Hands-On: Citizen AW1620 Eco-Drive

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Think Citizen; think Eco-Drive. That’s how synonymous the two are in my mind. Despite a good range of mechanical watches in their catalog, Citizen’s proprietary solar charging technology is their real strong suit. My Citizen Nighthawk has long been my grab-and-go watch – the ones I reach for when I just want something low maintenance, and the watch I’m looking at today would fit that bill just as well.

Citizen’s new AW1620 Eco-Drive, available in three different dial colors, is a simple and good looking take on a flieger style watch with a few nice flourishes. The whole package isn’t without its drawbacks, but I think it still represents great value if you go in with your eyes wide open.

$150

Hands-On: Citizen AW1620 Eco-Drive

Case
Stainless steel
Movement
Eco-Drive calibre J810
Dial
Black
Lume
Proprietary
Lens
Domed mineral
Strap
Bracelet or leather
Water Resistance
100m
Dimensions
42 x 49mm
Thickness
11mm
Lug Width
21mm
Crown
push/pull
Warranty
2 years
Price
$150

Case

The case is the first combination of good and bad for me, though the bad is entirely subjective. On the downside, the dimensions are slightly larger than I would have hoped for. The diameter of 42mm isn’t gargantuan, but it’s still a couple of millimeters larger than would have been ideal in my opinion. The lug to lug length of 49mm, coupled with a fairly straight profile, makes for a watch that doesn’t wear any smaller than it’s specs.

On the flip side the case is fairly thin, measuring 11mm to the top of the domed crystal, with a mixture of brushed and polished surfaces offering plenty of visual appeal. There are five separate surfaces from the case sides to the top of the bezel alone. The fine brushing appears to be nicely done, with smooth edges and crisp transitions. Although the dial has some definite Flieger DNA, the case makes it feel much more like a more general field watch.

A nice feature is the position of the lug holes which are fairly close to the case, reducing any potential gap between case and strap. This positioning is complemented by the slight recesses in the case back where the end of the strap will sit.

Dial

The AW1620’s dial is where it excels; inky black with fat markers. The dial features full Arabic hour markers, save for the typical Flieger triangle and dots at 12, and a nicely framed date window in place of the three o’clock marker. Each hour maker is also flanked on the outside by a bold and blocky rectangle, with all of these indices framed in gilt and getting a good helping of Citizen’s cool blue lume. In addition, a simple minute track runs around the circumference.

Despite being a little busy, and quite blocky, the proportions of the dial make it both functional and fun. The framing of the hands matches the indices in appearance and when the light catches those gilt surfaces they really sing above the deep black dial. Although the red-tipped seconds hand falls a little short of the markers, the color adds warmth and I’m happy to see that on this example it hits the markers perfectly. While legibility is key, the dial certainly delivers on looks too.

One slight negative to note is the ease with which the mineral crystal picks up scratches. I guess it’s to be expected, and they can be buffed away easily, but they appear quickly and are very visible above the dial.

Movement

Inside is the Eco-Drive calibre J810 which is one of Citizens more basic Eco-Drive movements featuring time and date only, plus a low charge indicator. Accuracy is rated as +/-15 seconds per month, but I have seen much tighter performance over the last two weeks.

Citizen’s Eco-Drive movements are able to hold their charge for over 6 months, but can be slow to charge once low on power. If worn and exposed to light regularly though, they should provide good accuracy with low maintenance for as long as the solar cell lasts.

Straps & Wearability

My main gripes with the AW1620, and the only ones that really matter, concern the bracelet and its interchangeability. In addition to three dial colors, the watch is also available on either the bracelet seen here or a leather strap. This is one of the few occasions where I wouldn’t give strong encouragement to buying the OEM bracelet.

Firstly, the quality of the bracelet doesn’t match that of the rest of the watch. Coming in at £125 it’s no surprise that corners have to be cut somewhere, but I found both the design and construction of the bracelet to be lacking. The oyster style links are in fact a single hollow piece across the bracelet width. In addition, the central section of the fixed end links extend quite far beyond the lug tips creating a long and flat plane on top of the wrist. It’s a shame that the bracelet looks (and sounds) awkward because it’s actually very comfortable.

When switching out the bracelet for something that wears a little smaller, the second issue comes to light. Although Citizen list the lug width as 20mm, it is clearly a whole millimeter larger than that. There are some great straps available in that width, but far fewer than a standard 20mm – especially when it comes to mil-straps which this watch is crying out for.

Conclusion

There are certainly a few negatives here, and that shouldn’t be a surprise in a watch at this price. I would have preferred it to be a touch smaller, and a sapphire crystal would be well worth the additional cost in my opinion, but the sub-par bracelet and odd lug width are the key considerations here.

I think it’s going to take a little more work to find that perfect strap pairing, but once you do the other issues probably won’t seem as important. There are compromises to be made, but for a grab and go option it has a lot going for it. The dial is such a joy I can forgive it a lot. Citizen

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Brad stumbled into the watch world in 2011 and has been falling down the rabbit hole ever since. Based in London, Brad's interests lie in anything that ticks, sweeps or hums and is slightly off the beaten track.
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