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Seiko or Citizen? A guide to best Japanese watches

Seiko vs Citizen

It was the quartz crisis (or quartz revolution) that helped put Japanese watch brands like Seiko and Citizen on the map for their affordability and their reliability, but both brands were manufacturing watches long before they began chiseling a chunk out of the watch market. Beyond sharing the same country of origin, Citizen and Seiko have other similarities as well as differences worth appreciating. Here’s an in-depth comparison guide of both watch brands and how they bear up against one another.

History:

Seiko’s history is a rather dramatic one. Founder Kintarō Hattori created clocks between 1881 and 1892 but thereafter began specializing in watchmaking. The watches Seiko created for the general public were unaffordable up until the ’70s when quartz technology became simpler and cheaper to produce, and as a result, the public turned to buying quartz watches en masse.

Citizen’s history is much less dramatic and shorter. The company was co-founded by Swiss and Japanese investors and has spent its 100-year lifespan specializing in developing and refining sustainable watches. The company has focused on solar-powered wristwatches but also created the first atomic watch in 1993 – a watch that receives a signal from one of the atomic clocks. As a result, these watches would lose less than one second every 100 000 years! Like Seiko, Citizen’s brand exposure was helped along by the quartz revolution, many of their wristwatches of which are equipped with a Swiss movement despite their watchmaking facilities remaining in Japan.

Popular Citizen collections:

Style-wise, both Seiko and Citizen have a large catalog of watches that span from the technically-heavy, higher-priced watch range down to those that sit within the fashion watch price bracket. Whilst Seiko is recognized for creating classic styles, Citizen has been more experimental and adventurous in its approach to watch manufacture, creating innovative timepieces that dare to break the mold. It also specializes more in quartz models as opposed to automatic.

Citizen Promaster:

Two technically sophisticated watches from the Promaster collection include the Promaster Land watch and the Pro master Sky watch. The Promaster Land is equipped with an altimeter and an electric compass. Others feature atomic time synchronization. The Promaster Sky watch relies on solar energy and offers countless functions that enable pilots to calculate flight data. It’s also available as a radio watch and is distinguishable by its titanium case which creates a lightweight feel on the wrist.

Our Pick

Citizen Promaster Altichron

Reference: BN5058-07E

Case/Dial: 46mm Stainless Steel, Black
10 ATM (200 meters / 660 feet)

Movement: Eco-Drive J290, Quartz

Functions: Date, Hour, Minute, Second, Altimeter, Compass, Power Reserve Indicator

Strap: Black rubber

Style: Sporty

Citizen Satellite:

Citizen has used its satellite technology since 2011. Many watches receive a GPS signal from space, synchronized with atomic timekeeping. Although there are other models made by the manufacturer that relies on satellite technology, Citizen’s Elegant collection which is home to over 200 models is the best place to start searching if you’re looking to buy a Citizen satellite watch, especially if you prefer the look of a standard three-handed dial design with a date feature. The Promaster Echo-Friendly watch ref: JW0126-58E even features a stopwatch with a 1/1000th of a second.

Our Pick

Citizen Eco-drive Satellite Wave GPS World Time

Reference: CC3035-50E Eco-Drive

Case/Dial: 44mm Steel, Black
10 ATM

Movement: Quartz, Quartz

Functions: Date, Weekday, Perpetual calendar, World time watch

Strap: Black steel

Style: Sporty

Citizen Sport watches:

Citizen’s sports collection is the place to find a sturdy and robust wristwatch, especially if you spend a lot of time outdoors or if you’re an individual who takes part in a lot of sport. The models are equipped with 100 meters and are powered by quartz movements. Despite being classified as a sports watch, these timepieces look just as refined as some of the watches from the brand’s Elegant range like this model ref: AW1147-52L.

Our Pick

Citizen WDR Eco-Drive

Reference: AW1147-52L

Case/Dial: 41mm Stainless Steel, Blue
10 bar (100 metres / ~330 feet)

Movement: Citizen Caliber Eco-Drive J810, Self-winding

Functions: Date, Hour, Minute, Second, Solar-powered, Calendar

Strap: Stainless steel

Style: Sporty

Citizen Promaster Diver:

The Citizen Promaster Diver collection is home to around a dozen rugged diver’s watches for you to choose from. If you prefer your diving watch to offer additional features there are models like the BJ7111-51M which boast a colorful one-way rotating bezel and a GMT function, along with 200-meter water resistance. These Promaster Diver models are popular because of their robust qualities and their affordability, as well as their Eco-Friendly technology, powered by light.

Our Pick

Citizen Promaster Mechanical Diver

Reference: NY0087-13EE

Case/Dial: 45mm Stainless Steel , Black
200 meters / 660 feet

Movement: Citizen Caliber Eco-Drive E168, Self-winding

Functions: Date, Hour, Minute, Second, Solar-powered, Calendar

Strap: Stainless Steel

Style: Sporty

Popular Seiko collections:

Seiko Prospex:

Like collections from Citizen, the Seiko Prospex collection is renowned for its affordability. Its high-tech specifications are purpose-built for professionals. Models like the SLA017 is reminiscent of the first Japanese diving watch in 1965. Newer 40mm diver’s watches from Seiko’s Prospex range are equipped with 200-meter water resistance. They’re also propelled by mechanical calibers from the Grand Seiko range, particularly the Marinemaster Professional 300M. There’s also a range of quartz watches to choose from within the Prospex collection equipped with world timers, solar cells, radio reception, and stopwatch features.

Our Pick

Seiko Diver Diver Watch Fifty-Four

Reference: 6217-8000 / SEIKO 62MAS

Case/Dial: 37mm Stainless Steel, Black
20 ATM (200 metres / ~660 feet)

Movement: Seiko NH35A, Self-winding

Functions: Date, Calendar, 50h power reserve

Strap: Black rubber with black "cordura effect" rubber

Style: Sporty

Seiko 5:

The Seiko 5 is an affordable sports watch with prices that start from around 90 dollars. Sleek and sporty, these timepieces feature simple three-handed dials with day/date displays. The watches, being automatic, are so affordable because so many are made. The movements are considered low maintenance workhorses that guarantee precision without the pricier chronometer certification.

Our Pick

Seiko 5 Sport Automatic

Reference: SNK805K2

Case/Dial: 37mm Steel, Green
10 ATM (100 metres / ~330 feet)

Movement: 7S26, Self-winding

Functions: Date, Calendar, 40h power reserve

Strap: Green Textile

Style: Military

Seiko Premier:

The Seiko Premier watch collection is where you will see traditional watchmaking elements brought through to modern designs. Roman numeral hour tracks are combined with bold 41mm and 43mm cases – some of which feature a two-toned aesthetic. Some models have kinetic movements, however, the majority are powered by quartz. There’s also a desire for these watches on the preowned market, where you can pick up a second-hand Seiko Premier watch for around 300 dollars.

Our Pick

Seiko Premier Kinetic Perpetual

Reference: SNP139P

Case/Dial: 42.9mm Steel, White
10 bar (100 metres / ~330 feet)

Movement: Premier Kinetic Perpetual, Self-winding

Functions: Date, Perpetual calendar, Power Reserve Display, Screw-Down Crown, Only Original Parts

Strap: Steel

Style: Dress

Prices:

Seiko uses all of its own components without the need from any external suppliers, making each timepiece incredibly good value for money. Watches from the lower-end scale at Seiko cost anything from around 100 dollars upwards but can stretch up to the thousands with watches from the Grand Seiko range. Because Citizen has created an equally large range of watches, the prices between their lower-end and higher-end watches are similar to Seiko (if we take out the Grand Seiko range for comparison reasons). Generally speaking, the more technical the Seiko or Citizen watch is, the higher the price tag.

Conclusion:

On the whole Seiko and Citizen share similar recognition within the market. Both have focused on creating watches that are neither too flashy nor too expensive. Whereas Citizen has saturated the market with its solar-powered technology, Seiko relies more on its past to create classic, traditional-looking watches that tie in nicely with their history. If you’re looking for quartz or solar-powered watches as opposed to mechanical – Citizen is your best choice. But when it comes to style, both brands have created a huge range of watches that span from the dynamic and sporty, to the ultra-technical, to the clean and elegant.

More Seiko Guides:

We have a lot more guides to navigate your research for the perfect watch. Seiko is one of the most popular brand across its sport and elegan lines. If you are an hard-core Seiko fan you can read our Seiko SKX007 guide - one of the most popular entry diver of all times.

Subscribe our newsletter for more news related content and find our quick comparitive guides to help you decide which watch you should buy next:

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