Citizen Watches (Est. 1930)
For over 100 years, Citizen has been the leading innovator in watch making technology. Its story began in Japan, when Emperor Hirohito received a gift of a pocket watch from a Tokyo jeweler named Kamekichi Yamazaki. Yamazaki wanted to manufacture local, Japanese-made watches, as the market was saturated with Swiss and American watch makers.
His first foray into the industry was founding the Shokosha Watch Research Institute in 1918 with the goal to produce pocket watches. By the end of 1924, the first product, the Caliber 18 pocket watch was being sold under the brand name of “Citizen.”
The name was conceived by the mayor of Tokyo who was a friend of Yamazaki. He said “A watch is, to a great extent, a luxury item but that Yamazuki’s intent [is] to produce watches that [are] affordable for every citizen.”
On its official website, the firm states, “Our name speaks to our belief of inclusion with a multi-cultural mindset to create time pieces that can be enjoyed by citizens from all over the world.”
One of their first watches was a time piece presented to Japan’s Emperor. It was made in a European style with a winding crown at 12 o’clock, large Arabic numbers, and with a second’s sundial at 6 o’clock. The Emperor was pleased and sent a letter of praise to the Institute.
By 1930, the Shokosha Institute was an acknowledged watch company. It was branded “Citizen Watch Co., Ltd.” and acquired a new president, Yosaburo Nakajima while Yamazaki remained as director.
Under Nakajima, Citizen amped up production of wrist watches by 1931. The next year, the company opened a Tokyo factory that remains in use today. Of course, Citizen’s progress was impeded by World War II. The war had a devastating effect on all watch production. At the time, the factory was moved to the Japanese Alps, a more secure location.
Twenty years later, under a new president, Eiichi Yamada, Citizen began to grow its overseas business. To achieve that, Yamada created a separate sales and marketing branch called Citizen Trading Company that controls their world market.
In the 1950’s, Citizen continued to develop its watch technology and introduced its first calendar watch in 1952, its first shock-resistant watch in 1956, its first alarm watch in 1958, and its water-resistant watch in 1959.
By 1960, Citizen had begun exporting watches to China and India. They also partnered with the Bulova Watch Company in the U.S. Under this arrangement, Citizen supplied Bulova with watches and movements.
In 1965, Citizen opened an office in Germany and started to expand its European market. Between 1975 and 1981, Citizen produced a new watch every year, saturating the market, and cementing their reputation as a leading watch producer. When its President Yamada retired in 1981, Kamekichi Yamazaki’s grandson, Rokuya Yamazaki, took over the reins. While president, Rokuya oversaw the development of diver’s watches, climber’s watches and its current watch model, the Eco-Drive, powered by natural or artificial light.
Today, Citizen is one of Japan’s top manufacturing groups, with 80 companies across five continents. Besides watches, they’ve diversified their reach with industrial machines and electronic merchandise. One out of every four of the world’s watches is a Citizen, fulfilling the company’s original goal of being affordable for people everywhere.