The great success of Citizen watches over the past decade can be attributed to strong design, quality and affordable prices, but perhaps more than any other factor, Citizen's Eco-Drive technology has driven Citizen's tremendous global success. What is Eco-Drive Technology, and how has it given Citizen an edge in the competitive quartz watch marketplace?
In simple terms, Eco-Drive means solar-powered. Why not just call it "solar powered"? The answer is – marketing. Well actually, Eco-Drive refers to the entire system from the solar receptors that don't look like solar receptors, to the lithium-ion batteries that store the energy. But also, the history of solar-powered microelectronics carries with it some unfortunate associations. Many recall solar-powered pocket calculators that required constant exposure to light to remain powered. There is a perception that a solar-powered watch would operate in a similar fashion and need to be reset every morning.
In addition, visible solar receptors on a watch dial are anathema to good design. They may look fine on a pocket calculator, or geeky black plastic digital watch, but difficult to integrate into a more traditional looking, dressy or jewelry watch.
The introduction of Eco-Drive was a technological and marketing triumph on several levels. First of all, the watches look very normal. One would never guess upon a visual inspection that a Citizen Eco-Drive watch is solar-powered.
Every Eco-Drive watch employs a translucent dial. Light, including indoor light passes through the dial, into an amorphous silicon solar cell which charges an internal lithium-ion battery, which is designed undergo an unlimited number of charge/discharge cycles.
Fully charged, the battery will continue to power the watch for anywhere from several months to several years without requiring additional exposure to light. The power reserve of any particular Eco-Drive watch really depends upon the functions of that watch. Some require more power than others. Many of the more sophisticated models also have a hibernation mode where all watch functions go to sleep after a long period of inactivity, but then wake up and reset to the correct time and date when watch is moved or exposed to light again.
Second, Citizen's use of the term Eco-Drive avoids the use of the term 'solar', implying an updated technology.
The term Eco-Drive also taps the public's growing consciousness of the need for more environmentally-friendly technological solutions. Although a watch battery is a little thing, the disposal of millions of these tiny cells each year is a hazard to the environment.
Citizen Watch Company has demonstrated vision by converting nearly their entire watch line to Eco-Drive technology. Unlike Seiko, which never employed it's Kinetic quartz movements in more than a few of its watches, Citizen watches and Eco-Drive watches have become nearly synonymous.