A Behind The Scenes Look At Citizen’s Mastery Of Titanium
The company kicked off the titanium timepiece craze with the X-8 chronometer and continues to master this material today.
In 1970, Citizen unveiled the world’s first titanium watch. Called the X-8 chronometer, this revolutionary timepiece was cased in titanium with a purity of 99.6 percent. The name, X-8, came from a combination of “x” signifying the “unknown,” and the infinity symbol of “∞” turned on its side to symbolize the infinite possibilities of the material. The decision to name this revolutionary watch the X-8 could easily be described as a prescient one because, while this hard-wearing, light material is in great demand today, a half-century ago, its promise was untested.
While Citizen continues to explore the potential of its titanium timepieces, most recently with two big 2020 launches – The Super Titanium Armor Collection and The Satellite Wave GPS F950 Titanium 50th Anniversary Limited Edition – the company has always led the way with this metal. Here’s a timeline of Citizen’s greatest titanium hits.
The Game Changer
Titanium, of course, has become a staple of watchmaking, used in everything from ultra-luxury timepieces to professional tool watches. And it’s easy to understand the allure. Importantly, titanium is tougher than stainless steel.
It’s also antimagnetic, hypoallergenic, resistant to heat, and practically corrosion-proof. And most of all, it’s lightweight. Titanium watches are simply some of the most comfortable machines you’ll ever strap onto your wrist.
After the launch of the original, limited edition X-8, Citizen continued to tweak its titanium collection with the Atessa. Titanium is a tricky material to work with, and even today is usually associated with matte-finished sports watches. Introduced in 1987, the modern, minimalist Atessa, was a more formal watch designed for a boardroom and was the first to achieve a more mirror-like polish.
The year 2000 saw the birth of Citizen’s trademarked Super Titanium — a made through the combination of Citizen's proprietary titanium-processing technologies and a surface-hardening technology called Duratect. Super Titanium is designed to make the material easier to machine and polish while making it more resistant to scratches.
The first model to utilize Super Titanium was the ASPEC World Time. The first step in creating this blue-dialed beauty used Citizen’s proprietary Duratect technology. Duratect itself is a combination of two processes – one that “cleans” the surface of the titanium so that it can be better polished, the other that that applies a layer of scratch resistance to titanium.
Why did it take so long between the launch of the Atessa and the ASPEC to introduce Super Titanium? To test its durability, Citizen got employees in Japan to test-drive its Duratect-treated titanium watches for almost a decade. Finally, after almost 10 years, these daily wear watches appeared to be in near-mint condition.
In 2006, Citizen introduced its Promaster Eco-Drive radio-controlled watch – the first timepiece to utilize the Duratect MRK + DLC dual-surface hardening technology.
This process uses gas to add an extra hardening treatment to make titanium even more resistant to dings and scratches. Duratect MRK is applied to harden the surface of the material, and then the Duratect DLC coats the surface with low-temperature plasma technology.
Another advantage of Super Titanium is that, unlike untreated titanium, it is available in a wide range of colors such as silver, black, gold, and even pink gold.
To Be Continued
According to Citizen’s engineers, when it comes to watches, Duratect’s surface-hardening advances are best summed up as “the sheen,” “the color,” and “the perfect finish in every detail.”
Then in 2018, Citizen again proved that titanium can be elegant with the introduction of the Super-thin 3.53 mm Eco-Drive One. And because the material has only 60% of the weight of stainless steel, it’s incredibly comfortable to wear all day long.
Taking its cues from the streamlined design of the Atessa, the Eco-Drive One took advantage of Super Titanium’s super strength to house the world’s thinnest movement (just 1.00mm) for a case that was only 3.53mm thick.
To Infinity And Beyond
Titanium is also essential to the aerospace industry. For the HAKUTO-R program, the Japanese start-up iSpace is developing a lunar lander and a lunar rover to explore the surface of the moon.
Last March, Citizen provided iSpace with prototype parts made of Super Titanium that will be used for the legs of the HAKUTO-R lunar lander. Utilizing its accumulated expertise in processing titanium, Citizen is also providing technical support to the team.
To honor its 50-year history of titanium innovation, and to celebrate its bold future in space, Citizen is launching a new limited-edition timepiece: the Satellite Wave GPS F950 Titanium 50th Anniversary Limited Edition (HERE).
This model builds on the angular and extra-terrestrial-inspired designs of 2014’s Satellite Wave GPS F100 and 2015’s Satellite Wave GPS F900. And thanks to advances in titanium technology, the Satellite Wave GPS F950 Titanium 50th Anniversary Limited Edition projects extra dimension with a multi-layered black dial and a case made from Duratect*2 DLC.
More More More
In addition to the 50th Anniversary Limited Edition model, Citizen is also launching a new line of Super Titanium timepieces called Super Titanium Armor.
These three new pieces – a three-hander with a date window and two chronographs – are inspired by modern armor, but all are built for comfort in a contoured case that fits smoothly around the wrist. On all three models, the crown can be found at 4 o’clock, but the two chronograph models protect the crown with a ratchet bezel. And of course, all use Citizen’s light-powered Eco-Drive technology, so you never need a battery change.
The Super Titanium Armor arrives in stores in August and is priced between 550 and 650 USD. The 50th Anniversary Limited Edition Model is a US exclusive, limited to 550 pieces and will be available in December 2020. It is priced at 5,000 USD and will be sold exclusively through Citizen’s website.
(Images provided by Citizen, Watchonista photography by Liam O'Donnell)