Tuesday, May 24, 2011

More Details Are Released About the new Solar Citizen" Chronomasters"

Photo courtesy of Citizen Watch Corporation, LTD - Japan

Citizen Japan released today more details about the most significant product update done to the "The Citizen" line since 2005. Right now we know more about the watches and the new solar high end quartz movement that powers them. We now also know that they will be released in the Japan domestic market at the end of June, 2011.

Let's dive right into the tidbits:

- These are the world's first high accuracy solar (And non-Radio Controlled) watches with guaranteed factory accuracy of -/+ 5 seconds per year.

- The new HEQ solar movement caliber is referred to as the "A010". However, it is not clear whether this is a modified Citizen A660 thermocompensated movement as used in the current battery operated Chronomasters of if it is an all new caliber altogether. No other details are provided as to whether the A010 has a terminal calibration port (Doubtful) or if it uses a "Fly-by-wire" hands drive system as older HEQ solar calibers as the now defunct E510 used in the JDM Citizen Exceeds.

- The tradition continues with inclusion of full perpetual calendar function but now with a "Twist". First the date change is guaranteed to take place exactly at 12:00AM. Second, the date wheel now features a higher speed motor making the date transition a lot quicker but probably not as fast as the 1/2000 of a second that it takes for the date to change on a Grand Seiko 9F quartz movement. Still very cool improvement.

- The dual AR coated sapphire crystal thickness has been carefully selected to equal the refractive index in the dial.

- As before, the case features "Zaratsu" hand blade polishing finish.

- Case dimensions are 37mm by 11.3mm thick. Classic sized for sure, but a bit thicker than their battery operated A660 counterparts.

- 10 year warranty (The longest and most comprehensive in the industry). This includes periodic checkups, water pressure tests, gasket replacement, movement regulation and case/bracelet refinishing to remove scratches at no extra charge.

- Citizen is committed to produce and keep stock of parts for the life of the watch, even long after the model is discontinued. Service of the watch is also part of the "The Citizen" lifelong commitment to its owners. Please remember the 10 year warranty is only valid in Japan and the watch has to be sent back to either the selling dealer or Citizen Japan for servicing.

- There will be 3 models offered, all in stainless steel with Duratect scratch resist coating in the case and bracelet. The dial colors will be black, white and champagne.

- The A010 movement has a total power reserve of 1.5 years and the dial features a controversial power reserve indicator in the 10 o'clock region.

- Japan market retail price will be 210,000 YEN (Tax included) which puts them right on par (Pricewise) with the Grand Seiko SBGX 9F62 entry level quartz watches with steel cases and bracelets.

Seems to me that "The Citizen" was long overdue to make a full transition into Citizen's solar Eco-Drive technology. However, I can't help but to think that in despite of the rich features, superb build quality and reasonable pricing for a high end quartz, luxury watch, there are a few misses with this model:

- No lume anywhere for what I can see in photos

- Lack of "Chronomaster" text on the dial. I know that within HEQ circles there are two different camps of thought about the use of this classic moniker. The "Chronomaster" name was re-introduced in "The Citizen" line of watches in 2005. Watches manufactured between 1995 and 2004 only had the "Citizen" name printed on the dial. It is possible that the remaining battery powered A660 models will have the "Chronomaster" name to differentiate them from their new solar breathen.

- Another huge miss appears to be the elimination of the "Time correction" feature in the A010 movement. In the A660 caliber Chronomasters, you can pull out the crown to the first click stop and independently change the hour hand without stopping the watch. Mighty handy feature not only for the DST time change adjustments or travel while in a different time zone but also by not hacking the movement you are not affecting the yearly accuracy measurement.

The hands and dial markers appear to be a throw back to the pre-2004 "The Citizen" models. I think they are attractive but I enjoy more the lumed hands and markers on my CTQ57-0961 A660 Chronomaster.

The Oyster bracelet appears to be sparingly detailed but looks to have good quality of brushing in the links and equally good tolerances between parts. It isn't clear whether Citizen has continued to use regular friction pins in the new bracelets or have finally incorporated screws that are more in line with a watch of this price level.

In all and all, a very interesting and significant development in the world of luxury high end quartz watches. With accuracy to 5 seconds per year, the "The Citizen" will continued to be revered as the most accurate quartz watch in production today.

Original press release from Citizen Japan here (Google translated version)
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