A lot has been written about Seiko on MONOCHROME. Generally recognized as the Japanese benchmark or even a counterpart to Swiss watchmaking, Grand Seiko reaches a luxury tier that few brands outside of Europe can aspire to. Citizen is the other Japanese brand and celebrates its 90th birthday this year since its company establishment (and 102 years since its start of watchmaking). Although not regarded as “high-end” by most, the company has major innovations and several surprises under its belt – it once even made a USD 90,000 tourbillon model. The brand’s bread and butter are inexpensive watches, of course, and the NH8350-83L Automatic is an in-house all-rounder firing shots across the Seiko 5’s bow – and that of microbrands everywhere.
CASE AND DESIGN
The Citizen Classic Automatic NH8350-83L has a classic, slightly dressy stainless steel case, which could be qualified as an all-rounder – good all day, every day. , At 40mm in diameter and 11.1mm in height, proportions are equally classic, at least to modern standards. It leans a bit on the large side to seen as a dress watch but also falls into that contemporary sweet spot for many considering this piece. As such, it could be used either with business attire or on weekends.
The case of the NH8350-83L is fully polished with the exception of the solid case back, exuding a no-nonsense vibe. It’s not trying to moonlight as a sports watch or anything else. The deeply knurled crown is large and easy to pull to set the time, and can manually wind the watch, unlike a close (pre-2019) Seiko 5 rival. The new, 2019 Seiko 5 models are now much sportier and can be manually wound, but are also double the price.
Looking at this classic and considering its entry-level price, this Citizen Classic Automatic isn’t perfect – well, at least compared to our usual suspects here at MONOCHROME. There are obviously some subtle cost-cutting measures to hit such a low price, such as non-bevelled case edges, an unsigned crown and a fairly pedestrian case design, but the overall fit and finish is outstanding for the price and taken as a whole, it’s an attractive piece. The crystal is mineral glass, but that’s better than acrylic in my book. The icing on the cake? It’s water-resistant to 50 metres, beating the more common 30-metre limit on much pricier watches.
DIAL AND HANDS
What really makes this Citizen Classic Automatic NH8350-83L stand out is the dial, with a deep sunburst blue finish. Add to that raised, tapering metal stick indices (double index at noon) and “cheap” just isn’t part of the conversation anymore.
Like its rival, the Seiko 5 watches, it features a day/date window at 3 o’clock. A simple minute/seconds track spans the outer perimeter. The polished sword-style hour and minutes hands are very legible and the baton seconds hand clearly sweeps the entirety of the outer track. The dial is also restrained with only the company name and AUTOMATIC printed.
The beating heart is an in-house Miyota 8200 automatic, featuring 21 jewels, 21,600vph (3Hz) and a 40-hour power reserve. For more information on Miyota, see our alternatives to off-the-shelf Swiss movements. Accuracy is rated at -20/+40 seconds per day, but this is an old, proven workhorse developed in the 1970s and is reliable, serviceable, inexpensive and serves its intended purpose well. Functions include central hours, minutes, seconds and a day/date complication, and it can be manually wound.
The Citizen NH8350-83L Automatic comes with a 20mm stainless steel bracelet with an oyster style, but leather strap options are available. The bracelet is a nice perk and adds to the looks-more-expensive-than-it-is vibe, but also raises the official price to approximately USD 189. Less expensive options are available at third-party retailers at around USD 119 (if you can find them, it’s a fairly rare piece).
While we all like luxury watches here at MONOCHROME (the pinnacle of Swiss and German manufactures), sometimes you have to take a step back and appreciate an incredible value proposition. An in-house automatic all-rounder with a steel bracelet for under USD 200 is eye-opening, to say the least. A well-executed sunburst dial, applied indices and day/date complication just add to the package.
It’s easy to assume that seasoned collectors and enthusiasts would pass over such a thing, but don’t be so sure. I’m by no means a wealthy timepiece connoisseur, but admittedly have a snobbish side when choosing personal watches. And one of my favourites is the Seiko 5 SNK809 for around USD 100 – Storied brand, interesting history, in-house movement from a family-owned manufacturer… What’s not to like? When brands can pull off a piece like the Citizen NH8350-83L Automatic, which is rare and generally limited to Asian manufacturers, they have my undivided attention.
Price and availability
The Citizen retails for HKD 1,470 or USD 189 and comes with a three-year warranty, although prices as low as USD 119 are common on the web. If you’re looking for a dress watch in this price range that ticks all of those horological boxes, you won’t find better than the Citizen NH8350-83L Automatic. To be fair, Japanese-based Orient presents some tough competition with exclusive in-house movements (they don’t share) and low prices, but I find Citizen and Seiko models to be a bit more refined in this price range. Of course, your mileage may vary.
For more information, visit Citizen’s website.
More details about Citizen Watch
Citizen is sometimes confused with the brand that makes the popular G-Shock watches – that’s a third Japanese juggernaut, Casio. And like Casio, Citizen has multiple divisions and produces consumer and business electronics as well. The brand is best known for watches, however, and is a major force in Japanese horology; the company also produces the ubiquitous and affordable Miyota movements. The Citizen name was first registered in Switzerland back in 1918 by Swiss watchmaker Rodolphe Schmid for watches aimed at the Japanese market. Shokosha Watch Research Institute was founded in the same year by jeweller Kamekichi Yakamazi in Tokyo and the Calibre 16 pocket watch became the first Citizen branded model sold in 1924.
Schmid had opened an assembly plant in Yokohama in 1912, and both that and the Shokosha Watch Research Institute were taken over in 1930 by Japanese and Swiss investors, and the Citizen brand was officially founded. The company grew rapidly, starting wristwatch production in 1931 and building a new factory in 1936, but the Japanese watch industry was drastically hampered during World War II.
Following the War and some restructuring, new company president Eiichi Yamada created the Citizen Trading Company in 1949 to expand the brand overseas. Wristwatches were exported by 1955 and Citizen partnered with the US Bulova Watch Co. for a time for mutual import/export interests. In 1964, the company expanded to produce business machines such as camera shutters and adding machines, and in 1966, Japan’s first electric watch was produced, the Citizen X-8. This was not a quartz watch as production of quartz oscillators didn’t begin until 1976, but Citizen advanced the tech quickly and the first solar-powered analogue quartz watch was introduced in that same year.
The popularity of light-powered watches evolved to become one of the brand’s signature technologies – Eco-Drive. By 2007, Citizen estimated that 10 million less batteries were discarded in North America as a result. Officially introduced in 1995, the advantages of Eco-Drive included better efficiency and solar cells that virtually disappear under the dial. The first commercial Eco-Drive movement was the Calibre 7878 and soon chronographs, dive watches and more were powered by Eco-Drive. In 2016, the Eco-Drive One became the world’s thinnest solar-powered watch at 2.98mm.
Just last year, Citizen introduced the most accurate quartz watch in the world, rated at +/- one second per year. This Eco-Drive Calibre 0100 has many new advancements including nickel-phosphorous springs and wheels for exacting tolerances, ambient temperature monitoring and shock counteraction. These innovations and more demonstrate that although Citizen is often thought of as a brand of inexpensive, even “department store” watches, the company’s contributions to the industry are substantial and should never be overlooked. In addition, The Citizen Group has acquired several watch brands including Bulova, Frédérique Constant and Arnold & Son (and movement manufacturer La Joux-Perret). This makes them one of the biggest watchmakers in the world.