Citizen Combines Japanese Paper Dials and Cutting-Edge Quartz

The Citizen Iconic Nature Collection.

Long available only to the Japanese domestic market, Citizen’s top-of-the-line quartz watches have been slowly making their way into foreign countries in recent years (although last year’s high-end mechanical Caliber 0200 was launched internationally).

The latest high-end quartz model, however, is being launched globally. The Citizen Iconic Nature Collection is a quartet of lightweight titanium watches featuring dials made of traditional, translucent Japanese paper dyed in vivid, natural colours. But the mechanics are cutting edge in contrast – a solar-powered quartz movement accurate to within five seconds a year.

Initial thoughts

Citizen’s ultra-accurate quartz watches are largely unknown outside of Japan, but that is gradually changing with the global rollout of new models, which are crucially dressed in eye-catching colours instead of the muted dials historically found on these watches. Citizen has used washi for dials on The Citizen before, but usually in a low-key white.

The new Iconic Nature quartet calls to mind high-end quartz watches from Citizen’s Japanese rival, though Citizen’s offering edges ahead, at least on paper.

The solar-powered A060 inside the Iconic Nature is accurate to +/- 5 seconds per year, while the Grand Seiko 9F movement is rated to +/- 10 seconds per year. And the practicality of the A060 is boosted by a perpetual calendar as well as an “on-demand” power reserve indicator.

The price tag of US$3,500 is might seem high for anyone unfamiliar with high-end quartz watches, but it is entirely reasonable for the excellent quality.

Similarly priced mechanical watches will be equipped with basic movements that are decades-old and usually having a simpler case and dial finish. The Citizen, in contrast, boasts one of the world’s most advanced analogue quartz movements, as well as excellent external fit and finish.

Notably, the latest models are priced similarly to Citizen’s regular-production, high-accuracy quartz watches, which means the Iconic Nature offers better value, considering the 250-piece limited edition and special dial material.

Striking case and dial

Like most high-end quartz watches from the brand, the Iconic Nature has a case made of Citizen’s proprietary Super Titanium. The alloy undergoes a surface-hardening process known as Duratect, leaving it five times more scratch resistant than a typical steel case. The surface hardness not only gives the case an appealing gleam but also preserves the beautiful finishing found on the multiple facets on the case.

Similarly executed to a high level is the dial, which is a two-piece construction. The top plate is a transparent disc that holds the applied logo and markers, while the bottom later is Washi, the traditional material used for sliding doors and lanterns in Japan because of its light diffusing quality.

The distinct texture of Washi makes for an intricate surface, but one that is entirely functional: the translucent paper allows light to pass through and reach the solar panels beneath that charge the battery.

A060

But the star is the A060, a high-accuracy quartz movement introduced in 2015. Its prescribed accuracy of +/-5 seconds per year is thanks to several features. One is the six-month ageing of the quartz crystal, which is then paired with an integrated circuit specifically programmed with an algorithm that measures ambient temperature fluctuations once every minute and then compensates for the oscillator’s frequency changes resulting from the fluctuations.

In addition to its impressive accuracy, the A060 has been kitted out with several practical functions. The hour hand, for example, can be independently adjusted without stopping the movement, preserving the current time synchronisation. And more importantly, the date display has been electronically programmed to be a perpetual calendar, eliminating the hassle of adjusting it at the end of each month.

The A060 also has an on-demand power reserve indicator that is otherwise hidden: the recessed button above crown temporarily engages the second hand to serve as an indicator of the battery charge. Three o’clock indicates a full charge while an empty battery will see the seconds pointing to one.

Because the A060 is an Eco-Drive movement – the brand’s term for solar-powered calibres – it forgoes the need for periodic battery replacement as the the solar panels under the dial constantly charge the battery as long as they are exposed to light.

The movement will run for 1.5 years in a power-saving mode, whereby that the hands will stop moving when the watch is stored in the dark. Exposing the dial to light immediately awakens the movement from its “sleep” mode. And with the power-saving mode off, the movement keeps time for seven months on a full charge.


Key facts and price

Citizen The Citizen Iconic Nature Collection
Ref. AQ4100-06W (green)
Ref. AQ4100-14L (blue)
Ref. AQ4102-01X (brown)
Ref. AQ4100-22E (grey)

Diameter: 38.3 mm
Height: 12.2 mm
Material: Super Titanium
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: 100 m

Movement: A060
Features: Hours, minutes, seconds, power reserve indicator, and perpetual calendar
Winding: Solar
Power reserve: 1.5 years

Strap: Crocodile leather

Limited edition: 250 pieces in each colour
Availability: At Citizen boutiques and retailers, with green and blue in March 2022, brown and grey in September 2022
Price: US$3,500; ¥385,000 (350,000 excluding taxes); 5,450 Singapore dollars

For more, visit Citizenwatch-global.com.


 

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Retro Dive Watch Specialist Squale Unveils the 1521 Montredo

Pared back, "Bund" style.

Derived from Italian for “shark”, Squale was a maker of dive watches – as well as a supplier of dive watch cases to many notable brands – that had its heyday in the 1960s and 1970s. Like most of its peers, Squale went under during the Quartz Crisis, lying dormant until 2005 when it was revived by its onetime distributor in Italy.

The reborn Squale is focused once again on dive watches, with its current lineup modelled on the brand’s historical products. The flagship is the 1521, an affordable, no-frills dive watch that’s been pared back even further with the limited-edition Montredo x Squale 1521.

Initial thoughts

Retro dive watches are common today, especially in Squale’s price segment of under US$2,000. But Squale manages to set it apart by having historical legitimacy unlike startup brands.

The Montredo edition stands out for its minimalism. The outline of the watch has been retained, but the details have been reduced to the essentials, like the bezel with only five-minute markers.

The result brings to mind the military-issue dive watches of the 1970s and 1980s, most notably the Fifty Fathoms “Bund” that Blancpain supplied to the German navy – which coincidentally had a case made by Squale. In fact, the Fifty Fathoms “Bund” relied on the very “50 Atmos” case Squale used for its ref. 1521 diver, making the Montredo edition a tidy historical throwback.

Ref. 1521

The 50-piece run is a collaboration between Squale and Montredo, a Berlin-based watch retailer that operates exclusively online. While Montredo started out as a non-authorised retailer of new watches (“grey market” in other words), it has since evolved into an authorised retailer for some brands. And last year it was acquired by Les Ambassadeurs, a Swiss watch retailer that is very much old school and entirely brick-and-mortar. Both companies are now led by Philipp Budiman, cofounder of Montredo.

Based on the vintage ref. 1521, the modern-day 1521 has the same angular, stamped case in steel with the signature four o’clock crown. It’s rated to 500 m, or 50 atm, explaining the “50 ATMOS” marking on the dial.

A variety of 1521 models are offered, but the Montredo edition is based on the no-date 1521 Militare that takes its cues from the Fifty Fathoms “Bund”.

The Montredo edition takes the military inspiration further by replacing the standard bezel insert with an elapsed time bezel scaled in five-minute blocks, while also removing the second hashmarks from the dial. It also adds a “lollipop” seconds and retro, “shark” emblem to the mix.

Like the standard 1521 models, the Montredo edition is powered by a Sellita SW200-1, a clone of the ETA 2824. Fuss-free and reliable, the SW200-1 is a solid performer, albeit one with a short, 38-hour power reserve.


Key facts and price

Montredo x Squale 1521
Ref. 1521MONTRE

Diameter: 42 mm
Height: 16 mm
Material: Stainless steel
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: 500 m

Movement: Sellita SW200-1
Functions: Hours, minutes, and seconds
Frequency: 28,800 beats per hour (4 Hz)
Winding: Hand wind
Power reserve: 38 hours

Strap: Rubber “tropic” style strap and an additional leather strap

Limited edition: 50
Availability:
 Only from Montredo
Price: US$1,050, or €924 (prices exclude taxes)

For more, visit Squale.ch.


Correction February 3, 2022: Mr Budiman’s last name was spelled incorrectly in an earlier version of the article. We are sorry for the error.

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