You’ve probably seen the name “Citizen” on a watch dial or a logo. Maybe one of your friends recommended one, or it was a common search result on Amazon when you were looking for a new watch. But you have to double check – are these reviews real? Is Amazon pushing a fast-seller, and are they actually any good?
Actually – yes, they are quite good, and you’ve found a quality brand.
However, it’s important to note that some of their models are better than others for the money. It’s easy to pick an ugly gold watch on Amazon and then proceed to reference the intro in this guide as evidence that it was a good purchase, but that would be acting in haste. Instead, use this post as a guide to make a well-informed purchase.
Value for the Money
Not all watches are worth the sale price (hint hint Rolex, Breitling, Oris), though the marketing efforts would have you believe they are all priceless. The question then is “it a good value for the money?” With Citizen, this is the biggest positive: they are nearly unbeatable for the price.
What do you get for your Money?
Aesthetic designs, quality construction, impeccable timekeeping, solar-powered Eco-Drive technology, and professional tool watch reliability.
Consider the following watch:
This is an ISO-certified (International Scuba Organization) dive watch that is used by professionals and hobby divers to descend up to 200m below sea level. When you need to know exactly what time it is deep underwater, this or to measure elapsed time (and oxygen supply), this is a reliable choice. It’s nearly impossible to find another brand that can offer this caliber of professional instrument for the price. Additionally, you get an Eco-Drive -powered watch, which is recharged by the sun, and does not need a battery replacement for 5 years. Lastly, the accuracy of this Eco-Drive engine is within a few seconds per month, which is very impressive for a low-priced quartz watch. This is considering that it’s regular for watches at even higher price points to gain or lost multiple seconds per day.
Here is another example of a quality Citizen watch:
This is the Citizen Skyhawk A-T (model JY8078-52L), which is also part of their Promaster line. It might be difficult to read the dial, but you don’t need to – it’s for professional pilots. For under $400, you get a whole slew of features that few other companies can match. Even G-Shock can only offer a fraction of the features, such as the following:
- Radio-controlled atomic timekeeping so you never have to set it even when you land in a new destination
- Perpetual Calendar so you never have to change the date (end of month, Feb 28th, etc.)
- Second Time Zone or 24-hour digital version of your time zone
- Two Alarms
- Backlight display
- 200m Water Resistance so you can use it as a dive watch
- Chronograph for timing things and measuring elapsed time
- Power Reserve indicator which tells you how much solar power is left in case you leave it hidden somewhere
- Sapphire crystal which will never get scratched
Are the cheaper Citizen watches still good?
The dive watch and pilot watch are two examples showcasing how Citizen can make really good watches. But what about for citizens on a budget? Generally, Citizens under $90 are not as good – they tend to be more like gaudy fashion watches, as the watchmaker has to make compromises to fit the budget. Usually, the bracelet quality is the first to go, which gets replaced by a cheap leather strap. Next, the aesthetic starts to suffer and you get more generic-looking watches. However, this is true for most watch brands, not just Citizen. If you want a quality watch of theirs, $100-$200 is the sweet spot. Here is an example of a watch near the bottom of this range:
This is the “Chandler” (model BM8180-03E) – an everyday military/field watch. It’s very lightweight, and doesn’t have many features besides Eco-Drive, Day and Date, and a 100m Water Resistance. It’s also one of the best-selling Citizen watches on the market, and if these are all the functions you need in a watch in a “I just need to know the time” fashion (with a military aesthetic to boot), then it’s certainly a quality watch. Would it be my first choice for a hundred-dollar watch? I think there are better options for the price considering that I prefer automatic movements, but if you want to get a watch and forget about it, you can’t go wrong here.
However, it’s certainly a much better option that the Timex Weekender, which is one of the Chandler’s aesthetic competitors (at a third of the price):
Compared to the military robust appearance of the Citizen, the Timex looks like a child’s watch, and will certainly get beat up in a fight.
Are Citizen Watches Nice?
Every brand can make beautiful watches and very ugly ones. People usually tend to find beautiful that which an authority or esteemed colleague has exposed them to with favorable persuasion. Rejecting the burden of thinking twice, these exposed individuals can opt for the “ugly” watches of quality brands, finding them beautiful all the while. In the end, it’s important to browse through a product’s catalog (or a review blog) and find the piece that speaks to you.
These two Citizen watches are examples of a low-quality and an unpleasant aesthetic that I would urge you to avoid. They look like they were found at a surplus bin at a thrift store, and they ought tostay there. If you want a watch for your grandpa, spare yourself the embarrassment of having him tell everyone that you gifted this to him, and instead give him the gift of the Promaster diver or a Nighthawk.
What’s the Reputation of Citizen Watches?
The bottom line is that Citizen has been making watches since 1912 in Japan, and has been innovating ahead of its competition every year. They know how to make watches and have invented some truly revolutionary technologies along the way. They’re respected as quality timepieces, and can be worn with pride.
If you show up to a diving class wearing the Eco-Zilla, your instructor will make a look of approval, start nodding his head slowly, and say “Niiiiice.”
If you find yourself on the US Navy’s elite flight demonstration squadron on the Fourth of July, you might find yourself wearing a Citizen watch with their emblematic crest on it – along with the catchy colorway (blue and yellow) of the Blue Angels:
If you show up to a family reunion and see that crazy uncle who has 77 watches, he’ll smile at you and say: “Excellent choice! But what are you getting next?”