A Timely Success – Citizen and Solar Powered Watches

No other manufacturer of affordable, consumer grade wristwatches has experienced the amazing run of success enjoyed by Citizen watches over the past few years. Citizen's quality is strong, and their design team has hit the mark time and time again, but perhaps more than any other factor, Eco-Drive technology may be responsible for the Japan-based watchmaker's tremendous popularity. What is Eco-Drive technology, and how has it contributed to give Citizen watches an edge in the ultra-competitive quartz watch marketplace?

In a nutshell, Eco-Drive means solar-powered. But the history of solar-powered microelectronics carries with it some unfortunate associations. Many recall solar-powered pocket calculators that required constant exposure to light to remain powered. There is a perception that a solar-powered watch would operate in a similar fashion and need to be reset every morning.

In addition, visible solar receptors on a watch dial can be anathema to good design. They may look fine on a pocket calculator, or geeky black plastic digital watch, but difficult to integrate into a more traditional looking watch.

The introduction of Eco-Drive was a technological and marketing triumph on several levels. First of all, the watches look … well … normal. One would never guess up a visual inspection that a Citizen Eco-Drive watch is solar-powered.

Every Eco-Drive watch employs a translucent dial. Light, including indoor light passes through the dial, into an amorphous silicon solar cell which charges an internal lithium-ion battery, which is designed to undergo an unlimited number of charge / discharge cycles.

Fully charged, the battery will continue to power the watch for anywhere from several months to several years without requiring additional exposure to light. The power reserve of any particular watch really depends upon the functions of that watch. Some require more power than others. Many of the more sophisticated models also have a hibernation mode where all watch functions go to sleep after a long period of activity, but then wake up and reset to the correct time and date when watch is moved or exposed to light again.

Second, Citizen's use of the term Eco-Drive avoids the use of the term 'solar', implying a more sophisticated and modern technology is at work here.

The term Eco-Drive also taps the public's growing consciousness of the need for more environmentally-friendly technological solutions. Although a watch battery is a little thing, the disposal of millions of these tiny cells each year is considered by some to be a hazard to the environment.