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In-Depth – How Good The Citizen Caliber 0200 Really Is?

in-depth-–-how-good-the-citizen-caliber-0200-really-is?

When you think about Citizen, you’ll probably think of a well-built and affordable watch. There is however a side that Citizen doesn’t show too often, but with some recently introduced models, the Japanese brand shows it has far more up its sleeve! Citizen is responsible for many innovations, for instance, they were the first brand to use titanium to make (commercially available) wristwatches. The brand is also known for its research on accuracy, especially with the Eco-Drive technology. In this field, Citizen even upped their own already impressive game by presenting the Eco-Drive Caliber 0100, which is the most precise wristwatch on the market. And this year, the Japanese manufacturer enters yet again a different segment of the market, that of the luxury sports watch. And to do so, the brand has put everything it has at its disposal, internally and throughout its portfolio of subsidiaries, to create ‘The Citizen’ Caliber 0200. The introduction itself created quite a bit of discussions, but now that I have the watch with me, it is time to talk about how it is on the wrist! 

The Citizen ‘The Citizen Caliber 0200’ was presented in March this year and immediately drew a lot of attention, but also raised some questions. There is no doubt about Citizen’s capacity to create a mechanical movement. The brand is, after all, one of the largest watches producers in the world, with several million watches produced a year. But with this new ‘The Citizen’ the brand is moving in a different direction, in a market and price segment dominated by Swiss powerhouses. And to achieve that, the brand brings everything to the table, including reviving the ‘The Citizen’ collection. And then there’s the Caliber 0200, a brand new, far more superior engine (compared to the usual 82xx calibres), that has been co-developed with renowned Swiss movement maker La Joux-Perret, which is owned by the Japanese group.

Having said that, I can tell you that my level of expectations was high. The Citizen Caliber 0200 was one of the watches that really caught my attention and I was very curious to get some hands-on time with it. From the first press pictures, the watch already made a strong impression, not even mentioning the fact that there is an undeniable ‘luxury sports watch’ feel to this new model; something that I really like. So here we are in July 2021 and I have the ‘The Citizen’ on the wrist, and before going into the details, let me clearly say that I’m not disappointed. On the contrary!

A refined, ultra-sharp case & bracelet

Let’s start talking about the overall design of the watch. As said earlier, there’s is a clear luxury sports watch feel to The Citizen Caliber 0200, with its barrel-shaped case, its round and raised bezel, its combination of brushed surfaces and polished accents and the all-important presence of an integrated steel bracelet. The overall design is restrained and on the safe side, and at the same time, it doesn’t try to replicate emblematic models of the category. It does have its own personality, which mostly sits in its sharpness and edginess. The watch is easily categorized in the luxury/casual/smart segment, being typically a piece that you can wear in most circumstances, whether with a formal attire or a more casual look.

Regarding the question of whether it is a proper luxury sports watch, I’d tend to say yes. Once you strap this watch on the wrist, apart from a case that is slightly thicker than a Royal Oak or a Nautilus, you have that same feeling of a consistent object, a one-piece watch where everything feels coherent and designed as a whole. Case and bracelet are seamlessly integrated and the watch exudes this specific combination of luxury and robustness that have made the success of the 1970s icons.

Even more than the design itself, what truly impressed me is the overall quality of the case and its bracelet. The case, which feels relatively simple from a distance, is actually full of details, facets and alternating finishings that add to the beauty of the watch. All surfaces are superbly finished, whether the vertically brushed surfaces that are found on all flat areas of the case and bracelet, or the polished accents on the edges. The brushing is crisp and very detailed, and the separation lines between the different executions of the case are extremely neat and precise. And looking closely, the case reveals small details, such as the triangular polished facet at the tip of the lugs, which are simply handsome. If there’s one thing to retain from this watch it will be this design that isn’t based on shapes but on volumes and how the finishing techniques actually form the watch. It simply is one of the most impressive cases, especially in this price range!

Apart from that, there’s something about The Citizen Caliber 0200 that can’t be shown in the images and it is the tactile feel. Touching the case and bracelet, or simply wearing the watch left me with a hard-to-describe feeling of superb quality, something that is inherent to true luxury objects. The watch isn’t only a joy to wear because of its comfort, but also because of the sensation it provides on the wrist.

As for the proportions, The Citizen is a fairly well-proportioned watch, with a diameter of 40mm, a height of 10.9mm and a lug-to-lug measurement of about 47mm. In addition, the way the bracelet is attached to the case, below the lugs, makes for a watch that feels more compact than what the numbers suggest. There’s also a pleasant heft and weight to this case, which once again reinforces the feeling of quality. The depth rating of 50m is not impressive, however, it is acceptable and sufficient for everyday use.

The bracelet is just as nicely designed and finished as the case, meaning very good. Its H-shaped links, brushed on the flat surfaces and highlighted by polished accents, are thin and rather supple. Overall, the bracelet has a nice shine and plays with the ambient light. Its proportions are very pleasant and even if it is not as seamless integrated as the one found on a Royal Oak, it remains close enough so the entire watch feels designed like a whole. The bracelet is closed by a well-executed folding clasp with pushbuttons, which would have been even better with a fine-adjustment system.

Last but not least, the watch is topped by one of the best sapphire crystals I’ve seen recently, with a very good anti-reflective coating. In some conditions, it feels like there’s simply no crystal over the dial and as if you could touch the hands and dive into the dial.

A crisp, beautifully detailed dial

In contrast with its rather demonstrative case, The Citizen Caliber 0200 feels more conservative at first when looking at its dial. But that is before looking at it closely. This restrained feeling is reinforced by the presence of a small seconds, not so common in the luxury sports watch field but also rather well integrated into this context.

What feels at first like a matte grained surface is actually a dial with great attention to detail. The so-called sand-ripple pattern, which feels to me like an “asphalte-like” texture is the result of a process named electroforming, using electrodeposition of metal on a base dial. When under close inspection, the dial reveals a refined and extremely detailed texture that surprisingly manages to play with the ambient light, with a certain shimmer, and at the same time to avoid reflections. It also contrasts well with the smooth finishing – actually a very, very fine concentric pattern – of the small seconds sub-counter, bringing depth to this dial.

The same level of refinement can be seen on the hands and markers. Classic in the design, being reminiscent of the brand’s 1960s production and in line with other watches in The Citizen collection, they are once again made with far more attention than everything else from the brand. The Dauphine hands are large and razor-sharp. The top surface has a very fine matte texture while the edges are polished with a diamond tool, resulting in a great level of precision and shine.

This combination of texture also means that these hands are extremely legible in most conditions, with the top surface often appearing milky white, while the bevels have typical metallic reflections, ranging from silvery-white to black, depending on the angle. This allows the hands to perfectly detach from the black textured background and to make The Citizen Caliber 0200 a very legible watch.

The same level of execution is found on the markers, which are faceted and diamond-polished on the edges, while the top surface has a fine striped pattern. The fact that the 3 and 9 o’clock markers are wider, and that there’s a double marker at 12 o’clock also brings a nice balance to the dial. And even though there’s no luminescent material on this dial, the execution of the hands and markers makes legibility excellent in all conditions (except at pitch-black night.)

Finally, there are two metallic applied logos at 12 o’clock, the brand’s name and an Eagle. This eagle symbol was also used in the past, mainly on some chronometer-rated watches. The Eagle is the emblem of ‘The Citizen’ collection, and proof of their superior accuracy.

The star of the show, Caliber 0200

You obviously can’t make a luxury watch without the movement that matches its status. The mechanical beauty of a timepiece is certainly as important as the way it’s dressed up, and here Citizen has decided to bring the best it has internally when creating this new Caliber 0200.

As said in the introduction, Citizen is no stranger to mechanical movements, being one of the world’s largest producers. There is however a major difference between manufacturing a simple yet robust automatic movement for a sub-500 euros watch, and creating a movement that is powerful, precise and refined enough to complement the habillage we’ve seen above. Citizen, however, owns multiple Swiss companies, such as Frederique Constant, Alpina, Bulova, Arnold & Son, but also one that is far more relevant in today’s context; a manufacture of Haute Horlogerie in Switzerland named La Joux-Perret S.A.

Benefiting from the experience of this renowned Swiss movement maker, Citizen was able to develop a new automatic movement with a focus on reliability, precision, high accuracy and more appealing decoration. Despite being produced by Citizen in Japan, this Caliber 0200 is conceived with traditional high-end methods in mind, thanks to a close collaboration and technical exchange between the Japanese powerhouse and its subsidiary LJP.

To be clear, this movement has simply nothing in common with the reliable yet entry-level automatic movements produced by Citizen for their accessible watches, for instance, the Promaster and its caliber 8203. The Caliber 0200 is a typical high-end automatic engine that has been designed to meet chronometric standards over an extended power range (4Hz frequency and 60h power reserve), and that has been decorated to please the eyes of seasoned watch enthusiasts. Strong watchmaking credentials and traditional, yet modern looking finishing techniques…

Despite being a classic time-only, small seconds automatic movement, Citizen’s Caliber 0200 comes with several refinements. It is equipped with a free-sprung balance wheel, making it highly shock resistant as well as resistant to wear over time – with a better ability to maintain its stability of rate over time. The regulating organ has been created thanks to a new manufacturing process to ensure the necessary precision. Also, to achieve superior precision, the escapement is executed with LIGA fabrication process (a technology using photolithography and electro-casting, suitable for manufacturing of ultra-precise parts and microstructure parts). As such, the Caliber 0200 can achieve an average daily accuracy of -3 to +5 seconds, thus surpassing chronometric standards. Additionally, once the movement is encased, the fully-assembled watch heads are tested for 17 days to ensure superior performance – testing at six positions and three temperature levels – and a Certificate of Compliance is included with each watch to certify the results.

Also, the decoration was an important factor in the development process, which has been created together with the expertise of La Joux-Perret. The movement features bridges decorated with satinage – a multitude of hairlines to create a matte finish – and polished bevels on the edges for great contrast. In the same vein, the gear train, the oscillating weight and the main plate are decorated with various techniques, playing with matte surfaces and recessed areas. Overall, the movement is not only technically advanced but also coherent with the entire watch, whether for the style of decoration chosen, but also the level of details on all visible parts.

Thoughts

Overall, I’ve been impressed by The Citizen Caliber 0200, on multiple levels. First of all, the design is balanced, demonstrative enough for such a watch but it also has a nice dosage of refinement, which mostly comes from the details to be found all around the case, bracelet, dial and hands. Then, there’s the overall impressive quality of the watch, which feels on par with some of the most revered mainstream manufacturers of Switzerland. Everywhere you’ll look, The Citizen Caliber 0200 is refined, detailed, consistent. If this is what the luxury branch of Citizen is capable of, I’m really looking forward to the future. The movement, co-developed with LJP is also a fairly important element of this watch and, once again, it does elevate The Citizen collection to unprecedented levels. It is overall a watch that deserves attention.

And on a more personal note, I love its looks and how this watch feels like the Japanese take on the luxury sports watch, how it manages to rely on existing codes of the category without copying them. It’s a watch with great personality. And the price, at approximately USD 6,000 is entirely justified.

Availability & Price

The Citizen Caliber 0200 will be launched in 2 different versions, including the present “sand-ripple” black dial (ref. NC0200-90E) but also a slightly sportier version with a sunray-brushed blue dial (ref. NC0200-81L). The watch will be available from selected retailers in August 2021 and priced at JPY 605,000 or USD 6,000.

For more details, please visit www.citizenwatch-global.com.

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