Citizen Watches Review: Is Citizen a Good Watch Brand?

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by  William Barton | Last Updated: 

Citizen watches are some of the most popular in the world. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re any good.

In our Citizen review, we take a look at three of their most popular models to determine whether this legendary brand has still got it.

The solid, steady watch brand
The Adult Man Image/Icon Image source: Citizen USA

Citizen

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Bottom line: Citizen watches offer excellent bang for your buck. The Eco Drive movement may not seem special at first (it’s just as accurate as any regular quartz movement), but the fact that you never need to change the battery is pretty incredible. With a huge variety of styles and exceptional finish quality, Citizen is a one-of-a-kind brand.

Ratings:

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The Adult Man Image/Icon  Quality of Materials The Adult Man Image/Icon The Adult Man Image/Icon The Adult Man Image/Icon The Adult Man Image/Icon The Adult Man Image/Icon
The Adult Man Image/Icon  Value for Money The Adult Man Image/Icon The Adult Man Image/Icon The Adult Man Image/Icon The Adult Man Image/Icon The Adult Man Image/Icon
The Adult Man Image/Icon  Craftsmanship The Adult Man Image/Icon The Adult Man Image/Icon The Adult Man Image/Icon The Adult Man Image/Icon The Adult Man Image/Icon
The Adult Man Image/Icon  Customer Service The Adult Man Image/Icon The Adult Man Image/Icon The Adult Man Image/Icon The Adult Man Image/Icon The Adult Man Image/Icon

Pros:

  • Citizen has just about any style of watch you might want---from dress, to dive, to military
  • The Eco Drive movement never needs to have its battery changed or be wound
  • Certain models, like the Promaster series, have at least 200m of water resistance, and the least expensive I tried still had 100m, which is more than most people ever need
  • Free shipping and 30-day returns in the US

Cons:

  • None of the models I got had easy-release straps, making it difficult to mix and match bands

Not to brag right out of the gate, but I have a pretty extensive watch collection.

Want to know a dirty little secret, though? 

I really only wear a few pieces regularly. 

Sure, if I’m dressing up on a Saturday night, I’ll bust out a specialty watch. But most of the time, I stick with the classics. 

To me, the best watches are sturdy, classic, handsome, and inexpensive—these are the kind I want to wear on the daily. 

And there are few brands that hit those marks like Citizen, the Japanese watch brand that’s been slinging timepieces for over 100 years. 

With that kind of history, they have to be doing something right. But do their watches still keep pace with newer brands on the market? 

I dug into three of Citizens most popular watches to find out for myself. Keep reading to get all the details. 

What is Citizen Watches?

Citizen Watches chandler field watch

Citizen is a Japanese watch brand that’s been around for over 100 years. They’re absolutely legendary in the watch-making world. 

For one, Citizen invented the quartz movement. Most watches in the world use this technology now, and at the time, it was completely revolutionary. Quartz movements are much more precise than mechanical movements, and the invention flung Citizen to the forefront of the horological world. 

But they didn’t rest on their laurels. 

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Citizen then launched the first titanium watch, which is lightweight, corrosion resistant, and hypo-allergenic (music to the ears of anyone with an allergic response to nickel). These timepieces are ideal for divers as the metal quality is superior to stainless. 

And if that wasn’t enough, Citizen launched their Eco Drive movement, which went into the world’s first solar powered watches. Not only do these watches run perpetually (as long as they’re exposed to some sunlight every few months), but the invention eliminated the need to create and dispose of millions of watch batteries. 

Citizen Watches

Citizen watches are an excellent choice for you if you prioritize value. They’re not the most flashy or unique (you’ll need to look at a microbrand to find more “off the wall” designs), but they’re reliable and don’t require much of any maintenance.

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Things to Consider Before Buying a Watch from Citizen

Citizen Watches nighthawk dial

Citizen watches are unique in that they’re a vertically integrated company, meaning they make every part of their watches in-house. 

This is increasingly rare today, and there are very few brands that have made the same kind of contributions to watch-making as Citizen has. 

Whereas Rolex has focused on the high end, classic style of watch-making, with old-fashioned and complicated mechanical movements, Citizen has gone the opposite direction. They strive to create new technologies and drive costs for watches lower and lower in the process, while still maintaining superb quality. 

Citizen makes watches for the people—it’s in the name. Sure, their pieces might not be flashy, but the brand has earned its reputation for solid, reliable, and technology-driven timepieces that people can actually afford. 

Citizen Watch Review

It’s not easy choosing three watches from a brand with as many iconic designs as Citizen. But I went ahead and picked out three that I’ve personally heard the most about. 

One thing I missed is that Citizen has a robust range of dressier watches, with simpler dials and more refined bands. I’m more of a tool-watch guy, and that’s the direction I went with. You’ve got to follow your heart. 

Citizen Promaster Diver

Citizen Watches promaster diver as part of edc

The Citizen Promaster Diver has been on my wishlist for quite a while, and I’m excited to finally get one on my wrist. 

This is a bulky boy, measuring in with a 45mm case diameter and weighing 163g (which is four times heavier than the Chandler Eco Drive). 

Because of its size, I don’t recommend this watch for anyone with a smaller wrist. And it pushes the limit even for guys with average sized wrists like myself. Dudes with beefier wrists do well with timepieces between 44mm and up to 48mm, but I think anything larger than 48mm just looks more like a Flavor-Flav necklace than a watch.  

Citizen Watches promaster diver full detail

I picked the Promaster Diver up because I have plans to learn how to scuba dive. My plans were pushed back due to a certain global pandemic, but with summer here, it’s dive time and my classes are scheduled. I’m super excited to get into the water with this beast.

Speaking of getting into the water, the Promaster Diver is rated up to 200m depth of water resistance. For most purposes 100m of resistance is plenty, and more than most people will ever need. 200m is exceptional, and the kind of thing you want if you’re going diving. 

This timepiece runs on an Eco Drive movement (same as the other two pieces I picked up), which means that I never have to change the battery. So long as I expose it to sunlight every so often (or just leave it in a room that gets a little light every now and again), the hands will keep on ticking. 

Citizen Watches promaster diver on model

I’m curious to see how long the movement lasts, though I’ve heard of people using their Eco Drive watches for 20+ years. Theoretically, they can last forever if properly cared for, but I’ve never met anyone who owns a Citizen and has also lived forever. 

The crown on this timepiece has a pleasing shape and has the stainless guards that dive watches are known for. I love the look of the case: plenty of chamfers around the dial and crown to give it a technical, but not too complicated style. 

The bezel rotates counterclockwise, and it’s the most sturdy bezel of any watch I’ve personally tried. This is really promising as your setting won’t move around as you soar through the water.

Citizen Watches promaster diver bezel detail

All indices and hands are large and very legible, which is ideal for underwater reading, even with murky conditions. 

Overall, I’m super impressed with the Citizen Promaster Diver. I’ll have to come back and update this review after I actually take it diving, but from a pure style perspective, it’s a handsome timepiece with an accurate and reliable movement—all in an affordable package. 

Citizen Promaster Diver

Although it bulges with a rather large 45mm case diameter, the Citizen Promaster Diver is a highly versatile watch that you can dress up or down with ease. Boasting Citizen's Eco-Drive moment, it's also quite affordable given the quality on offer.

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Citizen Promaster Nighthawk

Citizen Watches nighthawk crystal detail

Ok, this is the most complicated watch I’ve ever seen. The Promaster Nighthawk comes in several varieties, but I opted for the Blue Angels edition, inspired by the most elite Navy pilots in the game. 

I’ll be honest, I don’t know what half the stuff on the dial even means. There are markers along the internal bezel that seem to act as a fuel calculator, which is totally impractical for my purposes, but I love the over-complication. 

With a 42mm diameter, the Promaster Nighthawk is a bit more manageable size compared to the Diver, but it’s still quite large for folks with average sized wrists. 

The Nighthawk runs on an Eco Drive movement as well, so it may not ever need a battery change so long as you get it into the sun once every six months. 

Citizen Watches nighthawk dial 1

The case has quite a tall profile at 10mm (12mm if you include the caseback). Not even the Promaster Diver, with all its weight and size has that tall of a profile. Still, it doesn’t look out of place because of the blue ceramic bezel ring. 

The mineral crystal pops up above the bezel, too, which gives this watch a distinctive depth that I really enjoy. There’s an internal rotating bezel operated by a second crown at the 8 o’clock position with fuel calculator indices. 

One of my favorite features on this watch is the 24-hour complication—it’s so unique and I’ve never seen anything like it. Rather than a standard subdial window, the 24-clock is a stacked semi-circle on the left portion of the dial with a white 1-12, and a yellow 13-24, marking AM and PM. 

Citizen Watches nighthawk dial edc

There’s a rotating hand under the minute, hour, and second hands with a white plane and a yellow plane spinning around. If the white plane is crossing over the 24-hour dial, it’s the AM, and if the yellow plane is passing over, it’s PM. 

Clearly, there are much more obvious ways to note whether it’s AM or PM, like, for instance, if there’s a giant glowing ball of gas in the sky blasting you with radiation, but I still think it’s cool. 

The strap is genuine leather and has those awesome circular cutouts you see with racing watch straps. 

Citizen Watches nighthawk crown detail

I’m not a huge Blue Angels or military fanatic, but I really like this version of the Promaster Nighthawk. The blue and yellow contrast work well together and look handsome. The key to the beauty of this watch is the over-complication—or at least that’s what draws me to it. 

As far as quality goes, this watch is absolutely value-packed. Especially if you’re a fan of supersonic Navy pilots who do awesome plane flips. 

Citizen Promaster Nighthawk

Citizen is your go-to brand if you love complicated dials and technical marvels. If you want a rugged and supremely functional token of horological history, check out the Promaster Nighthawk.

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Citizen Eco Drive Chandler

Citizen Watches eco drive chandler dial closeup

The last piece I had to try from Citizen is their iconic Chandler field watch

It’s compact—especially compared to the Promaster Diver and Nighthawk—coming in at 37mm. I’ve actually come to prefer smaller watches under 40mm, and it seems the trend of larger watches is coming to a close. 

The Chandler also runs on an Eco Drive movement, eliminating the need for battery changes and winding. I like the day-date window and the simple three-hand movement. 

It’s a basic field watch, with easy to read Arabic numerals and a strong lume when the sun goes down. 

Citizen Watches eco drive chandler

If I have any beef with Citizen, it’s that they use mineral crystals in many of their timepieces—including all three that I’ve reviewed here. 

The Chandler is the kind of watch I’d wear every day. It’s classic looking, simple, and a super reliable timepiece. I’m not very gentle with my watches, and I tend to bang the glass against backpack hardware, desks, doors—you name it. 

Citizen Watches eco drive chandler crown detail

Because mineral crystal doesn’t have the same scratch resistance as sapphire or even a sapphire coating, it opens these watches to the possibility of marking up the glass. 

It’s not a huge issue to me because I’m using these as everyday watches, and not the kind I’ll be busting out for a special occasion. But it’s a worthy consideration if you’re like me and don’t coddle your watches much. Somewhere around the two-year mark, you’ll want to get some polishing compound and shine your crystal up a bit. 

Citizen Watches eco drive chandler top down

Otherwise, the Citizen Chandler is a fantastic little watch. The canvas and leather strap is quite stiff at first and takes a little while to break in. But I love the metal rings for added longevity. The Chandler is an ideal camping watch: it’s rugged, compact, and gives you just the basics and nothing more. 

Citizen Chandler Eco-Drive

One of our favorite looking Citizen watches is also out to help the environment. The brand's Eco-Drive range removed over 100 million lithium batteries from dumps in the US alone.

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What do Other Reviewers Say About Citizen Watches?

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There’s no shortage of Citizen watch reviews, from crowdsourced amateur reviews to highly detailed and spec-oriented breakdowns from professionals. 

After reading through pages and pages, the conclusion is that Citizen makes excellent value timepieces, and for a wide range of budgets.

Reviewers who prize precision over everything else love some of the more expensive Citizen watches with atomic timing. 

Reviewers who are looking for something wallet-friendly they can use in high-stress situations like Police Academy found great watches that stood up to tough demands. 

My Thoughts Overall On Citizen

What I Like

  • Citizen’s range of watches is huge: from tool watches to dress watches, all types of movements, from under $100, to over $1000.

  • The Eco Drive movement doesn’t need new batteries or any winding. It just keeps ticking with a little sunlight. 

  • Two of the models I tried (both in the Promaster series) have 200m of water resistance, which makes them eligible for diving with—this speaks to quality construction rarely found at their respective price points. 

  • Free shipping and 30-day returns within the US. Plus Citizen offers a warranty on most of their watches. 

What I Don’t Like

  • Of the three models I tried, none came with quick release straps, making it difficult to swap out the bands and mix and match. 

  • Few Citizen watches feature sapphire glass—they favor mineral, which has excellent clarity, but scratches easier than sapphire. 

Who is Citizen for?

Citizen watches are an excellent choice for you if you prioritize value. They’re not the most flashy or unique (you’ll need to look at a microbrand to find more “off the wall” designs), but they’re reliable and don’t require much of any maintenance.

The Verdict

Citizen watches have a reputation for quality and value. 

After trying three of their most popular models, I can clearly see why. 

The timepieces I tried all have excellent build quality you can feel just by holding them. 

Of the three, my favorite is the Promaster Diver. Sure, it’s a monster at 45mm, but the finishing is precise and the details make for an impressive looking timepiece. With 200m of water resistance, I’m eager to take this out to my local diving facility and give it a whirl. 

Next up is the Eco Drive Chandler. This is on the other end of the size spectrum, at 37mm in diameter. It’s a neat little field watch that looks handsome and is as rugged as it gets. Again, it’s reliable and keeps time remarkably well (+/- 5 seconds per month). And that’s without needing to ever change the battery or wind it up. 

I love the complication of the Promaster Nighthawk, but for daily use, it’s a bit over the top. Technically speaking, this watch is fantastic, and the value is strong. I don’t see myself wearing the Nighthawk as much as the Diver and Chandler. But I sort of knew that going in. I still wanted the Nighthawk just for its novelty. 

There’s still a whole world of Citizen watches I haven’t explored. Their atomic watches, titanium, dress watches, etc. But after trying the Promaster Diver, Promaster Nighthawk, and Eco Drive Chandler, I know it’s only a matter of time before I go back for more.

Citizen Watches

Citizen watches are an excellent choice for you if you prioritize value. They’re not the most flashy or unique (you’ll need to look at a microbrand to find more “off the wall” designs), but they’re reliable and don’t require much of any maintenance.

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FAQs

Is Citizen a good watch brand?

Yes, Citizen watches offer an excellent balance of value and quality. The watches have top-rate quality control, build quality, and use solid materials. There are few watch brands that are totally vertically integrated like Citizen, so they control every aspect of their watches production.

Is Citizen or Seiko better?

Neither is necessarily better than the other, but each appeals to a different sort of customer. Citizen have focused on quartz movements (they invented it, after all). This means their watches are super accurate and many are Eco Drive, meaning they’re solar powered. Seiko has a balanced catalogue between quartz, digital, and automatic movements. If you’re into mechanical movements, you might enjoy Seiko’s choices more. Both make excellent quality watches, though, so you can’t go wrong with either brand.

How long do Citizen watches last?

Looking through hundreds of reviews, the general shelf-life of a Citizen watch is 10 years. Those who’ve gotten certain parts replaced have had theirs for 20 years or more, but you can plan on 10 years without any major maintenance.

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