In the 60s and 70s, Seiko was not the only Japanese watch company capable of producing watches capable of competing with the Swiss timepieces. Citizen had its Chrono Master range of watches and Orient had their Royal Orient range of watches that were on par with whatever Seiko had to offer at the top of its range.
Nevertheless, Seiko’s offerings, namely the Grand Seiko and King Seiko, are hugely more renowned and popular these days compared to that of the Citizen and Orient high grade watches. A likely reason for this is because Seiko not only continued its focus on high end mechanical watches today, but it likely produced many more variety of watches between its 2 companies in the past which led to much greater diversity of vintage Seikos and hence recognition among watch collectors today.
I need to first thank Stephen of the Sweep-hand.org for his excellent article which is probably the most comprehensive go-to location for all details on the Citizen Chrono Masters which anyone can find on the web today. You can find it here. We have also been corresponding with regards to my Chrono Master and he has been very forthcoming in sharing his expertise and knowledge for all Citizen related information.
Stumbling on Stephen’s blog some years back was the first that I have ever known that Citizen came out with high grade watches, competing directly with Seiko in the same target market. I have kept an eye out for them but have not really seen any for sale in Singapore and my attention was still focused on Seiko 4S watches at that time.
Some time in late 2015, my contributing author, Jude, bid and won on YJ a Citizen Chrono Master. By chance, I had the opportunity to collect it on his behalf and basically handled it for a good 30 minutes before I handed it back to its rightful owner.
By then, I had handled my fair share of vintage KS, including the 45 KS which I blogged about recently. However I had a huge WOW feeling when I handled this Citizen Chrono Master in person. It was not better or worse than the KS, just different in its way. I could also tell from its pristine condition that this baby was not abused or even worn very much since it was released from the Citizen Factory!
However, let’s get the white elephant out of the way. I am under no false impression that Citizen and Seiko did not share many of the same design cues in their high end watches. They definitely did. For example, the hands and hour markers of the Chrono Master also has a black line running down their center, exactly like that of Seiko’s GS and KS. Also the case shape of the Citizen is more contemporary compared to Seiko’s Grammer of Design cases, but the influences of Seiko’s Grammer of Design on the Chrono Master case (or perhaps it’s the other way around?) are undeniable.
Nevertheless, in my honest opinion, both Citizen and Seiko set out to make the finest watch that they are capable of to compete with the Swiss powerhouses in the past, and both of them succeeded. Just like the 45 KS, this Chrono Master, is a well made watch and its quality shines through in every way.
Case and Crown
As mentioned earlier, the case design is more contemporary and muscular compared to the angular and planar design of Seiko’s Grammer of Design watches. The Chrono Master case feels blockier and will not feel out of place among watch designs today. This is both a bane and a boom, as this watch will never be identified immediately as a Chrono Master, whereas one can spot a Grammer of Design GS/KS a mile away.
THIS is one facet of the case design that I absolutely adore. Multi-planar lug which can only be enjoyed by the owner looking head on at the lugs. Think of it as a secret signature if you will. Even looking from the side of the case will not reveal this characteristic of the case design. 40 years since its production and the case lines remains as sharp as ever.
From this photo, you can see the crystal which is raised above the watch case. Also you might find the side profile somewhat similar to that of Seiko (wink wink)? Usually I prefer my crystal to sit flush or even lower to the bezel to prevent dings, however most vintage watch come with box crystals which sit a millimetre or 2 above the bezel. Care has to be taken to ensure that the crystal is not chipped when buying vintage watches with the original crystal.
The crown is signed with a stylised “C”, which is correct according to Stephen’s post. The crown is suitably large for handwinding and is ridged to aid in winding.
Dial, Logo and Hands
The hour markers are very similar to that of the GS/KS having a black stripe running down the middle to aid visibility. It even has the double baton markers at the 12 o’clock position. However in my opinion the quality/cutting of the KS markers edge out that of the Chrono Master. Please note that this is true of just my 2 samples and obviously not representative of all GS/KS versus Chrono Masters.
Just like that of the GS/KS, the Citizen logo is applied, while the model name is printed below. Note that the “C” in the word “Chrono” matches that of the stylised “C” in the crown! in this shot, you can see perhaps the 1 of 2 flaws with this watch, which is a minor spotting close to the 2 o’clock marker which appears to be some dirt on the dial, which over time caused the area around it to de-colorize.
This is the Chrono Master logo, a stylised dragon I would imagine. This is much more complicated compared to the simple GS/KS logo. This design would also repeated in the gold medallion found on the case back of the Chrono Master watches. The number of jewels is also printed on the dial below the logo.
In contrast to the hands found on the GS/KS, Citizen opted for straight baton hands as compared to dauphine hands. I personally prefer dauphine hands as it adds a degree of elegance and flair to watches. One annoying facet of Citizen’s design is that the seconds hands is way too short. I would have very much prefer that it was the same length as the minutes hand. Another point that I observed is that the black stripe of the hands close to the pinion remain intact, as compared to the KS hands which are already worn out with age.
Caseback and movement shot
This gold medallion alone probably account for 50% of the reason for getting this range of watches. The intricate design of the gold medallion puts the simple GS/KS gold medallion to SHAME!!! The medallion is nearly intact which let me to believe that this watch was seldom worn or worn with great care.
The inside of the case back cover is plain and free from any markings. It also probably shows that no watch maker had been inside the movement of this watch since I do not find any signature marked on the inside of the case back cover. I am unlikely to send this watch for an overhaul given all the signs that this is a virgin watch (see almost flawless movement shot below).
This is the glorious 1870 movement powering this 25 Jewel, date only, hand winding only Chrono Master. From Stephen’s article, this is a tuned and upgraded version of the movement found in Citizen’s Homer watches. The balance wheel as per classic watch movement architecture is large at around a third of the entire movement diameter. Most modern watch movements have much smaller balance wheels. The movement beats at 6bps and have a power reserve of around 40 hours. The movement hacks but there is no quick set for the date.
Note that this movement is also serialised, which is usually reserved only for Chronometer graded Chrono Master. Stephen was also surprised by this and I believe he is digging further into this. One flaw that I could find was a scratch on the regulating screw. I am speculating that it is probably from a previous owner regulating the watch rather than from the Citizen factory where it was first assembled.
Base Chrono Master watches (i.e. non Chronometer graded variants) are spec to -5 sec / +10sec a day. This is equivalent to Seiko A Grade (-6 sec / +9 sec a day), similar to non-Chronometer graded King Seiko watches.
There are also Chronometer graded Chrono Masters, some with automatic movements, some with day and date, some without day/date. You can find all variants on Stephen’s article should you be interested. Should you not be interested, I would also encourage you to drop by his blog to see the fascinating world of vintage Citizen watches.
This is my first vintage Citizen watch and probably not my last, as I’m eyeing the amazing Citizen vintage chronographs as well. Prices for Citizen watches have not been seeing the same stratospheric increases that Seiko vintage watches have been experiencing the last few years which makes them all the more value for money.
Do keep an open mind and look beyond Seiko vintage watches should you be looking for quality and affordable vintage timepieces.