Citizen revives the Spirit of the Iconic Parawater with the new Kuroshio ’64 as part of the Citizen Asia Limited Series. The Kuroshio ’64 comprise of 5 new automatic watches inspired by the Parawater. We take a hands-on look at two of the new watches.

The Citizen Kuroshio ’64 (黒潮, Kuro meaning black, and shio meaning current) is a vintage inspired watch, targeted at a modest price, and pays tribute the a milestone in Japanese watchmaking history. Launched in five different models with distinctive dial colours, on bracelet and leather straps, these watches pay tribute to the technical milestone of the first water resistant watch from a Japanese watchmaker in 1959. 

The Citizen Kuroship ’64 with a beige dial and calf strap.

Water resistant watches came rather late to the Japanese watchmaking scene when compared their Swiss counterparts. While the Swiss makers like Blancpain, Omega and Rolex were chasing the market for diving watches, water resistant watches only arrived in Japan in 1959 with the Parawater. And even then, the Parawater was not a diving watch, it was only water resistant to 5 ATM.

The Citizen Parawater

The Parawater, the result of Citizen’s research efforts, was the first completely water and dust resistant watch by a Japanese watchmaker, and it was so named due to the technical innovation of water resistance that was the highlight of the watch, with the combination of the word “para” meaning protection and “water” to indicate that the watch was protected from water. To underscore the importance of this innovation, the name of the watch, Parawater, was placed on the dial where the logo of the brand would normally be. 

The Citizen Parawater. Circa 1959.

The Parawater was rated to a depth of about 5 bar (50 metres), and it achieved its level of water protection due to the use of O rings that were made of a special rubber (butadiene acrylic nitrile copolymer). One large O ring was mounted on the case back, and this in conjunction with an extensively modified crown and tube assembly each with smaller O rings, made sure that the movement of the watch was completely sealed from water and dust.   

The original Citizen Parawater, circa 1959.

In 1963, the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and the Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology began an ocean current survey, with bottles dropped in the sea with a survey form contained within, for people who picked them up to send back. This survey presented Citizen with the opportunity to do the ocean current survey and a performance test of the Parawater at the same time. 

The marketing campaign consist of placing the Parawater into a container, and allowing it to follow the current. Whoever found the capsule will report the position and time, and can keep the watch. And the route of the current and speed is recorded as shown in the pic below.

A distinctive bright yellow buoy was designed that was highly visible in the water, with clear indications of what it was and its research aims printed on the top side of the buoy. Each buoy also came with a Parawater watch suspended just below the water line, and instructions on how to contact Citizen by the person who found it. As a bonus and incentive to contact Citizen, the finder of the watch was allowed to keep it. 

The buoy is carried by the currents, and as it moves, the position is tracked by where it lands, and the time. Interestingly, this technique is still used today, but the buoy is equipped with a GPS to track its position and speed.

One interesting detail that ties the Parawater to the new Kuroshio ’64 is that the retail price of the watch at the time of release was ¥ 6,000, which was affordable given that the starting monthly salary of a highschool graduate at the time was about ¥ 12,500. The Kuroshio ’64 will retail from a starting price of S$ 583.15, about ¥ 46,000. In 2017, the average monthly highshool graduate in Japan made ¥ 162,100, so the relative affordability is even better with the Kuroshio.

Citizen Kuroshio ’64

The new Citizen Kuroshio ’64 has a design that takes many cues from the original Parawater of 1959, with many similarities that are obvious at first glance, from the shape of the case and lugs, to the arrowhead hour markers, dauphine hands and domed crystal. 

Shown here is the Kuroship ’64 in the dark blue dial with bracelet. This model is a limited edition of 1959 pieces.

The case, dial and hands

The modern upgrades in the design include enlarging the case to 41mm and a more grippable crown as well as lumed hour marker dots. 

The applique markers are black in the beige model.

The case, inspired by the original Parawater, is very sleek looking. The case middle is finished in a matte finish and extends to form the lugs. A convex, high polished, zaratsu-style bezel sits on the upper, while the lower is fitted with a standard rear bezel surrounding a sapphire case back.

The dial carries an textured surface, made by embossing a pattern that is inspired by ocean waves. We think this texture adds visual interest to the dial, and is not unlike the style of the dials made by Seiko, for example in the Cocktail Time Series, albeit a different motif.

The first models that are available include a dark blue, black and silver white dial on stainless steel bracelet, as well as a beige dial model on black leather strap and a dark green dial model on brown leather strap. Colours inspired by the colours of the ocean in different conditions.

Note the black plating on the applied indices. And the texture on the dial.

Legibility is excellent, even in the dark as the luminous dots and infilling in the large hands is very clear. If we have one small criticism for the lume, is that we would have liked Citizen to mark the dial so that we are able to identify the 12 o’clock position, perhaps with another shape for 12. As it is now, all the lume dots are the same, and when off the wrist, it is not easy to read the time.

The lume is quite strong and clear. Time shown is about 10:09.

As a nod to the Parawater, the Kuroshio ’64 is delivered with a bright yellow box, reminiscent of the original used in the current survey.

The Citizen Kuroshio ’64 in a calf strap and beige dial in the box marked in the same way as the test carried out in 1963.

The movement

Powering the watches is Citizen’s own Calibre 8310, an automatic movement that features a useful power reserve of 60 hours and hacking seconds functionality.  

The Caliber 8310, seen here on another Citizen watch.
Photo quality inherent as provided by Citizen.

The watch we had on hand had a dummy movement, so we are not able to show you how the movement looks like. However, the Caliber 8310 was also used in the NK0000-10A, introduced in 2019.

The competitive landscape

The landscape occupied by this Citizen Kuroshio ’64 is one of an elegant, dressy automatic wrist watch, pitched at a very moderate price point. The Kuroshio’s price is ranging from S$583 to S$595 and seem to us as a very fair ask for the quality of the watch.

As we began our survey, we came to the realization that the habitat is most aggressively occupied by the competing Japanese maker – Seiko. From Seiko, the obvious direct comparison is to their popular Cocktail Time series, of which are many to choose from. An example might be the Seiko Cocktail Time, priced a little higher from €420 to €550. Design and build quality are very similar to the Kuroshio.

From the Swiss camp, perhaps the nearest comparison might be to Swatch, whose Sistem 51 Irony is perhaps a match. But it is quite a bit less expensive at S$ 279 to S$330. The build quality is commensurate with the lower price, as Citizen is much better finished, and more nuanced in the design than the mass produced Sistem 51 Irony.

Another competitor might be from the Junghans max bill Automatic 100 year Bauhaus. Design elements are faithful to the Bauhaus school. Build quality is comparable to the Kuroshio ’64, but the German offering in a stainless steel case with black PVD is priced at a much higher €1225, though with a smaller edition number of 1000 pieces.

Concluding thoughts

In conclusion, we find the Citizen Kuroshio ’64 to be a very attractive value proposition. Here is a watch with a good pedigree, with strong historical context, well designed, magnificently executed and targeted at a very moderate price point. Already a big winner in our books. We think the limited edition dark blue dial model to be be particularly attractive, would be our choice. This model attracts a small premium over the others, but we think its worth it, and as it is limited to only 1,959 pieces, it will be sold out quickly. If you want one, you should book yours ASAP. Or if your taste should take you another direction, we would pick the beige dial version. Very handsome and discreet.

On the wrist, the Kuroshio ’64 sits very comfortably.

Citizen Kuroshio ’64 Specifications

Model NK0008-85L NK0001-84A NK0001-84E NK0001-17X NK0001-25X
Retail Price with GST SGD 695.50 SGD 631.30 SGD 631.30 SGD 583.15 SGD 583.15
The Kuroshio ’64 in a dark blue dial, steel bracelet, limited to 1,959 pieces.
Limited Number 1,959 pcs
Case/Band Stainless
Black Leather strap Brown Leather Strap
Dial Colour Dark
Black Beige Dark Green
Size Diameter 41mm
Thickness 12.6mm
Movement Cal.8310 / Automatic / Date Display / 50m water resistance / Luminous (hands + hour marker dots) / approx. 60hr power reserve