I want to talk about Citizen. Citizen has made a lot of impressive moves: they make Super Titanium, a hardened-surface treatment to titanium bracelets and cases, Eco-drive movements, and they bought Alpina and Frederique Constant. That’s not all bad. They also make the Miyota 82xx and 9015 movements, which are used in many of the micro-brand watches we review here. But Citizen has a problem, and it’s time to do something about it. Citizen’s own branded watches are boring, but it wasn’t always this way. It’s time to make Citizen great again.
The Nighthawk is the Nighthawk. It’s a premier aviation watch, and one that will always be memorable. But what of the Titanium Eco-Drives of years’ past? What of the truly good examples that aren’t available anymore? What should Citizen do? Let’s lay down some rules.
- Titanium or Stainless Steel. I’m personally more interested in titanium, but there are people who prefer a heavier watch.
- No integrated bracelets. I understand that it gives designers freedom to do something unique. In Citizen’s history, it’s worked out to be uniquely awful, and it denies wearers the freedom to personalize the watch by giving it new shoes. Take a note from Apple Watch: there are hundreds of official Apple Watch straps, including those by Hermés, and tons of aftermarket ones as well. People like strap changes.
- Avoid the wonky bezel shapes. The squircle is alright, the cross is not.
- It’s okay to make re-interpretations of watches from history made by other manufacturers, if you put a Citizen spin on it. If you can’t make a timeless design in house, borrow one. The real tragedy is that there are some excellent things lurking in Citizen’s back catalogues, and every time I ask about them, the answer is, “No, sorry, that hasn’t been available in years.”
- One watch case and dial style per product name, please. Citizen uses the same name for watches that look nothing alike, and the only differentiator is a model number.
- Put the model number on the caseback of the watch. Currently, Citizen does not place these model numbers anywhere on the watch itself. Instead, they use a number like E168-S104629. In this number, Exxx refers to the movement used, and the following numbers refer to the case. The case number and watch serial number are both marked on the caseback, but not the model number. The model number is on the hang tag that is tied around the bracelet or strap, and probably among the first things a Citizen owner loses.
Points 5 and 6 are incredibly important. Suppose someone likes my watch, and wants to look for a similar one? I can’t tell them, “Oh, it’s a “Chandler”, because Chandler could mean one of four (or more) different types of watches. I can’t say, “it’s a BJ6500-12L,” because that’s not marked on the watch itself. There’s no practical way to actually recommend a Citizen watch to a friend or acquaintance. That seems like a significant failure.
Here are some things from the back catalogue:
The ProMaster Diver Limited Edition BN0141-53E – it’s a properly good diver in the Submariner vein, also related to the 1995 Tudor Prince Date Submariner 79190, the last Tudor Submariner produced, which was paid homage to with Tudor’s Black Bay Steel that debuted last year.
The BM7080-54L – This watch retains the Squircle bezel shape that feels uniquely Citizen-like, but has an excellent 12-6 dial with sharp numerals, a lovely blue dial (other variations had a white dial, silver-gray dial, or black dial) and while large, feels very comfortable due to the light weight of titanium and the thinness of the watch height. It’s a 43mm watch, but wears so much more comfortably than any other 43mm watch I can think of. The letter at the end of the model number indicates the dial color: A is silver, E is black, and L is blue.
Here’s what’s the best of the current catalogue, and what’s wrong with it:
The 25TH ANNIVERSARY COMMEMORATIVE EDITION
AW7036-51L is a lovely looking blue dialed Eco-Drive, co-branded with the US OPEN to celebrate a 25th anniversary. It isn’t exactly clear what the anniversary is, but it’s limited to 1,150 pieces. I like this watch a lot, although I’d be happier finding it without the US OPEN logo. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be in the catalogue in non-limited edition anniversary form. It’s got a fixed bezel with 5 minute increments marked around the bezel. Why does a fixed bezel need diving minute increments? Is this $250 USD limited edition meant to help people new to wristwatches learn to tell time? Is it a faux-diver element? It has yet to grow on me, on what is an otherwise nice watch. It’s from Citizen’s PRT family, which I can only guess means “Power Reserve Something-or-other”, but there are no watches similar with the 12-6 dial, or the nicely angled hands. If you wanted this watch without the US OPEN logo, you’re out of luck. Citizen, listen to me: Plain dials are beautiful. Take off the US OPEN logo, remove the Eco-Drive script. Let it stand with just the two fonts in use (CITIZEN and the numerals), instead of the four I see here: CITIZEN, numerals, Eco-Drive, and the serif US OPEN text. It’s graffiti. Stop it.
AW7030-57E and AW7038-04L come close, but it has a 9 numeral, different hour indices, and still has the goofy numeral-marked bezel. In Citizen-speak, the L at the end of the model number means “blue dial” and E means “black dial.” No one should have to figure this out. Also, the 12-6 on AW7036-51L are nicer than the 12-6-9 on the AW7030-57E. I love a 12-6 dial watch. I like it when Schaffen does it, and I like it when IWC does it. I like it when Citizen does it right – the typeface on the numerals matter. Don’t make them italic, don’t clip the ends of the numerals to make them futuristic, don’t make them 6-9-12 with a date. Do use the tuxedo / tapestry dial texture as seen on CITIZEN PRT
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