The Ja­panese watch­maker cel­e­brates its 100th birthday this year. Here is a look at the brand’s past, its fu­ture, and why Cit­i­zen is big­ger – and more in­flu­en­tial – than ever.

WatchTime - - Table Of Contents - By Lo­gan R. Baker

| e Ja­panese watch­maker cel­e­brates its 100th birthday this year. We take a look at the brand’s past, its fu­ture, and why Cit­i­zen is big­ger — and more in­flu­en­tial — than ever be­fore.

— Cit­i­zen has been one of the most rec­og­nized watch brands in the world over the past five decades. How­ever, this was not al­ways the case. One hun­dred years ago, the Ja­panese watch in­dus­try was ba­si­cally nonex­is­tent. In fact, it took the bless­ing of an em­peror, the in­flu­ence of the Tokyo mayor and a mantra fo­cused on ac­ces­si­bil­ity to get Cit­i­zen off the ground.


In the early 20th cen­tury, the en­tirety of the Ja­panese watch mar­ket was con­trolled by the pow­er­houses of horol­ogy at the time: Switzer­land and the United States. A Tokyo jew­eler named Kame­kichi Ya­mazaki re­al­ized that pro­duc­ing time­pieces do­mes­ti­cally would be more fi­nan­cially pru­dent for the coun­try. In 1918, he founded the Shokosha Watch Re­search In­sti­tute, which would pri­mar­ily fo­cus on ex­per­i­ments in pock­et­watch pro­duc­tion dur­ing its ini­tial years. Ya­mazaki and his team took their time be­fore fi­nally re­leas­ing their first prod­uct in De­cem­ber of 1924, the Cit­i­zen Cal­iber 16 pock­et­watch. e watch’s name came from

the then-mayor of Tokyo, Shin­pei Goto, who was ac­quainted with Ya­mazaki. Goto’s rea­son­ing was that while watches were by-and-large con­sid­ered lux­ury items (they still are), Ya­mazaki was plan­ning on mak­ing his time­pieces more ac­ces­si­ble to the ev­ery­day per­son. Goto be­lieved that Ya­mazaki could one day make a watch that could be en­joyed by all the cit­i­zens of Ja­pan. Lit­tle did he know that Cit­i­zen would one day help lead the Ja­panese watch in­dus­try through the Quartz Revo­lu­tion (a Cri­sis to the rest of the watch­mak­ing world) and into be­com­ing one of the top pro­duc­ing watch firms of all time.

It was around this time that the Em­peror of Ja­pan, Hiro­hito, was ru­mored to re­ceive the first of the Cal­iber 16 mod­els as a gift from Ya­mazaki. While pock­et­watches weren’t a strange ap­pear­ance in the Im­pe­rial Palace, the fact that this one was pro­duced do­mes­ti­cally so im­pressed the young leader that he sent a note to Ya­mazaki en­cour­ag­ing him to keep mov­ing for­ward.

Growth was slow in those early years and, in 1930, the Shokosha Watch Re­search In­sti­tute was re­or­ga­nized into an of­fi­cial com­pany with new lead­er­ship and a new name. is was when Cit­i­zen Watch Co. Ltd. was of­fi­cially born. e 1930s marked an im­pres­sive pe­riod of growth as Cit­i­zen be­gan ex­port­ing time­pieces to South­east Asia and the South Pa­cific. By 1939, Ja­pan’s to­tal watch pro­duc­tion ex­ceeded 5 mil­lion units for the first time with Cit­i­zen as a ma­jor force.

Un­for­tu­nately, World War II dis­rupted Ja­panese watch pro­duc­tion in a dev­as­tat­ing fash­ion. Cit­i­zen fac­to­ries were dam­aged by Al­lied bombs and pro­duc­tion was moved out­side of Tokyo. It would take 20 years for Ja­pan to sur­pass 5 mil­lion an­nual units again.

What Cit­i­zen lacked in pro­duc­tion ca­pac­ity dur­ing this time, it made up for in internal de­vel­op­ment. e year 1949 saw the birth of the Cit­i­zen Trad­ing Com­pany, which fo­cused on sell­ing and mar­ket­ing the Cit­i­zen brand world­wide. In the 1950s, Cit­i­zen had a se­ries of do­mes­tic break­throughs in­clud­ing Ja­pan’s first cal­en­dar wrist­watch, first shock-re­sis­tant wrist­watch, first alarm wrist­watch and first wa­ter-re­sis­tant wrist­watch. In 1958, the brand in­tro­duced its first au­to­matic move­ment, the 21-jewel Cal­iber 3 KA.

It was around this time that the Amer­i­can brand Bulova (who en­tered into an im­por­t­ex­port agree­ment with Cit­i­zen in 1960) changed the watch world for­ever with the Accutron, the world’s first elec­tronic watch. Cit­i­zen re­sponded with the Toko­rozawa Tech­ni­cal Lab­o­ra­tory in 1964 that was com­pletely fo­cused on the de­vel­op­ment of elec­tronic watches. Two years later, Cit­i­zen re­leased the X-8, Ja­pan’s first elec­tronic time­piece.

anks in part to the X-8 and Ja­pan’s tech­no­log­i­cal know-how, Cit­i­zen was primed and ready

for the ad­vent of quartz. While ri­val Seiko in­tro­duced the first com­mer­cial quartz wrist­watch in De­cem­ber of 1969, Cit­i­zen un­veiled the Cit­i­zen Mega Quartz, the world’s most ac­cu­rate time­piece at plus/mi­nus 3 sec­onds per year in 1975. Over the next few years, Cit­i­zen would bring to mar­ket a new world first ev­ery year, in­clud­ing, in 1976, the first so­lar-pow­ered quartz ana­log time­piece, fore­shad­ow­ing Cit­i­zen’s le­gendary Eco-drive move­ment, and, in 1981, the world’s first watch with internal IC tem­per­a­ture com­pen­sa­tion.

Dur­ing the early 1980s, as most watch en­thu­si­asts know, Switzer­land fell be­hind Ja­pan in watch pro­duc­tion in the face of the Quartz Cri­sis. Em­peror Hiro­hito, who was still on the throne at the time, must have been pleased to see Ja­pan conquer the global watch in­dus­try dur­ing his life­time. By 1986, Cit­i­zen was build­ing 80 mil­lion watches and move­ments each year, which ac­counted for 40 per­cent of Ja­pan’s to­tal watch pro­duc­tion. at same year, Cit­i­zen as­sumed the ti­tle of the world’s largest watch pro­ducer, some­thing they would hold for the rest of the cen­tury.

Since that land­mark year, there have been a num­ber of key mo­ments for the brand; how­ever, none have been more his­tor­i­cally rel­e­vant than the in­tro­duc­tion of the so­lar-pow­ered Eco-drive in 1995 that con­tin­ues to be Cit­i­zen’s most well­known and best-sell­ing line. ere are two fac­tors that have led to this mas­sive suc­cess and have kept the tech­nol­ogy close to Cit­i­zen’s found­ing ethos of ac­ces­si­bil­ity above all: eco-friend­li­ness and af­ford­abil­ity. In 2007, Cit­i­zen said that Eco­drive tech­nol­ogy had elim­i­nated the need for the dis­posal of 10 mil­lion bat­ter­ies in North Amer­ica. And, since most Eco-drive mod­els can be found at re­tail for un­der $500 and many for un­der $300, the line has be­come preva­lent on the wrists of even the most bud­get-minded en­thu­si­asts. Ya­mazaki would be proud.

Mod­ern His­tory

Over the past decade, Cit­i­zen has made a num­ber of in­dus­try-shak­ing moves. e first came in 2008 when it pur­chased the long­time Amer­i­can horo­log­i­cal stal­wart Bulova for $246.7 mil­lion from the Loews Cor­po­ra­tion. is ac­qui­si­tion demon­strated Cit­i­zen’s com­mit­ment to the Amer­i­can mar­ket, which it has long re­garded as its most im­por­tant. Un­der the Cit­i­zen name, Bulova has flour­ished with lines such as the Pre­ci­sion­ist/uhf, which show­cases Bulova’s and Cit­i­zen’s shared his­tor­i­cal pur­suit for greater ac­cu­racy.

While the ad­di­tion of Bulova to the ranks of the Cit­i­zen Group may have been a surprise to some, the two brands’ long his­tory of work­ing to­gether made the move easy to com­pre­hend. What came next, how­ever, was a shock to many. In 2012, Cit­i­zen an­nounced its first move into the Swiss mar­ket with the pur­chase of Man­u­fac­ture La Joux-per­ret, a prom­i­nent pro­ducer of move­ments for the Swiss in­dus­try and the owner of high-end brands such as Arnold & Son and An­gelus.

Fi­nally, in 2016, Cit­i­zen again sent shock waves across the watch in­dus­try with the pur­chase of the small Swiss group Fred­erique Con­stant Hold­ing SA and the three brands un­der­neath its um­brella: Fred­erique Con­stant, Alpina and Ate­liers de­monaco.

e de­vel­op­ment of com­pa­nies and brands out­side of Cit­i­zen’s own was a ma­jor change in strat­egy and might have been con­fus­ing from an out­side per­spec­tive. What Cit­i­zen has done here is not only con­sol­i­date its mar­ket share but also reach new de­mo­graph­ics plus ap­peal to en­thu­si­asts and col­lec­tors in new and dif­fer­ent ways.

Jef­frey Co­hen, the Pres­i­dent of Cit­i­zen Watch Amer­ica, puts it like this: “e Cit­i­zen brand is the ma­chine that drives the group with a watch port­fo­lio that fo­cuses on tech­nol­ogy: Eco-drive, Satel­lite, Atomic and Su­per Ti­ta­nium with a prod­uct of­fer­ing in all price points and style. e Bulova brand is our ‘af­ford­able lux­ury’ brand with clas­sic styling and de­tails. A brand steeped in its Amer­i­can her­itage with an on­go­ing ar­chive se­ries col­lec­tion. Alpina, now go­ing into the Swiss categories, we re­ally see it as our af­ford­able sport-lux­ury cat­e­gory col­lec­tion. Fill­ing a gap in the mar­ket­place that’s re­ally been left open in a big way [af­ter] other brands shifted di­rec­tion, cer­tainly over the last few years. And, Fred­erique Con­stant, again, be­ing at a com­pany that’s ver­ti­cally in­te­grated, with Swiss move­ment man­u­fac­tur­ing and

clas­sic styling at a mod­er­ate price point, that’s a big deal. Be­ing ver­ti­cal and bring­ing prod­ucts to mar­ket­place at at­tain­able price points so everybody can en­joy lux­ury. And, with Ate­liers de­monaco and Arnold & Son, we are speak­ing about high pre­ci­sion, su­pe­rior-qual­ity time­pieces for the up­per lux­ury mar­ket.”

And, it’s true. All the brands the Cit­i­zen Group now con­trols are still honed in on the idea that lux­ury should be en­joyed by everybody. Even in re­gards to Arnold & Son and An­gelus, the time­pieces they’re pro­duc­ing, while cer­tainly ex­pen­sive, are much more ac­ces­si­ble than their Swiss coun­ter­parts. For ex­am­ple, the Arnold & Son Glo­be­trot­ter, re­leased this year at Basel­world and priced at slightly un­der $17,000, presents a cer­tain value for its man­u­fac­ture move­ment, hand­lac­quered globe and high de­gree of fin­ish­ing. Same with the An­gelus U50 Diver Tour­bil­lon at around $30,000. A skele­tonized, ti­ta­nium dive watch with a tour­bil­lon, a depth rat­ing of 300 me­ters and an in-house move­ment is un­heard of in the watch in­dus­try.

With all these ac­qui­si­tions in a rel­a­tively short time frame, the Cit­i­zen Group is in­vest­ing in its fu­ture and the fu­ture of watch­mak­ing. More brands mean more cus­tomers, which means even more watches of dif­fer­ent styles and abil­i­ties for col­lec­tors and en­thu­si­asts of all lev­els to en­joy.

“We see [the growth of the Cit­i­zen group port­fo­lio] as a win-win be­cause there are economies of scale we are able to re­al­ize as a group. ere are sav­ings by con­sol­i­da­tion of back-end oper­a­tions, adopt­ing best business prac­tices across the brands and us­ing our group business to ne­go­ti­ate the best prices for our ad­ver­tis­ing, col­lat­eral and ser­vices,” says Co­hen. “But very, very importantly, as our port­fo­lio con­tin­ues to ex­pand, we are mak­ing sure that each brand main­tains its own DNA and voice. We think we have a business model here that’s in­no­va­tive, that’s very much on trend for to­day. It al­lows us to con­tinue to bring to the con­sumer new things, new ideas and the lat­est and great­est. And that’s what this com­pany’s all about. How do we bring the lat­est and great­est to the mar­ket­place in all of the cross spec­trums of pric­ing and in­no­va­tion? At the end of the day, it’ll lead to in­creased mar­ket share, but we want to have, again go­ing back to the model of the group, we want more peo­ple to en­joy our prod­ucts.”

He­roes & Au­di­ences

Cit­i­zen’s fu­ture is no longer solely tied into how well it in­no­vates horol­ogy and brings new time­pieces to mar­ket. is year at Basel­world, the brand an­nounced a part­ner­ship with Dis­ney, which is not only a ma­jor mar­ket­ing mile­stone but it might be the biggest deal of its kind in watch­mak­ing his­tory.

While Cit­i­zen con­tin­ues to grow with a larger brand port­fo­lio, Dis­ney is grow­ing in un­prece­dented ways. From Marvel, Star Wars and Pixar, to the clas­sic an­i­mated films and the theme parks that at­tract mil­lions ev­ery year, there’s a rea­son why be­com­ing an al­liance part­ner with Dis­ney is highly cov­eted.

As part of the long-term pro­mo­tional al­liance, the Cit­i­zen logo will be dis­played on the Main Street U.S.A. clocks in Magic King­dom Park at Walt Dis­ney World Re­sort and Dis­ney­land Park at Dis­ney­land Re­sort. e logo will be dis­played on se­lect at­trac­tion Fast­pass clocks lo­cated through­out Walt Dis­ney World, Dis­ney­land, Dis­ney­land Paris, Hong Kong Dis­ney­land, and Shang­hai Dis­ney. Cit­i­zen will also have global mu­sic li­cens­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties, a Red Car­pet spon­sor­ship for Marvel Avengers: In­fin­ity War and its 2019 se­quel, a spon­sor of the Marvel Minute, and of­fi­cial time­keeper of the Run Dis­ney Run Races at Walt Dis­ney World, among other lu­cra­tive pos­si­bil­i­ties.

ere are a num­ber of note­wor­thy fac­tors here for watch en­thu­si­asts that go be­yond typ­i­cal mar­ket­ing spiel. Be­lieve it or not, the Main Street

USA clocks found across the global Dis­ney prop­er­ties are some of the most pho­tographed and rec­og­nized clocks in the world. And, re­mark­ably, this is the first time that Dis­ney is al­low­ing a brand to put its logo on it, mean­ing Cit­i­zen will have a pre­vi­ously un­tapped reach into Dis­ney’s world­wide de­mo­graphic.

From a pure mar­ket­ing stand­point, there’s a cer­tain brand pedi­gree that Dis­ney main­tains that puts it in a realm by it­self among global business en­ti­ties. e fact that it has never had a watch part­ner of this cal­iber is re­mark­able not only for Dis­ney’s over­all reach but for how it will im­print Cit­i­zen’s watch­mak­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties onto fu­ture col­lec­tors and en­thu­si­asts.

“Imag­ine go­ing to a park with the kids, the par­ents, and the grand­par­ents,” ex­plains Co­hen. “You’re cut­ting across three gen­er­a­tions. You’re on­board­ing a fu­ture con­sumer, you’re talk­ing to prob­a­bly some­one who has had the brand in their [life] and then also look­ing for some­one that’s look­ing to buy a watch to­day. So we are very ex­cited about the po­ten­tial this al­liance agree­ment of­fers to us to reach a global au­di­ence across mul­ti­ple de­mo­graph­ics.”

Look­ing to the Past for Fu­ture In­spi­ra­tion

is year, Cit­i­zen tapped into its his­tory and brought back one of its un­der­ap­pre­ci­ated vin­tage mod­els. Back in the 1970s, Cit­i­zen was not only known for quartz and elec­tronic time­pieces, but also for pro­duc­ing a line of bull­head chrono­graphs. ese have been highly col­lectible for many years and are pop­u­lar among vin­tage en­thu­si­asts. e new col­lec­tion, pow­ered by Eco-drive, takes its de­sign in­flu­ences from a 1972 chrono­graph known as the Chal­lenge Timer, and from its suc­ces­sor, the 1973 Tsuno Chrono (“horned chrono­graph” in Ja­panese), for which the mod­ern piece is named. ese are purely funky time­pieces that bring for­ward a col­or­ful mo­ment in Cit­i­zen’s his­tory that might be un­known to the mod­ern col­lec­tor.

Co­hen de­scribes the choice to re­lease the Tsuno Chrono­graph Racer as three-fold.

“For the past few years we have been re­build­ing the Pro­mas­ter fran­chise with new mod­els for air, land and sea,” he says. “We felt that since this year we were cel­e­brat­ing our 100- year an­niver­sary that it would be an ap­pro­pri­ate time to look back into our her­itage for in­spi­ra­tion for a new model to launch in the land cat­e­gory. Launch­ing this model in Pro­mas­ter with a han­dassem­bled move­ment pays homage to our roots.”

How­ever, the most in­trigu­ing news out of Basel­world for fans of Cit­i­zen’s horo­log­i­cal in­no­va­tion is some­thing that would be a pure fan­tasy for Ya­mazaki, Hiro­hito and Goto de­spite com­ing in pack­ag­ing they would un­doubt­edly recognize. e con­cept Cal­iber 0100 was un­veiled inside a pock­et­watch de­signed in trib­ute to the orig­i­nal Cit­i­zen Cal­iber 16 and boasts an ac­cu­racy of plus/mi­nus 1 sec­ond per year. Utiliz­ing a newly de­vel­oped move­ment pow­ered by Eco-drive tech­nol­ogy, the con­cept watch is now the world’s most ac­cu­rate time­keeper with an internal reg­u­la­tor.

Cit­i­zen de­signed a brand-new At-cut quartz os­cil­la­tor for the Cal­iber 0100 that lessens the ef­fect that shifts in tem­per­a­ture and grav­ity have on over­all ac­cu­racy. is is in part due to the smaller vi­bra­tions pro­duced by the os­cil­la­tor and its abil­ity to mon­i­tor and ad­just the fre­quency for tem­per­a­ture vari­a­tions. Where an av­er­age tun­ing-fork­style quartz os­cil­la­tor vi­brates at a fre­quency of 32,768 Hz, the Cal­iber 0100's new os­cil­la­tor op­er­ates at 8.4 MHZ or 8,388,608 Hz. Cit­i­zen was able to build a new Eco-drive move­ment that could adapt to the level of elec­tric­ity needed for this vi­bra­tional fre­quency that al­lows the watch to run for six months with­out a charge. is new move­ment is view­able through an ex­hi­bi­tion case­back in the pock­et­watch ex­am­ple and, if you look at the in­dexes and sec­onds hand on the dial, you’ll see a hexag­o­nal de­sign in­spired by the quartz crys­tal. e Cal­iber 0100 also fea­tures su­pe­rior shock re­sis­tance and an abil­ity to au­to­mat­i­cally ad­just the po­si­tion­ing of the hands in case of im­pact. Al­though it was un­veiled as a not-for-sale con­cept at Basel­world this year, Cit­i­zen prom­ises it will be avail­able in fu­ture time­pieces start­ing as soon as 2019.

Un­like other in­dus­tries, hit­ting triple dig­its isn’t un­heard of in the watch world. In fact, when the foun­da­tion of Cit­i­zen was estab­lished in 1918, Ja­panese watch­mak­ers faced a 300-year hur­dle com­pared to the Swiss who had been per­fect­ing the me­chan­i­cal move­ment since the 1600s. Look­ing at the past 50 years or so, what Cit­i­zen has done makes its cen­ten­nial an­niver­sary even more im­pres­sive. And, a closer look at the past decade, with the de­vel­op­ment of its brand port­fo­lio and the new part­ner­ship with Dis­ney, demon­strates how Cit­i­zen is uniquely pre­pared to move into its next 100 years with ease.

Happy Birthday, Cit­i­zen.








10 1.) An orig­i­nal Cit­i­zen pock­et­watch from 19242.) One of the first Cit­i­zen wrist­watches, 19313.) A vin­tage Cit­i­zen bull­head chrono­graph from the 1970s4.) Move­ment in­spec­tion in the early years of Cit­i­zen5.) A woman pro­cesses main plates.

9 6.) Test­ing the wa­ter re­sis­tance ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the Cit­i­zen Parawa­ter, Ja­pan’s first wa­ter re­sis­tant watch7.) CEO and Pres­i­dent of Cit­i­zen Watch Co. Toshio Tokura8.) Em­peror Hiro­hito9.) Tokyo Mayor Shin­pei Goto10.) Kame­kichi Ya­mazaki


This ad of the Marvel su­per­hero Thor charg­ing an Eco-drive watch with his light­ning pow­ers is an ex­am­ple of the cross­over brand­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties be­tween Dis­ney and Cit­i­zen.

Re­leased at Basel­world 2018, (top) the Cit­i­zen Tsuno Chrono­graph Racer and (above) the Cit­i­zen Cal­iber 0100 with an ac­cu­racy of +/- 1 sec­ond per year

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