Japanese Watches

Buyers Guide: Modern Seikos & Citizens vs Old School Automatics

OK, here’s a dilemma; You have £100 to invest in a classic, collectable wristwatch, or maybe two and you check ebay, Fakebook Martketplace, Up a Gumtree, SchlockIt, plus your local Cash related High St shops.

First, forget about modern quartz watches like DKNY, Armani, Rotary, Michael Kors, Skagen, Storm, Cluse, Festina, Boss, Daniel Wellington, Fossil, Ted Baker and Uncle Tom Cobbleigh and all. These are mass market fashion watches, mostly featuring Miyota movements, prettyy much the same `engine’ as you find inside £25 Sekonda in my shop. Yes really. It’s extremely unlikely that anything with Armani on the dial and a 377 battery inside will ever set a record on the Antiques Greedshow 2058.

Seiko after 1

So choose an automatic. It has gears and cogs inside. But wait – some modern ones like Seiko Kinetics and Citizen Eco-Drives have fancy power cells too. Your wrist movement charges a power cell, which gives the Kinetic extra hours of charge, so you can leave it on a desk for two days and it will still be going. Nice. But the trouble is the Kinetics keep breaking down, just Google `capacitor failure Seiko Kinetic’ if you like.

Genuine parts cost about £40 as a kit, then someone has to fit it – or you can buy all the tools necessary, watch a You Tube video and give it a go yourself. It isn’t that complicated, but without the correct case knife, screwdrivers and tweezers, you’ll probably come unstuck and do some damage to the watch. I certainly did a few years back when learning the basics of fettling watches – and I had the correct tools!

If you don’t like the idea of a possibly dodgy Kinetic, then there’s the Seiko 5 – classic automatics, tough movements, all gears and cogs, featuring a range of dials from the 70s TV square style, to the more modern, shimmering blue one I wear every day for work. It’s scratched, and dented from a collision with a cupboard as I rushed to the workshop, but it still goes. Bought it from a watch fair, £25.

 

pixl seiko 1

ECO-DRIVE IS LIKE A PLANT, IT NEEDS LIGHT, OR DIES A SLOW DEATH

The Citizen Eco-Drive is a modern marvel of tech. Solar power charges the watch and away it goes, and you never need a battery. That’s what the adverts say.

True, but you will need a new battery one day, as they are re-chargeables and eventually, just like a laptop or phone battery, they lose the ability to hold charge. It’s physics and even Citizen cannot defeat physics.

Replacement varies from Eco-Drive model to model, but essentially it’s pretty similar to replacing a normal silver battery in a quartz watch, except the Citizen lithium has a tiny tab on the end of it, which needs to be aligned correctly. Before you go to that expense just try pulling the crown out on your Eco-Drive, and then exposing it to some direct sunshine for about 5 minutes. Give it 20 mins on a cloudy day. The push the crown back in and you might find it starts up again – many Eco-Drives go into a kind of shutdown mode when left abandoned in a box for months, so it’s worth a try.

pix citizen 2

It all adds up to more faffing about in my book, so again, my advice is spend your £100 buying two well looked after old school Citizen automatics, with real rotors spinning around powering up the movement.

These vintage Citizens often feature dazzling, colourful dials and they have a simplicity that means they will give you 50 years of service if you look after the movement and have it cleaned and lubricated once a decade.

You can still pick up excellent examples for £30-£50 each, but be aware that some could be re-painted models from India. Or save your cash up until you can afford a Citizen Bullhead, or a nice NY2300/NY0040 with the red/blue Pepsi style bezel, or the black dial/black case combo.

Always in demand with collectors and most likely, always will be.

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