TimeTravel #3: Radio-controlled Citizen 7400 Multizone Creative thinking meets daring design by Tomas RosputinskyJanuary 25, 2020 MIN READTimeTravel #3: Radio-controlled Citizen 7400 Multizone
A brilliant idea in a sci-fi package: Meet the Citizen Multizone 7400-70015C with five pushers and seven hands.
What you see here today is the world’s first multi-band radio-controlled watch. And what a mindblowing gadget it is. Thanks to Citizen and their ref. 7400-70015C creation, we can once again travel back in time, this time to 1993.
It wasn’t premeditated, but the first two watches introduced in our new TimeTravel series happened to be quartz. The best part? Both the Tissot RockWatch and the manual wound quartz Seiko 8T23 garnered a lot of interest from you, our Fratello Magazine readers. Believe it or not, again without particular intention, we dug out yet another jaw-dropping quartz watch. But the fact that its quartz becomes moot when you consider just how many features the Citizen Multizone has to offer.
The date show
We all have our pet hates. Those watches that, no matter what anyone else says, we find ugly as sin. These feelings are often intense and frequently long-held. But, just occasionally, you might change your opinion about an ugly watch and find yourself starting to like it. Our tastes evolve, after all. However, I am sorry to say that the Citizen 7400 is the only watch in my collection that is truly ugly and will probably stay ugly for decades to come. Despite that, I love it. I am genuinely fascinated by the out-of-this-world design, crystal, dial, and functions. How do you check the date? In the most impractical way possible (but it does kind of add to the charm). Rather than Simply showing the date (yawn), the Citizen 7400 requires its wearer (or anyone within the vicinity of the wearer’s wrist) to hold down the top left pusher. Check out the video below for a working example:
Citizen catching waves
Having a radio-controlled watch means you don’t have to worry about accuracy. At 2 am every even day, and at 4 pm on every odd day, the watch receives a radio signal and adjusts the time. There are three towers worldwide emitting these daily signals. As you can imagine, to receive a signal coming from either Frankfurt, Germany (transmitting station DCF77), Rugby, England (transmitting station MSF), or Sanch-Cho, Japan (transmitting station JG2AS) you’d need a pretty big aerial yourself, right? If you were wondering what that massive coil was doing bang slap in the middle of the dial, there’s your answer. Today’s radio-controlled Citizens have a coil that is so tiny it can easily be hidden beneath the dial. Back in the day, that wasn’t the case, and the coiled-receiver somewhat dominates the display. The L-1 and L-2 positions allow you to set any time zone you wish. I tell you, running a company in multiple zones would herald extra charm with this Citizen 7400 on the wrist!
Notice the ON / OFF signs on the date arc. If you press and hold the middle left pusher for a moment, you will make the longer hand fly up from the OFF to the ON position. What you just did is activate the summer-time changeover and made the time on the right half skip by one hour.
Additionally, you can force the Citizen 7400 to receive a radio wave any time you wish. All you’ve got to do is hold down the bottom right pusher. You’ll know it’s worked because both date hands fly up onto the ON position and the second hand comes back to zero as a confirmation that the signal has been requested. How long it takes to receive the signal, however, varies. It can take anywhere from one minute to three. If you press the upper right pusher, the watch immediately signals if the time reading was successful or not. Just amazing.
With five pushers on the Citizen 7400, it’s easy to get confused. But operating the watch is actually super easy. It soon becomes second nature. If you are struggling, however, you can check the manual online. That’s right: Citizen has backed-up all manuals for its back-catalog online. That’s about as amazing a resource as you’re likely to find in the watchmaking game. Go, check it, and remember this when pondering whether to buy a full set or just a watch.
Hunting Citizen 7400
Condition is king! If you find a nice working example of the Citizen 7400, I would say it’s worth taking a chance on. Broken modules can be troublesome for even the best watchmakers as many parts are hard to come by. It is far easier to service a mechanical watch from this era than a quartz equivalent.
I learned how competitive the market for working 7400s can be to my peril. People shamelessly ask €1,000 and more for clean, working examples of the Citizen 7400. That was, in my mind, a bit steep. So I decided to wait until something more reasonably priced popped-up on eBay. With no bids for a long time, I thought I might snare it on the cheap. Well, I was wrong. A few minutes before the end, new bidders joined. I stopped bidding at €800 and let it go. At that time, I’d never held the watch and wasn’t sure about its real value.
A few days later, I checked offerings on a local German site and found the Citizen 7400 there again. Some guy was selling it for €350. He couldn’t set it properly: He thought the summer-time changeover was not working. The watch looked solid, with just minor scratches suggesting light wear, so I took the chance.
Never give up; trust your gut.
For the first two days after getting the watch, I couldn’t receive any signal and felt disappointed. A bit desperate, I kept trying. On the fourth day the sky was clear, so I tried it again. The watch was stuck in receiving mode for much longer than in previous tries, so I felt I was getting there. I felt an immense joy when the time re-adjusted and the date hands started to show the actual date. The lesson? Never give up; trust your gut. Grabbing this fully functional Citizen 7400 for one-third of the budget I was willing to pay a few weeks earlier? That’s what I call a great deal.
Glass of the year
Pure glass. Convex glass is piece of art. Its thickness and sharp edges remind me of the raw material in its pure form. A shaped edge gives it the form of fine glassware. With the antenna cemented in the center, it looks truly majestic. Although some may call the proud placement of the antenna a buzzkill, Citizen made it an object of primary interest and admiration.
Pure glass. Convex glass is piece of art. Its thickness and sharp edges remind me of the raw material in its pure form.
Does time-reading suck? Well, a little bit. But no more than on the Breitling Cosmonaute ref 809. It takes some getting used to, but just like the new Halo technology in Formula 1, after a while, it’s as if it isn’t there at all. Wearing it every day makes it much easier.
Funnily enough, during the first couple days of wearing the watch, I put it on my wrist up-side-down most of the time. It looks similar from both sides and the bracelet doesn’t help much. The glass has a foggy effect when not in direct sunlight. The Roman numerals XII and VI are very weird. The steeply sloped ceramic blue ring helps disturb the chunky waist. Despite the height, the Citizen 7400 wears comfortably. There is also another version available with some gold highlights (ref. 7400-C70007). I had to tie my hands to the chair to stop myself from buying it. But all that means is that there’s one more out there, waiting for a lucky collector to give it a home.
As you can tell, I’m not even trying to hide my excitement. I’ve barely taken a breath since I started writing. I think that if I left my computer unattended, the Citizen 7400 would write the article on its own. No kidding, this watch is so full of energy and life. It gives you a completely new visual and user experience. Go for it, I feel the value of this one will only increase over time. Happy hunting!
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About the author
During the day time, Tomas is an entrepreneur in the advertising, automotive and IT software industries. At night he turns into a watch enthusiast searching for quirky movements or vintage pieces with strong stories behind. Tomas was born and bred… read more
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