“The Citizen CZ Smart is a good smartwatch with solid performance and battery life, but the design doesn't quite meet what we'd expect from such a notable watchmaker.”
- High-quality stainless steel case
- Comfortable strap for a good fit
- Decent battery life
- Surprisingly good performance
- Inaccurate step count
- Not a "Citizen" enough design
Citizen has been making watches for more than 100 years, produces all its components in-house, and has been a pioneer in a variety of technologies, focusing on the use of light power and high degrees of precision. It’s newest watch, the Citizen CZ Smart, is the company’s first touchscreen smartwatch — and based on that heritage, we should be excited about it. As a fan of the brand’s watches in general, I was very keen to try it out.
The more watch brands embrace smartwatches, the better the designs, comfort, and technology will get, so it’s important for companies like Citizen to get involved. Does the Citizen CZ Smart join Tag Heuer’s Connected (2020), Montblanc’s Summit 2, and Alpina’s AlpinerX as another example of the traditional watch industry getting smartwatches right?
I’ve been wearing it to find out.
The only question that really needs answering here is, does the CZ Smart look and feel like a Citizen watch? Yes, it does, but not as much as some of the brand’s more famous models, and you probably have to be very familiar with Citizen’s range of dive watches to see the family connection. The bezel’s shape and design are reminiscent of the Promaster Diver range, as are the guards around the crown, for example. However, to most casual observers, it looks like any other smartwatch, and may even be mistaken for the Fossil Garrett HR.
Here’s where the problem is. I like the style of the CZ Smart a lot, but it’s just not “Citizen” enough, and it’s an issue that continues in the software. Citizen hasn’t exploited its range of incredibly recognizable dial designs for different watch faces either, providing just a handful of rather ordinary faces to choose from. Why isn’t there a take on the eye-catching Skyhawk, or the unusual Satellite Wave? Tag Heuer gets this aspect exactly right, and offers a wide range of dial designs that fit in with the brand, or are part of its ambassador-designed collections. There’s really no reason why Citizen couldn’t have done the same.
It’s unfortunate the CZ Smart isn’t more Citizen-like, as the watch looks good on the wrist. The bezel is thin, the blue color gives it some character, the 46mm case is made from stainless steel and feels very high quality, and there’s Gorilla Glass over the screen for protection. The 22m blue silicone strap is very comfortable and should be really hard-wearing too. It has a plastic case back though, which is a little unfortunate. Despite being close in style to the Fossil Garrett HR, it looks far more mature, and feels better built as well.
Citizen likely leaned into its partnership with Fossil to produce the CZ Smart. The pair announced they would work together on hybrid smartwatch technology some time ago, but based on the presence of Fossil’s Wellness app and the pre-installation of Spotify here, it certainly appears this is a product of that partnership too. It’s no bad thing, Fossil works with many brands on smartwatches, including Diesel, Micheal Kors, and Skagen. It knows what it’s doing.
The Citizen CZ Smart looks good and it’s very comfortable, but it doesn’t quite say “I’m wearing a Citizen smartwatch,” like it should, and it feels like a missed opportunity.
The CZ Smart has a 1.28-inch AMOLED screen has a 416 x 416-pixel resolution so it’s very sharp, which makes me even sadder there aren’t many great standard Citizen watch faces that take advantage of it. Inside is a Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 3100 processor, not the newer Snapdragon Wear 4100 chip, which makes it technically out-of-date. Sadly, Citizen isn’t the only one to settle for the aging Snapdragon 3100 chip, as almost all other smartwatch manufacturers still do too.
It’s not a performance disaster at all, thankfully. It zips along quite happily when doing the basics, such as tracking workouts, receiving notifications, and using apps. It has taken a while, but the chip has been effectively optimized when it’s matched to 1GB of RAM as it is here, along with the latest software, and is perfectly usable on a daily basis. What it does miss out on is the increased efficiency from the Snapdragon 4100. The Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 3’s battery lasts at least three full days on a single charge, and the CZ Smart can’t quite manage that.
How does the battery compare? It’s decent. With general daily use and only activity tracking using the Wellness app, I got almost three working days by turning the watch off overnight. If you track using Google Fit, start streaming music, or use intensive apps like Google Maps, it’ll just about do two working days. The watch has fast charging, with 80% coming up in about 45 minutes and 100% in about 70 minutes.
While not outstanding the CZ Smart has the performance and battery life to do what I want from a smartwatch on a daily basis.
It’s great to see the CZ Smart has the latest Google Wear OS H-MR2 software update already installed, which no doubt adds to the slightly better battery life and zippy performance, plus it introduces new features like an adjustable screen timeout, and a new weather tile.
One of the most welcome features on the CZ Smart is the rotating crown to aid navigation through the Wear OS software. It should be a standard feature on all Wear OS smartwatches, but it’s not, so congratulations to Citizen for adding it in here. The guards around the crown make it less uncomfortable to rotate with your thumb too. The buttons on either side of the crown activate Google Fit and the Citizen Watch Face app, although they can be reconfigured.
The CZ Smart delivers notifications from your phone with average reliability. This is what I expect from Wear OS generally, which is nowhere near as reliable as Apple’s WatchOS when communicating with your phone. There are a speaker and a microphone to make and receive calls on the CZ Smart, which is always welcome, but there’s no 4G LTE connection so it relies on being connected to your phone. It’s loud enough to hold conversations at home.
Fossil’s Wellness app is on board, which promises to track basic activity — steps, sleep, calories, and workouts, all without extensively draining the battery. It suits the CZ Smart because I can’t see it being worn by hardcore fitness fanatics, but by people who want to know how much (or how little) they’re moving about. It’s simple to use as it’s all presented on one screen, and provides only an indoor or outdoor workout tracking option. It’s quick and easy, and fits in with how I imagine the watch will be worn. Google Fit is also available for anyone who wants more in-depth, data-intensive activity tracking.
How is the CZ Smart when you’re tracking activity? Annoyingly, it seems the software needs optimizing, as the CZ Smart over estimates step count by quite a lot. After noticing I was supposedly doing a lot more walking than was possible during lockdown, I compared it to the Apple Watch Series 6. I found over the course of a busy morning, the CZ Smart recorded 3,600 steps while the Apple Watch counted 2,500 steps.
While the heart rate sensor’s results were consistent, and I don’t think anyone who is really concerned over tracking fitness will be looking at this model, Citizen needs to fix the step count accuracy soon.
The Citizen CZ Smart costs $395, and is available now from Amazon and through Citizen’s online store. There are three different models: The blue and stainless steel version seen here, a stainless steel model with a black strap and a black/red bezel, plus a black stainless steel version with a black metal link bracelet. All are the same price.
For doing what I want each day, the Citizen CZ Smart is a very good smartwatch. It’s fast and the battery lasts for longer than I’d expected, plus it’s very well made and comfortable to wear. However, it’s coming into a crowded market, with dozens of similar smartwatches available about which you can say the same thing, so it’s unfortunate Citizen hasn’t really capitalized on its brand name and watchmaking expertise to make it stand out.
I wanted the CZ Smart to have the same draw as buying a Skyhawk A-T, but instead, it’s like buying any other Wear OS smartwatch from the last few years, and for that reason, it’s a missed opportunity. Citizen could have really taken control of the watchmaker/smartwatch space here.
Is there a better alternative?
Yes. If you want a smartwatch for your Android phone, we recommend the Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 3. It may not be the best-looking watch you can buy, but it is the most technologically advanced Wear OS smartwatch at the moment. The Snapdragon 4100 chip works well with Mobvoi’s unusual dual-screen design to make the most of the battery, and provide plenty of performance.
If you own an iPhone and are looking for a smartwatch, the Apple Watch Series 6 or the Apple Watch SE are for you. It’s not often an Apple product can be called a bargain, but compared to the $395 Citizen CZ Smart, the $279 Apple Watch SE, in particular, is excellent value.
The other watch to consider is the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3. The software is easier to use and more attractive than Google’s Wear OS, and the rotating bezel makes navigation simple. Citizen’s high price for the CZ Smart sees it compete directly with all these smartwatches, with several coming in at much lower prices.
How long will it last?
Like all good smartwatches, the Citizen CZ Smart will last at least two years before you’d consider replacing it. However, the Snapdragon 3100 chip is already old, and when more models with the Snapdragon 4100 eventually start arriving, smartwatches using the old platform will really feel their age. That said, smartwatches don’t have the same power demands as a smartphone, so provided you continue doing the same things with the watch as you always have, it’ll be a fine companion.
The stainless steel body, Gorilla Glass, and 3ATM water resistance rating mean the CZ Smart should be very hard-wearing. The 22mm strap is thick and tough, and is also easily replaced due to the 22mm size and quick-release pins.
Should you buy it?
Sadly, no. There are better, more up-to-date smartwatches available for lower prices. The unfortunate thing here is, if the CZ Smart really looked and felt like a Citizen watch, the verdict may have been different.
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