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Japanese watches for all
The Pilot Watch Magazine
30 May 2024

Innovative quality timepieces from Japan

The history of the world-famous Japanese watch brand Citizen goes back to the founding of the Shokosha Watch Research Institute by the Tokyo jeweler and watchmaker Kamekichi Yamasaki in 1918. Today, more than 100 years later, Citizen is a global electronics group based in Tokyo. In addition to its own watch division, since the end of 2007 the timepieces of Bulova, a brand known not only in aviation circles, have also belonged to the Japanese company.

The aim of the Shokosha Watch Research Institute is the development and production of high-quality Japanese watches at a price – not self-evident at the time – affordable for the broad mass of the population. Initially, Kamekichi Yamasaki buys all the components necessary for assembly in Switzerland. Soon, however, these can be manufactured on machine tools – imported from the Swiss – themselves.

Citizen is known around the world for its uncompromising values: technical precision, innovative thinking, quality craftsmanship and excellent design.


The birth of the Citizen brand

In 1924, the time has finally come: Kamekichi Yamasaki proudly presents his first timepiece to the public. As many citizens as possible – in English Citizen – should be able to afford the pocket watch. To express this hope, according to tradition, the watch was christened Citizen by Tokyo’s mayor Gotō Shimpei.

In 1930, a Japanese-Swiss group of investors takes over the Shokosha Watch Research Institute and parts of a watch factory opened in Yokohama in 1908 by Swiss entrepreneur Rodolphe Schmid. They founded the Citizen Watch Company – the birth of the Citizen brand, whose name rights Schmid had already secured in 1918.

Innovation from quartz to solar

In the years that followed, Citizen expanded, consistently relying on technological progress and continuously developing its timepieces. Production machines for watches and movements are acquired abroad, production capacities are increased. Wristwatches from Citizen surprised again and again with new functions. The big breakthrough came in the 1970s. Quartz watches from Citizen conquer the world – just like the digital timepieces of the Japanese competitors Seiko and Casio.

Many other innovations followed. For example, at the end of the 1970s, the first solar-powered wristwatch, a groundbreaking development at the time. Or in the early 1990s, the first radio-controlled watch for maximum precision on the wrist, synchronized with atomic clocks worldwide. To this day, Citizen continues to surprise with new progressive ideas, true to the motto: If time never stops, why should we?

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