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For decades, Citizen has upended the annoying trickle-down effect that pervades most industries. The most expensive products (cars and smartphones immediately come to mind) usually get the latest and greatest technology, and only later do the more affordable models get the goods. In the watch world, that’s not always the case, as Citizen has made it a point to implement its groundbreaking materials, movements and features in watches that are actually affordable. Ingenuity and accessibility? That’s a pairing we can get behind.
That admirable mission carries through to today, over 100 years after the founding of the company that would become Citizen. The brand’s timepieces can be had for up to $5,000, but mostly skew lower on the price scale, some coming in under $200; they include battery-powered and light-powered quartz movements, as well as automatic models; and run the style gamut from dress watches to sturdy divers. (The Citizen Group owns other watch brands, including Bulova and Frederique Constant, but here we’re talking about their namesake flagship brand.) Many of their most famous inventions came about in the 1970s and ‘80s, but new innovations are being rolled out onto wrists every single year — the 2010s and ‘20s, specifically, have been most productive.
Take for example Citizen’s Eco-Drive technology. Introduced in 1976, Citizen touts it as the world’s first light-powered analog quartz watch (no batteries required, just light rays filling up a power cell). Instead of resting on its laurels, Citizen has been upping the ante over the years, like in 2016 when it released the Eco-Drive One, a super thin and lightweight variant; then again in 2019 with the Caliber 0100, a limited-edition watch that was one of the most accurate in the world, with an annual rating of +/- 1 second; and again in 2023 with the Eco-Drive 365, which can run for a full year on just one charge.
The Best of Bulova: 5 Watches to Know, From the Lunar Pilot to the Jet StarBulova solidified its legacy in the ‘70s with a number of timeless pieces, but it continues to churn out watches worth adding to your collection
The brand has led the development of materials, too, most notably solid titanium, which Citizen debuted on a watch in another world-first in 1970. Today’s upgraded version, called Super Titanium, which uses a bit of surface-hardening wizardry called Duratect to increase the scratch- and rust-resistances on the already lightweight and durable material, can be found on a variety of watches. Notably, the Tsuki-yomi A-T is the brand’s version of the six-million-dollar man: a showcase for all of their best tech, including Eco-Drive and Super Titanium, as well as atomic timekeeping (which updates the time and date based on a radio signal from a hyper-accurate atomic clock). Except instead of $6 million, it will only put you out $850.
See? Ingenuity and accessibility. To get a better picture of all that Citizen has to offer, here are five watches worth adding to your collection today — all with some piece of proprietary tech that makes them stand out even amongst five-figure timepieces.
Citizen Promaster Automatic “Fujitsubo” Diver
The “Fujitsubo” nickname, Japanese for “barnacle,” comes from the watch that inspired this modern Promaster Diver: In 1983, a Citizen Challenge Diver was found on the floor of the Pacific Ocean covered in barnacles (it had been sleeping with the fishes for a stretch) and, miraculously, it was still ticking. This new take on the design, released in 2023, carries on that resilient legacy while also adopting a blacked-out aesthetic that would have us interested even without the screw-down crown and 200 meters of water resistance. The Super Titanium bracelet and case bring the durability, while the gradient fumé dial brings the 21st century flair.
Citizen Promaster Eco-Drive Diver
This colorful take on the Promaster Diver also came out in 2023, but for proprietary tech, this model swaps the Super Titanium from the model above for stainless steel, and ditches the automatic movement for their Eco-Drive, which can power the watch for up to six months on one charge. What’s most notable about this model is Citizen’s willingness to buck trends in size and color. Divers run big these days —the Fujitsubo above has a 42mm case — but this one clocks in at a refreshingly wearable 36.5mm; and while the blue strap is what immediately draws the eye, it’s the indices and hands outlined in blue, orange and grey that really make this one a visual standout.
Citizen Eco-Drive 365
An evolution of the Eco-Drive movement, the 365 model features the caliber E365 that can run for an entire year on a full charge. The case design offers an updated retro sensibility, especially this limited-edition that pairs gold-tone accents with lab-grown rubies at 3, 6, 9 and 12 o’clock (though for those who prefer a minimalist approach, there are black and stainless steel models available too). There’s nothing retro about this piece’s environmental cred, though — besides the battery-less movement and lab-grown stones, the leather strap is also certified by the Leather Working Group, whose mission is to ensure sustainable leather production.
Citizen NJ015 “Tsuyosa” Automatic
Citizen can do dive watches, tool watches and light-powered retro watches, but what about a watch you could conceivably wear every day, for every occasion, from days in the office to wedding weekends to far-flung vacations? For that, they’ve recently offered up the sporty, dressy and eye-catching “Tsuyosa,” which is powered by an in-house automotive movement with a 40-hour power reserve, and aesthetically anchored by a magnificent sunray dial that can be had in yellow, green, black and two shades of blue. (Go for the yellow.) It’s an unabashedly fun piece, with the 4 o’clock crown being the cherry on top.
In 1987, Citizen launched the Attesa line to showcase its accomplishments in both titanium and timekeeping technologies. This recent jam-packed chronograph has enough functionality to rival a smartwatch, what with a 1/20 second hand subdial, UTC display, perpetual calendar, world-time bezel and satellite GPS timekeeping that’ll make this the most accurate watch in your collection. And that’s just scratching the surface (metaphorically speaking, as the DLC-coated Super Titanium is nearly impossible to scratch).
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