Saying More with Less: Citizen Super Titanium “NJ0090-81A” Review

In a world where everyone strives for more, can a watch deliver with less? The Citizen Super Titanium attempts to do so. Literally.


I was watching “Inside Bill’s Brain” on Netflix the other day, and came across a great quote.

“Time is the one commodity that he can’t buy more of. It’s a limited resource. It’s finite. He’s got the same 24 hours in a day that the rest of us have.”

Lauren Jiloty, Gates Ventures on Bill Gates’ practice of being punctual for every meeting

Indeed, rich or poor, young or old, we all have the same number of hours in a day. In today’s pressure cooker environment, it can be easy to forget to slow down periodically, and take in the world around us. Time is arguably the most valuable of resources, and the watch is its faithful guardian.

One might say that the advent of smartphones has relegated the watch to nothing but a fashion accessory, to which I humbly disagree. Perhaps it is the act of wearing something physical, that brings it to the forefront of consciousness; with a watch on, I simply have a better sense of the passage of time.

But practicalities aside, I have found the watch to be a great complement to my mood. When I’m feeling energetic and ready to seize the day, the King Samurai is my go to; a playful day might warrant my bright Timex Q. But when the day’s getting overwhelming, I turn to my Citizen NJ0090-81A “Super Titanium”, to (metaphorically) slow the pace down a bit. With its minimalist approach, the clean design is a breath of fresh air, but is the “do more with less” approach for you?

The Case & Specifications

The Super Titanium comes in a case size of 42mm, with a lug to lug of roughly 49mm, and lug width of 20mm. The watch sits on the thinner end of the spectrum at 10.6mm thick, allowing it to fit nicely under cuffs.

I was initially worried about the 42mm case size, but took the leap of faith anyway. Thankfully, the slightly angled lugs and decently compact profile helped with the fit on my 16.5cm wrist, albeit just nicely. If you have a smaller wrist, you may want to consider the watch’s larger dimensions.

Sapphire is used as the material of choice for both the crystal and exhibition caseback, offering good scratch protection. Citizen doesn’t mention anything, but I reckon there isn’t any anti-reflective coating applied on the crystal. The exhibition caseback is a nice touch, allowing one to peer into the inner workings of the Super Titanium. Citizen has also put in some extra effort in decorating the movement, opting for a beautifully gold coloured rotor. The screw down caseback offers 30m of water resistance, which is sufficient for the daily wear this piece was designed for.

The sides and lugs of the case are brushed while the bezel is polished to offer some contrast and catch the light.. The push-pull crown is located at 3 o’clock and has been grooved to offer a better grip. I have found that the crown is on the smaller side, and winding the watch takes some care.

The case design is relatively simple and classic, but the real winner here lies in the case material. As its name suggests, the case is made with what Citizen calls “Super Titanium” – titanium treated with Citizen’s proprietary surface-hardening technology, Duratect, creating a material that’s five times harder yet 40% lighter than stainless steel. On the stock bracelet that is similarly made of titanium, the watch weighs just 83g. On my black leather strap, this is cut down further to 55g. For comparison, my King Samurai on the Strapcode is a whopping 184g, while the Casio Royale weighs 79g. The watch is extremely comfortable on wrist, and the lightness is something that one grows to appreciate as you go about your daily activities. The Super Titanium material also offers better scratch resistance than stainless steel, and is hypoallergenic.

The Dial

It was the Super Titanium’s dial design that first caught my eye; I had been looking for an everyday watch that could double up as a dressier piece, and this was the one that did the trick. The white dial comes with contrasting black hands and silver baton indices, with printed indices to further mark the minute intervals. A crosshair styled seconds sub dial sits between 4 and 5 ‘o clock, with a white date window at 3 o’clock. The words “AUTOMATIC TITANIUM” have been printed on the left of the seconds sub-dial, proudly showing off the watch’s unique features. Personally, I would have preferred keeping it empty though it isn’t a deal breaker for me.

As a dressier piece, do take note that the hands have no lume. Legibility is not much of an issue however, given the contrast and the longer minute hand that extends all the way to the outer ring.

I find the seconds sub-dial to be particularly therapeutic to look at. Most watches have the seconds hand mounted together with the hour and minute hands, but with the seconds hand on a smaller separate sub-dial over here, you hardly notice the hand ticking away; almost as if time itself is slowing down. Coupled with the overall clean aesthetic of the dial, the Super Titanium is refreshing to look at and I find myself staring at it from time to time, to appreciate the simple beauty of it all.

The Movement

The Super Titanium uses Citizen’s own inhouse 8213 movement. The movement has 21 jewels, with a vph of 21,600 and a power reserve of 45 hours. The movement winds uni-directionally counterclockwise, and does not hack though it is hand-windable. Accuracy is rated at -20 to + 40 seconds a day.

One issue I found was that when adjusting the time, the hands tend not to move smoothly. Rotating the crown does not give you fine control over the minute hand and if you try to adjust the hand by one minute, you feel this resistance at the crown. Once you get past that, the hand instead moves too much and jumps forward a few minutes. I end up having to back up the hand a bit, then adjust it towards the minute I want and try to stop turning the crown at the precise moment the hands line up. I haven’t had this issue with my other watches, and I actually brought it down to the Citizen service center in Singapore, where I was told that there was nothing wrong with the watch and that this was just the way it was. It may just be the particular piece I have, though it was not something I had expected.

The Strap

Similar to the case, the strap is also made of titanium, keeping the overall package light and comfortable. The bracelet has a brushed finish, with the middle portion where each link joins with each other being polished to offer some shine.

One thing I find lacking here, is that the bracelet only comes with 2 micro adjustments. It was difficult to find a fit for me; it was either too tight or too loose for my liking, resulting in an awkward gap between my wrist and the watch. I personally like to wear my bracelets fitting, and would have appreciated having more micro-adjustments to really fine tune the fit.

Styling

Super Titanium on the stock bracelet

While the watch comes with a titanium bracelet, I think that the watch is really brought to life when paired with a black leather strap. The contrasting black strap matches the minimalist theme, and places the full focus onto the pristine dial. Switching between the bracelet and leather allows the Super Titanium to go from an everyday piece, to a more formal, dressy look.

The Price

At the recommended retail price, the bracelet models go at S$545 while the leather strap models that come in a slightly different design go at S$491 (SGD).

At this price point, options are aplenty, especially from rival brands such as Orient and Seiko, which offer models with better movements and a lower price. I think Citizen could have at least offered a movement with hacking, and a strap with more micro-adjustments. I suppose what you’re really paying for, is the full titanium construct and a clean, minimalist design.

Unless you can get it on sale, I would say that this isn’t the most value for money piece, though if you like it and get it still, you won’t be cheated either. Buying a watch isn’t the most economical use of money anyway, so heck, why not?

Overall Thoughts

So after all that discussion, can this Citizen Super Titanium hold its own in the market, with its “less is more approach”? The piece offers a timeless design that is pleasing to look at, with a titanium construct that gives you durability with no compromise to comfort. And yet for what you’re paying, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to ask for just that little bit more to make the deal more convincing. Ultimately, if the design is what you’re after and you don’t mind some trade offs on the specifications, the Citizen Super Titanium “NJ0090-81A” still makes for a decent value proposition and will be a watch to enjoy.

The Super Titanium is worth a consideration with its clean design and lightweight construction


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