Citizen Eco-Drive vs. Seiko Automatic: Who Wins?

Citizen and Seiko are amongst the biggest watch brands in the world. Their inexpensive watches makes it affordable to own different type and styles of watches without breaking the bank. Their dedication to produce and develop watches in an affordable range, in quality that outlast its value has made both brands popular to people needing a watch and even collectors.

Citizen Eco-Drive is best for people wanting an accurate watch, which is cheap to maintain but has a limited lifespan. Seiko automatics is for people with the romantic idea of a watch that isn’t using any electronic technology, however more expensive to maintain but can theoretically last forever.

There is a lot into the discussion of whether Citizen Eco-Drive or Seiko automatic’s is better. Throughout this post, you can read all the pros and cons of the Citizen and Seiko watches.

Citizen Eco-Drive vs seiko automatic

Which is Better: Citizen Eco-Drive or Seiko Automatic?

A direct comparison of the two brands is quite difficult. Seiko has some quality automatic watches. Whereas Citizen Eco-drive watches is typically in the entry-level range. However, sticking to the entry-level watches, a conclusion must be made!

The conclusion is based on what most people looking at comparing a Citizen Eco-Drive watch to a Seiko automatic watch would seek in a watch at that price range.

  1. Citizen Eco-Drive watches is better for people willing to accept a limited lifespan of about 20 years (which is not that limited). The return is a lower cost for maintenance and very accurate timekeeping.
  2. Seiko automatic watches are better for people looking for watches build on heritage, high precision engineering, which can easily last a lifetime. The cost is higher maintenance costs.

The reason a Citizen Eco-Drive will be a better watch for most of the people comparing the Citizen to the Seiko is simply due to the lower cost and maintenance of the Citizen Eco-Drive watches.

Automatic watches can last longer than an Eco-Drive watch if treated correctly. While the longevity of the Eco-Drive watches is “only” 20 years, it will also be suitable for most people buying a watch in the price range of the Citizen.

Seiko’s popular model, SKX007, is a solid watch if you wish to have a reliable and durable watch, which you can find at a great price on Amazon.

Citizen Eco-Drive watches will be better for most people comparing the Citizen Eco-Drive watches to the Seiko automatic watches. The Citizen Eco-Drive movement has a limited lifespan due to the technology of capacitors and quartz watches. In contrast, an automatic watch can last forever under the right care. Citizen Eco-drive watches is all-in-one watches when it comes to durability and ease of use. Citizen watches are sold at a fair price on Amazon and you will find a huge variety of watches to fit your style.

Another consideration is that Seiko tends to go for a more classic look. In contrast, Citizen is very experimental in their styles. Therefore, the broad appeal and style might go to the Seiko’s.

If I were to purchase a Seiko automatic watch, I would go for the Seiko Diver SKX007. It is a popular diver watch, it’s pleasing to look at, and it has a lot of spare parts, which makes it cheap to service (also at the jeweler or watchmaker).

If the choice were to go for a Citizen Eco-Drive watch, I wouldn’t hesitate to go for the Citizen Promaster Eco-Drive. It has a beautiful blue dial with a stainless steel case and bracelet. It reminds me of my Omega Seamaster Professional 300M, which I love and enjoy every day.

There is no right or wrong going with either a Citizen Eco-Drive watch or a Seiko automatic watch. For you, as the consumer, it depends on what you look for in a watch. They both have their pros and cons.

Citizen Background

Citizen was made first registered in 1918 in Switzerland ‘, for watches that were sold in Japan. Throughout the 1920s, the Citizen brand’s mission was to make watches affordable to the general public.

Citizen is actually a big corporation rather than a single watchmaker. Citizen has taken their corporation into many different divisions. One division takes care of the sales of the watches (Japan CBM Corporation), another makes automotive parts, LCD cells, watch face components, etc. (Citizen Seimitsu Co., LTD.), another makes the actual movements (Citizen Miyota Co., LTD).

Citizen Eco-Drive watch
Citizen Eco-Drive watch

While building their watches, Citizen has also purchased other watch brands such as Bulova, Frederique Constant, and Arnold & Son. In January 2008, Citizen purchased Bulova, which made them the largest watchmaker in the world. In 2016, Citizen purchased the swiss Frederique Constant Group.

Citizen was a company founded back in 1930 by Swiss and Japanese investors. The Citizen name took over what was called Shokosha Watch Research Institute, which was founded in 1918. In that takeover, Citizen got some assembly plants.

Citizen is right now the biggest watchmaker in the world. They rake in about 3 billion dollars per year.

Citizen Inventions

Citizen was the first watchmaker to introduce the first multi-band atomic timekeeping watch. Synchronizing to atomic timekeeping gets an accuracy of up to 1 second within 100.000 years.

In 2010 the Citizen owned company, Miyota, introduce the UHF movement. A quartz movement with a frequency of 262.144 Hz, whereas a regular quartz watch, has 32768 Hz. The UHF movement is claimed to be precise within ± 10 seconds per year. A neat feature introduced was a sweeping hand, rather than a ticking hand.

With the introduction of solar power, Citizen wanted something that the other kids on the playground didn’t. Therefore, Citizen came up with the brilliant idea of the Eco-Drive Technology.

A solar panel is hidden underneath the dial. The Eco-Drive technology doesn’t use a conventional battery, but rather a capacitor (basically a rechargeable battery). Furthermore, the power is stored in capacitors working in the Eco-Drive technology.

I have written an easy to read and understand walkthrough of Citizen’s Eco-Drive Technology which you can read more about here (Takes you to another page on my site).

Citizen Eco-Drive Technology

The Citizen Eco-Drive Technology is essentially just a solar panel integrated into a quartz watch. However, there is more to the technology than just a solar panel, because you have never seen the actual solar panel on a Citizen Eco-Drive watch – so where is it?

Citizen Eco-Drive Technology
Citizen Eco-Drive Technology

The Eco-Drive technology was first introduced in 1995 in Asia and Europe. The main fuzz about Eco-Drive technology is the light-absorbing plate underneath the dial. This means the watch’s appearance is not disturbed by an ugly brown/black rectangular solar panel.

What makes the Citizen Eco-Drive watches appealing is the fact that it is not possible to see the actual solar panel. On a full charge, an Eco-Drive watch can last 6 months without any light sources. What makes the Eco-Drive so spectacular is its possibility to charge through natural and artificial light. Getting a full charge under a sunny day only takes 11 hours (and lasts 6 months in complete darkness). To charge the watch, simply expose the watch to light, any light:

  • Full charge in 11 hours with 100,000 lux (equivalent to a sunny day). One day full use of the watch only takes 2 minutes of charging time.
  • A full charge takes 40 hours with 10,000 lux (equivalent to a cloudy day). One day full use of the watch only takes 12 minutes of charging time.
  • A full charge takes 130 hours with 1,000 lux (equivalent to a dark office). One day full use of the watch takes 40 minutes of charging time.

With the technology being able to store energy from just 1,000 lux, it is safe to say that the watch will not be needing any direct sunlight, even if you spend most of the time in the dark corners of the office. Furthermore, you never need to change the capacitor (rechargeable battery, fundamentally).

The energy is stored across several integrated capacitors, which cant be changed. To back up the capacitors, some models also have a removable capacitor/rechargeable battery, which is used if the integrated capacitors have run out of energy. Most Eco-Drive models will give an indication of when it has reached this level (internal energy storage is low) with the second hand jumping 2 seconds per tick every 2 seconds.

How Long Does Citizen Eco-Drive Last?

A Citizen Eco-Drive watch lasts at least 10 years. The battery in the Eco-Drive watches can last between 45 days to 1,825 days (5 years) on a full charge. Citizen has made some experimental test that shows that the solar cells and secondary batteries last for at least 10 years. Furthermore, Citizen expects the power storage capacity to function at about 80% effectiveness after 20 years. The newer models of the Citizen Eco-Drive watches have secondary batteries that are expected to last at least 40 years.

The battery duration depends on the model. Models with the power save feature will use the battery more efficiently than a model without the power save feature. The power-saving feature stops the watch when it detects darkness (e.g., when being on the nightstand), once there is enough light again the watch will remember the time at which it went to sleep and count the time forward and automatically adjust.

While Citizen market that the battery should never need a replacement, the watches should still be serviced from time to time. If the watch is not maintained, it will not last more than 5 years. The gaskets which secure the water resistance, the lubrication that protects the gears fade, and the watch will start to wear out.

Seiko Background

Seiko is a much younger company compared to Citizen. Seiko was founded back in 1881 when it was solely a watch and jewelry shop. 11 years later, the owner began to produce clocks. The first name of Seiko was “Seikosha,” however, due to the supernatural believes the word glory cant be used (the sha part of Seiko-sha). In 1924 the name, therefore, got reduced to just Seiko from Seikosha.

Seiko got very popular due to their invention of the first watch called Astron. It was the world’s first production quartz watch. The price of the watch in today’s money would be around $8,000. Later, Seiko invented the self-energizing attributes on an automatic watch with quartz accuracy. The movement can, therefore, be powered by everyday activities. The type of movement is what in 1991 was branded as Seiko Kinetic.

Now don’t get to baffled, but Seiko manages to rake in $35 billion per year. In contrast to Citizens $3 billion, Seiko got a significant upper hand here. However, Seiko has a lot of other businesses which is not directly selling watches. Besides the watches, Seiko is also engaged in shutters for cameras, production equipment, manufacturing and marketing of integrated circuits (IC), wholesale marketing of lenses and frames for glasses, etc.

Seiko has several product lines. However, the most well-known are the Seiko 5, Presage, and Grand Seiko.

The different watch categories are used to separate customer segments. Seiko 5 is their well-known entry-level mechanical watches. In contrast, Grand Seiko is their luxury watches. The Seiko 5 is what is most commonly seen on a wrist around the world. Whereas, the Credor is not that well recognized throughout the U.S. and Europe.

The Seiko 5 is a series of many different watches. The range includes different divers, strap options such as leather and steel, transparent, or steel case backs. In essence, a product line with a lot of versatility. The Presage is what most will consider the entry-level as well. However, slightly more expensive. Lastly, is the Grand Seiko, a luxury brand. Grand Seiko met a lot of resistance when Seiko reviewed that they intended to produce luxury watches. The critique came because Seiko was known for affordable entry-level watches in a respectable quality, but not luxurious.

Seiko Automatic Movements

The Seiko is a lot less innovative and elegant in comparison to the Citizen Eco-Drive Technology. Automatic watches have been around since the 1770s. Seiko is in contrast to Citizen more focused on their automatic movements rather than their quartz. Seiko has therefore perfected more on their automatic watches rather than their quartz.

While Seiko is in the low-cost brack of automatic watches, their movements should be taken for granted. They are very durable and sturdy. You will rarely hear a Seiko owner complain about the actual movement of the watch. Owners of Seiko watches know that Seiko isn’t the most precise brand when it comes to their automatic watches. However, they are affordable, cheap to service, cheap to maintain, and durable.

The movement 7S26A has been used in a lot of watches and has stood the test of time. Many users have been pleased with the movement. It is, however, discontinued and updated to a new reference number: 4R36. The 4R36 was introduced in 2011, where the 7S26A was discontinued, and modern upgrades such as Seiko’s Diashock and hacking of the movement was added to the new 4R36 movement.

The Seiko Diashock system is a shock resistance system that strengthens the durability of the watch. Not that you should drop the watch all the time, it should be able to handle it a few times without damages. The durability of these watches is incredible.

A lot of divers use Seiko watches. First of all, they are cheap, so if something should happen to the watch, it is not the same financial burden as if using a Rolex Submariner. Furthermore, Seiko is known for being a highly durable watch that can take a beating.

Automatic movements are made to last forever, as they are assembled of metallic components which can be replaced when worn out. This, however, means service. The services should be in intervals every 3-5 years to ensure the watch works appropriately. However, servicing is what makes the automatic watches more expensive compared to the Citizen Eco-Drive watches.

How Long Will a Seiko Automatic Watch Last?

A Seiko automatic watch can virtually live forever if the owner(s) treat it with the correct care. This means service intervals, abuse, and just good general care for the watch should be respected. An automatic watch can last forever. Seiko is reputable for making long-lasting automatic watches.

When owning an automatic watch, there are some good rules of thumb to make it perform its best for the longest possible:

  • Avoid highly magnetic objects. While a watch can get demagnetized, it can be quite expensive to get the watch a full overhaul.
  • Avoid the danger zone when setting the watch. The “danger zone” is the period between 9 pm and 2 am. The date mechanism is engaged on most watches in that period, and therefore setting the watch can damage the components.
  • While a lot of modern watches can withstand big shocks and everyday wear, they are not meant to direct abuse. If you are working at a high striker (carnival sledgehammer game), you should consider not wearing a watch.
  • If the watch is running ± 1 minutes per day, you are in need of service at a jeweler/watchmaker.

The recommended service intervals for automatic watches in the quality of a Seiko is 3-5 years. The service should just be like a doctor check-up. Every 10 years, the watch should have an overhaul, meaning disassembling the watch, relubricating every part, replacement of worn parts, and gaskets.

Jonas Henriksen

AllInWatches is founded by Jonas, who has a great interest in mechanical watches. All aspects of manual and automatic (mechanical) watches is a big interest and have been a passion since 2015, where the first automatic watch was purchased. Seeing the transparent case back and discovering the heritage of watchmaking piqued an interest in horology.

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