The Citizen Eco-Drive

Modern Technology meets Classic Design

Not all great watches come from Switzerland. Japan is a leading producer of watches and home to some of the most successful and revolutionary brands in the industry. I wrote a review earlier this month of an iconic Japanese watch, the Seiko 5, which is one of the first-ever high-quality mechanical watches to hit the market at under $100 USD. Citizen has been around for nearly one hundred years at the time of this writing, and like Seiko, is a watchmaker worth knowing about and exploring.

Citizen incorporates a number of technological advancements into its "Eco-Drive" design which elevate it above the sea of low-end quartz watches that currently saturate the market. Today I will overview a few of these high-tech features by taking a look at my own Citizen. I'll explain why it is my favorite watch to travel with and why it sits at the center of my watch box when not in use.

The Technology

Normally I avoid wearing and reviewing watches with quartz movements; but for various reasons, the Citizen Eco-Drive is a strong exception. While quartz movements lack the grace of mechanical movements, for a watch that provides features like atomic time-keeping and a battery that draws power from any light source, a quartz movement is not only apropriate, but essential. I like to think of the Eco-Drive as a sort of hybrid between the smart watch (one with internet access, a digital screen, etc.) and a traditional watch with physical hands for time-keeping. The Eco-Drive doesn't provide all the features of, say, an Apple Watch, but it surely delivers a few of the most essential features and does so with style.

Once per day, a tiny radio receiver inside the case of the Eco-Drive takes in a signal from an atomic clock and adjusts the displayed time accordingly. You can use the crown to tune in to the frequency of the nearest atomic timekeeping authority - for me this is in LA. One of the images below shows a subdial indicating which zone's atomic clock the watch is tuned to. In order to take full advantage of atomic-timekeeping, the Eco-Drive typically has day and date complications. The watch is considered a "perpetual calendar", meaning that it will always keep track of the day of the month accurately, regardless of whether it is a leap year. The reliability of the clock and calendar on the Eco-Drive makes it the ideal watch for inter-time-zone travel. Additionally, I always use my Eco-Drive as a reference to set the time on my mechanical watches. This is because I know that I can count on it to always be correct, with precision down to the split-second.

The second key feature of the Eco-Drive which I'd like to discuss is its use of energy. Eco-Drive watches never need battery changes because they take in light - any light - and convert it into energy which they store and use to power the hands and complications. The hands on the dial will go into "hibernation" after extended zero-light conditions and then spring back into action without losing track of the exact time once light is restored. Between the undying battery and automatic time adjusting, using this watch truly is effortless. There's something to be said for having a quartz watch in your collection for reliability's sake and the Eco-Drive takes reliability to the next level.


The Presentation

My Citizen Eco-Drive is a large watch with a lot of activity on the dial. The case is thick like a dive watch and its width is around 42mm. Because of the size, people with small wrists should be sure to try the watch on before purchasing. I will say that considering the measurements, I do not think this watch looks too big on my own 7" wrist. I really like the OEM steel bracelet and clasp on this watch. The bracelet is extremely comfortable and the clasp snaps shut securely every time. The two-tone design makes sense with the dial, which also has gold-tone features.

The Eco-Drive is definitely more of a casual watch than a formal watch. The dial, in my opinion, is just too loud to wear in a formal situations. I especially like to wear my Citizen when traveling but will wear it in any situation so long as I'm dressed down. The edition I bought is currently available here on Amazon at a nice discount. However, if you're not a fan of two-tone bracelets be sure to look at other configurations of this watch because there are more than I can name.


I hope you enjoyed reading my thoughts on the Citizen Eco-Drive and Atomic time-keeping. If you haven't already, please check out my review of the Tissot Powermatic 80 and my two picks for best watches under $500.

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