The secret sauce of Citizen Eco-Drive watches are the specially made plastic dials (made in-house using in-house machines) which rely on various types of clever prism effects to bend light and push it through parts of the dial which the eye cannot see. According to Citizen, about 60% of the light which hits the dials then passes through to the photovoltaic cells underneath. Citizen is able to make Eco-Drive dials in a range of colors, and even those which look like metal using a few special optical tricks.
What is even more interesting to those who enjoy hand craftsmanship is that the color of the dials uses a hand-blended formulation of colored pellets. Like an expert mixing paints, Citizen’s “pelletization” department needs to eye the right mixture of colors which are then melted and blended into other pellets which make up the eventual dial colors. This process is so tricky that, for some colors, the actual resulting dial color can vary slightly from one production run to the next.
The sexiness of quartz watches is often missing because we envision watchmakers assembling mechanical movements while we assume quartz movements pop out of a machine ready to go. That simply isn’t true, and I’ve personally seen at least three places where quartz movements are produced – often using as much hand-effort and skill as the places where mechanical watches are made. In fact, at Citizen, the situation is very interesting because mechanical movements are produced right next to quartz movements in the very same room. It made for an interesting visual experience on my part, and would help anyone appreciate just how similar the production for each of these types of watch movements is.
I’m as little a fan of cheap mechanical watches as I am of cheap quartz watches. Both aren’t very reliable and are housed in low-quality cases with dials that tend to leave me wanting more. Why do I say this? I’m really trying to share my enthusiasm for high-end quartz. Citizen, like Seiko, both produce elaborately designed and amazing high-end quartz watches that should excite you as much as (if not more than) similarly-priced mechanical watches. What I like about high-end quartz watches isn’t just that they have sophisticated movements with cool features and amazing performance, but also that these movements are contained within excellent-quality cases. Many people are starting to see this in Seiko’s Grand Seiko quartz watches, and Citizen has their own collection of such watches – often with even more traditional and minimalist designs. Priced at about $1,000-$3,000 dollars, Citizen’s high-end quartz watches (like the “Chronomaster”) would easily find adoring fans if only more people knew about them.
With that said, Citizen already has a collection of high-end quartz watches they sell all over the world with their Satellite Wave watches. We’ve covered these on aBlogtoWatch various times, and I reviewed the Citizen Eco-Drive Satellite Wave F100 here. Using a Super Titanium case and the slimmed GPS-controlled movement, this type of watch represents the pinnacle of self-contained technology in a watch that Citizen has produced thus far.
It is difficult to predict how brands like Citizen and Seiko will react to the smartwatch age. All three of the major Japanese watch makers (that also includes Casio) have produced their own Bluetooth-connected watches, but none have yet released Apple Watch or Android Wear competitors …and for good reason. Citizen showed us a figure that indicated that they have become so good at producing low-energy quartz watches that their average Eco-Drive movement watch requires 1/90,000 of the power of an Apple Watch. Citizen simply doesn’t want to make watches that its core customers would not be happy with, so they – like their Japanese colleagues – aren’t trying to beat anyone to the punch and, in my opinion, are heavily investing in R&D for next-generation technology while at the same time carefully monitoring consumer behavior. So yes, I think we will see Citizen smartwatches in the future, but when it makes sense for them as well as their consumers.
America remains the biggest market for Citizen watches, a testament to the brand’s success in capturing the hearts of the American consumer. Yes, few of its customers really know the brand, whose name simply means “we make watches for the people.” Citizen’s impressive portfolio of current models as well as historic achievements are worth consideration for those keen to understand more about Japanese wrist watch culture. All the brand needs now is to connect more personally with the consumer, as well as emphasize the fact they are Japanese and proudly so. Citizen’s battle is merely with messaging, as underneath the historically thick veil which is the brand, they have a lot of impressive things to share.
My hope is that they will assist my own goals of making high-end quartz part of any well-rounded watch lover’s collecting desires. My only question is, if that happens, how it will change people’s relationships with mechanical watches? Not that people will have less desire for mechanical watches, but I think it will be an interesting world to have even the most conservative of watch collectors rocking both quartz and mechanical watches depending on their mood. It’s not easy to summarize the full world that is Citizen watches because the company makes so many products. Like my 18-year-old self that saw a cool watch and bought it without knowing much about timepieces, the more mature man that I am today, with all the extra knowledge I have, is still just as excited about the next Citizen timepiece that catches my eye. citizenwatch.com