Introducing the Citizen AQ4100-65W
There was a time when color ruled the watch world, but today is not that day. Textures are more important than ever as discerning watch collectors look to add variety rather than vivaciousness to their watch boxes. The Tosa washi paper dialed Citizen AQ4100-65W does just that.
For longer than anyone probably cares to mention, Grand Seiko has been regarded as the duke of decoration, the prince of patterns, and the untouchable titan of texture. Lovers of luxury watchmaking have long had their eyes turned east by the seemingly peerless dial designs of the Japanese juggernaut. And yet, that might be changing. Grand Seiko is far from alone in its homeland. Smaller independent brands like Minase, Hajime Asaoka, and Asaoka’s more accessible side-brand Kurono Tokyo are upping their efforts to be acknowledged abroad, and their success seems to be inspiring the somewhat slumbering giant that is Citizen to wake up and make a move for the top spot it could fairly claim it deserves.
The brand of Citizen is very active in certain ways. Its highly functional and affordable watches are distributed globally and represent one of the most trusted products on the market. It dominates high street windows the world over. It even invests heavily in the creation of extremely accurate quartz pieces (such as the Caliber 0100, planet Earth’s most accurate light-powered quartz watch with a staggering annual accuracy of +/- one second). And yet, when it comes to finishing, the skill for which Japanese watchmaking is perhaps most lauded internationally, Citizen’s name is seldom mentioned among the greats.
Well, that might be about to change with the further extension of the brand’s beguiling Tosa washi paper range, which sees the Citizen AQ4100-65W join its ranks. This limited edition model is powered by an extremely precise light-powered Eco-Drive caliber boasting timekeeping stats five times worse than the C0100, but many times better than almost anything else on the market. For those of us more used to mechanical timepieces being feted for chronometric performance defined as a daily rate between +6 and -4 seconds, the +/- five seconds per year performance is truly stunning.
But the real charm of the AQ4100-65W is in its dial design. This time, Tosa washi paper has been embellished by the use of powdered platinum leaf. This pulverized precious metal is applied using the ancient Japanese decorative technique known as Sunago-maki. Each piece is lovingly brought to life by skilled artisans to “evoke the image of freshly fallen snow.”
If that reminds you of another famous Japanese watch from GS, you’re not alone. However, this model is markedly different from Grand Seiko’s famous Snowflake model in its creation process and perhaps even more stunning to behold because of it.
The Sunago-maki technique requires an artisan to place flakes of material (platinum is used here but other materials such as gold have been used in the past) in a bamboo tube and then sprinkle them over a base surface to create this dazzling effect. For this model, Tosa washi paper forms the base surface. It has been used for generations in the construction of traditional Japanese houses to allow light to flood interior spaces, making it the perfect medium to employ on the dial of a light-powered timepiece.
The crisp, almost angelic colorway of the dial is further enhanced by the case. Here, Citizen’s Super Titanium*2 material (approximately 40% lighter than stainless steel and five times harder), which, for this model, has been treated with Duratect*3 Platinum, is deployed with great effect, giving a brighter and whiter appearance to the watch.
This is particularly notable because of regular platinum’s softness (which comes in somewhere between 50-110 Hv). The Duratect technology improves the Vickers hardness of platinum to 1,000 Hv, which makes it extremely durable and suitable for the daily rigors of life on the wrist.
One slightly under-the-radar fact about all of Citizen’s highly accurate calibers is that they also feature an automatic perpetual calendar, which will ensure this watch displays the correct date from now until February 28, 2100, assuming the capacitor (which takes the place of a traditional battery) is replaced as and when is necessary).
The dial is signed by the brand’s name and its eagle motif, which represents the dual ideals of Citizen, described as “foresight and dedication to the pursuit of ideals as well as the enduring connection between watch and wearer.”
What we think
There’s a lot to like about this elevated collection from Citizen. We recently covered Citizen’s previous release in this line (the Citizen Eco-Drive Black Washi Paper Dial Limited Edition, reference AQ4103-16E), which came in a Duratect Gold case with gold hands, a black dial, and gold maki decoration. I commented at the time that my preference would have been a slight luxurification of reference AQ4091-56A, a white dialed-variant that I felt might have benefitted from a gold handset, a la the Grand Seiko SBGA059, but this model has made me rethink those musings.
To me, this is easily the best iteration of the washi paper/Sunago-maki concept. The platinum elevates this proposition to an entirely new level and the Duratect Platinum-coated bracelet is a massive upgrade on the black leather strap that came with reference AQ4103-16E. Better still, the price increase is just USD 500, with this piece sitting at $4,300 in comparison to the $3,800 of the AQ4103-16E. Lastly, there will be 500 units of AQ4100-65W made available worldwide, a significant and sensible uptick on the 350 pieces of the AQ4103-16E made available.
All in all, this is the most exciting Citizen watch I’ve ever encountered. I was, like most of the watch industry, wowed by the technical brilliance of Caliber C0100, but was personally left cold by the design (and hot under the collar by the five-figure price tag).
Here, I think we have a finely balanced offering that sits below 5K, utilizes traditional Japanese materials and techniques, and melds that seamlessly with a reliable and resilient EcoDrive movement. It is most certainly a piece capable of melting the Grand Seiko Snowflake’s mystique with a huge amount of differentiation in a contemporarily sized package.
Citizen Eco-Drive Tosa Washi Paper Dial Limited Edition
Movement: Cal.A060 with an annual variation of ±5 seconds
Functions: Time (hours, minutes, and seconds) and date
Case: 38.3 mm × 12.2 mm, hardened Super Titanium coated with Duratect Platinum, water-resistant to 100 m
Dial: White Tosa washi paper with platinum leaf maki
Strap: Super Titanium bracelet coated with Duratect Platinum
Price: USD 4,300
Availability: Available November 2023 and limited to 500 pieces worldwide.
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|Hours, minutes and seconds
|41.5mm; 316 steel with Cerulean blue stonewashed Cerakote coating, matte vintage navy aluminium bezel insert; water resistant to 300m
|Matte vintage navy; hour markers outlined in Super-LumiNova
|Vintage navy TPU-coated nylon; additional vintage navy nylon with fabric keepers
|Limited Edition of 200 pieces