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).

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 crazy expensive 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 Men's Eco-Drive Promaster Nighthawk Dual Time Watch with Date, BJ7000-52E

Citizen Promaster Nighthawk

Citizen Men's Eco-Drive Titanium Perpetual Chrono Atomic Timekeeping Watch with Date,  AT4010-50E

Citizen Eco-Drive Titanium Perpetual Chrono

Citizen Men's Eco-Drive Stainless Steel Watch with Day/Date, 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 expensive and 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!