watch Paper.

  • MEddie90

    An amazing technical marvel, and not to shabby looking either. I love the hands and think the case and dial design is attractive, plus eco-drive tech is easily one of the most practical bits of tech to enter watches since quartz was first introduced, the ultimate set and forget watch.

    That being said I’ve never understood the need to ultra thin watches, sure they’re kinda cool but below 6-7mm in thickness I always feel like there is a compromise being played for durability. Plus while I appreciate the second-less design I feel that a PR indicator would be useful since it’s a struggle to tell if it’s even working at a glance.

    • JCRV

      Unless you keep it in a drawer, that PR indicator will always show ‘full charge’. And if you take it out of the drawer after more than 100 days, it will be a miracle if it indicates close to the right time. So I’m okay without it.
      Looking at the photos, I am wondering whether they could have made the bracelet a bit thinner. But maybe than it would not be sturdy enough. Looks a bit weird though, with the case thinner than the bracelet.

  • IanE

    Strangely pointless watch: awful bracelet, case and crown; so-so hands; reasonably attractive dial; silly price even if the tech is clever.

  • Svetoslav Popov

    I would have bought one, if the price was below 300$ 🙂

    • Simon_Hell

      You probably mean ‘I would buy one’. ‘Would have’ implies you had an actual opportunity to buy one and you chose not to, which is probably not the case.

  • Even before I read anything I was thinking – holy crap that is thin. Nicely done even it not as affordable as one might want. After designing this thin case I can imagine the rest of the product discussion:

  • gadgety

    It’s thin, and amazing tech to allow 100 days of reserve. I wish they’d copied the Concord Delirium’s watch dial trick to create the illusion of depth in such a very thin watch. Funny how the clasp is thicker than the watch.

  • An engineering tour de force, but a design nightmare and a marketing joke. $2600 for a solar powered watch whose only notable feature is ‘it doesn’t even feel like you’re wearing a watch’?

    It’s interesting to see the Japanese taking a page out of the Swiss playbook – telling the consumer it’s worthy of their consideration as a luxury item is not the same thing as demonstrating it. Three handed watches are, by their nature, relatively thin. ‘Yeah but this one is the thinnest!’ doesn’t sound much like a selling point – at least not $2600 worth, anyway.

    • Anna Nuehm

      Seems to have worked for Piaget. 🙂

      • The Altiplano? Both the automatic and hand wound versions have in-house, highly finished movements. This Citizen has a movement made of stamped sheet metal and a battery.

        The concept of an “ultra-thin” dress watch is apparently appealing enough to the consumer for many manufacturers to offer one, and I can appreciate the level of artistry and technical skill necessary to craft a mechanical movement at such an extremely small scale. I guess since I carry around a computer in my pocket all day, I’m not terrible impressed by something small and battery powered.

    • And 2 handers such as this are even thinner by nature.

  • thecouchguy

    I quite like it.

  • Mikita

    Finally, you can cut yourself with a watch.

  • Phil leavell

    The amazing piece of engineering kudos. I’m sure if it was CV or patak how many tens of thousands of dollars would it cost then I guess there would be some different answers to the blog. Basically eat it watch snob

    • IanE

      It’s not about snobbery, it’s about value-for-money, not to mention an ugly case, bracelet and crown. But, horses for courses, feel free to buy one!

      • Phil leavell

        One man’s ugly is another man’s Sleeping Beauty. And I want a pony

    • proudAmerican702

      If it was a VC (?) or Patek, it’d be a mechanical watch, with an actual engine inside. THAT would be a technological marvel, it would be much more expensive to produce, and it would command a much more expensive watch. This isn’t about snobbery, it’s about value and technical complication.

      • Phil leavell

        It’s an oxymoron. Like a proud American with a German Shepherd cross. Or VC or Patak being value for money

  • markbyrn

    thin doesn’t cut a $2600 price tag for an eco-drive quartz piece and if you want to say otherwise, reply with a copy of your receipt.

    • Phil

      I’ve spent that sort of cash on an eco-drive from Citizen’s The Citizen range. However, I would say they’re better value for money because you get 5 seconds per year accuracy, perpetual calendar, independent hour hand and excellent cases.
      Confusingly they have started selling eco-drive pieces with the old Chronomaster branding, although this is probably a good move.

      In this case you are paying for thinness. Whether that’s worth it is individual, but the price is certainly not out of the ball park for high tech quartz.

  • Konrad Skura

    what is the thinnest watch then?

  • SuperStrapper

    There is a point where a watch is so thin, it is just as if not more polarising than a giant watch of ridiculous thickness. This watch has not only crossed that point, but peed on it while passing though. This is the CX 20k in bizarro world. Looks bad.

  • Raymond Wilkie

    It’s nice, well made, legible and everything else i like about a watch, and boy it’s thin. I like a bit of meat on my bone, especially at this price point. The case is a little small. If i had the throw away money i think i might buy this just for the wow thin factor.

  • DanW94

    The profile shot looks ridiculous with the bracelet twice as thick as the watch. It’s simply too wafer like for my tastes. Remember the modeling trend with the anorexic looking models a while back? Call this heroin horology….Like SuperStrapper mentions, a trend taken too far in the other direction.


    Grandpa your watch has arrived …

  • Mike V

    Your story of the judge reminds me of over 30 years ago when I first saw a manual wind AP ultra thin 2 hander in 18K white gold. At the time I lusted for a Rolex Datejust which looked like an absolute beast next to the AP. I believe the price of this Citizen will drop in time and I hope ultra thin will become popular again. When achieved in a mechanical watch such as the AP it represents fine watchmaking that needs to be seen in person to be truly appreciated. It s still amazing in quartz such as this Citizen or in the Concord Delirium of long ago.

  • Sevenmack

    Absolutely beautiful. The hands are well-shaped and understated, which fits the aesthetic of the watch. The textured dial with the three-point stars is lovely. The exposed screws give it a Royal Oak-like masculinity that would be lacking. The bracelet is nice and thin.

    The fact that it is quartz and solar-powered makes it even more appealing. Highly accurate, requires neither a wind nor a battery (not that there is anything wrong with either), and epitomizes the combination of haute horology and high level watch technology.

    Certainly there are collectors who will disdain the Eco-Drive One because it is quartz. Others will dislike it because it is thin. A few will just hate it. I love it!

  • Phil

    If they added a seconds hand and thermocompensation, at the expense of a bit of thinness, I would be all over it.

    I don’t want thin at the expense of everything else.

    • Sevenmack

      Good for you. Others, however, prefer thinness over a second hand and thermocompensation. The good news is that we all have choices.

      • Phil

        Where is the choice of quite thin but not ultra thin thermocompensated 3 hand eco-drive?

        I must have missed that one.

        • Sevenmack

          The Citizen Chronomaster AQ1000-58E is 9.9 millimeters, is thermo-compensated, and is an Eco-Drive. It may not be as thin as the Eco-Drive One. But it is plenty thin.

          Of course, the reality is that there is little demand for HAQ quartz, much less ultra-thin HAQs. There is likely more of a market for ultra-thin watches of any kind.

  • Ross Diljohn

    The watch that started it for me was a Mont Blanc. Never bought it. Still wish I had.

  • Mikita

    I’d better get Grand Seiko 9F.

  • Marius

    The technology behind this watch is quite impressive. Jack Forster recently published an interesting article on Hodinkee, giving an in-depth technical explanation. Nevertheless, for me, this watch is not very convincing.

    Firstly, I find it rather ugly. I’m not terribly bothered by the fact that the bracelet is thicker than the case. This is quits common in the case of ultra-thin mechanical watches as well — case in point the JLC Master Ultra Thin 38 with the great 849 caliber. What I don’t like about this Citizen is that it looks just like a toy watch, not like an expensive timepiece.

    Secondly, I don’t quite understate the purpose of creating an ultra thin quartz watch. Sure, creating an ultra thin mechanical watch is a highly complicated task because it pushes the limits of this antiquated technical field. For instance, a JLC watchmaker told me that a ultra thin movement is more difficult to produce than most tourbillons because of the extra tight tolerances, and difficulties in adjusting it — not to mention the finishing & decorating it Yet, as Valannin rightly argues, even the thinnest quartz watch is nothing more than a collection of circuits and electronic parts.

    Lastly, I would never pay $2,600 for any Citizen. The only quartz watch I would ever consider buying the Grand Seiko quartz featuring the 9F caliber, which is the best high-end quartz movement in the world as well as a highly-finished case & dial. And, the Grand Seiko also looks much better.

    • Dinkee, H. O.

      Wow, did you ever nail this comment. Again you demonstrate that you are better than the entire ABTW staff put together.

      I would add that the thick bracelet with the even thicker double deployant clasp completely defeats the purpose of the technology behind the watch. But this is normal for a garbage Japanese mass watch brand like Citizen.

      No person who is sane would ever think that this was a $2600 watch. Again, the purpose of all this technology is completely defeated by bad design. Again, this is normal with garbage Japanese mass watch brands like Citizen.

      Acceptable quartz watches are very few. Agreed about the Grand Seiko. I might suggest the Seiko Marine Master 300m as well due to its history and engineering. One also rare exception might be a vintage Rolex Oyster Quartz. But that’s it.

      • G Street

        Not funny anymore.

        • Ariel Adams

          He has been warned. We won’t be for that much longer.

    • David Sund

      Actually, a citizen chronomaster has better specs in terms of accuracy, tolerance and other details such as the shifting of the date than a 9F caliber

  • The last time I dropped that kind of money on a quartz watch was for a Casio MR-G. And I still think it was a good purchase. I do find this attractive. But I’m scared buyers remorse would take over once I really had it in hand. That much money for this particular design and feature set would probably continue to bother me over time.

  • Ross Diljohn

    Some people like ultra thin watches but then again some people also like haggis. Not sure you can build a market around degenerates…Or can you?

    • Marius

      I beg to differ. You CAN build a successful market around degenerates. Case in point: Hublot.

      • Ross Diljohn

        Good point. I stand corrected.

      • Dinkee, H. O.

        VERY successful.

    • Raymond Wilkie

      Haggis n neeps………….canny beat it.

      • Ross Diljohn

        Why am I not surprised?

  • Pete L

    Clever and beautifully understated but the bracelet is thicker than the case. Doesn’t look quite right to me.

  • William Jones

    This watch is a great illustration of the gap between great technology and great design. Why couldn’t the people who made this watch look at some of the great high end thin watches and draw inspiration from them? The technology of this watch is fantastic but the design is so so.

  • Simon_Hell

    The ultimate Beta-male watch. It screams “hit me, and i won’t even fight back!”

    • Dinkee, H. O.

      The first good post from you. Congratulations, Beta.

  • Larry Holmack

    It’s interesting, and the technology is pretty cool. But too small for me….and a bit pricey. I can pick up an Eco-Drive on eBay for under $200 everyday & some,models… under $100. These are going for either full MSRP or a couple of hundred off list on eBay if you’re interested.

  • I’d never wear it…not my style…but that’s amazing.

  • egznyc

    Actually kind of interesting as an aesthetic – partially due to its thinness. But, nah, the price for this fancy quartz isn’t reasonable to me. I also like a watch that doesn’t do the magic trick of “disappearing.”

  • Dinkee, H. O.

    This is exactly the kind of junk watch review that has sent this blog spiralling down compared to my blog and why I am now #1. You fool.

    • bobbeadle

      A startlingly boorish, Dinkee comment. Beneath contempt.

      Is it some kind of in-joke? I hope so.

      • Ariel Adams

        It is satire – he is a character.

  • Mark1884

    Interesting, but way too much money for this.

  • IG

    It’s quartz so who cares how thin.

  • Ulysses31

    A technical marvel, which covers the basic features except with one glaring omission – passion. It’s as inspiring as a paperclip or an empty can of tomatoes. Visual design is important in watches, regardless of how thin they are. In fact, I don’t see the appeal of disproportionately thin watches. They lack the heft and presence of a normal watch.

  • Pete Pete

    objectively speaking this thing is nothing else but a quirky novelty item. I like it anyway, though. but no way I’d ever spend $2600 for it. that price is just ridiculous considering that it has absolutely no resale value.

  • Teddy Smith

    This watch is absolutely Wow…!! I agree with Ariel, this would be a totally new experience for anyone. However, $2600 for the plastic dial quartz watch is way too high for me… Grand Seiko and Citizen Campanola could be from Japanese.

  • BOT

    What a beauty!

  • Drop files here or
    Accepted file types: jpg, png.