The Citizen Tsuno Chronograph, celebrating 50 years of an iconic design

Headline-grabbing drops are often about two things: visual impact and timing. The Citizen Tsuno Chrono 50th Anniversary watch scores highly on both, given it is a gold-tone-cased bull-head chronograph hitting the market just as the excitement of Omega’s news last week recedes…

Depending on your personal preferences, there are either too many or too few bull-head chronographs on the market. While the design is unequivocally less commercial than the “regular round” chronograph, it does have a special place in the hearts of many chronograph enthusiasts. That is especially true for those that regard the 1970s as the complication’s finest era. Given the unique set of conditions that arose around that time, it is an assertion that would hold weight with many horological scholars.

1969 was quite a year in the annals of watchmaking. Perhaps most famous for the Omega Speedmaster’s journey to the moon on the wrist of Buzz Aldrin, those historic twelve months saw two other watchmaking milestones achieved: both the world’s first quartz watch (the Seiko Astron) and the world’s first automatic chronograph movement hit the market before the year was out.

Shortly after, in 1972, Citizen released its first mechanical chronograph series known as the Challenge Timer. Hot on the heels of that release, a striking bull-head variant followed in January ‘73, quickly being christened the “Tsuno Chrono”. Now, after fifty years, it’s time for a re-edition.

1973 Original Citizen Tsuno Chrono
1973 Original Citizen Tsuno Chrono

The Low-Down

Limited to 3,000 individually-numbered pieces, this edition leans into the typical color tones of its era. When one thinks of the 1970s, one cannot ignore the orange, brown, cream, gold, and black colorway that seemed to haunt every living room in the Western world. Is it a bit cartoonish? Yes, it’s absolute kitsch. But does that mean it won’t be a hit? Certainly not. The 1970s, for all of the ills it inflicted upon fashion, was undoubtedly a creative period with plenty of stylistic successes to counterbalance the eye-meltingly bad chromatic cataclysms that we are perhaps too quick to mention whenever the decade pops up in conversation.

Citizen Tsuno Chrono
Citizen Tsuno Chrono

At 45mm across and 15.3mm thick, this is no shrinking violet. Added to the fact it is a Bull-Head chrono (and Bull-Head chronographs tend to stand up very tall on the wrist), you will not be able to fly under the radar with this special anniversary model on your wrist.

The biggest change between the Tsuno of the ‘70s and the Tsuno of today is the movement. While the original Tsuno rode the wave of enthusiasm surrounding mechanical chronographs of the day, the modern interpretation relies on the original’s battery-powered rival — the quartz movement.

Citizen Tsuno Chrono
Citizen Tsuno Chrono

This movement, Caliber E210, is accurate to ±15 seconds per month (and that’s when it’s operating without time signal reception, which should keep it running to the second when within range).

This Eco-Drive movement is powered by ambient light and can, when fully charged, run for up to eight months. A power reserve is handily indicated on the dial (at 9), along with a host of other indications. At 12 o’clock there is a 60-minute counter for the flyback chronograph, mirrored by a 12-hour counter at 6. The PR indicator is balanced by a fourth sub-dial at 3 o’clock showing the running seconds.

Citizen Tsuno Chrono
Citizen Tsuno Chrono

In addition to the pushers at 11 and 1 o’clock and the crown at 12, and the alarm-setting crown at 5, this watch also has an unusually-located date (between 1 and 2) as well as an alarm on/off indicator between 4 and 5. This is clearly because an existing caliber has simply been rotated 90 degrees counter-clockwise to move the crown position from 3 to 12 and everything else has followed suit. Does that realization lessen the impact of the Bull-Head Tsuno chronograph? I’d be inclined to say no, simply because this watch requires such a leap of faith, to begin with, one might as well suspend all criticism and just go with the flow. It is what it is and what it is is unlike anything else.

IMHO

The Citizen Tsuno Chrono is a lot. There’s no other way to put it. Yes, this reedition has benefitted from some modern manufacturing updates, but it’s still an anachronistic idea. What kind of demand was there for a gold-toned bull-head chronograph? Did anyone notice a 3,000-strong army of bull-head fanciers marching on Citizen HQ? I must have missed that. Apparently, though, Citizen heard the call of this (possibly imaginary) mob and answered it with this release.

Of course, I jest. The watch is a bit ridiculous but it does deserve praise. It is bold. It is uncompromising. And it is different. It is all the things we want to see more of in the watch industry and that’s always a good thing.

Having worked with Citizen directly in the past, I know this: the brand has a legion of fans and collectors and they are some of the most passionate out there. Citizen’s affordability, willingness to follow trends, and surprising (although perhaps unintended) ability to laugh at itself every now and then is to its credit. It has cultivated a highly engaged and mobilized base. That support alone will likely be enough to shift 3,000 of these pieces, but hopefully, some of them will go to those whose tastes lie just outside of the mainstream. Hopefully, plenty will go to men and women who’ve been waiting for a release like this for a long time. I don’t know any of those people personally, but I know they’re out there. And, knowing how “special” this release is, I wish I could have seen their faces when they saw it for the first time.

Citizen Tsuno Chrono
Citizen Tsuno Chrono

Tech Specs

Citizen Tsuno Chrono

Movement: Cal. E210
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date, power reserve, flyback chronograph, and alarm function
Case: 45mm diameter, 15.3mm thick
Dial: Black and gold with red accents
Strap: Vintage brown leather
Price: USD 1,195
Availability: Available from July 6th from www.citizenwatch.com. Limited to 3,000pcs.

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