Seiko VS Citizen 2021: Who is the winner?

 

Published on 2nd July 2021

In the world of Horology, one can’t underestimate the influence the Japanese have exercised in terms of innovation and forward-thinking approach. The question, “Seiko vs Citizen” is an interesting one, for these 2 Japanese brands have contributed so much to this usually traditional field, that’s averse to sudden changes. So, Seiko vs Citizen…. Which one to choose?

This is something great to ponder about. Especially for one looking to dip their toes into the world of horology & timekeeping by acquiring their first watch. After all, both these brands are great for first-time ownership of a timepiece. Let’s understand more deeply about these popular watch rivals.

Background: Seiko vs Citizen

Founded in 1881 by Kintarō Hattori, Seiko started out as a humble watch and jewelry retailer in Tokyo. Hattori had worked as an apprentice clockmaker since he was a small boy, and this expertise led him to indulge in the business of importing watches, movements & parts from Switzerland. Ones of exquisite quality and types that were difficult to find in Japan. No wonder, the word ‘Seiko’ means “exquisite” in Japanese. Soon, they started making pieces of their own. Both clocks and pocket watches. They were aptly named, “Seikosha”, meaning “House of Exquisite.”

On the other hand, founded in 1930, jointly by Swiss & Japanese investors, Citizen started out making watches in Yokohama, led by Swiss watchmaker Rodolphe Schmid. The brand was initially registered in Switzerland by Schmid in 1918 and moved to Japan thereafter.

 

Which brand is better: Seiko or Citizen?

On the history front, Seiko may have an edge over Citizen due to the virtue of being older and also for its innovations, including the Seiko Astron, which when introduced in 1969 would go on to completely revolutionize the watch industry in general, being the first mass-produced quartz watch. Then there were other legends such as the Pogue that went to space, the Kamikaze pilot watches, etc.

But Citizen doesn’t lag too far behind. Citizen’s atomic watches which could connect to an atomic clock and display the most accurate time possible, as well as their ‘Eco Drive’ solar technology are important innovations that do their job even more efficiently and cost-effectively, compared to Seiko. Then, of course, there was the Cal. 0100 movement, the most accurate quartz movement in existence.

Just like every other brand in existence, both Seiko and Citizen have their positives and negatives. But subjectively, it’d be better to have a side-by-side comparison of top-selling models from each brand.

That being said, we need to point out that sometimes, doing a face-to-face comparison between Seiko and Citizen may not be possible for a multitude of reasons, chief among them being the fact that tastes on watches tend to be subjective. Another reason is that they tend to have downsides in certain minute areas and upsides in others. Also, the brands have been very different in terms of their history and contributions to the industry. With that in mind, let’s get to some objective comparisons between specific models from Seiko and Citizen.

Seiko vs Citizen Automatic Watches

To start off with, here are 2 automatic timepieces from both brands. After all, an automatic watch is something amazing for a first-timer to behold. The joys that come from listening to the balance wheel tick constantly with prominent mechanical clicks is something that even a person who’s not an enthusiast can appreciate!

Seiko Automatic Watch
Seiko Men’s Japanese Mechanical Automatic Watch (Image: Amazon)

Right off the bat, it can be clearly seen that the Citizen seems to offer better value than the Seiko. But in terms of commonalities, both are 39mm in diameter, both have beautiful blue dials, both offer 100m of water resistance and both have a metal bracelet.

Citizen Automatic Watch
Citizen Automatic Watch (Model: NH9110-81L) (Image: Amazon)

But the place where they differ is their style. The Citizen Automatic Watch offers more detail to the dial with a textured pattern & skeletonization showcasing the balance wheel. The Seiko Men’s Japanese Mechanical Automatic Watch on the other hand is more simple and refined. It’s all a matter of taste here. But the Seiko’s 4R35 movement is robust & easier to find parts for and service, compared to the Citizen who as a brand, tend to focus more on their quartz Eco-Drive pieces in general. Eco-Drive is Citizen’s trademark solar-powered quartz technology that’s easily considered to be one of the best in the business. They are very reliable, accurate, and robust movements.

Specification Seiko Men’s Japanese Mechanical Automatic Watch Citizen Automatic Watch (Model: NH9110-81L)
Movement Cal. 4R35, automatic, 23 jewels, 21,600 BPH Cal. 8229, automatic, 21 jewels, 21,600 BPH
Display Hardlex Crystal Sapphire Crystal
Water-Resistance 100m 100m
Power Reserve 41 hours 40 hours
GPS/Chronograph/Tachymeter/Atomic Timekeeping N/A N/A

 

Seiko vs Citizen Affordable Watches

Here, we’re going to pit 2 classics against each other, the Seiko 5 and the Citizen Eco-Drive. This is for those who want something a bit more affordable, without compromising in terms of quality, reliability, and durability at the same time, for those are the exact same qualities one can expect from these entry-level pieces from both Seiko and Citizen. 

Best Seiko Affordable Watch
SEIKO Men’s SNK809 SEIKO 5 Automatic Stainless Steel Watch (Image: Amazon)

The Seiko 5 was born with 5 key principles.

  1. Automatic movement.
  2. Day-Date function.
  3. 30m of water resistance.
  4. Crown at 4 o’clock (However, there are many exceptions to this)
  5. Durability & affordability

The black dialed SNK809 from Seiko does all of this. They have a very German Flieger-style dial that’s excellent for casual occasions.

Citizen Affordable Watch
Citizen Men’s Eco-Drive Watch in Stainless Steel (Image: Amazon)

The Citizen Men’s Eco-Drive Watch, on the other hand, is a solar quartz watch with the eco-drive movement. Seiko’s case is smaller at 37mm than the Citizen Eco-Drive at a massive 45mm. The Seiko’s 7S26 movement is iconic, but it does not require hand winding and is completely automatic. The Citizen has the renowned Eco-Drive movement which is Solar powered.

Specifications Seiko 5 SNK809 Watch Citizen Men’s Eco-Drive Watch
Movement Cal. 7S26, automatic (No hand-winding), 21 jewels, 21,600 BPH. Eco-Drive, quartz, solar-powered.
Display Hardlex Crystal. Mineral Crystal.
Water-Resistance 30m. 100m.
Power Reserve 41 hours. Theoretically indefinite, stand-by time of 6-8 months.
GPS/Chronograph/Tachymeter/ Atomic Timekeeping N/A. N/A.

Seiko vs Citizen Affordable Dress Watches

Now let’s look at lower-priced versions of Seiko and Citizen models that are more dressy and formal in nature. We just looked at 2 sporty pieces, but these 2 are for the folks who prefer their wardrobe more formal and classy or simply want a timepiece reserved for more formal occasions.

Seiko Affordable Formal Watch
SEIKO 5 Men’s SNK793 Automatic Stainless Steel Watch with Blue Dial (Image: Amazon)

The Seiko 5 is back! This series offers incredible diversity, from sporty casual, all the way to formal pieces such as this. They all share the same wonderfully durable 7S26 automatic movement that’s very affordable to maintain too. The Seiko 5 Men’s SNK793 Automatic watch looks much more expensive than it really is as well.

Citizen Affordable Dress Watch
Citizen Quartz Mens Watch (Image: Amazon)

The Citizen Quartz Men’s Watch is a standard quartz watch here, sized at 40mm. No doubt that while both are lovely pieces, the Seiko does blow the Citizen away this time at least in terms of value.

Specifications Seiko 5 Men’s SNK793 Automatic Watch Citizen Quartz Men’s Watch (Model: BF0580-57L)
Movement Cal. 7S26, automatic (No hand-winding), 21 jewels, 21,600 BPH. Standard Citizen quartz movement.
Display Hardlex Crystal. Mineral Crystal.
Water-Resistance 30m. 30m.
Power Reserve 41 hours. 10 years.
GPS/Chronograph/Tachymeter/ Atomic Timekeeping N/A. N/A.

 

Seiko vs Citizen Pilot Watches (The Seiko Flightmaster vs The Citizen Nighthawk)

Seiko Pilot Watch
SEIKO Men’s Pilot Watch Alarm Chronograph (Image: Amazon)

Pilot’s watches are a wonderful addition to any collection. They are best suited for casual occasions, with their sporty vibe and functional aesthetics. Not just in terms of aesthetics, but Pilot watches such as these come with slide rule bezels that have a whole host of functions on their own, such as solving small mathematical calculations, recording elapsed time, etc.

Citizen Pilot Watch
Citizen Watches Mens BJ7006-56L Eco-Drive (Image: Amazon)

Although both the watches are fantastic, and some say that the Citizen’s quality is better than the Seiko’s, there’s no arguing here that the Seiko beats the Citizen again in terms of value. The Seiko Flightmaster SNA411 is an analog quartz chronograph with a slide rule bezel. The Citizen Nighthawk doesn’t have a chronograph, but it has an internally roaring slide rule bezel actuated with a secondary external crown.

I’d say the Seiko Flightmaster is better in this regard in every way. It’s 2mm shorter in diameter, and with a screw-up crown and pushers, it offers 200m water resistance. Now isn’t that amazing?

Specifications Seiko Flightmaster Citizen Nighthawk
Movement Cal. T162, quartz. Cal. B877, eco-drive, solar-powered.
Display Hardlex Crystal. Mineral Crystal.
Water-Resistance 200m. 200m.
Power Reserve 3 years. Theoretically indefinite, 6-8 months of standby.
GPS/Chronograph/Tachymeter/ Atomic Timekeeping chronograph, slide rule bezel. Slide rule bezel.

 

Seiko vs Citizen Dive watches (The Seiko Prospex vs The Citizen Promaster)

Citizen Dive watch
Citizen Eco-Drive Promaster Diver Quartz Men’s Watch (Image: Amazon)

And finally, we arrive at a completely different class of watches, the professional divers. Watch enthusiasts can’t usually help, but appreciate the engineering and mastery that goes into making a timepiece that can withstand such harsh conditions. Even though many of them never end up getting tested to the depths they were built for, the fantasy associated with the fact that it’s possible to do so makes them so appealing!

 

Seiko Dive Watch
Seiko Prospex Padi Solar (Image: Amazon)

The Seiko Prospex is 43.5mm across while the Citizen Eco-Drive Promaster goes all the way to 48mm in case size. Their price is so similar, and other than the size, they’re similar in other ways too. Both are Solar powered, but I’d say the Citizen has a slight edge here in terms of movement as the eco-drive technology is much more tried and tested. That’s funny because we began the comparison with the automatic movement where Seiko had the edge for this very reason.

Both offer 200m water resistance. The Seiko is ISO certified as well, making it even more appealing.

Specifications Seiko Prospex Padi Solar SNE435P1 Citizen Eco-Drive Promaster Diver Quartz Men’s Watch
Movement Cal. V157, quartz, solar-powered. Cal. E168, quartz, solar-powered.
Display Hardlex Crystal. Mineral Crystal.
Water-Resistance 200m. 200m.
Power Reserve Theoretically indefinite. Theoretically indefinite.
GPS/Chronograph/Tachymeter/ Atomic Timekeeping N/A. N/A.

 

Is there a clear winner?

Maybe, maybe not. It’s as subjective of an opinion as it gets. Seiko is stronger in certain areas while Citizen is stronger in other areas. As a watch enthusiast, I’d advise you to follow your heart, for this is a hobby that we indulge in out of passion, rather than for practicality.

If you, as an enthusiast, care for specifics such as an “in-house movement”, then you’re in luck. Both Seiko and Citizen offer just that. Seiko is, in fact, renowned for being completely independent in every way, producing every single component themselves, even for their entry-level pieces. And both Seiko and Citizen manufacture movements for other brands as well.

When it comes to reliability and maintenance, both brands have a solid reputation. But in terms of servicing and finding parts for mechanical and automatic watches, Seiko will have an edge over Citizen. The reason is that Seiko produces a lot more mechanical watches and movements than Citizen does. Parts are plentiful in supply.

If you want more history, more provenance out of the brand itself, while keeping aside the model preferences, we’d say, go for Seiko. Although Citizen has a wonderful history to it, nothing can beat the Seiko flair when it comes to innovation. The quartz crisis that annihilated a large portion of independent brands in Switzerland itself due to the Seiko Astron, that speaks volumes in itself.

If you want something a bit more personal, go for Citizen. What do I mean by “personal”? There’s something to a watch that may not be as well known, but when you wear it, it becomes part of your identity. In other words, it becomes you. Almost like a tailor-made fine suit. There’s not another one like it.

And the future does look bright for Citizen. Their introduction of the Caliber 0100, a quartz Eco-Drive movement that’s accurate to within a second in a year, and the Caliber 0200, a beautiful and high-end automatic movement crafted in collaboration with La Joux-Perret shows their entry to a higher-end segment of the industry. Grand Seiko isn’t alone after all….

Even if you aren’t really an enthusiast as such, it doesn’t matter. It’s always possible to like a watch over another for personal reasons. So choose as per your wish, and enjoy your decision!

With that being said, I hope you found this helpful in choosing your next timepiece. Not just a practical accessory, but a companion who’ll be with you, sitting on your wrist for years to come!

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