Citizen Eco Drive
How does it work, when was the first Eco Drive introduced and which are, in our opinion, the most remarkable models so far.
Citizen Eco-Drive is a proprietary technology that sets Citizen watches apart from the competition. It is a pillar of the Japanese watchmaker's offering, that also includes mechanical low-end or high-end timepieces, marketed under the brand The Citizen, a direct competitor to Grand Seiko, exclusively available on the Japanese domestic market.
Let me here briefly introduce the story of the Citizen Eco-Drive technology, its pros and last but not least, a list of the most representative models equipped with this technology, in our opinion. When it first came out, the Eco-Drive technology appeared on selected timepieces and has since then extended throughout the entire catalog, including the Citizen Promaster sports collection, and their diving, aviator, and exploration inspired watches. Again, before digging into our most-loved Eco-Drive equipped timepieces, let's first take a look at the history behind it.
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When the so-called "quartz crisis" shocked the industry in 1970, with Seiko leading the way with the Astron, the Swiss watchmaking industry partially converted to this technology, in an attempt to survive. However, if we had to highlight a quartz watch's flaws, two were on top of the list at the time: a battery's short lifecycle and a poor environment-friendly recycling process. Back then, Citizen watches began to explore sunlight-operated devices, envisioning the design of a battery change-free watch.
It was 1976 when Citizen launched the first sunlight-powered analog watch, the Citizen Quartz Crystron Solar Cell, the precursor of all things Citizen Eco-Drive. That watch is a milestone of either analog and digital watchmaking and, from a collector's perspective, is something you can buy at a rather affordable price too on the vintage second-hand market. Here is a listing on eBay: Citizen Quartz Crystron Solar Cell.
From that moment onwards, Citizen has painstakingly improved the Eco-Drive technology to increase power reserve, reliability and, what's also important, make sure any Eco-Drive equipped watch might be capable of charging itself under any source of light, dim light included.
Engineers kept improving and miniaturizing the solar panels. They can capture the smallest light source nowadays, thus extending the maximum power reserve to a six-month total battery power when fully charged, and up to an outrageous seven years on radio-controlled models. Please consider that a 2000 Citizen Eco-Drive AP0440-14F Diver's 200m, like the one pictured below, had a power reserve of three months (photo source: Francis Flinch - Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3704420)..
In 2016, the Citizen Eco-Drive technology celebrated its 40th anniversary, and the Japanese watchmaker marked this achievement by introducing the remarkable Citizen Eco-Drive One, the pinnacle of the Eco-Drive technology, showcasing a 2.98mm thick case that has a 1mm thick movement.
Citizen opted for a brand name that is synonymous with a virtually unstoppable run along with eco-friendliness; no batteries had ever to be replaced, the only existing being those that store the energy converted from light. A Citizen Eco-Drive was the first watch ever to comply with the Eco Mark certification, introduced by the Japanese Environment Association (JEA); in 2014 Citizen was the first watch manufacturer to win the JEA's Eco Mark Gold Award.
At Baselworld 2019, Citizen unveiled a timepiece that, by combining the Eco-Drive technology with multiple cutting-edge innovations, ensures a +/- one second per year accuracy, the Citizen Caliber 0100, a micro-engineering masterpiece. Among the Caliber 0100's main features, I would highlight quartz crystals that oscillate at an 8.4MHz frequency, for example.
We'll discuss that in a separate hands-on review. Little known to the audience is that the Eco-Drive system also powers an entirely new watch, the Citizen Eco-Drive Riiver, a connected watch that offers advanced services by connecting with your smartphone via a dedicated App. You can find more information about the upcoming Citizen Eco-Drive Riiver by clicking on here: Citizen Eco Drive Riiver.
Since 2013 we have reviewed several Citizen Eco-Drive watches; almost all of them still belong to my personal collection. They are mainly top-of-the-range products belonging to the Citizen Promaster collection, that I consider the most iconic, and are part of the Altichron and Aqualand range, especially.
The Citizen Eco-Drive Promaster Altichron Cirrus BN5048-01E is an unusually elaborate limited edition six-hand wristwatch with a multi-layered dial, revealed in 2013. Its distinctive feature was and still is a design language like nothing else seen before on any complicated watch from the brand.
Featuring an altimeter and a compass, the Cirrus showcases a full analog display, replacing the Citizen's signature analog-digital mixed display. The retail price exceeded €2,000 and has not plummeted over the years, confirming its icon-ready status. We briefly reviewed it on here: Citizen Eco-Drive Promaster Altichron Cirrus BN5048-01E.
That same year Citizen also introduced the non-limited edition Citizen Eco-Drive Promaster Titanium BN4021-02E. It shares the Cirrus' base architecture, and a less unusual yet avant-garde style in comparison to other complicated Citizen, a direction the brand has unexpectedly abandoned, as they considered this as an experiment, thus losing their opportunity to stand out as design trendsetters, in my opinion.
Featuring a SuperTitanium® case it has, unlike the Altchron Cirrus, a flat crystal, and a super-soft rubber strap. This Altichron, as the Cirrus, has faced no depreciation so far. We talked about it here: Citizen Eco-Drive Promaster Titanium BN4021-02E.
Alongside the new Altichron collection introduced at Baselworld 2013, Citizen enlarged the Aqualand collection the following year by launching the Promaster Eco-Drive Aqualand Depth Meter BN2024-05E in 2014.
The Citizen Eco-Drive Promaster Aqualand Depth Meter BN2024-05E is a sturdy ISO 6425 certified professional diving watch, with a thick rubber strap. You can access our review, and one of our widest read ones ever, by clicking here: Citizen Eco-Drive Promaster Aqualand Depth Meter BN2024-05E.
At Baselworld 2017, Citizen introduced the gigantic Promaster Eco-Drive Professional Diver 1000 BN7020-09E, the successor to its celebrated Autozilla, and a super professional divers' watch crafted in titanium. It was the first professional divers' watch from Citizen to combine an up-to-1000m water resistance with an Eco-Drive movement.
I can't forget how big this tool watch was (the package comes with a strap extension, also), its exquisite build quality and the rotating bezel equipped with a locking-unlocking device to avoid unwanted rotation while diving. I strongly suggest not to miss review and photos; I think they list among the most attractive we have ever taken: Citizen Promaster Eco-Drive Professional Diver 1000 BN7020-09E.
The Citizen Promaster collection celebrated its thirty anniversary in 2019, and no wonder Citizen released some cool limited series belonging to the three thematic sections of the Promaster family: Sea, Land, and Sky. A new Citizen Promaster Aqualand came last year and has in 2019 appeared as a limited edition too.
The new Aqualand combines an original Aqualand inspired design to, again, an Eco-Drive movement that replaced the original quartz caliber. Please find review, price, and opinions here: Citizen Promaster Eco-Drive Aqualand BN2037-11E 30th Anniversary.: Citizen Promaster Eco-Drive Aqualand BN2037-11E 30th Anniversary.
(Photo credit: Peter Tung for Horbiter®, courtesy of Citizen Watches)
Gaetano C @Horbiter®