Citizen – a brand that has been long known for their proprietary Eco-Drive solar powered watches, high-tech watches like their GPS-enabled Satellite Wave collection and the tough Promaster line. In 2021, Citizen displays the fruits of deploying a group-wide manufacturing strategy for their latest release, combining the best of Japanese and Swiss techniques to produce The Citizen Caliber 0200.
Citizen has long been known for their Eco-Drive movements and up until this point in time, the majority of Citizen’s watches were quartz and Eco-Drive powered models. As such, the brand’s mechanical movement manufacturing capabilities were not really considered by enthusiasts, as their sister company, Miyota, was seen in much lower-priced watches.
However, in 2012, the watch industry was given a little glimpse at the true size of this behemoth, with the acquisition of Swiss holdings group Prothor, that included module and movement manufacturer, La Joux-Perret. With this, came Swiss savoir-faire in movement design, construction and finishing – this would be combined with Japanese precision manufacturing skills to produce the new Caliber 0200, housed within The Citizen Caliber 0200 unveiled in 2021.
On the surface, The Citizen Caliber 0200 features a bold stainless steel case with a lugless design, appearing to integrate the bracelet into the case. The case has sharp facets, echoing Citizen models like the F100 Satellite Wave, and the vintage Citizen Glorious, giving a modern, advanced look. This is accentuated by the play in finishing, with mirror polishing and vertical brushing being utilised on the steel case and bracelet.
Speaking of the bracelet, it is adjustable through its screw-links – a welcome upgrade, and its finishes remind us of high-end Swiss watches in the way that they catch and play with light, giving a three-dimensional aspect to the entire watch.. The dial is made through electroforming, giving the appearance of a hammered finish, playing with light to give numerous colour variations – sometimes appearing matte like asphalt, while at other times giving a subtle shine through its reflections.
The hands also appear to be very sharp and well-defined as well as the indices, reflecting so much light that lume is not needed even in very low-light situations. On the wrist, its 40mm case fits comfortably on a range of wrists, feeling incredibly solid, whilst maintaining its sense of refinement with its case finishing.
Being manufactured in Japan, and a product that symbolises a new direction for the Citizen Watch Group, this new watch is as much a new design as it is about the movement – and it is the movement where we delve even deeper into our overview of the new collection.
Unlike its more famous cousin from Miyota, the Caliber 0200 was made to compete with the best and brightest in the industry, from manufacturing, to construction and its aesthetics. Chronometrically speaking, the movement was manufactured to timing tolerances above that of COSC standard, able to achieve a daily variation between -3/+5 seconds per day. This was achieved through improving the precision of the parts themselves – as their engineer Kenji Tsuchiya stated “… the precision of the components determines how accurately the watch keeps time. Increase the precision of the parts, and you automatically increase timekeeping accuracy. That has always been the Citizen philosophy”.
Citizen also followed conventional wisdom to increase long-term accuracy and durability by employing a free-sprung balance wheel, utilising masselottes weights at the periphery of the balance wheel to adjust timekeeping accuracy. This focus on precision manufacturing naturally extends to the escape wheel and pallet fork, where they have been manufactured using a highly-exacting LIGA process, enabling consistency amongst parts that are crucial to accuracy.
The movement is not only manufactured to an exacting degree, but it also had aesthetics in mind. The movement design was conceived to show the flow of power from the barrel, through the gear train and finally the escapement and balance wheel. This display of architecture is further enhanced by the company’s choice to use a small seconds layout, which simplifies construction, whilst making a more direct viewing of the mechanics possible. La Joux-Perret’s knowledge was utilised to enhance the beauty of the movement even further, using techniques like satinage (satin finishing) on the surface of the bridges, perlage on the main plate, colimaçonnage (fine spiral brushing) for the gears and diamond cutting featured on the balance wheel and the outer edges of the bridges. The finishing of the watch overall is rather spartan, but clean, with smaller details inviting closer inspection to those who are curious.
We at ISOCHRONO have long been fans of Citizen’s Eco-Drive Promaster Divers watches as well as the Satellite Wave GPS watches that have put high-tech features on our wrists for decades. Indeed, as most people begin their journeys into watchmaking, Citizen often comes up first on the radar. However, as you spend more time in this hobby, your tastes naturally gravitate towards the Mechanical, and it is here that one’s perception of Citizen seems to slip – in particular, the thought “why is Citizen not on par with Seiko?”, seems to crop up in the minds of numerous watch aficionados. If we look to the past, we see Citizen and Seiko duking it out, producing an unsung rivalry in the watch industry that encompassed mechanical manufacturing prowess, as well as the wars of chronometric precision between the two companies. Models like the Citizen Chronometer and the Grand Seiko Ref. 3180 “First” give an idea of how close this rivalry was back in the day.
In modern times, it seems like Grand Seiko has embodied the essence of Japan in its entire brand – from its marketing, all the way down to the way the watches are conceived and built. On the other hand, Citizen have combined the best of their groups from Switzerland and Japan to show that they have a coalition of manufacturing power-houses ready to produce watches equally as good as anything coming out of Japan. This now becomes a question of the philosophy of watchmaking – is one truly better than the other? What is undeniable from Citizen is that it now has a product capable of going toe-to-toe with its long-time rival, and we cannot wait to see what the future of Citizen has in store for us.
The new release from Citizen, then, is a flagbearer of what can be expected from the company in the future. With its powers combined from Japan and Switzerland, Citizen have fired a shot across the bow of watchmaking companies, signalling that they are just as capable as the rest – if not, more. The Citizen Caliber 0200 not only brings a fresh, modern design from Japan, but it shows the rest of the world that a sleeping giant has awoken.