BY ERIK SLAVEN
Integrated sports watches are among the most sought-after luxury models today, fueled by heavyweights like the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, Patek Philippe Nautilus and Piaget Polo. These icons continue to set the standard and maintain a strong desirability for the style, so brands are capitalizing with more affordable offerings. Models like the Bell & Ross BR05 have a luxury vibe and (relatively) attainable price, while the new Tissot PRX Powermatic 80 is an affordable series that’s proven to be wildly popular. Japanese juggernaut Citizen already has a pricey integrated sports watch, “The Citizen,” that carries the in-house Caliber 0200 automatic designed in collaboration with La Joux-Perret. It also recently released the Tsuyosa Automatic for a different clientele with a price that’s hard to believe.
More than a staple for department stores
If you’re not too familiar with Citizen, you might think it’s a factory of cheap quartz watches that are scattered around malls worldwide. The brand is a lot more than that and one of the biggest, most influential watchmakers in the world. In fact, it’s a conglomerate à la the Swatch Group or LVMH (watch division) with subsidiaries like Alpina, Arnold & Son, Frédérique Constant, Bulova and La Joux-Perret. Citizen also founded Miyota in the late 1950s, which is among the world’s largest movement manufacturers. Established brands and small microbrands alike rely on Miyota for reliable and affordable calibers, some of which are produced in the billions. There’s also a solid Swiss connection with La Joux-Perret, a luxury movement manufacturer that Citizen not only owns, but now collaborates with for high-end pieces. La Joux-Perret clients include Baume & Mercier, Corum, Montblanc, Frank Muller, Girard-Perregaux, Carl F. Bucherer and many more. Distinguished to say the least.
Like Seiko, Citizen has been very influential (and dare I say disruptive) to the industry, pioneering quartz technology during the “Quartz Crisis” of the 1970s and 1980s. Major innovations include Eco-Drive, introduced in 1995 and arguably the best, most efficient light-powered watch movements ever created. In 2007, Citizen claimed to have stopped ten million watch batteries from going to waste in North America alone. In 2019, the Eco-Drive Caliber 0100 became the most accurate movement in the world at +/- 1 second per year. Let’s put that into perspective – a mechanical COSC-certified chronometer is accurate to -4/+6 seconds per day, while a typical quartz watch is accurate to around 15 seconds per month. It’s an astonishing achievement.
The Tsuyosa Automatic follows both “The Citizen” and more accessible Citizen Series 8 integrated sports watches to round out a mechanical portfolio for many budgets. The stainless steel case is very wearable at 40mm in diameter and 11.7mm thick, and the fit and finish is surprisingly good. There’s a combination of brushed and polished surfaces, and the overall look somewhat resembles a Rolex Datejust. That’s mostly due to the cyclops lens over the date at 3 o’clock and I wouldn’t call this a copy. The crystal itself is sapphire, not mineral glass, although the latter is used for the exhibition case back.
The crown is positioned at 4 o’clock, which isn’t unusual for Citizen (or Seiko) and it pushes almost flush with the case. It looks sleek, but a side effect of the design is it’s almost impossible to manually wind. Pulling it to adjust the date and time is also a bit harder than it should be as there’s not much surface to grab. Once everything is set, however, it won’t need much use. The case ends slope sharply to integrate with the three-link steel bracelet, which is very well executed. It matches the case with brushed outer links and polished center links, and secures via a deployant clasp with micro-adjustability. It’s very comfortable on the wrist, rivaling much more expensive counterparts, and removing links is straightforward if you’re doing it yourself. Water resistance is rated at 50 meters.
The dial has a black sunray-brushed finish, but three other options include blue, green and yellow. There have been some very recent additions, however, including a white dial, two-tone case/bracelet with a black dial and an all-black finish with a black camouflage dial. I prefer the black dial and steel case (as reviewed), but your mileage may vary, of course. The large applied indices are very legible, backed up with Natulite inserts (Citizen’s proprietary lume). Interestingly, there’s a double index at both 12 and 6 o’clock. The hour and minute hands also have Natulite and there’s an excellent contrast between the black dial and silver elements. A date window sits at 3 o’clock and is again magnified by a cyclops lens, which does an effective job. It’s a handsome watch on the wrist and can be worn for most occasions, and the Oyster Case vibe works in its favor.
This is an in-house watch through and through, and that includes the Caliber 8210 automatic. It’s designated specifically for Citizen watches, although similar to Miyota movements like the 8218 that outside brands can purchase. Specs include 21 jewels, a beat rate of 3Hz and a 40-hour power reserve. The movement is entry-level for sure, but very reliable and sports a gold (colored) finish that pops through the exhibition case back. Occasional maintenance will keep it ticking for a lifetime.
We’re clearly not looking at a Royal Oak here, but that doesn’t diminish the fact that the Citizen Tsuyosa Automatic (ref. NJ0150-81E) is very well designed and finished, regardless of price. And that price is around USD 300/EUR 299, depending on where you buy it. And that’s the one sticking point – it’s difficult to find. Fortunately, sourcing one online is very doable, but prepare to have to import it if you don’t live in Singapore or Japan. I have yet to find one anywhere else, although other online retailers may have acquired some recently. Notwithstanding this minor obstacle, the price is incredible for such a piece. The finish and overall feel on the wrist are better than Seiko 5 models at comparable (or higher) prices, and it could easily be mistaken for a four-figure watch. Flash it fast and onlookers might think it’s a Rolex, which could be a bit deliberate for a subliminal effect, so to speak. There’s one thing for certain, you won’t find a more mature, in-house integrated sports watch for less.
Visit Citizen here.