Seiko, Orient, Citizen: A Look at Japanese Watches

September 26th, 2012 Posted in Orient Watch Reviews | 21 Comments

We naturally focus most of our attention on Orient Watches, but today, let’s learn a bit more about Japan’s big 3 watch companies: Seiko, Citizen, and Orient.

Check them out!

Overview

Japanese watches are known for their efficient designs and high functionality at a low cost. Japan’s 3 major watch companies include (biggest to smallest): Seiko, Citizen, and Orient.

Though Seiko is the oldest, largest, and perhaps most popular of the 3, each of these companies has their own niche (which we’ll discuss in the following sections) that has allowed each to find its own success.

As stated, Seiko is the oldest of the big 3, with its origins dating back to the early 1880s. Orient dates back to the turn of the 19th century, and Citizen made a name for itself in the 1920s with the production of a pocket watch that bore the Citizen moniker.

During the 1970s, Japanese watches rose in popularity, taking over classic Swiss watches with the emergence of accurate, efficient quartz watches at extraordinarily low consumer costs.

Today, the big 3 Japanese watch companies continue to be leaders in watch manufacturing. Before we get into the specifics about each company, it’s important to note that Seiko, Citizen, and Orient are all also known for their production of in-house movements.

As many of us already know, this super special feature further sets Japanese apart from Swiss watches, as the majority of Swiss companies continue to use outsourced, ETA movements in their watches.

Now let’s take a closer look at each of the Japanese watch companies…

What’s special about Seiko?

As mentioned, each of the Japanese big 3 has their own niche. Seiko’s niche is the use of kinetic movements, or automatic quartz movements.

Seiko first unveiled this type of movement at Baselworld in 1986. But what does it actually mean?

Kinetic, or automatic quartz, movements combine a self-winding rotor (just like in a mechanical watch movement), which generates electricity using a quartz crystal as the timing element.

Essentially, the kinetic is a perfect combination of quartz and mechanical, offering many of the benefits of both worlds while eliminating the need for watch batteries.

Seiko watches that utilize this technology include Sportura and some Pulsar and Lorus models. To date, Seiko has sold more than 8 million kinetic timepieces.


A Kinetic Movement by Seiko

Now let’s see what’s special about Citizen.

…Citizen?

Citizen’s niche is its eco-drive technology. And what does that mean, exactly?

Eco-drive watches are solar-powered, and Citizen first introduced this type of watch in 1995. Of course, solar-powered timepieces existed before this time, but Citizen’s eco-drive technology included a solar panel inconspicuously located under the dial.

Before this time, solar cells were located on the dial, making for an aesthetically unpleasing look that watch designers and consumers avoided. But with a hidden solar cell, the possibilities for designing great looking solar watches became a reality.

In fact, today Citizen offers more than 320 different watch models that are equipped with eco-drive technology, which is more than 80% of the brand’s product line.

And, as the name suggests, eco-drive watches are eco-friendly since they rely strictly on solar power rather than batteries.


It’s impossible to detect the hidden solar cell in this Citizen Eco-Drive Watch.

Last but certainly not least…

…Orient?

Orient’s niche is its mechanical watches. Mechanical watches, as many of us know, utilize the original watchmaking craft that dates back to the 17th century, and is based off of spring-powered clock technology, which originated in the 15th century.

Orient continues this watchmaking tradition by maintaining in-house, hand-built movement production, and some super classic watches.

Because we don’t often go into detail about what exactly a mechanical movement is, let’s take a quick look at the 5 essential parts that make up a mechanical:

  • Mainspring: The mainspring stores energy to power the watch.
  • Gear Train: The gear train transmits the energy in the mainspring to the balance wheel, and then calculates the swings of the balance wheel to measure hours, minutes, and seconds. The keyless work of the gear train is the part that allows the wearer to set the time.
  • Balance Wheel: The balance wheel swings back and forth, and is the timekeeping element.
  • Escapement: The escapement keeps the balance wheel swinging, and allows the gears to advance by a set amount of time with each swing.
  • Dial: Well this is sort of obvious, but the dial is the watch face, which displays a readable time.

So, while Orient does also produce some quartz watches, the bulk of the company’s products are mechanical watches that adhere to classic watchmaking traditions.


A Mechanical Movement by Orient

Which is your favorite Japanese watch brand? Why? Leave a comment!

  1. 21 Comments | Tell us what you think!

  2. By Brad Dalton on Sep 26, 2012

    Very interesting article. I’ve always favored these brands for their styling and affordability. Thanks for the information.

  3. By ryan on Sep 26, 2012

    interesting to know the differences.

  4. By Will on Sep 26, 2012

    Really awesome breakdown of the differences. The only brand I don’t currently own is Citizen. I am more into automatic watches.

  5. By Eric Henao on Sep 26, 2012

    Think you should so some special limited editions where you really work over the movement. Engraving, skeletonizing, that sort of thing. I know it’s not what you normally do, but that’s why I said, special limited editions!

  6. By Ken on Sep 26, 2012

    One of the most interesting posts I’ve read on this site, kudos! But…what about Casio?

    My first Japanese watch was a Casio MMA-200W, to this day still the only one I’ve seen with both an analog and a digital section operated by a single control — the crown — no buttons. I’d still wear it if Casio hadn’t end-of-lifed it from service. At $65 in 1985 it was a splurge for a poor college student used to Texas Instruments digitals. But Casio was my first favorite Japanese watchmaker.

    Then I saw a TV ad for a watch where pushing a button made the hands whiz around, apparently with some feat of stepper-motor engineering. And although it would be a while before I’d be able to afford one, Citizen suddenly became my favorite Japanese watchmaker. Eventually my Casio ran down for the last time and I could finally justify a $300 (authorized) splurge on a Citizen BL5370-51L.

    But while shopping online for that replacement I stumbled across a company I’d never heard of making automatic watches at levels of price, quality, and customer connection I never imagined possible, and suddenly Orient became my favorite Japanese watchmaker. And even before the Citizen arrived I was also the proud owner of a unique M-Force CEXAA002B0. Which I could justify because it was on sale after being discontinued for only $65.

    I never did get into Seiko. Their style and price just hadn’t ever compelled me. Now though there are models I like quite a lot. But not enough to displace Orient as my favorite Japanese watchmaker.

  7. By Eric on Sep 26, 2012

    I like them all, but Orient and Seiko autos are my favorite.

  8. By Tom Mabry on Sep 26, 2012

    I had a Rolex watch (with mechanical movement of course) years ago. So my original attraction to the Orient mechanical was probably from that. Now that I’ve had my Orient for several years I just love it and just recently bought one for my wife. I’m looking at another one now and just think the combination of “feel”, quality and price make it unbeatable. I am an Orient guy!

  9. By Eric P. on Sep 26, 2012

    Just recently got an Orient, but have had numerous Seiko and a couple of Citizen watches over the years. My wife still wears a Citizen Eco-Drive she’s owned for about a decade. We both purchased Eco-Drive watches about 20 years ago. 10 years ago, mine stopped holding a charge, with my wife’s watch following a few years later.

    Current Seiko is a diver from about a decade ago. Nice watch, but the new Orient Ray sits better on my wrist and is less of a “hey, I’m wearing a big, heavy watch.” Order of favorite – Orient, Seiko, Citizen.

  10. By Nikolas on Sep 28, 2012

    At this point it is Seiko because it is available in Serbia and authorized service here. I am fascinated with Orient just for seeing it on internet (diver and skeleton). I think Orient has great future in Serbia but we don’t have seller or authorized service here.
    Great site You have here.

  11. By baptiste6 on Oct 1, 2012

    I have both Seiko and Orient watches. Love them all. The Orients are really nice for the price.

  12. By william neva on Oct 3, 2012

    not only good looking but the “ORIENT” GIVEAWAY is probably as efficient as any high end watch on the market. hope i win.

  13. By Robert Jenkins on Oct 5, 2012

    THIS IS THE REAL DEAL. I HAVE WITNESS THE OWNING A “ORIENT” WATCH. I HEARD NOTHING BUT GOOD TESTIMONIAL ABOUT ‘ORIENT’ WATCHES. IF YOUR LOOKING FOR A EXCELLENT WATCH..THIS WATCH IS YOUR BEST BET.

  14. By Steve on Oct 7, 2012

    Interesting how each company went their own way. Some would think Orient is nuts for not simply outsourcing their movements to the cheapest bidder. But what they are doing is satisfying a niche, creating long term owners and continuing a long term tradition.

  15. By vsr sharma on Nov 1, 2012

    Its really fine to note that Orient watches are as efficient as Citizen and Seiko.
    Please maintain the same high standards.

  16. By Ken DaSilva~Hill on Mar 1, 2013

    At age 21 I bought myself a Heure Autavia GMT Mechanical wind Chronograph, a watch that I still love and will never part with, it is still working perfecly 44 years later. However, for practical reasons, such as sailing and watersports, I backed this up with Citizen’s first model automatic 150 meter diving watch around 1972. This watch has shared many adventures with me, has been worn daily since new and was only retired following a car accident in 2011, where our car plunged into a frozen canal and sank. In escaping from the car and rescueing my wife I damaged the watch which promptly flooded. It was part of the insurance claim, and I was duly paid out to buy a replacement, but sentimental reasons made me buy back the watch from the insurance co ~ I then dried it out and repaired it myself, and although it was no longer waterproof it was working perfectly. Around 5 weeks ago we visited the Iguanacu waterfalls in Brasil, the watch filled with water condensation and stopped working. By a complete fluke I was introduced to a brasilian watch collector who offered to have my watch restored for me, amazingly at no charge. In just three days the watch looked ‘As New’ with the case and bracelet fully repolished and working perfectly once again, it had even been pressure tested. The watch is now back to daily use. With the insurance money, I had bought a Seiko Solar chronograph 200 meter diver ( with certificate to ISO 6425 standard ) as this was visually and sizewise the nearest I could get to the Citizen. Although a super watch, the Seiko has yet to be worn or indeed the bracelet adjusted for size. Whilst in Brasil we also visited Paraguay, where I was amazed to see many Fake citizen watches, especially Promasters and Aqualands, these seem to have quartz movements, even though marked as EcoDrive. I actually saw several of these all with the identical same serial number, so take this as a warning against buying cheap! These fakes came with no documentation or quality boxes which indicated citizen manufacture, but did have “guarentees’ and handbooks, let the buyer beware. I have always been very taken with Orient watches, I love the idea of a mechanical movement constantly working upon ones wrist, no batteries and ‘workonable’ in an emergency. At some point I will endeavour to become the owner of an Orient divers watch, although sadly they seem to be very hard to find here in the UK, and any watch that I buy, I like to view and handle first, so internet buying is not for me. So there you are, buy a good Japanese diving watch, look after it and it will last for a lifetime, give splendid service and you won’t have to worry about having a thousand or more quid hanging on your wrist, but you will have a very reliable timepiece. Ken DaSilva~Hill

  17. By LongBike on Apr 22, 2013

    Hi , I just bought my first Orient SK watch from a individual and when it arrived I was amazed with how it looked. This is my first one and have Seiko Divers as well. This Orient has its own looks set aside from many.
    Whats interesting about it is its Dials and how they look. It looks like a fabulous dial in each watch that one would look at.Amazing quality and its craftmansship over all is superb. I will be buying another soon and maybe more as I come across them.

  18. By jp on Jul 25, 2013

    I love all these three. However I will grade orient Automatic as #1

  19. By toan duong on Oct 7, 2013

    I have 6 seikos, 7 orients and 5 citizens. They are all good but my favorites are mako on rubber and citizen promaster on rubber

  20. By Michael Riley on Dec 14, 2013

    At the moment, I wear a GMT watch that my late father brought back from Asia as a gift. It keeps pretty good time, such that my Longines VHP quartz, that I’ve had for most of my adult life, just sits in the drawer. I’m ‘…in love with [the GMT's] divine heaviness…’ (to borrow a phrase from James Bond’s Mr Goldfinger) and it has an easy to read dial. But, it isn’t street legal, and that bothers me.

    Checking out the ‘big 3′ Japanese watches, and already being something of a ‘Nippo-phile’, I’m convinced of their relative quality to even Swiss watches of the same bracket. Orient Mako is the Holy Grail, after much research.

    Can anyone advise how to successfully drop hints to one’s wife & family that this would make an ideal gift? Nothing seems to work. They just don’t get it.

  21. By CHARNCHAI KASEMKOSOLSRI on Jan 13, 2014

    I’ve been using my Orient Sport EM7A-CO-A-CA L8
    for almost a year in my daily medical practice. Measuring heart rate, respiratory rate and also pulse rate in dim lighting room are not easy. This Orient Sport watch is acceptable in such conditions. I hope to find another Orient watch which is well designed, including easily readable dial, luminous big and long dial second hand for medical profession personnels.

  22. By CCN 1410 on Sep 11, 2015

    Well, as the owner of two clocks Orient and Seiko, I wonder what other Japanese brands, in addition to these and the Citizen and Casio?

21 comments | Tell us what you think!