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Experiencing The Japanese Culture Of Innovation With Citizen Watches

Experiencing The Japanese Culture Of Innovation With Citizen Watches Inside the Manufacture

It is hard to find too many things to dislike about Japan. What’s not to like about a consumer-focused culture whose aim seems to be packing as much cool stuff as possible into small spaces while also making sure everything is as efficient and comfortable as possible? If some of those qualities seem to imply contradictory values, then welcome to the struggle that is understanding Japanese culture, as well as the internal struggle Japan has when it comes to always needing to innovate. The Swiss like to talk big about innovation for a culture whose primary aim is maintenance. If anything, Swiss innovation is about adapting to the times while remaining as culturally static as possible. Japan doesn’t seem to have a target when it comes to innovation. That road is long and winding, and probably goes on forever.

Experiencing The Japanese Culture Of Innovation With Citizen Watches Inside the Manufacture

“Micro HumanTech…”

Experiencing The Japanese Culture Of Innovation With Citizen Watches Inside the Manufacture

A view from one of the Citizen manufacture locations in Tokyo, Japan, with Mount Fuji in the distance.

At least, that’s been how things have seemed to me for as long as I’ve been able to appreciate Japanese stuff, beginning from the time I was a young child. It is a culture obsessed with maintaining comfort while adapting to the human condition in an increasingly populated and complex world. If that isn’t a recipe for innovation, I don’t know what is. Japan’s worst enemy is probably their isolationist viewpoint when it comes to the exportation of their culture. I seriously think more people would buy Japanese stuff if they understood why Japan made half of the stuff it did. In America, a favorite topic among those who have visited Japan is all the weird things we see there that we don’t understand or wish we had back at home – tasty snacks, cute toys, and electronic toilets being among them.

Experiencing The Japanese Culture Of Innovation With Citizen Watches Inside the Manufacture

Experiencing The Japanese Culture Of Innovation With Citizen Watches Inside the Manufacture

Experiencing The Japanese Culture Of Innovation With Citizen Watches Inside the Manufacture

When it comes to Japanese watches, I think we’ve gotten to the point where we take them for granted. It is both generational and social, but while we “aspire” to own expensive and difficult to acquire European watches, we sort of take Japanese watches for granted. This and many other topics were open for conversation with the people at Citizen who decided to ask myself and a very small group to visit just a few of their dozen or so factories in Japan. For a company with almost 20,000 employees, they’ve been remarkably quiet about what happens at home in Japan for as long as I’ve been writing and reporting about the watch industry.

Experiencing The Japanese Culture Of Innovation With Citizen Watches Inside the Manufacture

Experiencing The Japanese Culture Of Innovation With Citizen Watches Inside the Manufacture

Experiencing The Japanese Culture Of Innovation With Citizen Watches Inside the Manufacture

I didn’t realize it until this most recent trip to Japan, but I really do think we take Japanese watches for granted, which explains the all-to-common sentiment of “I wouldn’t pay that much for a Japanese watch.” In that simple statement is a universe of meaning that only now are the Japanese beginning to understand as they recognize that we as a society are entering a new era of watch consumption. Japan’s watch industry is set up to produce and sell a broad hierarchy of watches to people who need to know the time and who can afford varying degrees of quality. Watches are first and foremost meant to be reliable and functional, and after that are meant to reward the owner with additional bonuses like an attractive dial, comfortable bracelet, finely finished case, and all sorts of convenient extra features.

Experiencing The Japanese Culture Of Innovation With Citizen Watches Inside the Manufacture

Experiencing The Japanese Culture Of Innovation With Citizen Watches Inside the Manufacture

Experiencing The Japanese Culture Of Innovation With Citizen Watches Inside the Manufacture

The mentality of the typical Japanese watch is that it should be something that lasts a long time and that you don’t need to worry about. You replace your watch when it either breaks or you enter a new station in life and are allowed to upgrade your belongings. This was and perhaps still is a natural part of Japanese career culture where seniority is valued, and with time, people step up the ladder. Thus, an interesting relationship between Japanese consumer culture and their domestic watches developed because the two needed each other. Japan especially needs watches as so much of the society relies on trains and mass transit to get around. An accurate, reliable watch means you’ll be on time more often (ideally).

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When Japan began to compete with the global watch market other, their products quickly became successful because of (in my opinion) the culture’s voracity for efficiency, performance, and human ergonomics. The fiercely competitive consumer culture in Japan is made more interesting by the fact that Japanese consumers are typically very highly educated about the products they are buying. The sheer availability of goods in Japan means that consumers need to research what to buy before they buy it, and this goes for watches too. This environment would seem to offer the perfect blend of values for the formulation of good watches.

Experiencing The Japanese Culture Of Innovation With Citizen Watches Inside the Manufacture

An early atomic clock radio-controlled watch with an antenna running down the middle.

Experiencing The Japanese Culture Of Innovation With Citizen Watches Inside the Manufacture

Experiencing The Japanese Culture Of Innovation With Citizen Watches Inside the Manufacture

So when Japanese watches began to hit the international market decades ago, they quickly began to eclipse both the American and European watch markets because they simply produced more consumer-focused desirable products. Fast forward to today, and most people haven’t really thought about these concepts in a while. The values of Japanese consumer products have bled into competing nations who offer their own twist on the Japanese business formula, but the Japanese still do it best. Whether or not most people think about it, they do consider Japanese products to be premium – if not luxury in their positioning. For the most part, we can thank Japanese high-end car makers for that.

Experiencing The Japanese Culture Of Innovation With Citizen Watches Inside the Manufacture

Despite the perception that quartz watches are cheap to produce, the better ones involve a lot of hand-assembly and testing, just like a mechanical movement.

Experiencing The Japanese Culture Of Innovation With Citizen Watches Inside the Manufacture

Experiencing The Japanese Culture Of Innovation With Citizen Watches Inside the Manufacture

I am pretty sure I know why we take Japanese watches for granted, and that is because so many of us grew up with them. It was thus not until we were older that we sought new timepiece experiences and became fascinated with the more sophisticated lifestyle marketing of the European luxury brands. My first watch was Japanese, and I wore Japanese watches exclusively for the first 20 or so years of my life. When I was 18, I bought by first analog watch which was a Citizen Eco-Drive Promaster with a metallic red dial (that I’ve since never seen anywhere else), and since then, I’ve acquired at least a dozen Citizen watches. How, then, could I see such products as exotic or difficult to acquire prizes?

Experiencing The Japanese Culture Of Innovation With Citizen Watches Inside the Manufacture

Experiencing The Japanese Culture Of Innovation With Citizen Watches Inside the Manufacture

These square units are GPS modules on Eco-Drive Satellite Wave watches and are made in-house.

Experiencing The Japanese Culture Of Innovation With Citizen Watches Inside the Manufacture

Japan won the battle for making the world’s most consumer-friendly watches years ago. They won so thoroughly that most of us don’t even remember that there was ever a battle. Today, Japan still produces some of the best watches in the world, and yet none but the most dedicated of watch lovers will be able to tell you that. Are they better or worse that Swiss watches? That isn’t a fair comparison because the two nations have very different ideas about what makes a good watch. The way I see it, when you buy a Swiss watch you are buying a beautiful machine. When you buy a Japanese watch you are buying a beautiful gadget. I’ll let you think about what the difference is, as it is subtle but important.

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  • john coleman

    Very interesting article Ariel. I have a Citizen Chronograph watch. Eco Drive and beautifully made. Keeps superb time.

  • TechUser2011

    “It is hard to find too many things to dislike about Japan.”

    I had to read that first sentence a few times to fully parse it. Why can’t you just write in a straight-forward manner? How about: “There are many things to like about Japan.”

    • Ariel Adams

      Because I said exactly what I meant. What you said is not a reciprocal. What you said I implies that I evaluate a location based on a long list of positive factors. That’s not really true. Most places have lots of positive factors. What I instead do is evalute locations based on the existence and extent of negative qualities and values. This is what, for me, separates mediocre cities from great cities, that is the relative absence or sparsity of negative factors. Thus my original statement of “It is hard to find too many things to dislike about Japan,’ is an articulate representation of my thought process at the moment. Thanks for asking.

      • john coleman

        Well explained answer Ariel.

      • On balance, I like going to Japan. But the list of things I dislike about it is as long as my list for other countries. Some things in Japan are outstanding, other things just suck (beside being bewildering to gaijin). I think the vending machines with used girls panties have disappeared off the streets.

        • Boogur T. Wang

          comment deleted by poster

      • Raymond Wilkie

        Makes sense

      • Shinytoys

        absolutely…

    • Forever Great

      Say again mongloid, your breaking up! Repeat…repeat mongloid!!

  • Personally, I think the perception in the U.S. of Japanese = Quality began with their electronics and not their cars. By the early 70s, Japanese stereo receivers were held in high regard at a time when their cars were just losing the “little tin box made in Japan” notion and were on their way to being seen as as good as and then better than the build quality of American cars. But they were still economy cars in 1970 (with few exceptions). When American really embraced Japanese cars as having superior quality, then they became positioned to enter the luxury car market.

    As far as watches, they will be bound by the current perception of “good” but not outstanding only because of the affordability of most of their watches. If the Swiss suddenly started producing the majority of their watches at the same prices, their overall “superior” impression would fade. Swatch watches being an anomaly and a separate market segment. The last thing the Swiss want would be company to flood the market with $300 mechanical Swiss watches.

    Citizen owned Bulova has their “Accu-Swiss” line because they suffer from the same stigma of having affordable watches (when they are made in Switzerland). And Fossil seems use Zodiac (with company made Swiss automatic movements) for the same purpose – higher end and Swiss made. Even though both companies could make the same watches, including movements, in the U.S. if they really wanted to (with proper investment and lead time).

    Just my 2 cents.

    • Raymond Wilkie

      Sadly , i think at the moment what you say is true, but not too many years in the future.i believe attitudes will change. The consumer is King.

    • DanW94

      Mark, I agree with your assessment of people’s perception of Japanese watches as “good, solid affordable watches, but it seems that the Grand Seiko line is certainly changing that (without a Swiss affiliation). There’s a realization that the Japanese can produce superior watches on par (and above) with the best of what the Swiss have to offer. But that realization needs to move beyond watch enthusiasts and into the larger watch buying public.

      • Raymond Wilkie

        It will in time.

    • iamcalledryan

      Also worth noting that Citizen’s foray into Switzerland extends to them owning la Joux-Perret, which means Angelus and Arnold & Son. So they own the expertise and have done for a few years, but are clearly cautious about uniting the high-end with the ‘Made in Japan’ label.

      • smoothsweeper

        I don’t believe the need to differentiate between low and high-end is internally driven, though. The market is reluctant, and so Toyota and Honda humor the market. Within Japan, there’s little-to-no need for this differentiation.

    • Boogur T. Wang

      See the comment by Mr. Hook above.
      “Purpose built” seems to be a good analogy. The current line of thought amongst the Swiss marques appears to be “add a tourbillon to it and make it more blingy.” This is biting them in their cheese-laden behinds as their super-model sports/fashion avatar-of-the-day commands a higher (non-returnable) price and less and less actual market attention among those who want to buy a damn watch.

      I’d say, that once again, the Japs have done their long-term homework and are producing a quality, along with quantity, that the gnomes are seeing devour them.

      I do agree with the electronics before automotive comment. Well-made stereos hit the market prior to the Toyota/Datsun boom of the early ’70s.
      (at least for me it did ) Sansui anyone?…lol!

  • SuperStrapper

    Great article, that was fun. Interesting that the workplace has a mix of English and Japanese on the notes and screens, etc you see around the place: did you come across a notable number of employees that were bilingual (or better)?

  • Ben McLendon

    I have a few Citizen watches and I really enjoy all of them. The oldest one is about ten years old. In spite of their technical complexity, they have proven to be absolutely reliable.

  • George Hook

    What I love about Japanese watches over Swiss ones is that Japanese watches are “purpose built” vs Swiss which are just built.

    I can get a Japanese watch for diving with diving specific information, or a G-Shock watch for hiking in areas where durability and information is vitally important. You don’t want to get caught in the rainforest or across glaciers with a Swiss watch that decides that you’ve exerted a bit too much force and decides to call it a day. I’m sure these Swiss watches exist, but I do work for a living and have to factor in cost. I’m not going to spend a few thousand dollars for a watch with the durability I need when I can get a well built and extremely sturdy watch from Citizen or Casio for a few hundred. I do own an MTG-1000 watch from Casio and there is NOTHING from the Swiss like it. Durable, all metal, solar, Atomic timekeeping, and under $600 when you search for a good price.

    Also, there is very little, if any, innovation with the Swiss now. “Innovation” to the Swiss is a new movement within 40 years of the last one. To the Japanese, there is innovation coming out almost monthly. One other issue I have with the Swiss is that it’s more of a cartel than a business. They all price their watches to make them so expensive even though the cost of the watch has nothing to do with how much it costs to make but how much they can get to make it a “status” piece. I’m not saying that Breitling or companies like that don’t make great watches, but you can’t tell me that a stainless steel watch with a movement designed 30-40 years ago should start at $3,500 and have minimum pricing setup so you can’t get these watches at a “reasonable” cost. They are more and more like DeBeers every day.

    I understand the “art” in building a watch and pricing is what someone will pay for it. Rolex can’t get $10,000 for a watch unless someone is willing to pay that, and I get that. But, when the chips are down and I need my watch to be able to function in an environment that is harsh, tough and demanding, I’ll go with my MTG-1000 over anything from the Swiss.

  • Ethan

    No doubt, Citizen makes great watches. Recently held my beloved Eco-Drive too close to a halogen light and partially melted the plastic dial. Still works though!

  • Raymond Wilkie

    Great article, fantastic brand

  • dennis

    Good article, i have a Citizen eco drive dive watch bought 20 yrs. ago
    in the land of Mr. Carson, looks and still runs great.

  • Mark Baran

    Very interesting and well written article. Thanks for the time you put into this piece.

  • David Williams

    A finely crafted, high-end mechanical watch – from Switzerland, Germany (you know who I mean!) or elsewhere – is a joy to behold and own. As the culmination of several centuries of timekeeping evolution, which has enabled us to co-ordinate the needs of society and industry, and to navigate the seas and the skies, the mechanical watch (or indeed clock) is one of humankind’s defining technical achievements.

    I feel, however, that using the natural vibrating frequency of a quartz crystal in the service of even greater timekeeping accuracy, with the option of additional functions beyond those that can be achieved mechanically, is also impressive. To me, a high-end multi-function quartz watch powered by light, though a very different beast to a mechanical watch, is an intellectually satisfying example of human ingenuity, as well as being a practical, accurate and versatile tool.

    • john coleman

      Totally agree.

  • Dakota Dennison

    What is that day date citizen model?

  • Mitchell Fried

    I’ve owned the Campanola Grand Complication for many years (like Ariel’s shown, except for Roman numerals and luminous hands). Each time that I show it watch collectors I have to explain what it is, since it is completely off the radar. When I needed a battery change I sent it to Citizen in America, not Japan. I think I paid a total of $50.00. Next time you send your Swiss watch in for normal maintenance think about the difference in upkeep costs.

    • Same here! Mine has only needed a battery change at Citizen and nothing else!

      • Shinytoys

        they are the definition of “turn key motoring”…no doubt, the pieces are bulletproof…

    • peter_byford

      Hi Mitchell.
      You’ve touched on something that gets me SO angry ! …..A chronometer is the most accurate man-made mechanical object in the world !…..yes, doing the maths for a watch accurate to 2 seconds a day ( a lot are, or better ) equates to 99.99767% accuracy ! It stops & starts @ least 10 times a second ( colossal g forces ) , every minute of every hour , 7 days a week, every year for 5 or so years, without any maintenance. So sure, circa £500 for a main agent service , ie £100 per annum is baulked at by many. But if you want this marvel of engineering to keep on maintaining this level of performance, I think circa £500 represents great value for money spread over the 40 – 50+ years working life of the watch lol !…..These same people quite happily pay 4 figures to have their Mercedes serviced every year, often with high cost replacement parts. Go figure.

      I replace batteries myself in watches that obviously need them, so know what they cost to buy in. Yes, High Street retailers offer this ‘ service ‘ & have overheads, promise pressure testing & sealing ( though to what level ? ) but even so I’ve heard of ludicrously exploitative charges imposed on the public…….rocket science it isn’t.

      Apologies for using your comment to air my views.

  • Marius

    I admire the Japanese for their work ethic and high quality products, but for me, their high-end watches have three big problems.

    Firstly, Japanese luxury brands are not very good story tellers. Let’s face it: when you pay €8,000 for a watch, the technical aspect is only half the story (sometimes much less); the other half is given by the brand name, prestige and recognition of that watch. Technically, Grand Seiko and Credor might be on par with Rolex and Patek, but from a prestige perspective the Japanese are a long way behind.

    Secondly, the variety of Japanese high-end brands is rather limited. You have GS, Credor, a few high-end Citizens and that’s basically it. What would be the Japanese equivalent to an AP Royal oak; or to an IWC Big Pilot`s; or to a Lange Datograph?

    Thirdly, I don’t like the design of most Japanese luxury watches. Most of them are either quirky and bizarre — such as the newly released Grand Seiko Tourbillon –, or they are immitating European watches — such as most GSs that have a very Rolex-like styling. For me, Credor is the only brand that has an excellent design: it’s very Japanese, but in the same time very elegant and subtle.

    • peter_byford

      Hi Marius.

      I agree with your arguments. I’m a big fan of Seiko, grew up with them from the 1970’s, even today have several spanning several eras & types in my collection. Along with Citizen ( I have those too ) offer great value & performance. Yes, Spring Drive , Credor, GS came along , but so did much higher prices, & unfortunately that’s where I part company , so to speak, with the love affair. So many people say to me….” Yes Peter, they are lovely, superbly engineered & finished, but at the end of the day it’s JUST another Seiko “……..I agree in part, & for the high(er) end price, I’d look to other brands, & if I was a ‘ one watch only’ guy again, I couldn’t see a GS being my daily wear. …..I think it’s the same attitude towards Skoda cars……….great build, specification etc….shame about the Skoda badge on the front. Oh well.

    • Sevenmack

      Your dislike of the design of Japanese luxury watches is one driven by your own Eurocentrism. Because you prefer the Swiss/German aesthetic, it is difficult for you to appreciate what the Japanese do on their terms. Otherwise, how can anyone not appreciate Citizen’s legendary Campanola watches, with the amazing lacquered dials. Or the Grand Seiko Snowflake, probably the most-unique watch within the $5,000-to-$10,000 range.

      From where I sit, Citizen and Seiko produce amazing watches at the high-end, in fact, more-interesting watches than the Swiss have ever done. Especially on the quartz and Spring Drive end, Citizen’s Campanola line and Grand Seiko’s Spring Drive watches blow Swiss mechanicals out of the water on all fronts.

      At the end of the day, you can choose or not choose to expand your mind and enjoy these lovely Japanese watches. After all, it is a preference. But in my opinion, to say that Japanese high-end watches are “bizarre” is pure crazy talk.

      • Marius

        Actually, you are right: I am very Eurocentric, especially when it comes to motorcycles, clothes and watches. What could be cooler than a Ducati motorcycle, a Anderson&Sheppard bespoke suit, and a Jaeger LeCoultre. After all, I am European, and I am very attached to European brands.

        Regarding the Campanola dials, they are certainly very interesting, but I don’t like them. Also, the fact that labelled the design of some Japanese watches as bizarre is purely my own opinion, my personal taste. Sure, others might like them, but I don’t. Personally, I would never spend thousands of euros on a Grand Seiko, but that’s just my own preference — technically, GS makes a top notch watch.

        • Sevenmack

          As someone who grew up around motorcycles — my uncles ride Yamahas and Hondas — a Honda Valkyrie would beat the daylights out of any Ducati. A Campanola would beat out any JLC. And Anderson & Sheppard? Hah! If you’re going Saville Row, you should step up the game and go Gieves & Hawkes; personally, even the average Hong Kong and Tokyo tailor puts those two to shame. The Europeans have done plenty. But without American ingenuity and Asian sensibilities, the world would be a far worse place. [I said it.]

  • yonsson

    So you are the one getting SEIKO to release GS in Paris, Amterdam and Stockholm as the first stores outside of Japan? Seriously, get over yourself. Do you know how many that begged for SEIKO to release GS outside of Japan for years and years before that happened? GS has been sold for a long time outside of Japan, just not in USA until a few years ago.

    • yonsson

      Sweden has had a Grand SEIKO store since 2009.

  • peter_byford

    Typical article bias language……

    “when you buy a Swiss watch you are buying a beautiful machine. When you buy a Japanese watch you are buying a beautif GADGET” Gadget ?, what utter rubbish ! Top of the range Grand Seiko etc leave many a Swiss high end offering for dead, in every department, including price. A watch buddy sold his Rolex Submariner for a Seiko diver with a GS movement in. He said the standard of finish & performance easily surpassed the Sub’.

    “Swiss innovation is about adapting to the times while remaining as culturally static as possible. Japan doesn’t seem to have a target when it comes to innovation. That road is long and winding, and probably goes on forever.”…….Innovation is ongoing , so, yes, does go on forever . Unlike Swiss brands that have very limited innovations by comparison, sitting on their laurels , over-pricing. Spring Drive came along, a truly innovative technical design…..what’s come out from the Swiss , new, affordable & revolutionary ?…..ah, I agree….’ culturally static ‘ = stationary ha ha.

    By the way, the article fails to mention that Citizen is the largest watch maker in the world, with sales mix & volume the Swiss can only dream of.

    Ah, 100% agree, or 100% disagree , pick & choose, but this article ruffled a few feathers & the moderator on a couple of watch sites removed it…..so much for freedom of expression lol ! Are things today better or worse……IMHO it’s….????? lol !

    http://www.fratellowatches.com/column-swiss-watch-industry-bankrupt/

    • Ariel Adams

      So your bias is not liking the term “gadget?” I happen to put great value on gadgets. I live for gadgets.

      • peter_byford

        Given the sentiment expressed, comparing a ‘ beautiful machine ‘ to a ‘gadget, no, I don’t think it’s appropriate use of the word. To most, a gadget is something that serves one purpose only, you don’t really need it, but it’s nice to demonstrate it’s prowess, maybe against the accepted norm. I really don’t think the Japanese watch industry is in the business of making ‘gadgets’….more making serious horological pieces that, at the very least, tell the time.

        • Ariel Adams

          I have such fondness for gadgets that I use the term affectionately – though not all gadgets are good gadgets. The best gadgets out there are what spur my passion for all of this. I don’t see it as a negative in this context.

  • Boogur T. Wang

    Very good article Ariel-San.
    I am glad to see this piece bringing the quality and technology of this marque to world attention.

    Citizen is a worthy contender.

  • spiceballs

    Great article Ariel, enjoyed that. I like mechanical watches but whenever and wherever I travel I take one of my Citizen Ecodrives.

  • Omegaboy

    “It is hard to find too many things to dislike about Japan.” Ariel, for Pete’s sake, what in the world kind of opening sentence is this? How about, “It’s hard to find anything to dislike about Japan.”? Or, even better, “There are so many things to love about Japan.” You need an editor. And your misuse of the word ‘myself’, a reflexive pronoun, that should be used only if you’re doing something to yourself – “I shamed myself by using poor English.”

    • peter_byford

      Yes, I notice too the negativity pervading articles when the thrust of it is……” We the Swiss are great, the rest bit players, also-rans, not up to our standards “…etc, etc.
      I think another writer on ABTW used the word ‘ posse’ to describe a brand’s followers.
      So you knew straight off his condescending attitude towards it. There are many of us looking at the Swiss watch-making industry from the outside looking in, rather than allowing the Swiss to spoon-feed us ( myth & marketing ) from the inside looking out…
      using ‘ following like sheep’ values.

      • Ariel Adams

        We have the dual ability to look at the industry from the outside in, and from the inside out. It probably means that a lot of our sentiments are difficult for all people to understand since explaining context can be challenging. We do this because we love watches, but that doesn’t mean we have to love every element of the industry or feel that all practices are ideal. We have suggestions and sentiments about how this are done, and we feel it is important to hint at those things while speaking. I would be utterly bored if our coverage was purely subjective and without personal opinion or bias. We just aren’t hiding what our biases or opinions are. Those are open to all and if people want clarification on how we feel then they need only ask.

        • peter_byford

          Use simple English then, not loaded with subjective hyperbole. I appreciate your opinions , I do, but not when implied on a broad
          basis, covert or overt, in the main thrust of the article. As I said here,
          one of your contrbutors used the word ‘posse’, instead of say ‘ avid followers, loyal fan base ‘. Posse implies blind followers in the sense
          of no real thought.

          • Ariel Adams

            Perhaps where you live or in your circles “posse” has that particular meaning. For us it does not. To be part of a posse is to be part of an enthusiastic group of very intentional followers who have very specific reasons and motives. If we wanted to refer to blind following we would have used terms such as “sheep” or “dogmatic.” Being part of a posse is a choice, and a deliberate one. Its possible we use it in a more casual sense, but in our usage there is no implication of blind following. No one who reads this site follows anything blindly.

          • peter_byford

            I concede you that, put ‘posse’ is not common usage in UK, in the meaning you meant. Most here think No 1, not No 2.

          • Ariel Adams

            It’s like Americans and people from Britan speak the same language, until we realize sometimes we don’t 🙂 Sorry for our continued bastardization of the Queen’s English. Truly, we try!

          • peter_byford

            Now wasn’t that therapeutic to say up front lol ! I was beginning to wonder whether my BA. (Hons) Eng.Lit. wasn’t worth studying for ha ha. …BTW, a vote was taken in US as to what the national language would be…….English won the day over German……by 1 vote !

    • Ariel Adams

      I’m not going to defend each grammatical decision that I make. My writing is meant to be an extension of how my mind formulates thoughts – and rather than dilute my actual message, I prefer to offer prose which might go against certain classic rules, but is a more specific snapshot of what I am thinking. I like to go by the rule that in language, if you’ve received my message and know what I am trying to say, I’ve done my job as a communicator. I’ll leave grammar rule adherence to those people who are best at it.

  • Omegaboy

    Sorry. It just seems to me that if you’re goal is to make A Blog to Watch the best watch blog in the world, you should write well.

    • peter_byford

      Well AND impartial, methinks ( Shakespeare usage…lol ! )

  • ??????

    Excellent article, Ariel! Chronomater collection blows my mind away, badly want one of these beauties. I don’t mind that its qurtz since its premium one. But please, visit high-end Orients any day, I mean Orient Star and Royal Orient. The only japanese watch manufacture fully oriented (lol) on mechanical watches.

  • Adam

    Wonderful article. I will be sharing this one far and wide.

  • gadgety

    Interesting piece. To my mind Citizen is the world leader in solar-driven quartz watches. Because we equate scarcity with exclusivity we fail to realize just what an accomplishment the eco-drive quartz watches are. Even more so these 3mm latest editions. Having read period books about the technological struggle to perfect time keeping I came to realize just what accomplishments they were.

    Where the Japanese are not as skilled is in curating the mythology around the quartz watch. For example they came out with a limited edition super accurate Crystron Mega in 1975. I still think it looks very appealing design wise. That octagon watch face is special. Didn’t they keep one in the vaults? Even if they didn’t, find one, craft the story, discover it in the vaults, take it out and show it off. In conjunction bring out an updated version, or a reinterpretation, with Eco-Drive and accurate to 1 second a year, without satellite synchronization. It is feasible as a programmer showed on the 50 dollar TI watch. The Swiss are far better at marketing and myth creation.

    • peter_byford

      ” The Swiss are far better at marketing and myth creation “…….& one of the worst offenders is Rolex lol ! …..’ It takes a year to manufacture your Oyster movement ‘..
      So 1,500,000 movements per annum = 1.5 million years work then ? Myth or marketing ? Both methinks ! ….& there’s more ha ha,……Edmund Hillary & Smiths de luxe……& so on.

  • Josh Graves

    Nicely done. Makes me want to pull my Citizen Eco-drive out of the watch box…maybe tomorrow.

  • Jerry Davis

    Exactly how many time did the writer say we take Japanese watches for granted?
    I lost count.

    • peter_byford

      Hi Jerry.
      Just one mention is one too many !

  • A guy who makes his living writing about $120,000 Swiss watches calls the Swiss watch industry “culturally static”. Ouch.

    I have a really great Citizen Eco-Drive GMT that I wear whilst traveling to places that sporting a GMT Master II would draw too much attention and make me a target for theft. No one wants to steal a Citizen. I’ve been wearing the same Seiko dive watch for about 15 years – I’ve never serviced it and if it floods or breaks, I’ll pick up a new one without hesitation and without a dent in my bank account. And when I visited Everest, there was a Casio Pathfinder strapped to my wrist, not a Rolex Explorer, because I’m not going to wear a $7000 watch whilst sleeping in a tent on a mountain.

    Pretty much sums up my feelings towards the Japanese watch market – they make dependable, robust, inexpensive tools. Much like a Toyota. But they’ll never be a Mercedes. And they’ll definitely never be an Aston Martin. And as for the Grand Seiko and Citizen Signature lines, they’re not too different than the Lexus nameplate: They’re gussied-up Toyotas.

    • Shinytoys

      totally agree

    • ??????

      Agree on the first conclusion, but cannot agree about guissied-up Toyotas. Japanese high-end watches became much more. Today they achieve the levels where very few swiss “Mercedes” can climb. And people will have to admit it after some time, maybe today is too early.

      Seiko aka “gussied-up Toyota”:https://www.hodinkee.com/articles/with-the-seiko-eichi-ii-versus-dufour-and-ferrier

      Read the comments there. Surprisingly many seem to disagree with your statement as do I.

      Another tuner of Toyotas: http://ablogtowatch.com/hajime-asaoka-project-t-tourbillon-indepedent-japanese-watch/

      Philippe Dufour about modern Swiss watchmakery and some words on Seiko/Citizen: http://ablogtowatch.com/philippe-dufour-disappointed-todays-watchmakers/2/

    • Ariel Adams

      Why would the Swiss be offended by use of the term “culturally static.” They indeed are about preserving culture and tradition rather than adopting others. Maintenance of ideals is not a bad thing all the time, and it is synonymous with “static.” It isn’t a poke at them, it is simply framing the way they think about what is important in the production and design of their products.

    • Stephen Scharf

      I’m with Ariel on this one, also. The Swiss industry is entirely founded on the notion of preserving the status quo, and convincing customers than an older, less accurate techonology/design embodiment for telling time is a superior value proposition. It’s one of the dimensions of quality that David Garvin of Harvard Business school refers to as “perceived quality”. But that’s all it is, perception. It’s not however, quality in a statistical Six Sigma sense, that is process capability (Cp/CpK), accuracy or minimizing variance. The Japanese often kill the Swiss in this regard. The entire Swiss industry is actually based on complacency and a deliberate lack of innovation to preserve said status quo, much like the professional bicycle racing industry is. Sure, mechanical watches are cool, it’s amazing to see something like a watch assembled and come alive as the balance is inserted. I like for that, too, we all do. But what I see from the Swiss industry as a whole is a very conservative, staid industry that is more interested in putting iterations and unlimited limited editions of the same set of core watches, rather than true innovation. As far as mechanical watch manufactures go, I see a lot more innovation from companies like Sinn than I do than the big Swiss manufactures.

  • Shinytoys

    I have monster respect for Citizen. They continue to be true innovators in the world of horology. If some suggest they have copied European designs, in my opinion they have improved on what they have borrowed. Dare I say, that this company has it “Dialed”? 🙂 Great Article A.A.

  • Sevenmack

    “The way I see it, when you buy a Swiss watch you are buying a beautiful
    machine. When you buy a Japanese watch you are buying a beautiful
    gadget. I’ll let you think about what the difference is, as it is subtle
    but important.”

    Actually, Ariel, the Swiss and the Japanese both build great machines and great gadgets. After all, a watch, regardless of movement, tells time and date and does so in a tiny box. The watch, in fact, is the first successful effort at nanotechnology. The combination of technology and design is amazing regardless of who builds it. At the same time, the complications in watches are largely gadgets and useless. No one needs chimes to tell time in an age of lume and electricity. Smartphones can do a far better job as a stopwatch than a traditional chronograph ever can. Yet watch collectors enjoy them. So watches are also gadgets.

    So even with your overly long explanation, the passage you wrote is intellectually vapid. It also fails to acknowledge the Japanese as peers to the Swiss as great watchmakers. Which should shame anyone calling themselves a watch collector.

    • Ariel Adams

      I refer to some of these concepts in terms of how the countries talk about or think about their own products. What they actually produce isn’t what I am referring to as they are both excellent at producing watches. It is the cognizant philosophy behind why they do what they do, and how they see the utility of their products as being worthy of conversation as in my opinion it explains the reasons behind their product and design choices. If you missed the point I am sorry.

      • Sevenmack

        I got the point. But it is still intellectually vapid because gadgets and machibes are one and the same. There may be differences in size and purpose But in the case of watches, they are one and the same. Additionally, in the context of the conversation about Swiss versus Japanese, stating that the Japanese focus on gadgets belittles the great work that they have done on watches.

        At the end of the day, it is your outlet. But I do think that the thesis doesn’t work.

        • Ariel Adams

          If there is anything I’ve learned from this article is how people place very different meanings and values on particular words. I think there is a “translation” issue if anything because my meaning for gadget, and some other terms appears to not align with everyone’s definitions of those terms. Its possible that I’m being playful with some of the term usages, but people use the term “gadget” in not the best light all the time, and I am simply reminding myself that “gadget” is actually a good thing. Of course the Swiss and Japanese both produce gadgets as much as they do machines. Its not easy to sum up in a few sentences (or even an entire article) the precise and full differences between the Swiss and Japanese watch industry – so we keep trying (along with all the trial and error).

          What is most important is that it appears we are all actually on the same page about the importance as well as differences between how these two countries produce timepiece. It isn’t a matter of better or worse, they just come to the design table with different things in mind – despite the fact that they are both producing watches.

          Like many people who love watches I place my appreciation of Swiss and Japanese watches in separate categories and appreciate them both (as well as criticize them both) for a host of unique reasons. So as long as this separation exists, we will try to explain and refine our feelings. This is just part of that process. Like I said, from what I can tell, semantics aside, most of us seem to be on the exact same page.

        • Stephen Scharf

          I’m with Ariel on this one. His distinctions regarding “great machines” and “gadgets” is about reflecting differences in cultural orientations, not design embodiments. What actually constitutes a machine or gadget is dependent on the operation definition of each.

          • Sevenmack

            And again, that parsing of words and meanings is vapid because by all definitions in a dictionary, gadgets and machines are the same thing. Trying to make distinctions when there are no differences is simply an exercise in empty and meaninglessintellectual justification. More importantly, in this exercise, Ariel is trying to say that there are cltural differences in approaches to watches when there really isn’t one. Form following function is as much a part of western culture as it is eastern. Even an architectural student studying Mies Van De Rohe and Louis Sullivan can tell you that.

  • Tony G

    I’m struggling to find the model of the black eco drive satellite wave, the last image on the first page. Can anyone help?

    • Ariel Adams

      It is a new model and perhaps not on their website yet. It is the Promaster Navihawk GPS. Retail price for that black DLC-coated steel model is about $2,000. Look for more information in a full review son.

      • Tony G

        Thanks, Ariel!

  • smoothsweeper

    My grab-and-go piece is an Eco-Drive and I find myself wearing it so much more than I thought I would when I bought it. I work at a desk so any watch will do for most of the day, but then I started commuting by bicycle. There’s no way I’m subjecting a balance wheel to the knocks and vibrations my wrist goes through. So I pretty much wear my little Citizen 5 days a week now, and only take out the mechanicals at night and weekends. Its perfect size (37.5mm wide, 10mm high) doesn’t hurt either.

    Here it is, the best damn field watch on the planet (BM8180-03E):

  • Jonathan

    Can you provide info on the watch the gentleman in the suit is wearing, also shown on the japan-only window display? Would love to know how to get one in the US if possible. Thanks.

  • Jonathan

    For anyone interested, the watch shown is The Citizen’ model AQ1010-03E, Japan market only as far as I can tell.

  • Matthew Chippin

    I will say one thing, Citizen, and their subsidiary Bulova, are far more apt to stand behind their product than are the Swiss. Citizen offers a 5 year warranty whereas Bulova a 3. However, beyond this, they both offer repair centres, in both the US and Canada, to which you can send your watch for a very reasonable price. I’ve heard of people getting theirs basically recrafted for around 100 bucks. When companies like Rolex charge 900 bucks for servicing, and Swatch group only gives a 2 year warranty with no service centres outside Switzerland, I think Citizen is only in a position to thrive. This is why my go to watches are an Eco-Drive and a Precisionist.

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