Seiko seems to get all the love when it comes to vintage Japanese dive watches, but Citizen was also producing some top notch tool divers in the 1970’s. One of their most popular divers with collectors today is the now classic model 52-0110. Made in the late 1970’s, the Citizen 52-0110 was similar in many respects to its Seiko counterparts, the 6105 and 6309 divers.
While the Seiko had some pretty radical case design elements, the Citizen is more classically styled. The large, solid stainless steel case measures a healthy 40mm wide by just over 46mm long and nearly 14mm thick. Large, straight lugs set at 20mm wide give it a sturdy feel on the wrist. The large crown is at 3 o’clock, and screws down for superior water resistance. One nice feature of the crown and tube screw down system is that the threads are large, making it more difficult to accidentally cross thread it and damage it.
The dial is a beautiful and functional matte black, with rectangular raised chrome hour markers that are filled with a really sweet light green lume. The dial is very similar to the Seiko 6105 dials, except that the 12 o’clock marker is a large rectangle rather than the shield shape of the Seiko. Signed below the 12 with a raised metal “Citizen” logo and a printed “Automatic”. It is also signed with a printed “21 Jewels, Water Resistant, 150m” above the 6 o’clock marker. There is a date only window at 3 o’clock with a raised chrome frame around it, with a small lume filled section just to the right of the window.
There is a variation of the dial with no lume filled section by the date window, and both are legitimate. To my knowledge, there are no reproduction dials made for this model, unlike their Seiko counterparts for which there is a plethora of aftermarket dials. The hands are large and lume filled. The hour hand is the ubiquitous ‘Mercedes’ style, and the minute hand is a pointed sword style. Personally I’m not a huge fan of the ‘Mercedes’ hour hand, but clearly it was popular at the time and it definitely gives the watch a feature that distinguishes it from the Seiko 6105. The second hand has a small lollipop of lume near the tip, making it easier to see in low light conditions.
The watch is powered by a Citizen/Miyota caliber 8210A. This is a 21 jewel automatic movement that runs at 21,600 bph. It does not hack, but can be hand wound and the date has a quick set feature. Not the prettiest of movements finish-wise, but very robust and reliable.
The bi-directional friction bezel is large and thick, with an aluminum insert and a lume filled pip. The beefy bezel sits fairly high from the case, making it easy to grip and turn. Perhaps this is the reason that so many examples of this fine watch have severely scratched and worn bezel inserts. Fortunately, there are reproduction inserts available for those wanting to restore their watch. As these watches were intended and actually used as tool divers, I prefer whatever original patina there is on any given example. The original inserts have tick marks at every minute interval, while the reproductions only have the minute marks for the first 15 minutes, making it easy to distinguish original from repro.
The crystal is a hardened mineral crystal, and coincidentally is nearly identical to the Seiko 320W10GN Hardlex crystals used in the 6105 series divers. The Citizen crystal is flat on top, with the inside being convex. Unfortunately, these are all scratched up more often than not, and OEM Citizen crystals are extremely difficult to find. Fortunately, there are reproduction crystals that show up on eBay now and then. Also, it is my understanding that the Seiko 320W10GN crystal will fit properly in the 52-0110. The height and bevel/curve profile aren’t precisely the same, but it will fit and clear the hands I’m told. I haven’t actually tried this myself, but have heard of folks using the Seiko crystal in their Citizen divers with success.
The 52-0110 was originally available with a folded steel H-link style bracelet with deployant clasp and divers extension. The clasp was signed with the Citizen “C” logo. I believe there may have been a Citizen signed rubber strap available, but I’m not 100% sure on this. The original bracelets are quite rare, and I have yet to find one for sale. There is a decent quality aftermarket oyster style bracelet available, and that is the one seen with the watch pictured here.
Due to the tool-watch nature of the 52-0110, these are most often found with moderate to significant wear to the crystal and bezel insert. Interestingly, the dial and hand sets are often found to be in excellent condition. I believe this is probably due to the screw down crown and the resulting water resistance. With the insides nice and water tight, the dial and hands were often able to escape the decades unscathed.
The 52-0110 is not what I’d consider a rare watch, but they are a bit scarce to find for sale, especially in good cosmetic condition. They do show up on eBay from time to time, but you have to be a bit persistent to find a nice one, and you’ll likely be competing with other hungry Citizen collectors. Since they don’t show up for sale as often as their Seiko counterparts, prices can vary widely depending on condition and other variables. I’d say these can be found anywhere from $200 for a rougher example, to $500-600 for a nice one with the bracelet. They are definitely worth the effort though, and you can really feel the quality once you have one in hand.