The watch world of 2023 is one of contradictions. Mechanical timekeeping, an inherently antiquated concept, is held aloft as the pinnacle of aspiration and luxurious achievement. Simultaneously, watches which feature technological advancement in the most literal sense, i.e. smart watches, are largely disregarded as generic or uninspiring. Thus traditional watchmakers are left with a conundrum – how does one innovate while still remaining within the confines of a proudly, even romantically, archaic field? How does an industry that focuses so heavily on history and heritage, find new inspiration? Sometimes, you just have to go outside on a sunny day and look up.
Citizen, the Japan-based watch company perhaps best known for their highly accurate quartz and solar timepieces has been steadily cranking out affordable and precise timepieces for decades. Eco-Drive, Citizen’s solar powered series, was released in 1995 as an evolution of a technology that had been in the works since the 1970s – a timepiece which had the accuracy and efficiency of a quartz watch, without the cumbersome drawbacks and limitations of a battery. Today, the collection is a cornerstone of Citizen’s offerings and ranges in price from a few hundred dollars to several thousand. While the performance of the Eco-Drive has always been impressive, lasting up to 6 months on a single charge of sunlight, Citizen was not satisfied to rest on their laurels. Thus, the Eco-Drive 365 was born.
Featuring a brand-new movement, the Eco-Drive 365 is a watch that can operate for an entire year on a single full charge. It does so without the need of winding, batteries, or any other supplementation. Just the power of the sun and its own efficiency. A truly remarkable achievement by any measure. While the effects of climate change are certainly not going to be reversed by removing watch batteries from landfills or charging bricks from the power grid, every bit truly does count. The more companies that design with this perspective in mind, the better.
Initially, the Eco-Drive 365 will be available in three varieties. The case is a reinterpretation of vintage quartz models from the 1970’s, with a faintly cushion-esque shape that is broken up by sharp straight facets resulting in a somewhat sporty, even muscular profile. The first two are encased in stainless steel, with one blacked-out and the other a more traditional silver tone. Apart from the incredible power reserve and retro-futurist case aesthetic, the real star of the show is the dial, which sparkles with four glittery colors against the inky blackness, like the resplendence of stars on a moonless night sky.
The third example, which will be limited to 1200 pieces worldwide, is a trumpeting celebration of vintage aesthetics with its golden rehaut punctuated by 4 lab grown rubies and a matching gold handset. To further accentuated its 70’s roots, a brown leather strap has been paired with the watch. I keeping with the general eco-friendly and ethical direction of the Eco-Drive series, the leather for the straps have been sourced from LWG certified tanneries. Which is always a good thing.
Despite the passage of nearly 40 years, there may still remain a subtle undercurrent of resentment left over from the quartz crisis, nagging pressure points like muscular knots logged deep within the tissue of the larger watch industry and enthusiast community. In spite of this, watch collectors are constantly clamoring for fresh ideas, new mechanisms, and innovative approaches to the art of time keeping. While smart watches and quartz watches may be rather ubiquitous, that does not mean that there are not horologically fascinating and genuinely exciting watches available that do not contain a balance wheel.
For decades, citizen has been making ever increasingly precise timepieces, including the Calber 0100, the most accurate self-contained wrist watch currently available. With the advent of the Eco-Drive 365 and its mind boggling yearlong charging capacity, the Eco-Drive collection is slowly starting to accumulate some truly world class superlatives. Much like the Corvette C8 challenged the conventions of what it meant to be a super car when it was announced in 2019, specifically when it comes to price, the Eco-Drive 365 challenges what it means to be a world class timepiece – and, much like the C8, the Eco-Drive 365 looks darn good while doing it.