Is Citizen Better Than Bulova? Bulova vs. Citizen


Should we even do a Citizen vs. Bulova comparison? They are, after all, under one roof now.

Even though Citizen acquired Bulova in 2008, they still develop and operate relatively independently from each other. Plus, their watches carry different designs and styles. It still makes a point to compare between them.

Citizen and Bulova have their own strengths and cater to different tastes as well. With Citizen, you get a simple, reliable watch with super easy maintenance. With Bulova, you get access to an ultra-high frequency quartz movement such as the Precisionist, and bold, colorful design. 

So in this post, let us see and identify the similarities, differences, strengths, and weaknesses behind the two watchmakers to decide which brand suits you better. 

Is Citizen Better Than Bulova

Citizen’s History

Starting Out

Citizen’s history could be traced back to 1918 when a Swiss watchmaker named Rodolphe Schmidt registered the brand in Switzerland. 

The plan at that time is to import watches to Japan under that brand and sell them there. 

Citizen watches started growing and even attracted the attention of Japanese royalties, such as Count Goto Shinpei. The Emperor Regent at the time (Showa Emperor) even purchased a Citizen watch.

The company eventually started producing watches in Japan in the 1930s to make watches available to the public at an affordable price – befitting the Citizen name. 

Citizen also started developing their own watch movement. By the 1950s, Citizen was able to produce movements as small as 5 ¼ ligne.

The 1950s were also when Citizen took off like a rocket, releasing multiple models and exporting to markets outside Japan.  

Many vintage models such as the Parashock, Calendar, and Auto were also released during this period. 

Moving To The Forefront

In the 1960s, The watch company emerged at the forefront of watch technology. It produced the Diamond Flake, Japan’s thinnest dress watch. The Cosmotron was also released as Japan’s first electronic watch. 

Citizen’s relationship with Bulova also started at this time. They partnered with each other to access Japan and American markets. 

Citizen, together with Seiko, started mass-producing quartz watches in the 1970s, triggering the quartz crisis. As the Swiss watch industry was brought to its knees, Citizen and Seiko practically ‘ate their lunch’.

The company further improved on the quartz technology by releasing their signature Eco-Drive movement in 1995, a quartz movement powered by basically any light source, not just the sun. 

Citizen began acquiring watch companies, with many watchmakers now under their roof – Switzerland’s Frédérique Constant, Alpina, Ateliers DeMonaco, and America’s Bulova. 

Citizen is now the world’s eighth-largest watchmaker and Japan’s second-largest behind Seiko group.

Bulova’s History

Bulova was founded in 1875 by Joseph Bulova in New York City. 

In 1912, Bulova produced the world’s first manufactured watch, moving away from the traditional hand-building method common at that time. 

After the War, Bulova continued to produce watches, and they soon became America’s biggest watchmaker. 

Bulova also, throughout its history, created many ‘firsts’ in the watch industry.

A History Of Firsts

First Radio Advertisement: In 1926, Bulova made history in 1926 with their first radio commercial. The line used was “At the tone, its 8PM, B-U-L-O-V-A Bulova watch time “.

First Clock Radio: in 1928, Bulova introduced the world’s first clock radio, the Bulova Companion.

First TV Commercial: Bulova ran the watch industry’s first TV ad on July 1st, 1941. It was a simple picture of a clock on top of a map of the United States. The line used was “America runs on Bulova time.

First Entirely Electronic Watch: The Bulova Accutron was released on October 25th, 1960, as the world’s first fully electronic watch. Instead of ticking, this watch hums. 

First Private Watch On the Moon: During the second walk on the moon, mission commander David Scott lost his watch face. He put on his backup watch a Bulova Moon Pilot Chronograph instead. This made the watch the first private watch on the moon.

Bulova has since continued to release models and equip them with reliable quartz movement, such as the Precisionist. Bulova was eventually acquired by Citizen Watch in 2008.

Today Bulova is well recognized as a historical brand with a fun and cool look. Many watch collectors also appreciate the ultra-high-frequency (UHF) quartz movement. 

How much Have Citizen & Bulova Influenced The Watch Industry?

Citizen

Both Citizen and Bulova have significantly influenced the watch industry, especially on quartz technology. 

Citizen is well known to be one of the earlier companies to engage in electronification of watches, to attempt to find ways to move away from whole 100% mechanical watches.

They first released a stable and performing electronic watch, the Citizen Cosmotron, in 1966. The watch is powered by the X8 movement.

The watch is one of the experimental non-mechanical movements developed in the 1960s. These movements eventually solidified into the current quartz technology with the release of Seiko QuartzAstron in 1969. 

It could be said that Citizen had a big hand in triggering the Quartz Crisis, and they actually also benefited from it very much. 

Citizen continued to improve on the quartz and sought to find ways to remove the need for physical batteries to power the movement. 

That eventually finalized into the Eco-Drive movement in 1995. The movement is a quartz movement but takes its power source not from batteries but light. Any source of light. 

Citizen remains very popular due to this technology, as it made watch maintenance incredibly easy.

Bulova

Bulova contributed not just to the technology of watchmaking but also to how to market and sell watches.

It is the first watch company advertised on radio and television, something not even the Swiss managed to achieve first. 

The Lunar Moon Pilot is also the world’s first private watch on the moon after the mission lead’s official issue watch (Omega Speedmaster) broke. 

Bulova Lunar Moon Pilot – First private watch on the moon.

But Bulova’s main contribution in the watch technology is in developing non-mechanical watch movements, particularly their high precision quartz technology. 

Bulova was one of the earliest watchmakers to release an electronic watch – the Bulova Accutron in 1960. Instead of using a balance wheel, Bulova uses a tuning fork to vibrate and generate frequencies to assist in timekeeping. 

This resulted in the watch producing a ‘hum’ sound instead of the usual ticking sound. 

Bulova also was known to have contributed to the development of the sweeping-quartz movement through its ultra-high frequency movement. 

The Bulova Precisionist movement is quartz but has a sweeping second hand similar to an automatic watch. 

This made it incredibly popular with buyers who wanted the ease and simplicity of quartz yet still wanted to keep the sweeping second hand. 

Watch Design & Style

Citizen

Citizen carries functional watches, with form playing a secondary position. 

This design philosophy resulted in different design approaches, depending on the watch types.

For everyday dressy watches, expect the watches to have designs that complement the main task – to tick away reliability and tell time accurately when needed to. 

That means a simple, clean design with simple complications. Elegance is added through better materials such as titanium or a better-designed bracelet.

Is Citizen Better Than Bulova

You would not see much embellishment that only serves cosmetic purposes – fluted bezel, oversized dial, or ultra colorful dials. 

And yes, no skeletonized dials either. Leave this fancy-schmancy stuff to Invicta or Stührling.

For tool watches such as dive, pilot, or chronographs, Citizen made sure to have the watch perform their tasks well first. Expect to see subdials additional functionalities packed into its watches.  

Designs are added later to make the watch aesthetically as pleasing as possible. 

That means you are more likely to see large and chunky tool watches with colorful dials, hands, and markers for legibility. Not to mention plenty of subdials, digital displays, and buttons too. 

Citizen watches tick away in silence, content with doing its job very well, away from the limelight.

They do not scream for attention, nor do they distract you or other people with bold colors and giant sizes. 

But when you need it to tell time, flick your wrist, look at the dial, and it will gladly do its job for you. 

Perhaps Jay-Z’s line might better explain Citizen watches – “I’ve got 99 problems, but my Citizen ain’t one.”

Bulova

Bulova is definitely more willing to explore and experiment with designs than Citizen. 

It does have much more eccentric-looking watches, with oversized cases and bold, bright colors. 

Bulova does have basic, simple, and elegant designs as Citizen. Still, they have a tendency to add some spice to their watches. 

Is Citizen Better Than Bulova

For example, when looking at Bulova’s signature precisionist dress watches, it still carries a larger 43mm diameter. It has cosmetic embellishments that make it look more ‘busy’ than a simple Citizen Corso dress watch.

But one good thing about Bulova is that they do not overdo their bold designs. They do not turn their watches into those large blinged-out swag pieces that can only look good in rap videos. 

We would say that their design boldness does not exceed Invicta.

Nevertheless, their most hunted watch models carry a more traditional design, for example, their Lunar Pilot or their Marine Star dive watch. 

Watch Movements & Technology

Citizen

Citizen carries the basic automatic and quartz movements, with additional movements such as the Eco-Drive, Atomic Timekeeping, and Satellite Wave.

It designs, build and assembles all their watches in-house. This is something very few watchmakers can claim. 

Citizen usually use a self-made automatic movement. Some also feature movements from Miyota. Miyota was an independent watch movement maker that Citizen has since acquired.

It also manufactures it’s own quartz movement, primarily with Citizen’s entry-level watches. 

The more premium models usually receive the Eco-Drive movement. The Eco-Drive movement is a variant of quartz movement, developed in-house by Citizen. 

Instead of button cell batteries, the watch is powered by light. Any source of light. This made Eco-Drive very popular with many buyers, as they are very easy to maintain. 

Citizen also has other watch movement technologies such as the Atomic Timekeeping and Satellite Wave GPS.

Atomic Timekeeping might sound like some sort of nuclear technology. Still, it is a quartz movement that uses a low-frequency radio signal each night to adjust its time with the US atomic clock in Colorado. 

This means you no longer have to adjust your time, as they will be perfectly correct each time. 

Satellite Wave GPS further improves from the Eco-Drive, by adding a satellite signal receiver into the movement. 

The satellite signal will help the watch adjust and coordinate its time for maximum accuracy. 

If you like a super light watch, Citizen also employs SuperTitanium in some of their watches. This proprietary Citizen technology can make a watch up to 40% lighter than similar watches made with stainless steel.

There is also scratch-resistant coating on the titanium surfaces for better protection.

Bulova

Bulova is more famous for its quartz technology. But it does not mean you should reject their automatic watches either. 

Many of their automatic watches actually run a Miyota automatic movement. 

And we know that from the previous sections, Miyota and Bulova is a subsidiary of Citizen. 

So technically, when you buy a Bulova automatic watch, you are likely also buying into the reliability and performance of Citizen watches. 

If you are looking for something more in-house, then go for Bulova’s in-house Precisionist movement. 

This movement suits people who want the ease of quartz but do not want to lose the magical sweeping second hand. 

Bulova is also the first to introduce the curved choreograph movement (CURV) design

Chronographs are usually full of subdials, which need to be housed on a flat watch surface. With CURV, the chronograph can be designed on a curved watch surface. 

As a result, a chronograph can now take a curved shape. This increases comfort, as the watch now ‘hugs’ the wrist instead of just ‘sitting’ on it. Bulova is also able to make larger case diameter watches because of this.

Citizen’s Strength

Value For Money

This is Citizen’s strongest trump card, to be honest. Their watches are exceptionally well built and generally do not cost more than their Swiss equivalent. 

For example, when you compare the pricing of a Promaster dive watch with a Tissot Seastar, you will notice lower pricing. 

In fact, when you compare Citizen’s watches of similar style and class with Seiko‘s, there is a likelihood a Citizen is cheaper. 

Do notice that cheap does not mean it’s junk because when you look at how a Citizen watch is made, they are very high in quality, and the finishings are superb.

On top of that, you are also gaining access to Eco-Drive, which will make your watch ownership experience a lot more low-fuss and simpler. That’s added value for you right there.

Easy To Maintain

Citizen watches, primarily those above entry-level, are powered by Eco-Drive. 

That means you charge the watch by exposing it to some light, and it will run. Charge it to complete, and it can run for up to six months. 

Forget about things like hand winding, keeping your watch in a winder to ensure it runs, and regular servicing with a watchmaker.

You simply wear the watch and go about your thing. 

Eco-Drive has made watch ownership so much easier. If you are the kind that wants a reliable watch that does not throw up too much ‘drama,’ then you can never go wrong with a Citizen.

ALSO READ: Is Citizen Watch Good?

Citizen’s Weakness

Conservative Design

Citizen designs watch that are elegant and beautiful. Citizen also design tool watches that really do their job very well. 

That’s all. No flash, nothing fancy and flamboyant. 

You will not see many Citizen watches with bold, out-there designs such as those from Invicta, Stührling, or even Bulova. 

Perhaps as a legacy watchmaker with a stable clientele, Citizen tries not to ‘rock the boat’ too much. 

But then, if you like understated, classic, timeless watches that do that job very well, Citizen is for you. If you like flashy, bold timepieces, you might need to go elsewhere. 

Weak Resale Value

Suppose there is one place you want to really criticize Citizen. In that case, resale value is one place you can probably legitimately go about it. 

We all know that fashion watches do not appreciate in value much. So Fossil, Stührling, or Invicta would not do well long term. 

But Citizen is not a fashion watchmaker. 

It is a respectable watchmaker with a long history and commitment to timekeeping. They produce everything in-house. 

However, Citizen is more known for their tool watches, such as their dive and pilot watches, while their dress watches are less sought after. 

Most of the time, people go for either Swiss pieces or a Grand Seiko. Premium Citizen timepieces are not heard much because they don’t have an equivalent. 

However, some of Citizen’s JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) models are gaining attention, and a collectors market has started to build up around it. 

Is Citizen Better Than Bulova
The Citizen Collection

Collections such as The Citizen or the Chronomaster are expected to hold and increase in value.

ALSO READ: Do Citizen Watches Hold Value Well? 

Bulova’s Strength

Experimental Designs

At least when compared against Citizen, Bulova is a lot more daring and bold in its designs. 

You can walk into Bulova’s boutique and tell the difference immediately. More large watches, bold colors, flashy finishing, and non-traditional watch straps.

In fact, if you are into eccentric watch designs that are very out of the box, there’s a Bulova Computron for you.

Great Quartz Technology

Bulova is also one of the few watchmakers with an in-house ultra high-frequency quartz movement. 

This means you can get the reliability of a quartz watch, but with the aesthetics of the automatic movement – the sweeping second hand in specific. 

By purchasing a Bulova, you get access into this world that many watchmakers cannot offer. 

Citizen certainly cannot offer you this. Eco-Drive ticks, not sweeps. 

Bulova’s Weakness

Goofy, Fashion Watches?

Please do not get me wrong. Bulova is a respected watchmaking company with a long history, in-house production, and excellent overall commitment to the pursuit of perfect timekeeping. 

However, their more recent pivot into loud, colorful designs raises a few eyebrows, particularly from serious watch enthusiasts. 

This is because serious watchmaking companies generally do not design loud, striking pieces. Only fashion watch companies do. 

Can you imagine Rolex releasing a Daytona that looks like this?

Is Citizen Better Than Bulova

This has resulted in Bulova losing some of its prestige with watch enthusiasts. 

But at this point, Bulova still offers the classic watches under their classic collection, so it means they still have not given up on their old heritage designs yet. 

But yes, do know that when you buy into a Bulova, you might need to be prepared to be judged by a watch snob.

Why Not Just Get A Citizen?

Ever since Citizen acquired Bulova in 2008, we started seeing more and more Citizen elements in their watches. 

When you open up a Bulova, you will end up with a Citizen or Miyota movement inside it. 

This means if the watch does not run on the Precisionist movement, then there is a significant likelihood you are buying not a Bulova but a rebadged Citizen.

Some watch buyers eventually concluded that they would not touch Bulova unless they wanted the Precisionist movement.

They would just get a Citizen instead. 

There is nothing wrong with that idea, although it also means you need to decide whether you are ok to buy a Bulova with a Citizen movement inside.

Comparing Citizen & Bulova Watches

Now that we have seen brand comparisons between Citizen and Bulova, let’s compare their watches. 

Dress Watches

Bulova Precisionist 96B158

Is Citizen Better Than Bulova

Bulova’s signature timepiece features a 43MM stainless steel case with mineral crystal.

Logged dial with luminous skeleton hands/indices and date window at 3 o’clock.

Comes with a Crocodile leather band with pin and buckle fastener, and it is 100m (330ft) water-resistant.

Citizen Watches BM7251-53L

Is Citizen Better Than Bulova

The BM7251-53L is powered by Citizen’s Eco-Drive movement – powered by light and does not require battery replacement.

The stainless steel case has a radiant blue dial with silver-tone hands and markers. The stainless-steel bracelet comes with a push-button foldover clasp. 

A scratch-resistant mineral crystal is used to 100M (330ft). 

Dive Watches

Bulova Marine Star 98B203

This Rolex Submarine lookalike watch runs with a quartz movement in stainless steel with a rotating ratchet bezel ring and black anodized aluminum bezel insert.

Black dial, luminous hands, markers, date window at 3 o’clock. 100M (330ft) water resistance.

Citizen Promaster

Is Citizen Better Than Bulova

This signature Citizen diver watch runs with an Eco-Drive movement in stainless steel with a rotating ratchet bezel ring and coin-edge bezel.

Black dial, luminous hands, markers, date window at 3 o’clock. 200M (660ft) water resistance.

The watch comes with a polyurethane strap for good grip underwater.

Pilot Watches

Bulova Lunar Pilot 96B258

Is Citizen Better Than Bulova

Another signature timepiece from Bulova, the first private watch on the moon.

Six-hand calendar chronograph, stainless steel screw-back case in the silver-tone finish, black dial, and sapphire glass.

Powered by Bulova’s high-performance UHF quartz movement.

Citizen Nighthawk BJ7000-52E

This Pilot watch from Citizen is a cult classic, well-loved by collectors. 

The Nighthawk carries a 42mm case with a black dial featuring a gear-edge bezel, multiple subdials, date window, and fluted crown.

The watch comes with a stainless steel link bracelet with a foldover push-button clasp. Water-resistant to 200M (660 ft). Powered by Eco-Drive

Field Watches

Bulova Military Hack Watch 96A246

The 96A246 is a vintage-looking military watch with a three-hand 21-jewel automatic movement with a 42-hour power reserve.

Inside the stainless steel case, there is an ivory dial and luminescent hands and markers, 24H time.

Comes with a black nato strap with 30M (100ft) water resistance.

Citizen Garrison BM7251-53L

Is Citizen Better Than Bulova

The watch features a 42mm stainless steel case with a dark blue satin dial behind a mineral crystal.

Hands are luminated, together with the markers. The day and date window is positioned at 3 o’clock, with 100M (330ft) water resistance.

Citizen’s in-house Eco-Drive movement powers the watch with a leather strap to complete the field look.

Chronograph Watches

Bulova Basic Chronograph 96B262

Part of the classic collection, the 96B262 features a six-hand chronograph function in a stainless steel case black dial with red accents.

It is protected by a double-domed mineral glass.

Comes with a smooth grain black leather strap and three-piece buckle closure.

Citizen Brycen CA0649-14E

This basic quartz chronograph from Citizen sports a stainless steel case. Three subdials are present with two pushers. The watch comes with analog markers, luminous hands, and a dark brown dial.

The watch comes with Citizen’s signature Eco-Drive movement, a black leather strap, and a screw case back. 

Wrapping Up: Is Citizen Better Than Bulova?

So, after a lengthy review of Citizen and Bulova, let us go back to the original question: Is Citizen better than Bulova? Or Bulova is better than Citizen?

Our verdict? It depends.

We can conclude that Citizen and Bulova are different watchmakers with different approaches to design, engineering, and marketing.

They cater to different tastes as well.

If you appreciate a simple, reliable watch with super easy maintenance, choose Citizen. 

If you want a robust, reliable tool watch, get Citizen.

But if you want the ease of quartz movement but still want to have the niceness of a sweeping second hand, go with Bulova. 

If you like bold colors with slightly experimental designs, go with Bulova. 

Do you own a Bulova or a Citizen? What has your own experience been like? Feel free to leave a comment and let us know. Let’s interact!

FAQ: Citizen vs. Bulova

Why Is Citizen Watch Better?

Citizen watches are better because they are well-built watches with great Eco-Drive movement. Watches with Eco-Drive do not need batteries. Any source of light will do. 

Why Is Bulova Watch Better?

Bulova watches are better because they are powered with a unique Bulova Precisionist movement, which gives you the reliability of quartz with the sweeping second hand like an automatic movement. 

Are Bulova and Citizen High-End Watches?

Bulova and Citizen are not high-end watches. Although their more expensive models can easily challenge mid-range Swiss watchmakers, they cater more to the affordable watch range. 

Are Bulova and Citizen Watches Use Diamonds?

Yes. Most automatic and quartz movements in their watches have jewels. Automatic movements would have more jewels than quartz. 

Is Citizen Eco-Drive Reliable?

Yes. The Eco-Drive movement has proven itself since 1995 to be very reliable in many conditions and situations. You also do not need to replace the battery, as it is charged by light. 

Is Bulova Precisionist Reliable?

Yes. Bulova Precisionist is a sturdy movement that runs on ultra-high frequency. You will get the reliability of a quartz movement, with the lovely sweeping second hand in automatic watches. 

Nigel Ignatius

Nigel is the principal creator of WatchPursuits.com, a website dedicated to watches. Inspired by the dedication and effort of watchmakers now and old, Nigel has a passion for watches and looks forward to share his passion with the world.

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