Why Are Citizen Watches So Cheap? [Detailed Analysis]


Citizen watches are known for their robustness, easy maintenance, and excellent overall quality. The prices are affordable as well. Have you ever wondered why are Citizen watches so cheap?

Citizen watches are cheap because they manufacture all watch parts in-house, use materials creatively, and optimize production to drive down costs. Citizen watches also do not target luxury clients, so they do not spend a lot of money to sponsor events or do marketing.

Why Are Citizen Watches So Cheap

We have also covered several topics about Citizen watches, so feel free to click and check them out if you are keen to.

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Why Are Citizen Watches Not Expensive?

Citizen watches employ strategies such as in-house, low-cost manufacturing, and creative use of materials to lower production costs. It also spends less on marketing to build brand image, so they can pass their savings to you in the form of a cheaper watch. 

Optimized In-House Manufacturing

Citizen is one of the few watch companies that manufacture all their watch parts in-house. This means they do not contract any third-party company to manufacture for them, even a single screw.

When you control all aspects of the manufacturing, you have more opportunities to streamline and improve its efficiency. For example, you can relocate the movement parts plant right beside the movement assembly workshop.

Imagine the time and cost you can save when parts can be delivered through a conveyor belt and not from a 1-day train ride from another manufacturer 500KMs away. 

By doing everything in-house, Citizen can also save money by not having to pay for rights to use movements from third-party companies. 

By doing this, Citizen can drive down the cost of production. This allows it to sell watches at a lower price and yet still be able to turn a profit.

Low Production Cost

Citizen also has a manufacturing system that has some semblance to Seiko. The Japanese plants and workshops manufacture and assemble more expensive models, while foreign factories focus on lower-priced models. 

This alone would have reduced labor costs for Citizen’s watches, meaning they can undercut many Swiss watch maker’s pricing.

On its website, Citizen shows that it manufactures entirely inside Japan. The facilities are focused on specific watch parts and are all over Japan. 

Citizen never explicitly mention their production facilities outside Japan, but some findings show that Citizen operates production facilities in countries like Thailand, China, and Brazil.

Thailand, China, and Brazil are countries with much cheaper labor costs per hour than Japan. These countries also work hard to attract investors, which means Citizen might receive some unique benefits from these countries to operate there. 

All this results in even lower production costs, that are eventually passed down to you in an affordable price tag.

However, the quality of watches from these factories might not rival those made in Japan. 

Therefore, it would make sense to see Citizen manufacture expensive and premium models in Japan, with lower-priced models manufactured outside Japan. 

Why Are Citizen Watches So Cheap

Creative Use Of Materials

Citizen also tries to lower the cost of their watches by creatively using materials that could help save cost yet do not hamper the feel and niceness of the watch. 

For example, Citizen offers mineral crystals instead of providing more expensive sapphire crystals on their lower-priced models. This does not affect the watch’s appearance but helps save costs and keeps their watches affordable. 

ALSO READ: Types of Watch Crystals

Citizens also tend to manufacture more quartz watches on the more affordable end of their watches, as quartz movements are easier to manufacture and cheaper than automatic movements. This, again, does not really hamper the appearance of the watch. 

However, Citizen do face issues with things such as bracelets. Many customers are unhappy with the bracelet quality from Citizen, as their attempts to lower production costs resulted in bracelets that tend to feel flimsy, with hollow end links. 

But at least it is a user-changeable part, which many customers do after purchasing a lower-priced Citizen. 

Less Focus On Marketing

As we have discussed before on what makes a watch brand luxury, luxury watch brands often sponsor and conduct marketing campaigns to project an image of exclusivity, class, and luxury. 

These companies sponsor tennis and golf events, the Olympics, and celebrities. Some also spent a lot of money to run ads in magazines and newspapers that project images of luxury and class, such as The Wall Street Journal.

These sponsorship and marketing exercises cost money, lots of them. As a result, many luxury watch brands eventually ended up hiking the price of their watch to pay for them. 

Citizen do these so much less. Instead, Citizen focuses on producing great watches and relies on building its reputation by giving its customers an outstanding ownership experience. 

These customers will then rave about their watches to their friends and family, helping citizens gain recognition and popularity.

Word of mouth marketing is the hardest but the most impactful marketing strategy, and Citizen focuses hard on it. 

Target Customer

Citizen also simply focus less on targeting luxury customers who can drop thousands on a watch. It has other brands within its watch group to cater to luxury customers, such as Frederique Constant. 

Citizen’s target customers are value-oriented people that want performance, reliability, and simple design from their watches. These customers also do not care much about history or trying to look ‘rich.’ 

Another way to describe Citizen customers would be if they are to buy cars, they would be looking at a Toyota Camry instead of a Chevy Camaro. They want something simple, reliable, and timeless, not something bold and exciting but fragile.

These customers are usually repelled by high watch prices, so Citizen do not sell their watches at a high price to attract them. 

Why Are Citizen Watches So Cheap

Are Citizen Watches Underrated?

Citizen watches are truly underrated watches. Many simply assume Citizen makes only cheap watches since Citizen does not aggressively promote their higher quality models. As a result, many miss out on their premium offerings that could easily outperform equivalent Swiss brands. 

Citizen also has a habit of keeping many of their best models as JDMs. JDM stands for Japanese Domestic Model, meaning models only sold in Japan. 

Citizen’s most premium models, such as The Citizen collection, are priced in the thousands yet are not usually available outside Japan. 

Aside from that, Citizen watches also tend to focus on technology, improving things that are not easily seen by many. Hence it fails to generate excitement from its customers. 

For example, despite Eco-Drive being such an evolutionary technology, many people who do not know much about watches simply see it as a quartz movement.

Citizen’s watches also tend to ‘play safe’ with designs and do not attract much attention compared to more daring companies with bold designs, such as Invicta or Bulova. 

ALSO READ: Citizen vs. Bulova

Is Citizen Swiss Made?

Citizen watches are not Swiss Made but Made in Japan. Citizen watches are manufactured in Japan, and lower-priced models may be made in Brazil, Thailand, and China. However, Citizen as a watch group does offer Swiss-made watches, but under a different brand such as Frederique Constant.

Citizen is under a group of watch companies called the Citizen watch group. It is one of the largest watch groups in the world. 

Citizen Watch Group competes for markets with other groups such as Swatch Group, Timex Group, and Seiko Group. 

Some brands under Citizen watch groups are Bulova, Alpina, Citizen, QQ, and Frederique Constant. In general, each of these brands focuses on different watch market segments.

Frederique Constant, for example, focuses on high-end, luxury-oriented customers. Its watches are Swiss Made, with manufacturing facilities based in Switzerland. 

So technically, you can get a Swiss-Made Citizen watch through brands under the watch group. 

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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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