Monday, May 26, 2014

Citizen Signature Grand Touring Automatic NB0070-57E - A lot of speculation on a watch with good vibes: A Review

The Citizen Signature Grand Touring Automatic NB0070-57E, an automatic watch by Citizen under the Signature series was introduced to the market in mid 2013. The Signature Collection by Citizen is a series of high quality watches similar to the Componola Collection (Japanese Domestic Model) but sold to North American and elsewhere.

This new model uses the Miyota 9010 movement, which is made exclusive for the Signature lineup. Although that is not unexpected for Citizen to do so, what is unexpected is the design cues used for the watch itself. For a start, it comes with a stainless steel housing which has the diameter of 44 mm and the thickness of 15 mm. Despite the dial and its fixed bezel being round, the main watch case is pillow shaped. The front of the timepiece is protected with a thick sapphire crystal with double anti-reflective coating. Coupled with its large crown protector with a patented system, the watch looks like a copy of a Panerai.

How could the CITIZEN WATCH CO. JAPAN, the largest watch company in the world could have ended up producing a watch that has a lot of people accusing it of copying? I for one don't think the truth is that simple. With a huge amount of resources available to the group, it would be obvious that this issue would have been brought up prior to production. By virtue that it did go through production as designed, there must be compelling reasons to believe Citizen is confident the watch can stand on its own. As we go through a thorough review of the watch, I will try to unravel key points about the watch that are ornately unique to it alone.

I needed to source this watch from North America. Calling my agent in Japan was not successful as it is not sold in Japan. It was only through Amazon that I got to order one. Total investment was USD896.25 plus USD15.31 for handling. Approximately five days later the package was on my table.


The actual box is deep blue in colour and protected by two layers. The first is a simple sleeve devoid of any brand logo. The dimensions are 165 mm long x 125 mm wide x 125 mm tall.

The size and colour of the box represent a significant departure from other Citizen watches I've bought previously. As part of the Signature line, Citizen wants to position this as a premier line hence the effort to jazz up the overall presentation.

The colour blue represents both the sky and the sea, and is associated with open spaces, freedom, intuition, imagination, expansiveness, inspiration, and sensitivity. Blue also represents meaning of depth, trust, loyalty, sincerity, wisdom, confidence, and faith.


Considered a highly corporate color, blue is often associated with intelligence, stability, unity, and conservatism.

By choosing the dark blue tone, Citizen is subtly telling everyone that it is royalty i.e. can be seen as elegant, rich, sophisticated and superior.

This subliminal message is seldom mentioned but it works especially on people because the watch industry itself has created a class system accepted by the vast majority. Many will covert a Rolex more instead of a Grand Seiko despite the fact that both have similar standards of manufacturing, quality and history (although this is arguable, what is important to note is that brand ranking plays a major part of the 'wow' factor that consumers want to see). Citizen understands this factor and actively works to improve the brand ranking by putting effort into every little thing to ensure customers' appreciation on their products continue to grow.


The main watch box is square with a dome bit on top. Made out of high quality PVC (if there ever could be one!), it has a very nice leather-like texture and the stitching is thick and obvious. The brand and special logo is stamped onto the box. Besides the box, there is also a similarly made wallet where the manual and guarantee card are kept. The box flips open from the back.


There are three documents provided in the wallet. The instruction manual, the guarantee document and the registering document. Citizen provides an online registration system for its watch owners. Although you wound think that this is a normal method of registration, it is actually not common. The only other brand I own that requires online registration to be done by the owner personally is Gruppo Gamma.


Citizen America is able to provide five (5) years limited warranty to watches it sells. This is unprecedented by any brand I know. In fact, even Citizen International could only guarantee the first year.

Even here in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the local authorized dealers can only provide a guarantee that mirrors what Citizen International could give i.e. for only one year.

Moreover, if you complete the online registration, an additional year of warranty will be provided (only if you are a resident of the US).
 


When you flip open the watch box, the first thing that you are greeted with is the carefully wrapped watch. You will also instantly notice the soft velvety interior.


Dispensing away the plastic wrappers and you will see a shining watch on a very soft, blue pillow. You will also get with the watch a paper tab that specify the model number (on the left of the watch) and a plastic seal (on the right of the watch).


Apart from my Rolexes and Omega, this is the only other time (at this moment) that a watch I bought comes with a seal tag. Making of such a tag is not expensive. However, the value of the impression it gives to the receiver is very high. For the owner, the seal is like a stamp-of-approval of highest quality. Although such assumption has no merit, it goes to show that the PR department of Citizen knows how to play the quality game.

If you look at the the seal tag, you will see the emphasis on the 5-year guarantee....
 

....and the history behind the brand 'Since 1918'. These factors reinforce the credibility of the brand and equates it with history, quality, strength as well as other strong adjectives to make it seem to be the best-in-class.


The Citizen Signature Grand Touring model NB0070-57E is a substantial watch, a real workman's watch. The AISI 316L stainless steel case and bracelet on the NB0070-57E is built solid. The case size is 44 mm wide (excluding the crown system) and approximately 14 mm tall. Lug width is 24 mm and its lug-to-lug measures approximately 50 mm. The finishing consist of mostly brushed steel with 2 stripes of high polish sections running up the bracelet. Meanwhile, the dial is protected by a dome sapphire crystal which has been given an anti-glare treatment.


Upon laying your eyes on this watch, you should notice three things that have been a contentious issue with watch enthusiasts since this model was launched back in 2013. The round dial on a pillow-shaped watch case, the use of Arabic numbers at the four compass points and the crown guard look uncannily like a Panerai. Despite the fact the crown guard has been patented by Citizen, the resemblance it obvious.

Citizen calls this watch the "Grand Touring". Despite it having a 200 meter water resistance rating, it is not designed as a diver.  The dial has broad markers making it too big to be a pilot watch. Taking a cue from the name, it would suggest that Citizen has created a new segment between dress and sports watches. From a dress watch perspective, the design structure must allow it to easily slip under cuffs. On the other hand, a sports watch should have wrist presence. Marrying this two requirements together, Citizen came up with the design you see before you. Other possible shapes apart from the classic round shape are the turtle and barrel (or tonneau) case designs. Below are some examples of possible shapes that Citizen could have chosen (do note that the list is not exhaustive).


Market surveys and focus groups would all point to a watch that shaped similar to a Panerai because that is the flavor of the season. Since Citizen have yet to have such a design in its stable (predecessor of the Grant Tourer is the Grand Classic - see picture on the right), the Grand Tourer would be a fitting first model to test market acceptance.


The dial on this Grand Touring has its own characteristic that has not been used before in other models under the Signature Collection series. With a black sunburst guilloche treatment as the dial background, the reference on the dial consists of raised Arabic numerals at the four main positions (3, 6, 9 and 12 o’clock positions). The design on the numerals gives it a three dimensional effect. Surprisingly, these numerals were not treated with luminous paint. Only the other hour markers, as well as the three hands which features a thick hour and minute hands and a seconds hand with a large arrow tip and a counterweight were treated with luminous paint. Meanwhile, minute markers are printed along the sloping chapter ring.

The dial of the watch is protected by a deeply domed sapphire crystal with dual sided anti-reflective coating.

The watch comes with a date window situated at the 3 o'clock position. I like the fact the date window does not disturb the overall symmetry of the dial.

Apart from the brand "CITIZEN" the only other writing on the dial is the words "AUTOMATIC" and "WR 200"


Meanwhile, the crown protector has a unique system where part of the crown protector actually comes out with the crown. This allow Citizen to dispense the need to have a screw-down and yet hit the 200 meter water resistance mark. Moreover, this system makes it easy to engage the crown when needed.

The Citizen Grand Touring is powered by a Citizen in-house automatic movement with 24 jewels. The Miyota 9010 high-pinion caliber is a self-winding mechanical movement with a power reserve of 42 hours and operates at 28,800 beats per hour. Citizen, who owns Miyota movements, very rarely uses Miyota automatic movements in the Citizen brand for the US. This movement, exclusive to Citizen Signature, moves very smoothly.


Sizing the bracelet is simple. Citizen uses a screw bar system that requires one to have a micro screwdriver to do the job. For my wrist size, I had to take 3 links out. Although much easier to adjust than the typical pin-and-collar system, you need to be weary of loose screw bars. On the first day of wearing this watch, I suddenly noticed that the last pin closer to the lug has come undone and has moved about 4 mm out of the link. Good thing I saw it. Otherwise, the watch could have just fallen off and damaged itself.


From the set of photos above, you can see the watch is built solid. The curved sapphire crystal is also evident.


The bracelet bridge is machined from solid stainless steel block instead of pressing. The clasp system is the folding sport style with spring release.

Unfortunately, apart from taking away links, there is no half-links or micro adjustment points to really have the bracelet snug on the wrist. It is either tight or loose for those with a 7.5 inch wrist (like mine). If you are slight more or slightly less than this, you should be fine.

Factory logo is embossed on the clasp.



The watch comes with an observation case-back. Made out of sapphire crystal, the Miyota 9010 Caliber movement can be clearly seen. The skeleton rotor has been decorated with the logo of the Signature line as well as brand name. Other pertinent information about the watch are etched around the case-back. It looks very classy.

I believe the case-back is a screw-down.  It is unlikely the case-back is only held in place with just the four small screws seen in the picture below. Moreover, the 200 meter water rating would require a stronger sealing mechanism.

The giveaway is the ribs along the outer rim of the crystal. It is not just for the sake of art but a design requirement for traction to help screw open or close the case-back.


Despite its size, it wears comfortably. The choice of using a 24 mm bracelet helps balance the weight of the watch on the wrist.


Even with a 7.5 inch wrist, the watch takes up a lot of real estate. The lug-to-lug length of 50 mm may be too overwhelming for smaller wrist sizes.

The lack of micro-adjustment points becomes a real problem here. Despite the light weight, the flapping about the wrist when the bracelet resizing is not perfect does get irritating after a while. This is one area of improvement that Citizen should seriously look into urgently.

The shape of the patented crown guard does not cause it to bite into your skin if you flex your hand right angle to your wrist. Although it does juts out pronouncedly from the main casing, it is not as thick. Hence, space is made available for you skin to move instead of being crushed by steel.



Overall, the watch is a good dress watch for those who prefers a more masculine look to his or her timepiece.The choice of the bracelet width balanced the large watch casing and helps mask the true size of this watch. I would recommend Citizen to consider adding in new models using titanium or even brass or bronze as these materials are becoming fashion symbols today. Instead of a shine finish, another potential new model could have a more dull or matte finishing for the vintage or military look.

Having said that, there are two other choices that were launched at the same time with this particular model. The first is reference NB0075-07E which has the same watch casing and dial but uses a brown leather strap. The second is reference NB0075-11F that comes in a black coated case with brown leather strap and rose gold plated hands and indexes.



The clasp on the Grand Tourer is very classy. Symmetrically balanced. Owners should beware though that scratches becomes obvious because of the shiny finish used throughout the watch surface.


The following photo proves the point that this watch can be used in formal settings. The design of the watch casing makes it easy to slip under shirt cuffs.


As a sports watch, the illumination on this watch is very poor. Although the hands are lumed properly, the markers are not in my opinion. The 12, 3, 6 and 9 o'clock positions should have been marked by some luminous paint. As it is, the dial looks weird in the dark.


Citizen's attempt at delivering a consumer demanded watch does appear to be working even though there are some kinks that still need to be addressed. However, for purists, this latest rendition under the Signature Collection has been full of questions and speculations. Unfortunately, this unwanted attention diminished the otherwise positive vibes of the watch. 









8 comments:

  1. I picked up my Citizen GT (with leather band) in early May of this year. I set it to my atomic wall clock in late evening (10:00 PM) on May 7. Since then, the GT had never deviate any more than +/- from the atomic clock depending on my activity level. Placing it on my night table at the crown up position, it would loose up to 1 second overnight (over the course of about 8 hours of inactivity). The watch would gain about 2.5 seconds in either face up or face down position overnight.
    It is currently early evening on May 27, my GT is at -1.0 second from the atomic wall clock. In short, it has lost 1.0 second over the last 20 days (or average of -0.05 s/d). This is nothing short of impressive. It brew my mind off that a $900 watch actually beat the performance of my Tissot Le Locle Chronometre hands down. My tissot, at least the last time I track it, gained an average of 2.5 s/d over the course of 60 days which is well within the COSC requirement of +6/-4 s/d (average).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow...excellent result. Sooner or later, more people will know about this and demand for Citizen will grow.

      Thanks for the great comment!

      Delete
    2. For the record, I put away the GT at 10:00 PM on June 6. It clocked in at +4.0 seconds total against my atomic clocksince 10:00 PM on May 7. It gained 4 seconds over 30 days! This worked out to gaining an average of 0.13 s/d. Wow! that is nothing short of stunning!
      I wonder how long my GT could keep up with this kind of accuracy! Only time will tell!

      Delete
    3. to the blogger
      I want to ask you something please
      if you can send a message to have your mail adress
      my email luiza_roman@yahoo.com

      Delete
  2. Great review! I believe I have this same model; although, my movement is cal9012. I really like this as a dress watch. But, I don't like that the clasp rattles a little too much when it's closed. (only if its tapped on) I am considering swapping the band for a Marathon leather NAT0 strap/black. That should make it nice and sporty.

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  3. Great review! On the topic of the caseback screws however I can confirm that it's really just those 4 screws that hold it in place, the caseback is not screwed town.

    I guess that still achieves 200m water resistance due to fitting really snugly, and the caseback pressing down on a rubber gasket. Added water pressure would just press it down further, improving the seal. (It's the same with a Vostok Amphibia for example, although this uses a separate screwed in ring to press down on the actual caseback.)

    (I know this from actually opening it up to regulate it to even better accuracy.)

    ReplyDelete

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