Sometimes a watch comes along that doesn’t just bowl you over, but drags your face along the hardwood until your head gets tangled up in the pin-spotter. This vintage Citizen 7 Auto Dater is just such a watch, as I hope to explain to you as soon as I can get my head untangled…wow, that Brunswick logo sure looks a lot like the Rollie trademark, doesn’t it?
But I digress...
I had heard of the Citizen Auto Dater before, but had only seen the late 1950's dress version which, by the way, is very easy on the eyes. This particular version, while nowhere near as elegant as its older sibling, is still a very stunning watch in its own right.
Here’s the Información de Technicales:
Model: Citizen 7 Auto Dater
Model Number: ADSS 51301 – Y
Model Year: 1964
Country of Origin: Japan
Style: Sport / Business
Metal Color: Stainless Steel
Movement: Automatic Citizen SEVEN Auto Dater, 19 Jewels (with ‘teeth rotor’ design)
Crystal: Original (Acrylic)
Case diameter: 36mm (not including crown ); 42mm lug-to-lug
Case thickness: 13mm
Case Material: Stainless steel
Lug Width: 19mm
Bracelet: Signed replacement stainless steel, Jubilee style, circa 1990-2000
Weight: 96 grams
Water Resistance: 40 Meters
Accuracy: -2 seconds/day
Price paid: $135.00 USD (No, you didn't misread that...)
Miscellany: Quick set date change function by pulling crown; quick set day change (advance/retard hands from 9 to 3);
Note: I contacted both Citizen USA and Citizen of Japan, and neither had any historical (or other) information about this watch; what I have here is the result of culling through a lot of auctions and anecdotal snippets from sellers and fellow owners of this watch.
This is my first Auto Dater, and its condition is virtually perfect. It looks amazing on the wrist…unfortunately, I still have yet to replace my camera, which went Tango Uniform on me sometime during the holiday season, so the pictures you’ll be seeing are those taken by the seller, who gladly gave me his permission to use them – and abuse them, if necessary. So, that being said, here are my thoughts on this amazing watch.
In many ways, this watch’s styling could pass for new. The dial is a subdued silver sunray, with a look that is largely clean. The six, nine and twelve o’clock positions are marked with simple double batons, while the standard, smallish rectangular date window is at three o’clock. The remaining hour markers could almost pass for diamonds, given their high shine, but they’re actually metallic and in a bullet shape, standing with their tips upward and almost touching the crystal. Just below the 12 o’clock marker, the day window gives the first hint that this is an older watch. Take a quick look at it, and you’ll see what I mean.
To me, it has something of a ‘sausage’ shape, a rectangle with rounded ends. I haven’t seen this shape in any other watch, save for other vintage Citizens. The second vintage hint is the signature immediately below the day window. It reads “Citizen Auto Dater” and the font is late 50’s / early 60’s in styling, with the capital letters taller and thinner than the others. Just below the canon pinion, the number 19 stands by itself, a reference to the watch’s 19 jewels. Below that is a black crown with the number 7 stenciled in the center. This completes the watch’s full name, the “Citizen 7* Auto Dater.” Immediately below this, and sitting almost atop the six o’clock marker is the depth notation that reads “Para 40M Water,” or max depth 40 meters.
*A Quick Note: the origin of the ‘Seiko 7’ name intrigued me, and what I found is both simple and inherently believable. ‘Citizen 7’ is basically a name like the ‘Seiko 5’ moniker, though, while the Seiko 5’s are largely inexpensive – but still of high quality – watches, the relatively short-lived Citizen 7’s were pretty much exclusively higher prestige, higher quality – and higher expense to the buyer, of course – examples of the Japanese Horological Arts. There’s a bit more detail behind this story that’s available online, but I only wanted to mention it in passing, as opposed to making it a major part of this review. So there you have it…if you will.
The bracelet in the pictures – a signed-on-the-inside-of-the-clasp, five-block affair that resembles a basic Watchadoo – has been replaced by, of all things, a contemporary Citizen version in the jubilee style. As can be seen in the picture below, the OEM was loose and all but falling apart.
I initially ordered a 20mm generic replacement bracelet, not realizing that I’d incorrectly measured the width between the lugs and the width of the original bracelet; 1mm is a far bigger deal than I’d thought, especially when you’re talking stainless steel versus leather; a pretty humbling thing, truth to tell. So when the new bracelet arrived, it was an obvious non-starter. I then took it to my Jeweler, who has, in past, worked near-miracles for me in making odd components fit together. Take a look at the picture below, and you’ll see what he did for my vintage Movado high beat and a Speidel bracelet of roughly the same vintage.
Fortunately, he opined that the work required to make the replacement bracelet fit was probably going to outweigh its value. I say ‘fortunately’ because he then went to his ‘extra bracelet bin,’ a Tupperware™ box full of Zip-Loc™ bags containing collections of cast-off and traded-in bracelets of all colors and styles. It didn’t take long before he held up a 19mm signed Citizen bracelet in the jubilee style. He offered a straight trade, my generic 20mm bracelet in exchange for his 19mm Citizen. An obvious no-brainer that fit perfectly and looks fantastic.
In the end, every component of this watch balances out its appearance and perfects its image as a beautiful vintage Citizen. Picky Dead Guy that I am, I still couldn’t find one thing that mars the beauty of this amazing watch. But what about those folks with different tastes from my own? Well sure, everyone has different tastes, ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder,’ and all of that. The thing is, I think it’s a flawlessly beautiful piece, but I wouldn’t for a millisecond want to force that opine onto anyone else…even if you are blind as a bat and daft as a brush if you disagree with me.
This is the area that certainly makes the Auto Dater what it is – and I promise I won’t refer to the movement as an “engine.”
Like any other automatic movement, this one uses a rotor to take advantage of the wearer’s natural movement to keep the mainspring wound. The difference here is what’s called a “gear-tooth rotor,” wherein the input from the rotor to the movement is by means of a set of gear teeth on the inside of the rotor itself, and a corresponding – and considerably smaller – set on the underside of the movement that inputs the kinetic energy.
Take a look at the join-up between the gear sets:
So is this set-up any better than the more conventional rotor-stem system? Is the gear-train method more efficient? Is it a more direct input into the movement – and thus require fewer moving parts?
In a word, no. There is no available data that suggests the one method is any better than the other. The only measurable delta between the two methods is the increased costs associated with manufacturing the small gear-train within some pretty tight operating tolerances. The rest of the watch, from mainspring to hands, is virtually the same as its more common counterpart.
Still, it is quite a watch from an engineering standpoint. To me, the design of the rotor and the way power is applied to the smaller gear seems a bit on the counterintuitive side; put another way, it just doesn't look like something that's going to operate smoothly enough to transfer kinetic energy to the mainspring, much less store it there. Nonetheless, it's operation is amazingly smooth and efficient. Virtually every move made by the arm and wrist gets transmitted to the mainspring without flaw. In many ways, the feel of the rotor is reminiscent of the "wobble" experienced with the Valjoux 7750; when the arm/wrist motion is sustained, the case itself gives off a very similar motion and emits a 'sliding' sound that is similar to the sound a conventional rotor-and-post system, though it's a bit louder. Of course, and again JMNSHO, it's certainly not an unpleasant sound at all as the movement goes about its wrist routine.
Although it may look a little on the heavy side, the watch is surprisingly light on the wrist. The case does look a bit on the thick side, especially with the height of the crystal – something pretty common in watches of this vintage – it doesn't flop around on the wrist as you might expect from a top-heavy case. There is some movement of this type but, at most, it's no more then five or six millimeters from side-to-side, and you have to shake it around rather forcefully to make it shift. I tend to wear my watches in a manner that my Jeweler refers to as "firm." In other words, it's not worn loosely, nor is it 'battened down' tightly, but is rather worn firmly enough to preclude most movement without turning my hand a nice shade of purple.
Overall, if I had to pick one word to be applied to this watch, it would be balance. From appearance to engineering and feel on the wrist, every facet is so well balanced that it's a pure pleasure to wear. While it's not a per se dress watch, its appearance is classic enough to wear in business situations, yet sporty enough to wear to the ballpark or the racetrack. Its smooth movement functioning contributes to the balanced manner in which it keeps time, with a delta of only a couple of seconds per day. It is an amazing machine, so skillfully made that, after nearly fifty years since its release, it continues to operate beautifully, look beautiful and feel beautiful on the wrist. Or, more briefly stated, it's a beautiful example of a well-balanced, classic wristwatch.
I love this damned thing...
As always, many, many thanks for dropping by. Be safe and well.