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What Are Eco-Drive Watches and How Do They Work?

An Eco-Drive watch is a brand of watch particular to Citizen Watch Co. Ltd. Citizen is a Japanese company with roots in Swiss watchmaking. Their Eco-Drive line is arguably their most popular, thanks to multiple innovations that make these watches truly unique. If you have ever been curious as to how Eco-Drive watches work, you should find this article rather informative.

It will discuss the technical aspects of the Eco-Drive system and how it differs from other methods for powering watches with electricity. The article will also discuss a little bit of the company's history, just to illustrate that Citizen combines cutting-edge technology with the principles of classic Swiss watchmaking.

The Eco-Drive Design

An Eco-Drive watch is a solar-powered watch. What makes it different is the location of the solar cell. Prior to development of the Eco-Drive, solar collection cells were mounted on top of the dial. Not only was this design unattractive, but it also made solar-powered wristwatches more bulky than they had to be. Citizen changed that.

Their engineers developed a thin film amorphous silicon solar cell that could be mounted underneath the dial. It offers superior solar collection while barely adding any extra width. In future years, they would improve the solar cell by making it even more efficient and thinner.

How It Works

Citizen Eco-Drive watches do not need secondary batteries, although the earliest models did have them. Instead, a modern Eco-Drive watch utilises a power cell that never needs to be changed. Both natural and artificial light are absorbed by the solar collection cell and converted directly into electricity. That electricity is stored in the power cell. It is transferred to the watch's movement as needed.

A Quartz Movement

The movements in Citizen Eco-Drive watches are quartz movements. A quartz design makes the Eco-Drive a more efficient watch in the sense that less electricity is required the power the quartz movement as compared to a mechanical one. Quartz movements keep time by sending electricity into a piece of quartz and measuring its oscillations.

Six Months of Power Storage

Citizen says the power cells in their Eco-Drive watches can store enough power to last for up to six months. That means there are no worries about an Eco-Drive watch shutting down overnight. Likewise, wearing an Eco-Drive watch with a business suit during the day will not be problematic even if the watch remains covered by the wearer's sleeves.

Citizen also says that the power cells in their Eco-Drive watches are good for 40 years. As long as an Eco-Drive watch is not inadvertently damaged, there should never be any issues with it being fully operational, especially since it can utilise both natural and artificial light from virtually any source.


Citizen's Watchmaking Roots

The Citizen Watch Company was officially established in 1930 by a group of Swiss and Japanese investors. However, the investors did not start the company from scratch. Rather, they purchased the Shokosha Watch Research Institute and its facilities. The Institute itself was founded in 1918 while some of its manufacturing facilities had already been in operation in Yokohama for a few years prior.

Swiss watchmaker Rodolphe Schmid had registered the Citizen name in 1918 for watches he wanted to sell in Japan. The investors who purchased the Institute's assets also acquired the brand name at the same time. Thus, the Citizen Watch Company was born.

Decades of Innovation

Citizen was known for its innovations from the very start. However, World War II did affect production. Following the war and Japan's reconstruction, Citizen set out to be Japan's leading watchmaker. They were the first company to introduce atomic timekeeping in the early 1990s. They were also leaders in developing solar-powered watches. And it was their interest in solar power that was the driving force behind the Eco-Drive.


Additional Eco-Drive Designs

Solar-powered models are most often associated with the Eco-Drive line. But Citizen did develop two other types of Eco-Drive watches over the years. The first was a watch that harnessed the temperature difference between a wearer's arm and the surrounding air to generate electricity through what is known as the Seebeck effect. These watches are extremely rare and expensive; they are no longer made.

The second was a hybrid that utilised both the solar-powered Eco-Drive system and mechanical power. Citizen's plan was to enter the higher-priced market with a watch offering longer life between charges. It didn't work. Hybrids are no longer made as they were not popular among consumers.


Environmental Impacts of the Eco-Drive System

While we don't necessarily think of wrist watches as tools for helping the environment, citizen Eco-Drive watches do have many fans among the eco-conscious because they are solar powered and don't require single-use batteries. It has been estimated that, since the launch of the first Eco-Drive watch in 1995, citizen has prevented tens of millions of batteries from ending up in landfills.

Batteries and the Environment

The environmental impacts of the Eco-Drive system become even more clear when you understand battery waste. In the UK alone, we throw away roughly 600 million batteries weighing in at some 20,000 tonnes annually. Furthermore, it takes roughly 50 times more energy to make a new battery than the actual battery will provide over its lifetime.

Replacing single-use batteries with solar collector cells and lithium-ion power cells keeps batteries out of landfills and reduces the amount of energy we consume to make new batteries. As such, every Eco-Drive watch sold represents decisive action that significantly reduces battery waste.


Why Consumers Appreciate Eco-Drive Watches

A citizen Eco-Drive watch is a truly exceptional timepiece well worth owning. Not only do you get the world's best solar-powered watch, but you also get everything Citizen puts into all of its timepieces. You get high quality materials, skilled craftsmanship, and the backing of Citizen's reputation and commitment to customer service.

Customers appreciate Eco-Drive watches for more than just their solar technology. They also appreciate them for their features. Because their solar cells are so thin, there is plenty of room left over for other things. Thus, there are Eco-Drive dive watches, chronographs with multiple subdials, etc.

Modern Styling

Note that Citizen has not abandoned modern styling in pursuit of the Eco-Drive design. This is yet another reason consumers appreciate these watches. Citizen manufactures a full Eco-Drive range suitable for divers, athletes, business executives, and blue-collar workers. They even offer watches that would be right at home at a black-tie event. All watches have a variety of materials and glass types.


Eco-Drive Watches for Men and Women

Our inventory of fine timepieces from Citizen includes Eco-Drive watches for both men and women. We invite you to take a look at what we have on offer. Our Citizens Eco-Drive watches offer plenty of choices in size, shape, colour, and features. Know that your purchase of an Eco-Drive watch is an investment in a high-quality timepiece that could easily last for the rest of your life.