July 19, 2021
by Ariel Adams
I’ve never felt like high-fiving someone after wearing a new wristwatch, but that was my precise emotional sensation when first putting on the new Citizen Calibre 0200 automatic watch. Even though I unboxed this pretty, new high-end Japanese timepiece alone at home, it would have been great to walk around a room high-fiving Citizen micro-engineers and watchmakers on the achievement. This isn’t the most expensive Citizen watch ever produced, nor does it represent the brand’s latest high-tech innovation. Rather, this is the most impressive traditional-style mechanical watch Citizen has ever made — and products like it happen to be really en vogue with watch-collector hobbyists. The Calibre 0200 is really well-done, and it is a more than competent challenger to Grand Seiko.
What I love about the Citizen Calibre 0200 is that explaining its appeal to someone who hasn’t been interested in watches over the last few years would be a long and frustratingly complicated conversation to have. If, however, you are a “watch person,” then pretty much no explanation is needed outside of handing over the piece for personal examination. In such an instance, upon handing over the watch to a fellow enthusiast, all I would verbally add is, “$6,000. Check out the movement. Isn’t the case well-made? Look at the textures on the dial.” The rest would speak for itself.
As I write this review, I have two watches in front of me that are necessary to compare. First is the $2,000 Citizen Series 8 870, and second is the $6,000 Citizen Calibre 0200. Both watches were introduced in 2021 (as of this writing, both have yet to truly hit the market) and are part of Citizen’s current push to promote its in-house-made mechanical movements. While the Citizen Group has been producing mechanical movements for a long time, it has been over a decade since the Citizen brand introduced a new mechanical movement in one of its watches. The company has primarily focused on its Eco-Drive technology of light-powered quartz watches, and a variety of ways of expanding on that brand message. Eco-Drive is, of course, still the main focus of the Citizen brand, but Citizen is also a hobbyist’s brand. As such, for this group, the Calibre 0200 is currently the finest specimen of traditional timekeeping that money can buy from the esteemed brand.
When you put the Series 8 870 and the Calibre 0200 next to each other, there are many clear differences, as well as similarities. The Series 8 870 is a great product for the money and a very finely made watch. And the Calibre 0200 just bumps all that up to another level of refinement. That basically means: slightly better polishing and steel surface treatments, lower parts tolerance, and a lot of differences on the dial. (Don’t forget this watch has an entirely different in-house-made Citizen automatic movement). Citizen is very careful to ensure that while you get a lot of watch for your money at $2,000, you clearly get even more for your money at $6,000. But yes, the difference between these two watches would be difficult for many laypeople to truly appreciate (outside of the obvious case shape and visual differences).
Citizen has always straddled the world of watches between Seiko and Casio. On the Seiko end, you have traditional watchmaking with a large emphasis on classic forms. On the Casio-end you have all high-end timekeeping and technology with a distinct focus on constant iterative improvement and truly modern design. The Calibre 0200 is born from market demand and was created using a variety of skills and capabilities that the Citizen Group has accumulated over the years.
Most important for the purpose of this timepiece is Citizen’s acquisition of the Switzerland-based La Joux-Perret watch movement factory. La Joux-Perret is not the only Swiss watchmaking company the Japanese group has purchased, but it was the only one dedicated to the manufacture of original fine mechanical movements. La Joux-Perret even has two in-house brands (even though it produces parts of others) which are the lauded Arnold & Son, as well as Angelus.
La Joux-Perret was where Citizen was able to carefully study traditional Swiss forms of movement decoration and how those decoration techniques were applied. Citizen then took that knowledge back to Japan and developed its own methods for creating similar decorative techniques, as well as movement architecture, for a movement of its own design and manufacture. The resulting creation (at least the first resulting creation) is the Citizen Calibre 0200 automatic movement. And indeed, the naming terminology is confusing, as you have the Calibre 0200 movement inside the Calibre 0200 model watch. You could also use the watch’s reference number, which is NC0200-90E. Oh, and it makes things just a bit more confusing, Citizen has referred to the Calibre 0200 watch as coming not from Citizen watches, but “The Citizen” watches.
The Calibre 0200 movement is a thing of beauty that blends a series of aesthetic features you’d commonly see in a fine Swiss Made mechanical movement, combined with an architecture and design that is Japanese. It is very much a hybrid between traditionally Swiss and traditionally Japanese movements, and it has a high level of performance in addition to its good looks. The movement operates at 4Hz with 60 hours of power reserve. Citizen claims a precise accuracy of -3 / +5 seconds a day. Usually, these claims are worse than real-world performance. From what I can tell, the Calibre 0200 performs in a manner very similar to modern Rolex automatic movements, and certainly within COSC Chronometer performance ranges.
The movement is visible through the sapphire crystal caseback — something rare for Citizen mechanical watches. I like how the movement takes up most of the case and has an attractive skeletonized rotor. You can tell just how efficient the automatic winding system is on account of how easily the rotor moves in both directions. Look closely at the movement and you’ll see a series of decorative features, including anglage polishing, perlage polishing, embossed text, and carefully brushed surfaces. The large, assorted synthetic rubies displayed on the main movement bridges make for an appealing aesthetic (as well as functional) detail.
There is just as much to find interesting when it comes to small details on the Calibre 0200 dial, as there is on the Calibre 0200 movement. The dial is an apex of Citizen’s engineers trying to create both contrast and visual excellence. Contrast is important because, without it, you cannot have dial legibility. Dressier watches such as this are often accused of being hard to read because the dial elements blur together in the light. To avoid glare and light blur on polished surfaces, a number of things need to be done when it comes to how materials are shaped and finished. In a relatively small space, Citizen has demonstrated mastery of a number of material techniques on the dial of this timepiece, alone.
From a design perspective, the Calibre 0200 dial is nothing particularly new. This is a classic type of dial that you might have seen on a lot of historic, or even modern, Citizen watches. This is just a popular aesthetic and people often associate it with traditional Japanese watchmaking. This includes applied baton hour markers, as well as sharp dauphine-style hands. Where each product sets itself apart is in relatively small details, such as finishing and minor variations on shapes. What stands out in the Calibre 0200 are the hour and minute hands, which appear to glow white given the particular satin finish over the main surface. The edges are polished for good effect.
The main dial is black and textured in what I call “volcanic grain.” The flat dial appears to be made of small bits of semi-glossy grit, which contrasts very well with the brushed steel applied hour markers. The subsidiary seconds dial is a different texture altogether — polished snailed sunburst in black but with high-contrast seconds track markers printed in white. Dial elements have, for the most part, been entirely minimalized, with the notable exception of the uncommon Citizen eagle logo under the applied Citizen name plaque.
Finally, we get to the actual Calibre 0200 watch case and bracelet. It’s interesting to note that the Calibre 0200 and Series 8 870 watches are the same size: 40mm-wide and 10.9mm-thick. But they look so different in size — how is that possible? The Calibre 0200 appears to be the smaller watch due to the narrower lugs, as well as the less bold bezel and dial. The Calibre 0200 has a narrower bracelet, which changes the visual proportions a lot. Don’t forget the Citizen Calibre 0100 watch that I wanted to throw into the discussion since it was debuted the year before and actually retails for more than the Calibre 0200 (though it has a totally different type of movement technology).
The Calibre 0200 case is classic in profile and proportions but is actually quite contemporary in its visual design. Even though it is a more elegant watch, it does have a visual strength to it and doesn’t feel wimpy, as can be the case with some traditional dress watches. The bracelet is like a refined version of the bracelet that comes on the Series 8 870 watches. The Calibre 0200’s bracelet is narrower with better formed and polished links that use the same base “H” link concept. The bracelet closes with a solid folding deployant clasp, but it has no micro-adjust feature (which would have been a nice bonus). The steel bracelet does, however, include half-links for precision sizing, as well as screw-in bars to hold the links together (as opposed to tension rods). That said, they are double-sided screws, which means you’ll need steady hands, multiple tools, or a special device to safely size the bracelet on your own.
The Citizen Calibre 0200 is a product the watch enthusiast community will really like, and I have no idea about its larger marketability to the mainstream. I believe that Citizen knows a product like this will do well enough inside Japan to satisfy minimum quantities to keep the series going. Company reps made it clear that the Calibre 0200 is not meant to be a high-volume product. It is meant to be special, and getting one is probably a pleasant experience. Come to think of it, I can’t wait to see what the packaging looks like! Available in Fall 2021 (September 2021 update: at this time the Citizen Calibre 0200 will not be officially distributed in the United States market but is available in at least the Japanese watch market), the Citizen Calibre 0200 reference NC0200-90E has a retail price of $6,000 USD. Learn more at the Citizen website.
>Model: Calibre 0200 reference NC0200-90E
>Price: $6,000 USD
>Size: 40mm-wide, 10.9mm-thick, and ~48mm lug-to-lug distance.
>When reviewer would personally wear it: Makes a perfect dress or business watch and will be a real conversation piece.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Lover of Japanese watches who also collects Swiss timepieces and is curious about a product that tends to blend elements from both worlds.
>Best characteristic of watch: Equally beautiful case and movement execution. Another welcome member of the Japanese high-end watch club. Highly legible dial. Excellent movement performance.
>Worst characteristic of watch: A niche product despite its handsome good looks. Would have preferred 100 meters versus 50 meters of water resistance. No mention of magnetic resistance for the movement.