Left - Citizen E168 caliber (Eco-drive movement) , right - Seiko V157 caliber (Solar movement)
As we sail in times when it's necessary for us to become more aware of our environment, it seems that solar powered watches' time is just coming up. And when you dig into the solar powered time-tellers, two lines stand out as the most popular: One from Citizen, their famous Eco-Drive, and other from Seiko, their Solar line. When you try to compare watches from Citizen Eco-Drive and Seiko Solar lines, you get a feeling as if you need to compare their parent brands, Citizen and Seiko, as these two sub-brands are their worthy representatives. Deciding which one is more worth your wrist is not only a tough decision; it also has more to do with fear of missing out, since, by now, both brands have hit a high-quality scale when it comes to their timepieces. The first thing that comes to my mind is that this is a super-tough decision, as both Citizen Eco-Drive and Seiko Solar have their piece of charm and deliver similar results in terms of performance. On the other hand, these two companies have somewhat different target groups. But if the coin has to fall on one side, then let's examine what makes each of them so popular. To start doing it, we have to start from the beginning of the solar watch era, by reminding you that both Citizen and Seiko introduced their solar watches in the 1970's. Citizen did so in 1976, to be exact, while Seiko did it a year later. The Eco-Drive was Citizen''s 1990's breakthrough that placed the solar cells behind the dial, which put Citizen on a wide commercial market. On the other side, Seiko Solar line also improved over time, but its exquisite craftsmanship kept it reserved only for direct or sales through authorized dealers. In conclusion, Citizen is more of a commercial watch brand and even if Seiko isn't particularly a luxury brand, it is still highly respected because of their focus on in-house, devoted production.
Citizen Standard Solar Cell
Citizen Ring Solar Cell
Seiko Solar Cell
Undoubtedly, both Citizen Eco-Drive and Seiko Solar have evolved during the decades. In fact, over time, the solar technology itself has evolved so much that modern solar watches can now be powered by artificial light. Truth to be told, not all light sources will charge the watch the same and sunlight is still a king, but just the idea that your watch will be powered while there is some - or any light is super convenient. Citizen’s Eco-Drive was created with exactly the same idea in mind – to create energy even from the dim light and yet enable the watch to run for months without charging. Today, Eco-Drive employs solar cells behind and around dial (image above), to make charging super-quick. When it comes to Seiko, the story is pretty much the same, except the placing of solar cells. Seiko keeps them under their opaque dial (image below), which makes the watches stand out by their look. Only a minute of charge generates enough power for around an hour, which, together with long power reserve in rest mode, keeps Seiko in line with Citizen in these tracks.
As you may already know, in the past decades, both lines have significantly improved the longevity of batteries that run their watches, as well as their power reserves. When it comes to these two lines of solar powered or, better said, light powered watches, their current models have covered all the weak spots of their predecessors. In fact, they did it so well, that some solar timepieces are now among the most reliable ones, at least when it comes to power reserves. The same goes for accuracy whose fallout cannot really be felt in real life. If you need to go deeper into details, we've wrote about it earlier, in this article. But let's not talk about what these two lines of light powered timepieces have in common, as that means a lot of things - let's rather mention their differences to see what makes each of them stand out. When it comes to specific characteristics such as look and performances, Citizen's Eco-Drive is employed in more different collections and models than when it comes to Seiko, so there are definitely more choices in Citizen's case. On the other hand, most of the Citizen's Eco-Drive watches rely on the quartz movement, while Seiko Solar line mostly employs automatic movements, but there are exceptions, of course. I think it would be wise to take a look at some of the most prominent models from both lines, to showcase the complexity of the matter.
Citizen Watch Eco-Drive 100th Anniversary AV0077-82E
When it comes to Citizen Eco-Drive Limited Models, Citizen Watch Eco-Drive 100th Anniversary AV0077-82E, Japan Limited Edition of 3000 Pieces is surely worth the mention. Marked with 100th anniversary logo on its back, its price goes from $800.
Citizen Eco-Drive Satellite Wave GPS with satellite-synchronized movement F990 from 2011 is another worthy representative of the line with its super-cool design and so called “time from the sky”. Prices of this piece go over $3500, but mind the fact that even this one is the older model, it is one of the coolest (and historical) Citizen’s watches.
Citizen Eco-Drive Promaster JY8078-01L on FKM Quick Release Watch Strap
Citizen Eco-Drive Promaster Sky line has a model on the lower price end but surely worth mentioning: Citizen Eco-Drive Promaster JY8078-01L Blue Angels Skyhawk that delivers an excellent-looking timepiece for around $350.
Citizen Promaster BN0193-17E Rose Gold on Endmill Bracelet
Citizen Eco-Drive Promaster Marine line delivers another affordable diver watch: Citizen Promaster BN0193-17E Rose Gold coated Eco-Drive Diver, which can be found for as low as $200.
Seiko Prospex Black Series Limited Edition Solar SNE493P1 and Seiko Prospex Black Series Limited Edition Solar Chronograph SSC673P1 are 2018 models on the higher price end and can be bought for slightly over $600.
Seiko Prospex Chronograph Save The Ocean Special Edition SSC675P1 on Italian Racing strap
Seiko Prospex Save the Ocean Special Edition Solar Chronograph SSC675P1 is another great diver watch available for around $400.
Seiko Prospex 200M Solar Divers Tuna series has Black SNE497P1, Black Gold SNE498P1 and PADI SNE499P1, with prices from $220 to over $350.
Seiko Prospex Fieldmaster Digital Tuna Solar X LOWERCASE on Navy, White & Red Nato
Seiko Prospex Fieldmaster Digital Tuna Solar X LOWERCASE attracts attention with three models: White SBEP011, SBEP003 and SBEP005, whose price ranges from $270 to over $400.
The Seiko Prospex 'Street Series' has 3 charming fellas: Solar Diver Navy Blue SNE533, Olive Green SNE535 and Grey SNE537 and their price goes around $450.
Seiko Prospex Arnie Re-Issue holds another 3 worthy solar representatives for around $500: Solar Hybrid Black LCD Watch SNJ025P1, SNJ027P1 and SNJ028P1 With all these facts in mind, I hope you have now realized why the first thing that came to my mind was that it’s almost impossible to decide. If you ask me, none if these watches is not even close to ordinary, but is rather a handsome, accurate and reliable timepiece. To briefly breakdown the financial side of the story, Citizen’s Eco-Drive may be less expensive choice than Seiko Solar in most cases, so Citizen may give you more value for your bucks. But the choice is tricky because Seiko plays on peculiar craftsmanship, so it really comes down to what you appreciate more. In the end, both choices will probably give you a watch that will last you a lifetime, so you cannot lose whatever you choose. So if you find yourself in situation where you must choose between Citizen's Eco-Drive and Seiko Solar, maybe it's best to ask yourself one simple question to determine to which target group you belong. What sounds more appealing to you: Saving money by buying more commercial brand or paying more for craftsmanship? There lies your answer.
Written by M.H. , Photo by Toni