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queen angelfish
You are slowly paddling your way down through warm, clear water to your designated dive depth of 24 metres or 80 feet. At that depth your maximum dive time which will allow you to ascend again without having to decompress is 30 minutes. No worries. Loads of time. Overhead you can see the sun sparkling on the surface. A school of small fish approaches and then, as one, they turn at 90 degrees in a flash of silver and vanish into the distance. How do they do that instant communication? Nature's wonderful. You continue paddling down.

You stop just above the ocean floor. 24 metres. Your ears squelch slightly. You can hear the rattle of the regulator with each slow, rhythmic intake of air, and the gurgling of bubbles escaping when you exhale. It's pretty deep here but the water is so clear that you can plainly see in the flickering shafts of sunlight the clumps of waving fronds of vegetation that provide shelter for shy, darting, brilliantly-hued fish. You explore nooks and crannies in the rocks, occasionally taking photographs. The colours of the coral and its inhabitants are astounding. You check your watch — 12 minutes gone. And all around is peace, heavenly peace.

butterfly fish


Large fish come right up to you, morbidly curious about the intruder into their world. Sea-snakes wriggle away from you with that curious sideways shuffle they have. It's fun to chase some of these creatures, satisfying to capture them on film—or whatever it is that's taken over from film these days. You have a good look round every now and then in case something nasty and higher up than you in the food chain is lurking. Another check of your watch to see how long you've been under. Twelve minutes.

'Anyone for lunch?'

Hang on—that can't be right. That's what it was before. Damn! The bloody thing's stopped! You try to shake the watch into life but the resistance of the water makes your arm movement slow and feeble. The seconds hand refuses to budge. The battery must be dead. How long have you been down here? More importantly, how much air is left in the tank? You fish around for the line holding the tank pressure gauge. The needle is in the red zone. You try to fight the rising tide of panic.


Suddenly, you become aware your breathing is shallow and very, very fast. Too fast. Using up too much air.


'How long have I been down here?'

Click to know more than you ever wanted to about dive tables
Your mind goes blank. You try to visualise the dive tables that you've left up in the boat. Say you've been down here for, what, 45 minutes? That means you'll have to wait at the 5m bar to decompress for.....5 minutes? 10 minutes? 15 minutes? Hell! If only you'd put on either your vintage Citizen or Seiko diver's auto this morning instead of that quartz rubbish, you wouldn't be in this pickle now!



OK, OK, I'll admit the above scenario is pretty unlikely. Normally you'd have a dive computer or other backup and your dive buddy would be there to help you out (and check the time). And quartz dive watches give you warning via an end-of-life indicator when the battery's about to run out. But the question remains, given the above scenario, which of those watches should you choose? If your life really depended on it, would you be better off with the Citizen or the Seiko? That's what this review attempts to find out in the big.....

In the red corner - Seiko
D I V E R ' S  F A C E   O F F:
No.4 in an occasional series by Les Zetlein

In the blue corner - Citizen
  THOSE OF YOU familiar with my reviews will know that from time to time I manage to persuade my friendly neighbourhood watchmaker into allowing me to borrow interesting items from his "pre-loved" collection for a few weeks, so that I can review them. Shortly after writing a review on a new watch that I actually bought, the Seiko SKX-171 Diver's Auto 200m, I spotted its vintage (mid-70s) Citizen counterpart sitting patiently in the display cabinet, just waiting for the right customer to come along.
     "That's nice," I said to John, pointing a stubby finger against the glass. "Do you think I could just..."
     John rolled his eyes heavenwards and sighed. "Take it, take it" he muttered. "It's not like I was going to sell it or anything..." Something in his tone made me think that my friendly etc. watchmaker had had a trying day, and I wasn't helping. I beat a hasty retreat, after getting him to loosen the caseback so I could peer at the movement at my leisure. That night I started comparing my new Seiko with the possibly 25 year old Citizen, and discovered some interesting differences; and thus the idea of the face off was born.

Seiko on original strap

Brand new Seiko

~1975 Citizen Diver's 150m

Vintage Citizen

MY INTIAL THOUGHT was the Citizen is the epitome of what a vintage dive watch should be—solid stainless steel case with a nice heft, very legible face with large bright green hour markers, mercedes hands, classic rotating bezel, screw-lock crown and caseback, and a thick, domed glass crystal. The general air of quality was only let down by the rather ordinary folded link stainless steel bracelet; it does the job but it could be so much better. Details of the Seiko can be gleaned from my review, so rather than repeat it all I'll just cover mostly the Citizen here and summarise everything in a comparison table at the end.

Cal. 6001

THE MOVEMENT in this circa 1975 dive watch is the cal. 6001. It features 21 jewels, shock protection, a flat hairspring (albeit with a large kink near the regulator pins), a bi-directional winding rotor running in 13 ball bearings, and beats at 21,600 vph. It can be wound manually but it doesn't hack. Note that this movement winds in both directions; the more modern Citizen 80xx calibres only wind in one direction and are much less efficient at keeping the watch wound. Certainly I had no trouble in this regard; in the 3 or so weeks I wore it I never had to wind the watch manually. The power reserve is a useful 44 hours 40 minutes on a full wind.
     The movement is nicely but not overly finished, with polished screws and collimage on the rotor and bottom plate. Two large screws secure it to a large metal spacer.

Cal. 6001 closeup

Nicely finished, and effective

Cal. 7S26 closeup

Not so nicely finished, but still effective
(Photo by 'Bob')

AS STATED, THE CASE is solid stainless steel, polished all over except for circular brushing on top of the lugs (same as the Seiko). It weighs in with the bracelet at a respectable 120 grams. Case and bezel diameter is quite large at 41mm, with 20mm between lugs and 47mm lug to lug. There is a reasonable standard of case finish between the lugs, but the pointed ends of the lugs themselves are somewhat sharp. Case thickness (front to back) is 13mm.

side by side


     The polished screw-in caseback carries a thin rubber O-ring and also a crimped metal spring, presumably to provide some tension to prevent accidental unscrewing. The screw-in unsigned crown looks identical to that on the Seiko (hmmm—outsourced from the same factory, perhaps?), is of a good size at 7.5mm diameter, and due to the lack of crown guards is easy to grasp. Unlocking and locking the crown is positive and smooth, as is pulling it out to its various positions. With the crown unscrewed, hand winding of the mainspring is possible. Pulling the crown out to the first detent position enables changing of the quick-set date (forwards only); one further pull enables setting of the hands.

THE BRACELET is composed of folded links, polished on the inside and brushed on the outside. Although fairly light and flimsy with noisy endpieces, it is nonetheless comfortable on the wrist. The clasp is of the single-deployant type, and closes positively and securely. There is no flip-lock or diver's extension. The name CITIZEN is embossed on the clasp and is polished.

clasp & bracelet

THE GLASS CRYSTAL is unusual in that it initially gives the appearance of being highly domed. Closer inspection reveals that to be an optical illusion, for in fact the crystal is absolutely flat on top, and sits 0.5mm above the bezel. It must be curved on its underside to give that effect. I couldn't ascertain what sort of glass it was, but the clarity of the refractions through the sharply bevelled edge indicates a high refractive index, which makes me think it's not just untreated mineral glass. There are a couple of small, insignificant scratches on the glass.

Yes, it really is flat

THE BEZEL is in the familiar vintage Rolex/Tudor style but is thicker in height at 3mm. It has a metal insert, and turns smoothly in both directions but has no indents (i.e. there are no "clicks").
     It should be noted that a bi-directional bezel, although typical of dive watches from this era, is not recommended these days for scuba diving. This is in case it gets knocked accidentally in the wrong direction, thus indicating less elapsed time underwater than has actually occurred.
     The markings themselves are crisp and clear, due in part to Citizen's use of the old draftsmen's trick of slightly extending edge lines (see photo below).

THE DIAL is a perfect matt black. The highly polished CITIZEN logo and hour markers seem to be embossed rather than applied. Silver printing proclaims the watch to be automatic, with 21 jewels and 150m water resistance (again, typical for this era). The hands and markers are filled with a very bright green luminous material—there are no clues as to what it is—but even after 25 or so years it is extremely visible by day and not too bad at night, either. The hands are highly polished and seem well made, but to my eye the seconds hand looks unbalanced, ending as it does in a circular blob.      The date is displayed at 3 o'clock in red lettering on a silver background, but the date window is too small for it to be easily legible. The date changes gradually between 10.30pm and 12.05am.

THE OVERALL PERFORMANCE of the Citizen was exemplary. It ran at a rock-solid +8 seconds/day when left crown up at night (to avoid scratching the bracelet on the caseback). It could probably be tweaked by judicious regulation to do a little better than this, but by any yardstick +8s/day is more than acceptable for a 25 year old mechanical watch.
     The winding rotor went about its business so quietly and smoothly that I was not conscious of it at all while wearing the watch. I didn't hear or feel it doing its job. As mentioned above, there was no need for any handwinding during the 3 week test period (apart from the initial wind).


Case type Solid stainless steel with screw-in caseback Solid stainless steel with screw-in caseback
Case diameter 41mm 42mm
Distance between lugs 20mm 22mm
Lug to lug 47mm 46mm
Weight 120g (on bracelet) 95g (on rubber strap)
Height - front to back 13mm 13.5mm
Stated water resistance 150m 200m
Crown 7.5mm, screw-in 7.5mm, screw-in
Movement cal.6001, 21-jewels, flat hairspring, 21,600 vph, date cal.7S26, 21-jewels, flat hairspring, 21,600 vph, day & date
Winding system Bi-directional rotor autowind; 44.5h power reserve; can be handwound Bi-directional rotor autowind; 47h power reserve; cannot be handwound
Crystal Mineral Glass(?); flat Hardlex; flat
Bezel Rotates bi-directionally; no detents Rotates uni-directionally; detent every ½ minute

Before I get into the conclusions there are a couple of things to point out.
     First, this comparison has been between a 25 year old Citizen and a brand new Seiko. To be fair to the Citizen I should have compared it to a vintage Seiko such as the one shown pictured. Seiko 6309 - thanks, Ken This is a Seiko 6309-7040 150m Diver's and is shown here by kind permission of Ken Osborne, its proud owner. Although superficially similar in appearance to the Citizen, it looks more retro because of the shape of its case. In contrast, the Citizen case looks far more modern and Oyster-like. I believe this Seiko's bezel operates the same as the Citizen's — bi-directional with no detents.   [I may have believed wrongly—a correspondent has informed me the bezel should be uni-directional. —Ed]  [The plot thickens still further—Ken tells me his bezel is "definitely bi-directional and click-detented", so now I'm thoroughly confused.]  [Latest update—I now have a 6309 of my own and the bezel rotation is as Ken says -- bi-directional and click-detented. And I have to say, the 6309 is totally awesome!]     This particular model Seiko is renowned for being particularly rugged and seemingly bulletproof. Interestingly, Seiko continues to use the same design of hour and minute hands on many of today's models (including mine).

Secondly, anecdotal evidence leads me to believe that the Citizen automatic movements of today (the cal. 8000 series) do not wind as efficiently as the cal. 6000's of yesteryear, and this gives rise to complaints by owners of watches with these newer movements that they keep stopping on them unexpectedly. This is because Citizen went from a bi-directional winding rotor to a uni-directional one. Why they did this is unknown, but it seems like a bad move. Seiko on the other hand have stuck with their successful bi-directional winding system. Their low-end movements might not be pretty to look at, but they work extremely well.

Thirdly, the one facet of these dive watches that I haven't put to the test is how they function underwater during a dive. Now, it's self-evident that this is fairly important for a dive watch, and I think it can be taken for granted that both Citizen and Seiko have been making water resistant watches long enough to ensure they don't leak. How easy they are to use underwater is another matter, however. For example, when turned at about 45° to the viewer, flat crystals reflect so much light they look like mirrors and it's impossible to see through them. This may be why the Citizen's crystal is curved on the underside—to prevent reflections. As it wasn't my watch I didn't feel like trying it out—just in case. But I can say that in the spirit of scientific research I plunged my Seiko into the watery depths of my kitchen sink and sure enough it displayed the mirror effect, although I had to turn it pretty far off the normal viewing angle to produce it. (It also displays an amazing 3-D effect when turned slightly away from the viewer, with the hands seemingly floating a long way off the dial and from each other—cool!)

OK, so which is the one to choose when the chips are down?
  • They're both tough, reliable and accurate.
  • Power reserves are similar.
  • The Citizen cal. 6001 movement is better finished but that's no guarantee it will outlast the Seiko's plain Jane 7S26.
  • They are both water resistant to depths far beyond what any sane recreational diver will go to, which is about 30m or 100ft.
  • The Seiko's bezel has the safety feature of being uni-directional.
  • The Citizen has it over the Seiko in terms of being more legible—just.
  • The day feature is a bonus on the Seiko but is more of a convenience than a life-saver.

Not much to choose between them there. However, in my opinion, the Citizen has one attribute that in terms of diving safety puts it ahead of the Seiko, and that is its ability to be hand wound. By hand winding it before a dive you can be sure the Citizen will keep on ticking; you can't be so certain with the Seiko. Also, water resistance will slow arm movements down, so automatic winding will not be nearly so effective in the water as on land. In fact, it amazes me that for so many years Seiko have produced dive watches that cannot be manually wound. Yes, some people wear their Seikos 24/7 so they can be fairly confident they won't peter out on them, but others don't and for the water resistance reason mentioned above, shaking the wrist a few times before diving isn't going to cut the mustard.

So, if I were a serious scuba diver and the choice was between the vintage Citizen and a Seiko, I'd take the Citizen—I think. Despite its obvious Rolex/Tudor Submariner influences as reflected in its bezel, hands and bracelet (like so many other dive watches), it's sufficiently different to be individual. It seems to be generally of a better quality than the Seiko, and better finished. I'd replace the bracelet though, probably with a kevlar or Zulu ballistic nylon band.

However, if the choice was between a current Citizen and a Seiko, I'd have to say I'm still very fond of my Seiko SKX-171...

Looks good, doesn't it?

The Citizen on my 7½" wrist


Scuba diving can open up a whole new world of delights for those who normally have their feet firmly planted on terra firma. There's opportunities to see sights that only a few know about. Colours you wouldn't believe possible. Creatures defying description. But however exciting that may be, there is always danger lurking under the water—and the biggest danger is the diver who doesn't take adequate precautions.

Having first obtained a suitable vintage dive watch (see Conclusions above), the sensible diver then makes sure he is kitted out properly. A wet suit is essential, and it must be a snug fit. Click to see an example of one that fits in all the right places.

Next, the prudent submariner selects his dive buddy according to certain criteria. Dive buddies must be reliable, thoughtful, resourceful, and willing to die for you. For some reason good dive buddies are hard to come by. Here is an example of a good dive buddy.

In case the unthinkable happens, it is wise to have a team of lifesavers handy. Beach lifesaving is of course a great Australian pastime, and the lads have been at it for many years. In the photos (right) you can see them limbering up for some friendly competition during the calm sea season.

All that practice in those little caps makes perfect, and you can rest assured that if you get into trouble in the Australian surf, they'll have you frogmarched back to safety in the twinkling of a Foster's. Some of them find it very exciting, as you can tell by looking at the bottom photo.

If I ever need mouth-to-mouth resuscitation however, there's only one group of lifesavers that I want to give it to me. You can see them by clicking here.

'...and YOU can stop sticking your oar in for a start!'

'OH NO! The esky's gone overboard!'

'Yes, I'd say he's running a temperature'

'He says, put another shrimp on the barbie...'

'Hey Bruce, I've found a good place to store the Foster's...'

© Copyright Les Zetlein July 2001. I would like to thank all those websites—too numerous to mention—from whom I shamelessly stole pictures (entirely for non-commercial purposes). Notify me if you hold the copyright and you object to my using your picture, and I will remove it.

Thanks to Time2watch of the Ultimate Dive Watch Forum for permission to use the underwater background, which he informs me he managed to 'acquire' from somewhere....

Thanks also to John Gaskin of Adelaide Time Watch & Clock Repair Specialists for the loan of the Citizen Diver's 150m.

Created 18 July, 2001
Last updated 1 November, 2017

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Last updated 1.11.2017