Some 40 years ago, at the end of the 1960's, the development of Citizen's high end wrist watches was reaching its peak. The launch of the Chrono Master in 1967 came alongside a range of other new models like the Leopard and the Seven Star. The Chrono Master moniker was used for different movements in automatic and hand-winding forms and these were produced until 1972. The standard Chrono Master’s accuracy when launched in the first year was -5 to +10 seconds per day, and two hand wound models were produced, using the 0920 and 1870 movement respectively. The 1870 featured a date wheel and had higher jewelling – 25 rather than the 22 found in the hands only 0920. However, it cannot really compare to the hi-beat movements from Seiko, even if the movements were finished and adjusted to a higher standard versus other Citizens of this longstanding caliber. But this is merely a technical consideration of power reserve versus accuracy. One might well argue that this Citizen reached the goal with a lower beat rate.
So, every time one discusses Citizen Chrono Master, it’s impossible to overlook arch-rival King Seiko. These companies battled for the best high end watch for almost twenty years. The Chrono Master line of course was meant to dethrone the King and/or Grand Seiko line.
Often named "The Citizen" many do consider it a worthy rival, but that just maybe it falls a little bit short. In the vintage arena however these watches go toe to toe. Looking great and doing well in your old age does matter.
As for most vintage Japanese watches, it’s all in the details, and this is where The Citizen shines. With a large stainless steel case of nearly 37mm (lug to lug is 48mm) and a lug width of 18mm or even 20mm, this modern sized Chrono Master is an eminently wearable dress watch even today. The thick, bevelled mineral glass crystal brings its thickness only up to 12.5mm, so it is still comfortable under the cuff.
Let’s look at case design, because if anything, it is understated. Whereas Seiko (rightly so) made a big deal about Tanaka's so-called “Grammar of Design” design, Citizens were just practical. Even if this was said by Seiko on King Seiko too I wouldn’t quite charge them with copy-cat behaviour as there is some neat twisting to the lugs. The polishing too is of a high level, on par with most vintage Grand and King Seiko’s. While this model has an unsigned crown – sadly – later models only received the normal “CTZ”, although the ‘C’ mark would be expected. This has been noted on one or two 1967 examples of the 1870 hand-winding mode.
The Citizen Chrono Master employs a silvery white dial with some appliqués. Under a loupe, these appliqués all show a high level of precision comparable to the quality level of a watch like the King Seiko 45-7001. In fact, they are nearly identical. The black inlays on the hands and markers are similar, as are the applied logos; even the printed black hash marks for the minute track are alike.
Looking at the Citizen Chrono Master's case back reveals its most charming characteristic. Like Seiko, Citizen adorned some of its case backs with an intricate gold medaillon and it is obvious that Citizen firmly beat Seiko in terms of design and execution. The eagle on the Chrono Master actually looks like a German coat of arms, but really just lets you know you’re holding something special. Even the other Chrono Master case backs writings indicate quality with branding like "Star", ‘Parawater’ and Chronomaster.