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At the time of writing, Citizen is the second-largest watchmaker in the world, meaning that more than 20% of watches globally come from the Japanese company. As we all know, quantity is often one thing but quality is another. In this article, we are going to take a close look at the Japanese watches and try to answer the most important question: is Citizen a good watch brand to go for?
Although the company is renowned as one of Asia’s moguls of the watchmaking industry, it doesn’t mean it is responsible solely for the production of watches. Over the years, they’ve been also highly successful with other electronics, such as printers or organizers. Despite all that, producing timepieces is definitely what they are best at.
To give you a clearer picture of the size of the company, it’s worth mentioning that Citizen also owns many other popular watch brands. Names such as Bulova or Alpina are seen as separate brands but they are for the most part run by Citizen Watch Co. Ltd.
Like in the case of any other brand review on my site, I want you to see the whole picture. Because of that, I’d also like you to get familiar with the history of Citizen watches. If you feel like this is the information you can do without, take the topic of your interest in the list below.
Citizen Watch History
Despite Citizen’s history not being as long as for example the abovementioned (and currently owned) Bulova’s, the brand can still be considered as one of the old hands of the industry. The name Citizen was inspired by the vision of the watches being fitting and affordable for all citizens.
Although the official foundation of the company dates back to 1930, it was in 1918 that the brand took its baby steps. It was then that a talented Swiss watchmaker named Rodolphe Schmid registered the company in his home country for the mere purpose of selling his watches in Japan.
During the first years of Citizen’s existence, Rodolphe needed investment in order to successfully push the brand. Luckily for him (and for us), his idealistic vision of making quality watches affordable for the general public was met with enthusiasm from Goto Shinpei. The influential Japanese Count greatly helped Citizen through the 1920s during which the brand grew in popularity.
Finally, in 1930, Schmid officially launched the company in Asia with the help of other Japanese and Swiss investors. The company took off for good after taking over Shokosha Watch Research Insitute and some other facilities in Yokohama.
Citizen History Landmarks
Although the release of the beforementioned Eco-drive is by far the biggest landmark of Citizen’s history, there were others. Let’s take a look at some of the most important dates – starting from the very beginning.
1924 – the release of the first watch with the “Citizen” engraving. The debut Citizen timepiece wasn’t a wristwatch, though. The first product launched by the company was a pocket watch. The Count of Tokyo, Shimpei Goto, truly believed that the release of the first Citizen watch would kickstart a new era. An era in which watches would become affordable to the wider public, to all “Citizens”.
1930 – the official foundation of the Citizen company in Japan. Yosaburo Nakajima became the first president of the company.
1931 – the release of the first Citizen wristwatch. The first models produced by the company used 10 ½ ligne calibers as their movement. A few years later 8 ¾ movements were introduced.
1936 – the opening of the Tanashi Factory that sparked Citizen’s expansion to markets in Southeast Asia.
1940(s) – a further improvement came with a 5 ¼ ligne caliber. The 1940s also saw Citizen start the production of chronometers to serve the military during World War II. At that time the company was also manufacturing igniters.
1949 – Citizen Trading Co., Ltd. was established, opening the door for global expansion. The moved boosted Citizen’s distribution and marketing activities that helped shape the company for what it is today, a global name.
1952 – the introduction of the first Japanese-made watch with a calendar. The wristwatch was named Citizen Calendar and was initially a men-exclusive model. Subsequent years also saw the release of calendar watches for females.
1956 – becoming the first Japanese company to have produced a calendar watch had whetted Citizen’s appetite. Just four years down the line, the company released Japan’s first shockproof watch, the Citizen Parashock.
1959 – just three years later, Citizen also became the first Japanese company to have launched a water-resistant timepiece. The novel product was called the Citizen Parawater.
1960 – the start of a fruitful import/export partnership between Citizen and another industry giant, Bulova. As of today, Citizen is the owner of the American brand.
1962 – the release of one of the most iconic watches in Citizen’s history, the certified chronometer – Diamond Flake. At the time of its release, it was the world’s thinnest wristwatch with center seconds.
1966 – Citizen releases its and Japan’s first electronic watch, the X-8.
1974 – Citizen releases the first Japanese watch with an LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) technology. It was also the year that started the development of watches with solar-powered technology.
1976 – the year saw Citizen start the production of quartz oscillators, paving the way for the release of more Quartz timepieces. The very same year, the company released the world’s first analog quartz watch with a solar cell. A market dominated by battery-powered watches was not so monopolistic anymore after the Crystron Solar Cell release.
1981 – with the growing popularity and demand for water-resistant watches, Citizen released the world’s most advanced diver’s watch. The Professional Diver was water-resistant up to 1300m which made it an absolute standout amongst competitors (read also: Best Citizen Dive Watches).
1986 – the year in which Citizen officially became the largest single manufacturer of watch movements.
1987 – one of the world’s first voice recognition wristwatches was released. Known under the name Voice Memo or Voice Master, the novelty product became an instant hit amongst the public.
1995 – after two decades of adjustments to Citizen’s solar-powered watches, the iconic Eco-Drive collection was released. We can say that the line was the personification of all the betterments made in previous atomic models. After becoming an instant hit in Asia, the Eco-Drive line was then released to markets in Europe and America. Up until now, Eco-Drive is seen as Citizen’s most iconic release. Check Eco-Drive watches on Amazon.
Because of the immense success of initial Eco-Drive watches, the company has continued to develop more complex models. Eco-Drive Nighthawk, Eco-Drive Axiom or Eco-Drive Promaster are one of the best-selling watches in the entire Citizen collection. They are also seen as watches that have in some way shaped the industry of solar-powered timekeepers.
As far as the modern history of Citizen is concerned, the company has been consistently working on its multi-brand strategy. The goal of this is simple: to monopolize the Japanese watch market and further grow its presence in other countries. Here definitely worthy of note is the acquisition of Miyota, one of the leading watch movement manufacturers in Asia.
Another big moment in the history of Citizen’s growth came in 2008. After decades of fruitful work with Bulova, Citizen bought the American giant.
As of today, the Citizen Watch Co., Ltd. consists of their own Citizen line, Bulova (and their affiliate brands Caravelle, Wittnauer, Accu-Swiss), Frederique Constant, Alpina, Arnold & Son, Q&Q, Campanola and Ateleries de Monaco.
Citizen Watch Quality Review (+ FAQs)
I’m a big fan of watches that combine a stylish look and affordable pricing. We can safely say that Citizen timepieces have both of these attributes. But the neat design and relatively low price are not everything – a watch first and foremost must be of great quality so it serves you well for years.
Although Citizen is mostly known for the world-renowned Eco-Drive series, over the years they’ve produced many other solid models.
It was after the breakthrough release of the batteryless Eco-Drive collection, though, that the company has changed its slogan to: “Better Starts Now“. Certainly, the series brought much value to the whole industry at that time. Has Citizen managed to keep up the high standards over the last few years?
Are Citizen Watches Good Quality?
Although the perception of quality can often be very subjective, it’s hard to argue that Citizen produces good quality watches. And in some cases, the word “good” would be a huge understatement.
I think the biggest indicator of any brand’s reliability is the price-quality ratio of its products. In the case of Citizen, you really get what you pay for – and possibly more.
Of course, like many other watch brands out there, Citizen offers watches of different standards. If you are willing to shell out more money, you are certain to get a top-end product. If your budget is tight, the standard of the watch might not be as high but you will still have a lot of options to select from. And most importantly, in both cases, the value for money is really good.
Apart from speaking from my own experience, I’ve been also doing some research on popular forums and review sites used by regular customers, watch enthusiasts and collectors. The general consensus is that people are really happy with what they are paying for. Many think that with Citizen watches they often get much better quality at a fraction of the cost of some other brands.
Some of the mid-to-high-standard collections by Citizen, like the solar-powered Eco-Drive or the diving collection Promaster Diver, are seen as ones to look up to in the watchmaking industry.
Since I already said a lot of positive about the company, I think it’s only fair to admit that the Japanese Quartz movement used in Citizen watches will not be as accurate as Swiss-made movements used by more pricey brands.
On the bright side, Citizen timepieces should easily stand the test of time. The majority of Citizen models come either with a stainless steel bracelet or genuine leather strap. What’s more, most of the collections offered by Citizen use a high-quality sapphire crystal to protect the dials. The scratch-resistant material is also used by many more expensive and “luxury” brands in the industry.
Last but not least, let the fact that Citizen is the official timekeeper of the US Open serve as yet another proof of the brand’s reliability. One more huge admirer of Citizen’s quality is Walt Disney who announced that the company’s watches will be showing the time in Disneyland resorts around the globe.
How Much Are Citizen Watches?
Depending on your budget and the watch collection you go after, you can either shop for peanuts or stretch your dollar a bit. In general, I’d say Citizen timepieces are low-to-mid budget.
The official Citizen website groups the products into four pricing sectors:
- watches below $300
- watches between $300-$599
- watches between $600-$999
- watches above $1000
The truth is, there are not many watches that are priced at more than $1000. At the same time, the “under $300” category can also be a bit misleading as some models are available for considerably less. Because of that, I grouped the watches into three groups: products below $200 and $500, and watches above $500.
Best Citizen Watches Under $200
If you are on a tight budget, it’s not all doom and gloom. As I mentioned earlier, if you are smart with your search, you can find some Citizen watches for a lot less than the $300 mentioned by the brand’s website.
Let the BM8240-03E Eco-Drive model serve as a great example. The solar-powered Eco-Drive watch produced in 2011 comes with a genuine leather strap and mineral dial window.
Another solid timepiece you can get for peanuts is the gold-tone BI5012-53E with a stainless steel bracelet. It’s worth mentioning that unlike the previous watch, this one doesn’t use Eco-Drive technology.
Best Citizen watches under $500
Once you get out of the low budget group, you can expect a noticeably higher standard of the product. This will often result in more accurate movement, or, like in the case of ISO-certified Promaster Diver BN0151-09L diver’s watch, an impressive 200m water-resistance.
Also, most of the watches in this group will come with a much more durable sapphire crystal glass. The material is seen as one of the best protectors against scratches and is often used in top-end timepieces. A worthy example of such a sapphire crystal watch is the BM7170-53L Eco-Drive model which additionally comes with a titanium band and case.
Top-end Citizen models
The higher you go up the price list, the more extra perks you can expect – especially from the dive watches. The Aqualand line comes with a plethora of premium functions such as Rapid Ascent Alarm, Maximum Depth Memory, Auto-Start Dive Mode and Power Reserve Indicator. Quality comes at a price and the Aqualand BN2038-01L model is one of the more expensive in the entire Citizen collection.
Another fine example of a high-standard Citizen watch is the two-tone gold AT4106-52X model from the Citizen PCAT collection. The dial window of the watch is made of anti-reflective sapphire crystal for maximum protection against damage. The product also includes three chronograph timers. I’d say this one is definitely the most stylish pick from all recommended here.
Where to Buy Citizen Watches?
Citizen is a brand recognized all around the globe so the chances are you will be able to buy the watch from a reputable dealer wherever you are.
If shopping offline gives you more comfort and security, then simply visit the Citizen’s Store Locator to find the nearest retailer in your area. You are likely to find Citizen watches in most shopping malls in bigger cities globally.
For those who prefer the online way, there are many options to choose from. The first obvious one is the Citizen’s official shop. To make sure you are shopping in the store dedicated to your region, head over to Citizen global website. In the top right-hand corner, you can select from more than 10 possibilities.
If you are an Amazon user, then this is another great place where you will find authentic Citizen products. You can check out the latest deals on Citizen watches on Amazon by clicking here.
Alternatively, read our guide to the best online watch stores for more ideas.
Is Citizen a Luxury Brand?
Despite my huge admiration for the brand, I think it would be nothing but wishful thinking to suggest that Citizen is a luxury brand.
As stated above, Citizen does produce good-to-great quality watches but it would be only fair to say that it’s a mid-end watch brand.
It’s not in the same mold as the proper luxury brands like Omega, Rolex or Longines but at the same time, it stands out positively from a lot of competitors in the current market. The mechanisms used in some of the Eco-Drive watches is often one to aspire to even for the industry’s biggest moguls.
How to Spot a Fake Citizen Watch?
Although counterfeit Citizen watches might not be sold on as big a scale as G-Shocks or Rolexes, it’s still better to be safe than sorry.
I’m assuming that you want to buy a new product. As soon as you receive it, check whether the warranty and instruction are original copies or photographed. If it’s the latter, it should raise a flag but it doesn’t always mean that the watch isn’t original. To verify the authenticity of the product, check whether the model and serial numbers on the caseback match those in the documents.
The biggest indicator of whether you are dealing with a legit Citizen product is indeed the numbers you can find on the back of the case. All Citizen watches will have an engraved serial number that you can verify on their official website. The number consists of 6 characters. If the length is different, it’s most definitely a fake product. Furthermore, a model number should be included as well. See below where to look for this information.
If you have ever owned any Citizen watch, you will also notice a difference in weight when dealing with a fake. These are generally much lighter than original products. Last but not least, make sure to check for the Citizen logo on the watch face as all the models have it engraved.
Where Are Citizen Watches Made?
A popular and wrong assumption is that since Citizen is a Japanese company, the majority of watches are made there. In fact, with each passing year, fewer and fewer timepieces are produced in the country. The biggest reason for this is the continuing growth, and thus, expansion to new markets which also often leads to the opening of new production plants.
As you have already learned, the pricing and standard of Citizen watches can be very flexible. The iconic Eco-Drive mechanism is present in a whole spectrum of models – some will be really cheap and others more top-tier.
From what I have observed, the common theme is that the top-end models are still mainly produced in Japan whereas the others might be assembled in China, Hong Kong or other markets in which Citizen pushes the production.
Although many people still think the country of production has a huge bearing on the quality of the watch, it doesn’t. At the end of the day, what’s important is that all Citizen watches use certain mechanisms and meet fixed quality criteria. After all, it won’t make a difference if the watch is made by robots in Japan or China.
Furthermore, even if the watch is said to be “Made in Japan”, it will very often mean that it was assembled there. Since Citizen owns more than a few watch companies in the world, it can also use them to produce certain types of watches. Hence, many of the tuning-fork watches are made in America, the electrical ones come from France whereas Switzerland is very often the home of jewel manufacture.
How Long Is the Citizen Watch Warranty?
One great thing about Citizen as a watch company is that they offer a really long warranty period. Unlike the standard 2-3 years provided by most brands in the industry, the Citizen International Warranty will last for as many as 5 years.
Here it’s worth mentioning that this type of warranty doesn’t work on all purchases. Only customers who bought the watch in one of the following countries: United States, Canada, Mexico, Caribbean and Mexico, will be allowed to enjoy the perks of the 5-year period. Of course, for the international warranty to stand, you have to buy the watch from an authorized Citizen seller.
Should you meet the abovementioned criteria, Citizen will warrant the watch to be free of any defects linked to material or workmanship. What also will be warranted in the first 5 years after the purchase is the timekeeping accuracy specified individually for each model.
Naturally, any deficiencies caused by your own misuse (such as scratches, cracks) won’t be taken into consideration. Moreover, Citizen won’t cover any defects and bugs caused by alterations and repairs by anyone other than Authorized Service Centers. If the watch starts to make any issues, make sure you contact Citizen instead of reaching out to any local watchmakers.
What if I buy the watch elsewhere?
If you happen to be shopping from outside the earlier-mentioned countries, the 5-year period, unfortunately, won’t stand. Depending on the region you are making the purchase from, the length of the warranty may differ.
As an example, if you buy a Citizen watch within the EU, the warranty period will be 2 years for repairs/replacement in the EU and one year for any adjustments or returns made outside the EU member states. The safest option would be to simply check the online store of Citizen for the region you live in.
Should you experience any problems with your Citizen watch during the warranty period, the company will first try to repair the defect(s) before replacing the faulty product with a new one.
As stated by Citizen themselves, a repair shouldn’t take longer than 45 days. During this time, authorized technicians will give their best shot to spring your watch back to life. If that fails, the company will send you a brand new replacement of the same model. Should it be unavailable at the time, they will offer you a timepiece of similar qualities and value.
Is Citizen a Good Watch Brand? Conclusion
I’m positive that my review of Citizen watches has given you a clearer idea about where the company stands in the watchmaking industry and whether it’s a good choice for your next purchase.
To sum up and answer the original question of whether Citizen is a good watch brand, I would definitely say it is. As mentioned before, the definition of “good quality” can be very subjective depending on the individual’s own expectations but it’s fair to assume that the vast majority of Citizen watches are good quality. I will go further and say that some of the more advanced Eco-Drive watches are great products that can easily compete with much more pricey and “luxurious” brands in the industry.
If you are looking for a watch that you will be able to enjoy for years but at the same time hate going overboard with spending, then there’s little risk associated with going for a Citizen watch. With most models, the brand offers durable material used with bands, cases, and dials. Also, many people report that Eco-Drive watch movements can provide up to 10 years of hassle-free service. Imagine the amount of money you will save on the batteries during this time!
My own experience with Citizen has been good and, judging by comments I could find online, many people are in the same boat. If for some reason you don’t agree with my points or feel like I’ve missed some important ones, make sure to let me know. You can do so by sending me an email or leaving your comment in the box below.