We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs.

Written By
Published Aug 12, 2022 3:10 PM

Citizen is far from just another brand at the PX. The Japanese company is a legendary watchmaking giant. Its rich history of contributions to the world of horology includes ultra-precise railway clocks, the first commercially available titanium watch, and it’s arguably the current market leader in solar watch technology. Citizen’s reach stretches even further, being the parent company of Bulova watches, and of the Miyota movements that power thousands of watches from other brands around the world. Its catalog is truly massive, and it can seem overwhelming and fairly similar overall, so we’re here to sift through the thousands of options that are out there for the best of the best Citizen watches.

Citizen Eco-Drive Divers are some of the most popular affordable dive watches, and that’s because they don’t slouch on capabilities, and outperform watches that cost twice as much. Citizen isn’t content with simply releasing affordable solar-powered steel watches, and has updated this line with proprietary, scratch-resistant “Super Titanium.” The result is a watch that’s more durable — the lighter-weight diver that upgrades one of the top Citizen watches and keeps the brand fresh.

The biggest selling point of this watch is that it takes advantage of space-age materials to improve upon an already-classic diver. The all-titanium construction keeps things lightweight, with this watch weighing in at 3.3 ounces and change, when adjusted for my wrist. Citizen uses a proprietary alloy of titanium, which they claim is much harder than standard Grade V titanium, making this watch all the more scratch-resistant and keeping it looking new for longer. Being an ISO-certified diver’s watch, this watch has been individually tested for durability and features great luminescence and readability. Finally, this watch keeps good time, since it’s a Citizen Eco-Drive, which is guaranteed to be within plus or minus 15 seconds per day, and often performs much better.

The weakest point of this watch is the bracelet, and it mars an otherwise-stellar watch, being a janky single-link affair that has much less flex than three- or five-link bracelets. Additionally, the clasp is the only feature of the watch that’s less-than-adequate for diving, offering no wetsuit extension and only three holes for micro-adjusting. I’d likely end up putting this on a nylon strap for amphibious use, and a leather strap for desk-diver duty. Another issue is that for all the talking that Citizen does about the scratch resistance of its Super Titanium, it opted for ordinary mineral crystal rather than sapphire, which while not abnormal in this price bracket, is something that’s fast becoming less common.

Product Specs
  • Product dimensions: 44.1mm x 49.3mm x 12.2mm
  • Materials: Citizen super titanium, mineral crystal
  • Movement: Citizen Eco-Drive E168
Why It Made The Cut
  • Citizen Eco-Drive is great, but the titanium Eco-Drive Diver is better. It’s one of the best Citizen watches for men and women, young and old, even if you don’t dive.
PROS

Reliable solar movement

Full-featured divers watch

All-titanium construction

CONS

Janky bracelet

Mineral crystal

Limited bracelet adjustment

If I had to list characteristics that were necessary for a field watch to be considered “standard-issue,” it would be things like accuracy, long life, durability, visibility in all conditions, and dimensions that fit a wide array of body types. The Citizen Garrison 8180, also known as the Citizen Chandler, hits all these points, and in some cases does so better than watches that cost double the MSRP. This is a watch that’s poised to become a modern classic, which brings Citizen’s Eco-Drive technology to the world of field watches.

The Citizen Garrison 8180 is, in my opinion, up there with the Seiko SNK in terms of the best budget field watches. It is slim and compact, and its unisex design means that no matter who you are or what you’re wearing, this one will fit just fine and won’t easily snag or catch on clothing or other objects. Many field watches are content with 50 or even 30 meters of water resistance, but the Citizen 8180 carries a much safer 100 meters, meaning that this is a watch that you can take near the water and be just fine. This is a watch that won’t quit, being solar-powered, so it’ll stay charged as long as you aren’t subterranean for six months straight. Topping it all off, this watch has great luminescence and readability, which is something that field watches can often lack.

At this price point, it’s not all amazing stellar performance, and the biggest issue is one inherent to quartz movements at this price: alignment. The second hand may not always align with the individual indices, which is mostly an issue for those who are nitpickers like me. Other endemic issues at this price point are the strap and crystal, with the strap being stiff, uncomfortable, and having fewer holes to properly adjust with, and the crystal being mineral glass that scratches more than sapphire would. The strap is replaceable, at least, but the crystal is an unfortunate effect of buying in this price bracket.

Product Specs
  • Product dimensions: 37mm x 45mm x 9mm
  • Materials: Stainless steel case, nylon and leather strap, mineral crystal
  • Movement: Citizen Eco-Drive E100
Why It Made The Cut
  • The Citizen Eco Drive Garrison 8180 is everything a field watch should be, and then some, with accurate timekeeping, dimensions that fit anyone, and durable materials.
PROS

Slim and compact

Solar timekeeping is more practical for the field

Solid water resistance

CONS

Alignment issues

Mineral glass

Subpar strap

Back in the days before redundant computer systems in aircraft cockpits, pilots would have to track things like fuel consumption by using slide rules. Since then, technology has progressed, but at that moment in time, the idea of the wrist-mounted flight instrument was born. The Citizen Nighthawk was born of that, and is one of the best watches for pilots, since not only does it hearken back to that moment in time, but it also actually stands head and shoulders above any pilot’s watch in this price category, if you can forgive the complex dial.

The Citizen Nighthawk is a masterfully designed aviation watch that punches well above its weight, as most of the best Citizen watches do. This watch wears far smaller than its stated 42-millimeter width, and a good portion of that is the proportionally small 46-millimeter lug-to-lug length. Another thing that helps is the most fantastic bracelet, which is a real three-link solid steel bracelet, leaving no corners cut. Finally, the Nighthawk has good luminescence, so it’s legible in a dark cockpit, or just when you’re checking your watch in the middle of the night.

This watch has so many important functions that make it one of the best watches for pilots, but that makes the dial incredibly cluttered. On the dial, you have a slide rule bezel, standard clock dial, 24-hour display, and date window, and making sense of all that at a glance can be difficult. Secondly, as you’d expect from a Citizen watch at this price, the crystal covering the dial is mineral glass, which will scratch under heavy use. Finally, the clasp has almost nothing in the way of micro-adjustments, so you might find yourself in between sizes, unless you swap the clasp for something more substantial, especially if you’re a pilot who wears your watch over your flight suit.

Product Specs
  • Product dimensions: 42mm x 46mm x 12mm
  • Materials: Stainless steel with mineral crystal
  • Movement: Citizen Eco-Drive B877
Why It Made The Cut
  • A watch that can calculate things like fuel consumption, distance traveled, and many others, and can go wherever you do, this is the coolest aviation watch around.
PROS

Affordable

Wears smaller

Very good bracelet

CONS

Cluttered dial

Mineral crystal

Limited bracelet adjustment

Best High End

The idea of an expensive Citizen watch almost sounds like an oxymoron, but this is a rare Citizen watch, indeed. This is the most accurate, most precise watch ever crafted, and that’s not an exaggeration. Specifically designed to deliver the accuracy that people associate with GPS-corrected watches, without the correction, the Caliber 0100 is the literal apex of independent timekeeping. This is an amazing watch, if you can afford it.

The unbeatable accuracy is the selling point of this watch, obviously, being so impressive that it’s only bested by atomic clocks. This was achieved by having a quartz crystal that vibrates in the millions of hertz (not the thousands), and by using things like anti-backlash motors, a movement that checks its own hand positions, and so much more, all powered by Citizen’s trademark Eco-Drive movement. Housing this is a beautifully finished titanium case with impeccable lines, polishing, dial, and indices, which are nonetheless understated unless you know what to look for.

Unfortunately, many people who spend Rolex money want Rolex recognition, and the Citizen Caliber 0100 isn’t it. Despite being one of our best solar watches of all time, for obvious reasons, most people will perceive it as being simply another Citizen watch, like any other watch you’d get at the mall. Another issue is how difficult this watch is to buy, since so many of these watches, if not all, are on the certified pre-owned market by now, owing to the extremely limited quantity.

Product Specs
  • Product dimensions: 37.5mm x 44.2mm x 9mm
  • Materials: Titanium case and bracelet, sapphire crystal
  • Movement: Citizen Eco-Drive Caliber 0100
Why It Made The Cut
  • The rare Citizen watch — the Caliber 0100 — is the most accurate watch ever made. That is all there is to say about that, really.
PROS

Unbeatable accuracy

Superb finishing

Understated looks

CONS

Expensive

“Just a quartz watch”

Hard to come by

Citizen started watchmaking long ago, but in recent years it’s been known for mastering solar quartz watches, perhaps unfairly. Citizen has been producing some of the best cheap dive watches for decades, and yet has remained overshadowed by the Seiko SKX. Unlike the SKX however, the Citizen NY series is here to stay, and it has updated its long-running series with Super Titanium and an improved movement.

The new Citizen NY series takes full advantage of Citizen’s embrace of so-called Super Titanium, being ultralight and scratch-resistant, making this a featherweight joy to wear. The crown position is an interesting one as well, not placed at the usual three o’clock position, or even the SKX’s 4:30, but instead positioned at eight o’clock. Not only does this make for a very comfortable watch for right-handed users, but it also makes this one of the best watches for left-handed people, since the crown is on the opposite side. Finally, and obviously, this isn’t just a classic oddball watch that’s made of space-age materials — it’s also officially certified, meaning this is just as much a tool watch as any other.

Unfortunately, like with a lot of Citizen’s more affordable watches, the bracelet is the weak point of this watch. Once again, it’s a single-link bracelet meant to look like a multi-link one. Additionally, like with other affordable Citizen watches, the crystal is mineral and will scratch more easily, so if you value scratch resistance, you’ll need a replacement. Finally, Citizen owns Miyota, and despite the fact that Miyota 9000 series movements are becoming increasingly common with microbrand watches from other companies, Citizen is committed to using an 8000-series movement with less stellar stats.

Product Specs
  • Product dimensions: 42mm x 47.5mm x 13.5mm
  • Materials: Super titanium case and bracelet with mineral crystal
  • Movement: Citizen Caliber 8203 Automatic
Why It Made The Cut
  • Citizen is back in a big way with its automatic diver that’s one of the best things in affordable mechanical diver’s watches to happen since the Seiko SKX.
PROS

Lightweight

Comfortable crown position

Officially certified diver

CONS

Janky bracelet

Mineral crystal

Movement isn’t the best that Citizen offers

Things to consider before buying a citizen watch

Citizen Watches are popular, prolific watches, but not all of them are created equal. Because of this, there are some very specific tips to follow.

Prefer Promaster

There’s no coincidence that most of the watches on the list today are from Citizen’s Promaster line. That’s because these are professionally oriented watches, and some of the top Citizen watches, especially for the price. They’re aimed at people like divers, pilots, and soldiers — our core demographic.

Look at the experts

There are a lot of Citizen watches out there, but not every watch available from a mall kiosk is going to be as timeless as the Citizen NY series, as high-flying as the Nighthawk, or as luxurious as the Caliber 0100. Check with watch experts that you trust to sift through the large, tacky, and derivative watches from various brands at your local PX. That’s the entire reason this list exists.

Look at the bracelet

The strap, or bracelet, of a watch is often a place where low-end watches cut corners. Citizen is, unfortunately, no different. Bracelets with more links in the tank-tread-esque bracelets have more articulation and are more comfortable. Clasps that are milled, rather than pressed or stamped, are more sturdy and pinch fewer hairs. Having more holes of micro-adjustment on the clasp of the bracelet means that you can get your perfect fit.

FAQs about Citizen watches

Q: How accurate is a Citizen automatic watch?

A: Citizen automatic watches in the 8000-series are rated to plus or minus 20 seconds per day, but usually perform much better, especially if you regulate them.

Q: Are Citizen watches waterproof? 

A: Citizen watches aren’t waterproof, since the preferred term is “water-resistant.” Nothing is truly waterproof. However, all of the watches on this list feature a good level of water resistance, and both of the Promaster divers are officially certified for SCUBA diving. Additionally, Citizen is credited with making the deepest-rated solar watch ever.

Q: Are Citizen watches high-end?

A: Citizen has some great high-end watches. The Caliber 0100 is on par with any Swiss watch you put it against, at the very least, and the newer automatic variant, the Series 8, seeks to recapture the performance luxury market.

Q: Are Citizen watches better than Rolex?

A: I don’t know any Rolex watches that keep time to within a second per year. Then again, they’ve never tried.

Final thoughts

Citizen watches are many things — misunderstood, affordable, solid, reliable, and underappreciated. We sifted through our entire experience with these watches to find the best Citizen watches for men, women, and everyone else, because frankly, they’re some of the best watches out there if you know where to look, especially on the budget end.

Methodology 

The watches today were selected based on watches we’ve owned, watches we’ve recommended in the past, and watches that are legendary in their own right. These were selected from our own watch collections and the recommendations of watch aficionados across the world. Most of these satisfy two if not three of these categories since they’re all some of the best watches out there, and deserve their place in the pantheon of horology greats.

Load more...