The Citizen Watch Company is perhaps a very well known manufacturer. Especially for well built, reliable, and reasonably priced watches. But lesser known is their illustrious history, interesting firsts, and engineering prowess. Here are 5 facts about the Citizen Watch Company which you may not know.
The photograph on the left was taken in April 2018, when Citizen opened its doors for the first time in 100 years to journalists. The picture shows the group, dressed up in protective clothing as we entered the low dust environment of the manufacture. We were among the first to visit, and from our week with them in Japan, we make this list for you.
1. Citizen was founded in 1918, which makes it 100 years old.
OK, this may not be that much of a news to most regular readers. We have talked about the 100th Anniversary celebratory products, like the F990 100th Anniversary Satellite Wave. And the Citizen Caliber 0100 which was announced in Baselworld 2018 as the most accurate stand alone quartz watch (+/- 1s a year). The Baselworld showing was a prototype pocket watch in a sapphire glass case and not a commercial release. But we were given to understand that this new watch will be presented as a special watch, to be commercially available for 2019.
The name “Citizen” was originally given by the Mayor of Tokyo Shinpei Goto, who was a friend of the founder Kamekichi Yamazaki. Goto used the name Citizen circa 1920 to signify the dream of high quality watches that every citizen can afford. Interestingly and perhaps ironically, the then Emperor of Japan, Taishō was probably the first to own a Citizen watch. The watch is shown in the photograph above, which was taken during a visit to the Citizen Museum in April, 2018. A brief history of the company is found on the excellent Vintage Citizen Blog. And in the corporate video below:
2. They make everything in-house.
Citizen is one of the most vertically integrated manufactures in the world. They make all the components in-house in Japan. Contrary to what some may be led to believe, all movements (including movements sold to third party labelled Miyota) are manufactured in Japan, and they do not have any manufacturing facility outside the home country. All components are manufactured within the company, from integrated circuits, to electronic chips, to mechanical components. The only exception is the movements used in some Campagnola watches are made by La Joux Perret, a company which Citizen owns, and which manufactures out of Switzerland.
Citizen makes the cases, the dial, the hands, the movement, all totally within their premises. They even make the machines which make the parts. We visited the factory in Iida, but they have manufacturing facilities in the town of Miyota, which churns out the millions of movements used by third parties all over the world.
3. Their automated assembly line was the Swiss Industry killer in the late 1970s.
One of their automated manufacturing lines which began life in the late 1970s to mass produce quartz movements is still in use today. However, it is updated, and the capacity upgraded.
This line in the Iida Factory is currently capable of making one complete quartz movement every second. Quick math will show that’s 30 million a year, if operated continuously all year. And we understand they have at least 10 of these lines. The manufacturing line known in Citizen as the AT-3 line, is almost totally automated, and only requires human intervention to setup and to fix problems if and when it arises.
Similar rapid manufacturing lines exist for low end mechanical movements, albeit operating at a lower production rate. And moving up the scale of movement complexity, Citizen also have production lines with human assisted assembly, like many Swiss manufactures.
4. High end Citizen watches are hand assembled by Meisters and Super Meisters
Although they have the super mass production manufacturing line, the high end Citizens, including quartz models like the Citizen Chronomaster we waxed lyrical about, are hand assembled by a single watchmaker, which Citizen call Meisters and Super Meisters.
To qualify as a Super Meister, the watchmaker must have at least 30 years of experience in the Citizen manufacture. Most start out in the Citizen Watch School and progress from Specialists to Meisters before they become Super Meisters.
The Meister and Super Meisters work on all the high end watches and are responsible for hand assembly, finishing and regulation of all the Citizen high end watches.
5. They are super focused on light power, ultra thin, and ultra accuracy.
In 1976, Citizen released the Crystron Solar Cell, the World’s first light-powered analogue quartz watch.
Eight single-crystal solar cells arranged on the dial to charge a secondary battery made the Crystron Solar Cell and the first every light-powered analogue quartz watch. This technology is still in production, albeit updated to the latest specifications in their highly popular Eco-Drive watches.
Citizen also focuses on ultra thin watches. In 1962, their Diamond Flake was the thinnest men’s watch with center seconds in the market. The movement is just 2.75mm thick and when cased, several models were available between 4 to 5 mm. This thinness was achieved by the use of a unique gear train structure different from the standard center second gear train. Some versions used as many as 31 stones to increase gear train efficiency.
In 1978, they made the thinnest quartz watch, with the movement measuring only 1.00 mm. The Citizen developed the integrated circuit and the crystal oscillator in-house also had an accuracy is ±10 seconds per month. The oscillator is a thin tuning-fork crystal oscillator vacuum-enclosed in glass.
These dual goals were combined in the Eco-Drive One in 2016, shown above. The watch has a movement just 1.00 mm thick, comprising of 85 components. The case was only 2.98mm.
Eco Drive watches are now the cornerstone of the Citizen strategy, as much as their pursuit of ultra accuracy.
High precision and accuracy was also priority. In 1975, the Crystron Mega was announced with an annual accuracy of +/- 3 seconds. This was continually improved by Citizen, pushing the envelope to +/-10 seconds a year. This is is a current standard high precision watches, with offerings from from Seiko. Current Citizen high precision watches provide an even higher accuracy of +/- 5 seconds a year. A precision matched by the Longines VHP.
However, Citizen set the record anew in 2018, when they showed a prototype Caliber 0100 in a sapphire glass cased pocket watch which is rated to an unprecedented accuracy of +/- 1 second a year.
And the combination of ultra accuracy and light power is found coupled in some of the watches in the Citizen catalog. One example is the use of GPS and Satellite Wave technologies running on the light powered Eco-Drive. One such watch which is a result is the Citizen Satellite Wave GPS Super Titanium F990 which we reviewed here.
We leave you with this rather cute video, made by Citizen to demonstrate their philosophy of continuous improvement.