Wednesday, June 28, 2017

CITIZEN INDEPENDENT Mechanical Watch INNOVATIVE 20th Anniversary Model Reference BJ3-411-91 – Just A Fashion Watch, A Review (plus Video)

Of the three mainstream Japanese watch brands, Citizen’s mechanical line is not as extensive as Seiko’s or Orient’s. They are also not as readily available outside Japan as compared to the other two brands. The sub- brands of Citizen are even rarer compared to the sub-brands of Seiko and Orient such as the Seiko 5 or Orient M-Force. One that is seldom seen is the Citizen INDEPENDENT sub-brand.

The INDEPENDENT celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2016. This sub-brand in known to adopt lifestyle or fashion watch designs in its offerings. Collaborations with famous artists in practically all branches of the art world from music to fashion, animation and games has created a brand collection that is eclectic to say the least. Unfortunately, the INDEPENDENT is a JDM line and any literature found on this line is limited and mostly in Japanese. Even in Wikipedia, the only sentence worth mentioning is; “Watches produced through the Independent label are generally released through seasonal collections.

As a collector, I should get one. So, I decided to get the INNOVATIVE 20th Anniversary Model Reference BJ3-411-91 as this is the one most appealing to me (also more contemporary in design compared to the rest). Found an example in eBay Malaysia for RM1,367.66. The list price in Japan is YEN36,720. Additional cost for GST was RM129.45.

Basically, the watch is a skeleton style mechanical watch. It is made out of all brushed surface stainless steel construction including the bracelet. Width is 42 mm (excluding the crown) with a case thickness of 13.2 mm. Lug width is 20 mm while the lug-to-lug is approximately 45 mm. The screw-down case-back is solid. Meanwhile the crown is located at the 3 o’clock position.

The watch is styled after either the famous Seiko’s ‘turtle’ casing or Rado’s Diastar casing. It is hard to pinpoint which one has the bigger influence as the amalgamation is really exceptional. However, some parts of the watch are rather stylistic. The dial display, crystal and crown are three interesting aspects on the watch.

The display is a mixture of the traditional hand-based and the more unique disk-based systems.

The ‘seconds’ indicator utilizes a thin seconds-hand that is painted in light blue. The scale for the ‘seconds’ are printed on the sloping chapter ring which has a black background. This scale has markers for each second as well as Arabic numbering for every 5th second.

Meanwhile, the ‘minutes’ indicator is a small transparent disk located in the center of the dial. The ‘minutes’ scale has markers for every minute as well as Arabic numbering for every 5th minute. Instead of a clockwise format, the scale is done in the opposite as the wheel turns counter-clockwise. To refer to the correct minute, a thin red reference line is provided that lies close to the 9 o’clock position.

This thin red reference line is not located exactly along the 9 o’clock plane. Instead, there is a one degree parallel shift downwards from the horizontal plane. Connected to the thin red reference line is another red line bordering the edge of the dial surface. This line is just long enough to frame an hour of the hour scale. Coupled with a black triangular plate underneath the dial, it makes it easier to refer to the hour as well as the minute.

Finally, the ‘hours’ indicator is a large transparent disk centered on the dial and below the smaller ‘minutes’ disk. The ‘hours’ scale has Arabic numbering from 1 to 12, in white paint. Similar to the ‘minutes’ scale, it is aligned counterclockwise. To refer to the correct hour, the same thin red reference line is used.

There is nothing else printed on the various surfaces of the dial.

The crystal is mineral glass but with a faceted shape instead of a typical flat or domed configuration. Similar to the way diamonds are cut, the faceted surfaces creates brilliance when you look at the dial at differing angles. The crystal is thicker at the left and right sides of the casing before gently thinning in the center, top and bottom.

You need to be careful with this watch. The tall crystal and faceted surfaces can be prone to impacts.

Interestingly, the INDEPENDENT logo is printed on the bottom surface of the crystal at the top half of the watch. Printed in black ink, the designers kept it small and you really need to have the watch close to your eyes to be able to see it clearly.

This is definitely different from contemporary designs and can be a conversational piece to those happened to lay their eyes on it.

The third and final unique aspect of the watch is the crown. Instead of a barrel shaped crown, it is a square cube. It has only two positions, push-down for safe (ability to manually wind) and pull-out to adjust the time.

The cube crown looks weird as it does not match to any parts of the watch. If you have OCD, you can get very frustrated with the crown if it is twisted ever so slightly to your preferred alignment.

Readability could be an issue to a number of people. The use of disks to tell time coupled with the skeleton nature of the design makes it difficult to sight the time. The faceted crystal compounded the problem further as the effects of refraction plays havoc with the eyes and mind. This watch is definitely a fashion watch.

The case-back is a screw-down. Information about the watch is etched at the centre in a similar to the style that that of Bell & Ross. Interesting points to note from the information given are its water rating of 10 ATM or 100 meters and that it is cased in China.

The bracelet fits the 20 mm lugs and tapers down to 18 mm at the clasp. The links are solid pieces including the end-links. There are no micro-adjustment points on the clasp but two half-links are provided instead. The links are linked together by friction pins. The bridge between the two halves of the bracelet is a plain stamp sheet of metal which looks cheap. Nevertheless, it is thin enough to make the clasp flush to the wrist when locked.

From the scant information that I can find from the internet and translated into English, the watch is said to use a “Caliber 8224”. However, I cannot find any information about this caliber at all. On further investigation through Miyota’s (Citizen’s movement maker) website, I suspect the “Caliber 8224” is the Miyota 8N24 mechanical movement (refer to the specification file and drawing at the end of this review). This movement is automatic with manual winding capability but without second-hand stop function. It has 21 jewels and operates at 21,600 VPH or 3 Hertz. It has a power reserve of approximately 42 hours with an accuracy rate of -20 to +40 seconds per day. Instead of using hour and minute hands, the designers substituted it with disks. I suspect this could have some impact to the accuracy due to the weight of the disks.

The Wearing Experience

From a size perspective, the watch is just nice. It sits properly on my wrist and the bracelet wraps around the wrist cleanly. Due to the turtle shape watch casing and high crystal, it slips easily under shirt cuffs without much effort.

Getting the multi-faceted crystal dirty affects the readability of the dial adversely. The negative effect is much more compared to normal watch with a flat crystal. This is due to the refractive effect. As such, one need to clean the faceted crystal often as smudges gets magnified. Below is a video of the watch on my wrist.

The Package

The watch came in a small rectangle black cardboard watch box. Fitted with a sleeve, the watch box opens with a hinge at the back revealing the watch on a black velvet pillow. Apart from the watch and pillow is the guarantee document as well as a rather unusual manual. Instead of booklet form it is folded into a rectangle tube. It opens up like a folding map and made out of cheap paper.


This is definitely a fashion watch. Practicality is not something that is primary during the design phase. I doubt that I will be wearing it often. Nevertheless, I still keep it in the collection as this is a unique brand.

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