One of the reasons people gravitate toward watches as a hobby or obsession is because they represent some of the coolest engineering humans have developed.
There are hundreds of parts working in unison to complete a rather simple task: tell the time.
Some watches are powered by the movement of your body, while other are powered by batteries and even sunlight. Some watches have complications like calendars and chronographs.
At their core, watches are the ultimate representation of groundbreaking innovation. Citizen is one of the most innovative watch brands in the world. For decades, Citizen has pushed the envelope on what is possible with watches and continues to innovate today.
Despite being one of the world’s largest and most successful watchmakers, Citizen is also somewhat of an underrated brand. When people think of watches, they immediately list Timex and Casio or Rolex and Omega.
In fact, some watch enthusiasts will leave Citizen off ‘watch lists’ altogether. This is largely a mistake. Citizen is a historic brand with some of the most interesting watches available on the market. They also offer watches that can be afforded by every “Citizen.”
Table of Contents
A Brief History of Citizen Watches
Citizen started as a clock-making company in 1918 in Tokyo. Like many watch brands, Citizen started with pocket watches and eventually moved into wristwatches. Just as the brand started to take off, WWII hit and stalled Citizen along with many global watch brands.
After the war, Citizen knew that overseas expansion was the key to survival. As a result, they focused on making and selling watches globally. They initially worked on a hand-wound watch before expanding into other arenas.
Citizen made numerous strides such as releasing the first Japan-made watch with a calendar. Not Seiko, it was Citizen.
Citizen also embarked on an ambitious project to launch one of the first light-powered watches in 1976 and continued to iterate on this design with the Crystron Solar Cell. During this time, Citizen also released the world’s most water-resistant watch at 1300m.
In 1995, Citizen changed the game with the launch of the Eco-Drive technology. This technology used the power of light to charge the battery for up to 180 days, and it went on to define the brand to this day. In fact, nearly all the watches we highlight below run on Eco-Drive technology.
Now, Citizen is much more than a single watch brand. It has become a horological powerhouse. They bought numerous watch brands including the immensely popular Bulova and Alpina. As a result, Citizen is now one of the highest-selling watch companies in the world.
Are Citizen Watches Good?
When shopping for watches, we recommend buyers make sure they are getting the absolute best value for the money. While a lot of watch brands will focus purely on aesthetic, Citizen sought to combine style with substance.
You cannot really talk about how good Citizen watches are without talking about Eco-Drive. It is not just a fancy name. It is a game-changing technology that other brands simply cannot replicate or even compete with.
Eco-Drive uses a titanium (read: lightweight) lithium-ion (read: powerful) battery that can be continuously recharged. As a result, some watches can work for months without being recharged again.
Not only is this technology super powerful, but it’s also great for the environment. Citizen estimates that the technology may have eliminated the disposal of over 10 million watch batteries.
Another great thing about Citizen watches is the fact that, even though they are one of the world’s largest watchmakers, they are still an ‘under-the-radar’ choice.
When people think value, they often mention Seiko. When people think of tactical cool, they often think of Casio. But in the world of watches, people rarely think of Citizen.
For example, when people think of the best running shoes, they list Brooks, Saucony and Mizuno. They rarely list Nike despite it being one of the largest shoe brands in the world.
We love that Citizen is sort of a best-kept secret. While some people write off the brand as common or boring, true watch enthusiasts appreciate Citizen for making some of the best watches on the market.
Lastly, Citizen does each watch category really well. From field watches to dive watches, Citizen has amazing pieces in each category at affordable prices.
10 Best Citizen Watches
In no particular order…
1. Citizen BJ7000-52E Eco-Drive Nighthawk
Citizen’s Nighthawk line has produced some of the best aviation watches on the market. In fact, many think the Nighthawk is the best Citizen watch of all time.
From its complicated dial to its overall wrist presence, the Nighthawk series represents everything that’s cool about pilot watches. The Citizen Nighthawk Eco-Drive takes the pilot aesthetic and combines it with some of the best features the brand has to offer.
The BJ7000-52E is a 42mm stainless steel quartz watch that features a date complication, dual-time display and even a pilot’s slide rule with an 8 o’clock crown position.
The watch is water-resistant to 200m making it a great all-condition wear from traveling to the pool. The watch also features luminous hands and Citizen’s Eco-Drive technology all for under $300.
2. Citizen BN0151-09L Promaster Professional Diver
One of the best offerings from Citizen is their Promaster Professional Diver. This watch is frequently cited as one of the best dive or tool watches in almost every forum.
The Promaster is a 48mm ISO-certified dive watch that features a quartz movement, unidirectional bezel and a screw-down 4 o’clock crown. The watch also features Citizen’s Eco-Drive technology and is probably the best Citizen Eco-Drive watch.
The Promaster has a clean blue dial with minimal branding. However, our favorite feature is the date complication at the 4 o’clock position instead of the common 3 o’clock position for most dive watches. The watch is also ISO-certified so you’ll be able to take it from the office to diving seamlessly.
Another thing we love about the Promaster is its well-documented durability. It is a true ‘tool’ watch with enough style to serve as a daily wearer as well.
Lastly, if you buy brand new, Citizen takes presentation to the next level with a scuba tank as the watch’s housing. More importantly, the Promaster is one of the best values in the dive watch market retailing at under $200.
3. Citizen BL8000-54L
Citizen does not shy away from packaging numerous technologies together into one watch. This is the case with the Citizen BL8000-54L. The watch is a feature-packed watch in a stylish compact package.
The BL8000 is a stainless-steel watch in a stylish 39mm case. It features a gorgeous navy watch face with bright white markers making it supremely legible.
At first glance, the watch face may look complicated, but the features become more apparent and impressive the deeper you dive into the watch.
The watch lays out the complications in a chronograph configuration and each has a specific function. It offers the day, month and the 24hr indicator. The BL8000 also offers a perpetual calendar and of course, their Eco-Drive technology.
The outer rim also features the month and features the date in the traditional 4 o’clock window. All this in a single package for roughly $299 making it the most expensive Citizen watch, but also one of the best.
4. Citizen BL5250-02L Titanium Eco-Drive
One of the best Citizen watches is unfortunately discontinued. Long before the ‘watch boom’ that resulted from blogs and forums, Citizen quietly released one of their best watches nearly a decade ago. The BL5250 is a 43mm quartz watch with a ton of features.
The watch has a titanium case which makes it both lightweight and extremely durable. It features Eco-Drive technology, a chronograph and an alarm function.
However, the reason this watch is so well-regarded in the watch community is that it also offers a perpetual calendar complication at the 4 o’clock crown position. Citizen packed a lot of great tech into one simple and stylish package.
The watch has a clean black dial and a tasteful leather band. It retailed for sub-$200 but can now be found under $400 on the secondary market. If you are in love with this model but simply can’t find it, the BL5558-58L is a great alternative.
5. Citizen Corso
Dress watches often struggle with being too simplistic or formulaic. Some watch brands will take a thin watch case and a black face with no complications and call it a dress watch.
Citizen takes a different approach with the Eco-Drive Dress Watch (AO9020-84E), commonly known as the Corso.
The Corso is a 42mm sleek dress watch in a silver stainless steel case. It also features water resistance to 333ft. It features Eco-Drive technology and a mineral crystal window over a simple black dial.
The best feature of the watch is its unique take on the chronograph. Instead of using the chronograph as a timer, Citizen uses the chronograph complication to display the day and date.
Despite being a chronograph, the watch face is still clean and wearable in multiple environments. The watch is also extremely affordable and can be purchased at roughly $130.
6. Citizen Brycen
The Citizen Brycen is a great example of a classic chronograph that takes its inspiration from retro field watches. It features a muted off-white dial with classic black markings and an orange second hand for punch.
The watch houses all of this in a 44mm case that’s water-resistant to 100m. It also features a chronograph complication and a date window at the 3 o’clock position. It’s priced aggressively at around $220.
7. Citizen Avion Eco-Drive
Silver stainless steel watches are great, but they’re also ubiquitous. Even a little color is jarring to most watch wearers, and that’s really unfortunate. When used tastefully, a little color can do a lot of good, and this is the case with the Citizen Avion.
This watch features a stunning rose-gold 45mm case contrasted with a rich blue dial – a winning combination. The watch features Eco-Drive, a chronograph complication and luminous hands. It also features 10 meters of water resistance and a mineral crystal face.
It takes cues from aviation watches with its spacing on the dial and overall presence. It’s also probably one of the better-looking watches on this list. It features a large legible dial with clear white numerals that make the watch even more stylish, all for roughly $200.
8. Citizen Eco-DRV AR 2.0
The Citizen AR 2.0 is the perfect casual everyday watch when G-Shocks are too tactical and dive watches are too showy.
The AR 2.0 features a textured dial with blue accents throughout the 44mm stainless steel case. It also features a date window at the traditional 3 o’clock position instead of the 4 o’clock position like other models we’ve seen.
It’s powered by Citizen’s Eco-Drive technology, which can run for months without recharging. It features 100m water resistance on a comfortable rubber strap.
Our favorite design detail is the tasteful blue accenting all around the watch, including the unique crown-guard and the crown. True to Citizen’s standards, the watch can be had for roughly $170.
9. Citizen NH8350-59L
People think that automatic watches have to be pricey, which is why many watch wearers will opt for quartz models. While many of the watches on this list feature Citizen’s Eco-Drive technology, Citizen also offers quality automatic watches.
The Citizen NH8350-59L is an example of a great automatic watch with a modest price tag of around $120. For that price, you get a stylish Citizen dress watch in a 40mm stainless steel case with a beautiful blue textured dial.
The watch also features self-winding and hand-winding, which at this price point is rare. The NH8350 is also one of the best-looking watches on this list and really makes every outfit a little classier.
10. Citizen Chandler BM8180-03E
There is a movement among some in the watch community to bring case sizes back to more reasonable sizes.
The Citizen Chandler is a simple military style watch in a smaller package. It features a black dial with a day-date complication and white markers in a compact 37mm case.
The Chandler also features Citizen’s Eco-Drive technology and 100m water resistance. To top off the military look, the Chandler comes on a comfortable green fabric strap.
The Chandler is one of the most popular Citizen watches, largely because it’s the ultimate utilitarian piece. It’s also one of the few watches that looks better with wear. Lastly, the watch can be had for around $170, making it an extremely affordable option.
Citizen is a rich brand with an amazing history. It is one of the few watch brands that continuously pushes the technological envelope. It also seeks to offer the most value to its customers by keeping prices very affordable.
However, our favorite thing about Citizen is that they make a watch for nearly everyone. Citizen excels in every watch category and offers stylish pieces at every price point.