seiko vs citizen

Seiko vs Citizen: Is There A Clear Winner?

The Seiko Sumo and Turtle models from the Prospex range are both stylish looking dive watches that are very hard to pick between.

Sure, there are some obvious differences in size, style and shape that you can clearly see from the images above. However, in my opinion, the devil is in the detail.

So, in this comparison review I am going to dive deep (got to love a good pun) and see what exactly the difference between the two models are, apart from the catchy names! 

The Differences Between Seiko & Citizen

There are a few areas to explore when comparing Seiko and Citizen. 

The first is technology and movements. Because a lot of people choose their watches based on what is inside and how the watch functions.

Second, I will take a look at the style differences between them. Seiko is a little more classic, when it comes to style, but it’s still a tough call.

Third, the hardest to compare of them all is quality and longevity. But I will give it a shot.

Technology & Movements

One of the biggest differences between Seiko and Citizen is their choice of technology.

Citizen has chosen to focus almost completely on Quartz movements, so you won’t find many mechanical watches in their range. Also they are very invested in their Eco-Drive technology which is fundamentally solar-powered watches. 

And although Seiko have solar watches too, they are not on par with Citizen in terms of quality, nor do they have as broad an offering.

Both Seiko and Citizen also both have Atomic time keeping watches with the Astron and Satellite Wave tech. They both love pushing the boundaries, and this is one of their more modern technologies that also combine solar.

Seiko also uses a lot of Quartz, but their range of Automatic (mechanical) movements is perhaps where the biggest difference in technology lies (apart from the Solar offerings).

So, if you want a mechanical/self-winding watch, Seiko is your best bet. Just keep in mind that the accuracy will suffer a lot, because you just can’t beat a Quartz watch, even if you satisfy the Swiss Chronometer standards (-4 to +6 seconds per day).

Oh, and Citizen does have automatic watches, just not very many.

Seiko vs Citizen Style & Design

This is a hard one to compare, however most people will agree that Seiko tends to stick with more tried and true (aka old school) designs, whereas Citizen seems to push the limits a little bit more.

Of course, you will always find watches that break this rule, but in general it is definitely the case.

Here are some examples of their typical watches that demonstrate this. The first three are classic Seiko, and some of the most popular. 

The first is the SNK 809, which is a super-affordable daily beater watch with a nylon strap. Many people buy this watch because it is so cheap and reliable.

Seiko also makes some stylish and affordable dress watches (as well as very pricey ones from the Seiko Grand brand). 

The SNK793 below is one example of that. Another is the popular Seiko SARB065 Cocktail Time, which you can see in this post I wrote on popular Seikos under $500.

Seiko Watches

SEIKO Men's SNK809 SEIKO 5 Automatic Stainless Steel Watch with Black Canvas Strap

Seiko 5 SNK809 – Field Watch

SEIKO 5 Men's SNK793 Automatic Stainless Steel Watch with Blue Dial

Seiko SNK793 – Dress Watch

Seiko Men's SKX007K2 Diver's Automatic Watch

Seiko SKX007 – Dive Watch

Citizen has less well-known models when compared to Seiko, but there are a few. One, shown below, is their Nighhawk model which compares a little to Seiko’s Flightmaster, but is still a little different. 

They have a lot of models in this direction, but don’t let that fool you, they also have some very simple and more minimalistic designs as well.

Citizen Watches

Citizen Eco-Drive Promaster Nighthawk Quartz Mens Watch, Stainless Steel, Pilot watch, Silver-Tone (Model: BJ7000-52E)

Citizen Promaster Nighthawk

Citizen Eco-Drive® Perpetual Chrono Atomic Timekeeping Titanium Watch for Men, AT4010-50E

Citizen Eco-Drive Chrono

Citizen Eco-Drive GarrisonQuartz Mens Watch, Stainless Steel with Leather strap, Field watch, Brown (Model: BM8475-26E)

Citizen Day /Date

Seiko vs Citizen - Accuracy, Quality & Longevity

This is a very difficult one to argue, and many a watch lover on forums will argue with you either way. Of course, it depends on the model, year and a little bit of luck, like with anything manufactured.

Seiko, producing a lot more mechanical watches in their range, will suffer in terms of keeping time. After all, you just can’t beat a Quartz for accuracy. 

However, if you want a mechanical watch, they are the most affordable and innovative outside of Switzerland.

Some will argue that Citizen have a leg up in terms of production quality today, but I have not seen any definitive studies on this, so I am not going to comment. 

They are both large corporations with a history of quality and affordable watches.

seiko grand watches

The only big difference from my point of view is that Seiko has the Grand Seiko brand, which produces Swiss level watches of astounding beauty and quality. Citizen has nothing in this range. However in the low-mid end, they are very comparable.

Seiko vs Citizen - Company History & Brands

Another way to compare these two well known watch makers is to take a look at their history.

Seiko has been producing watches a little big longer than Citizen, having started in Japan back in the late 1800s, with their first wristwatch coming out in 1913. 

They have continued to extend their expertise and range, as well as expanding through acquisitions via their parent company – Seiko Epson. One of their most famous sub-brands is Orient, who produce the stunning Bambino range.  

They also have the Grand Seiko brand, which is developed separately to the rest of the Seiko watches and produces very high-end watches that hold their value for decades.

Citizen have a somewhat shorter history than Seiko, and a little more interesting in many ways. Although also founded in Japan, back in 1918, it was first registered by a Swiss owner – Schmid. 

They have since kept that Swiss/Japanese relationship over the decades, which makes a lot of sense given the watch expertise in both countries.

Citizen have spread their wings a little further afield than Seiko in some ways, owning many more brands like Bulova (and Caravelle), as well as some Swiss brands like Frederique Constant and Alpina. 

They are also well known for the Miyoto brand, which is a little like the Swatch brand of ETA in Switzerland, because they produce mass-market Quartz movements you will see in many a watch on the market.

Which Should You Buy - Seiko or Citizen

There is no clear winner in this battle of the Japanese watchmakers, but there are a few clear boundaries worth keeping in mind.

1. If you are in the market for a Quartz and solar-powered watch, Citizen has far more choice and longevity with their Eco-Drive range of watches.

2. When it comes to mechanical, keep in mind the accuracy will always be less than a Quartz, but that Seiko is the way to go here. Whether it’s their super affordable Seiko 5 range, or the luxury Grand Seikos.

Last but not least, when it comes to style, you will find a wide selection in both their ranges, with Seiko typically being a little less experimental, but not in every case. 

Take a look at what is around online or at your local dealer and see what strikes your fancy. I doubt you will be disappointed either way!

13 thoughts on “Seiko vs Citizen: Is There A Clear Winner?”

  1. Thank you so much for your easy to read and informative review – would it be fair to say you can’t go wrong either way if purchasing a watch $300 and under?
    Kind regards Sandra Sydney Australia.

  2. I go for citizen 100%.
    Had 4 or 5 Seikos they have been a bad experience for me. The latest buy, I wore for 2 months straight and the rubber band broke in half.
    Had other rubber band lasting very short time before, both me & the wife first seikos stopped working with no apparent reason after 3 or 4 years (these where quartz seikos). I was wearing one seiko 100 m in the maldives, when I tried to set the date, the knob came loose in my hand… it rusted away in the salt water (5 days?) !!
    Bought a citizen divers at the airport, put it on and it is running still… (from 1999!). First battery lasted some 5 odd years… rubber band broke after 10 years or more… have a few eco-dives, all 200m, 300m, never had a problem with them…
    So I am a Citizen fan, definitely.

    1. Citizen does have a high end line that can compete with Grand Seiko. It is called Campanola. And they are stunning!

    2. I have had a Seiko quartz for about 30 years. It has never lost a minute between battery changes, which last for several years. About 15 years ago I bought a cheaper Seiko on Overstock. Surprisingly, even though it is not the same quality, it has given me similar service and doesn’t lose any noticeable time between battery changes. That said, next time I’ll probably get an Orient or Citizen.

  3. I have 2 Seiko solars & 2 Citizen eco-drives. In my mind there is no comparison. I keep all 4 watches on a dresser near a bedroom window (not in bright sunlight). They are within inches of each other. The Seikos constantly (every few weeks or so) stop running and I have to move them to a windowsill in bright sunlight. This has NEVER happened with the Citizen’s. I bought these 4 watches because I always felt that having a normal watch’s battery failing at the wrong time (cruise or other trip) was not acceptable. I don’t trust the Seiko’s in situations where I don’t want to take a chance of the watch failing.

  4. Citizen represents far better value right now as Seiko is a bit over-hyped. Neither is a bad watch but Seikos, today, are just overpriced. You can get a Citizen Atomic Watch for way less than a Seiko Astron for instance. At the same time, you can get many Swiss Watches and Microbrands with superior movements and quality construction for around the same as Seiko. I used to be a huge fan of Seiko but they’re quality to price ratio is now far from where I would buy it at.

  5. I have had the Citizen Eco-Drive AT4008-51E for a few years now, and I absolutely love it! A friend of mine held it once, and he was amazed at how heavy and solid it felt. The only downside for me is that I live in the Middle East where atomic keeping is not available, and even with that huge compromise I would say that I adore this watch.

  6. You failed to mention Citizen high end watches that are in the $3000-7000 price range. Like the AR5044-03E a watch they state will stay within 1 sec a month or the Caliber 0100 a limited edition piece of 500 worldwide, cost $7500.00. No watch company can touch that accuracy. I’ve had both and in my opinion Citizen is definitely a step up. Matter of fact it maybe 2 steps up. Citizens atomic and gps watches are faster than Seiko and Casio line, including Oceanus, watches in updating. There are videos on Youtube that will confirm that.

  7. I have owned Rolex, Omega, Seiko, Tag Hueler and Citizen watches. In my opinion, you don’t always get the quality you would expect for the price you pay. Having purchased and owned watches ranging from $200 to $15,000 dollars, I recommend Citizen to all of my friends. No, Citizen watches and the Grand Seiko watches compare to a Rolex in quality and materials. Frankly, in my opinion no watch should cost $15,000 and frankly, most people who buy high-end luxury watches, do so to impress other people. I recommend the Citizen over Seiko, simply because Citizen offers a 5 year warranty compared to Sieko’s two year warranty. Additionally, both watch makers are pretty much even in materials and quality standards, yet avtual purchase pricing on Citizen is usually 10-15% cheaper than Sieko. In conclusion, you are not going to make a big impression of how wealthy you are wearing a Citizen or Sieko watch, but if wearing a decent watch is important to you, why not go for the better warranty and price, without having to sacrifice quality?

  8. Hope I don’t sound pretentious but I thought this might be of interest to your readers. Citizen do have some watches that compete with Swiss standard watches, just under a different brand name. They just didn’t include Citizen in the company name like Seiko did with Grand Seiko. Frederique Constant although, still maybe a little bit underrated, are still a well respected and high quality Swiss watch company, who are part of the Citizen Group.

  9. I’ve had my citizen for 10+ years. Accurate and awesome.

    Years ago I had a Seiko message watch. It was also atomic, accurate and awesome.

  10. I have owned a Seiko in the past and it was really good, I then sold a house and treated myself to an Omega Seasmaster which (as an automatic dive watch) is amazing. However, as an every day accurate, easy to read timepiece, I have a citizen eco drive and I have to say that I love it. I also own a Luminox, a Suunto and a G-Shock which all have their merits but my trusted watch for everyday use, travelling – it is the citizen.

  11. I have had a Seiko quartz for about 30 years. It has never lost a minute between battery changes, which last for several years. About 15 years ago I bought a cheaper Seiko on Overstock. Surprisingly, even though it is not the same quality, it has given me similar service and doesn’t lose any noticeable time between battery changes. That said, next time I’ll probably get an Orient or Citizen.

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