The Vintage Citizen Super Crystal Date And Super Jet Auto Dater
We’re back with more vintage Citizen. Today, we take a look at a trio of fantastic watches that are just a bit different than anything from the era. Prepare yourself for the Citizen Super Crystal Date and Super Jet Auto Dater.
I was having a look at some of the vintage Japanese watches in my collection the other day. The sheer variety of styles always gets me. More than that, though, I still walk away with a bit of a need to talk about them. You see, I’m of the belief that the Japanese watch companies were making some epic stuff during the ’60s. I always bring up the fact that we see so much Seiko, but, comparatively speaking, so little Citizen or Orient. Let’s shed some light on a couple of different, yet related watches from Citizen today: the Super Crystal Date and Super Jet Auto Dater.
A bit of discovery
When it comes to vintage Japanese watches, I’ve stated that I have a real penchant for several characteristics when hunting. Firstly, I prefer watches with lume and that means dial and hands. Second, I aim for specimens with some sort of sporting intent no matter how mild. Aside from those areas, I’m pretty open and don’t mind watches with a bit of wear or a date window. On the latter point, it’s very hard to find Japanese watches lacking a date. I suppose they were keen on adding value and showing off quick set movements. It was on one of these hunts on a Japanese site that I first stumbled upon the Super Crystal Date. I was immediately taken by its looks, but I’d soon find out that there was more to discover. Soon after, I came across the Super Jet Auto Dater.
Whether you’re viewing the Citizen Super Crystal Date or the Super Jet Auto Dater, the watches have some key traits in common. All of the watches you see here date from various months during 1966 and 1967. The Super Crystal Date looks a bit more dated, but it seems they were made concurrently. Another shared specification is their 150 meters of water resistance. If you’re a keen Citizen fan — or even if you’re not — this type of water resistance level was normally reserved for dive watches. Unsurprisingly, Citizen offered some very similar dive watches with the same water resistance and an external bezel. Lastly — and this is my favorite part — each of these watches use monobloc cases. That kind of oddity just intrigues me!
The Citizen Super Crystal Date
The Citizen Super Crystal Date is also known as reference 52801-Y. It has a 37.5mm stainless steel case and is equipped with a thick, flat mineral crystal that makes photographing a proper chore. It’s only 12mm in thickness and has a lug to lug of 45mm. The chunky lugs house an 18mm strap.
In addition to the aforementioned water resistance, Citizen equipped this model with a high-end, 33-jewel caliber 5410 automatic which can be hand-wound. You can read an exhaustive report about the restoration of such a movement in this fantastic article. Of note, this movement hacks and has a quickset date function when pulling the non-screw-down crown out to its first stop.
A unique Rolex Explorer competitor
Enough about specifications, though, because the looks are what drove me to win this piece. At a time when most companies, Swiss or otherwise, were making pure divers or dress watches, this watch stands out from the crowd. I hate to invoke the use of the dreaded “field watch” moniker, but here we are. The Citizen Super Crystal Date could dive, but it feels like an answer to a watch like the Rolex Explorer. Essentially, it’s a stripped-down high-performance model and I find that incredibly cool for the hiker, occasional swimmer, etc. And one cannot help but notice the swaths of lume against the majestic black dial. Yes, the hands and dial have aged differently, which is a common occurrence on these, but it looks great. On top of that, there’s some finery such as the applied logo and three stars above 6:00. Mine was not running very well and James Marien sorted it out and sent some gorgeous macros as always.
On the wrist, this is such a sweet watch to wear. Its slim profile and great sizing make it incredibly comfortable. Plus, the Citizen Super Crystal Date will pair well with just about any type of strap or vintage bracelet. The watch feels incredibly solid and in some ways quite modern. Even though the movement isn’t the most satisfying to wind, it seems to be robust and it does keep excellent time after its spell with James. Lastly, don’t forget to flip it over because the case back is simply incredible. This one even still has some of its blue protective coating on the back.
Finding a Citizen Super Crystal Date can be difficult
If you’re interested in one of these, you’ll need to consider shopping in Japan. I don’t believe that Citizen marketed or sold the Citizen Super Crystal Date in the West. That’s a shame because I think they would have proven popular with US military soldiers during the Vietnam War. Regardless, expect to pay anywhere from $600 — 1,000 for a decent model. The movements can be serviced, but parts are truly difficult. Crystals, crowns, and other ornamental parts are nearly impossible to find. Regarding variants, I have come across another version without the “Super” and blue crosshairs running through the dial. It seems to be the same watch otherwise.
The Citizen Super Jet Auto Dater continues the trend
It does seem a bit weird that Citizen made both the Super Jet Auto Dater and the Super Crystal Date at the same time. These models carry a different reference — 51202-Y. The watches are incredibly similar aside from a few notable differences. The Super Jet sports dimensions almost exactly on point with the Crystal Date except that the lugs are 20mm wide instead of 18mm. You can see this immediately because the lugs are quite slender on the Super Jet. Additionally, Citizen used its 39(!!) jewel Super Jet caliber 1150 movement in this series of watches. You may recall an article I wrote about a dressy Jet Auto Dater with its impressive 27 jewel variant. The rotors on these movements alone are worth the price of admission and these 150-meter watches have them as well.
A sweet Super Jet 39 jewel automatic
The Super Jet Auto Dater, as the name implies, features a quick set date function and can be hand-wound. However, they do not hack. In order to change the date, Citizen employed a method similar to Omega at the time. The user pulls the crown out one stop to set the time and a second time to change the date. The date changes immediately when the crown is pulled and is spring-loaded to return back to the first stop. I always find this style to feel a tad fragile, but both of these work just fine.
So there I was scrolling through auction ads and I came across the black dialed Super Jet and even though the dial looks a lot like the Super Crystal Date, I had to have it because of the movement variation. After securing the win, I was content that I had found everything that I wanted. Wrong! If you know anything about Japanese watches, there’s always another variant around the corner. In addition to realizing that a black dialed version exists with dagger hands (I don’t need that one), there was an elusive silver-dialed version, and finding one became a priority.
The elusive silver Super Jet Auto Dater
I had almost virtually walked right past the first silver Super Jet Auto Dater. After all, unlike either the black Super Crystal Date and Super Jet, this version contains no lume at all. It’s sort of the ultimate stealth beast with the same robust water resistance, materials, and movement. I find it interesting that Citizen went in this dressier direction because they certainly were producing other silver-dialed watches with luminous hands and dials at the time. No matter their rationale, it’s still a great looking watch. I happened to miss the first one I saw as I was simply outbid, but I scored a couple of weeks later on this lovely example you see here. I have zero evidence of this, but the silver models come around less frequently at auction.
Equally great on the wrist
Much like the Super Crystal Date, these Super Jets look fantastic on the wrist. The 20mm lug width gives a slightly different look along with the flatter polished bezel. Here again, the watches feel incredibly robust due to their monobloc cases and thick mineral glass crystals. Sadly, the case back isn’t as sexy on Super Jets as they keep the information down to the bare essentials. Do note the little circled “x”. This supposedly denotes the front loading case style. Pricing on the Super Jets seem to be in the same range as the Super Crystal Date, but I’ve seen the silver variants fetch $200 more or so at times. Honestly, I still haven’t figured out the Japanese market when it comes to vintage Citizen or Seiko. Sale prices seem to vary wildly.
A fun category of watches to collect
I’m curious if this is the first time you’ve seen either the Citizen Super Crystal Date or its relative the Super Jet Auto Dater. These were unknown to me up until a year or so ago and I’m really glad that I discovered them. These are some seriously high-quality watches with some rather uncommon specs for the late 1960s. As I mentioned, they feel like Rolex Explorer competitors.. These days, there are plenty of field watches with all kinds of capabilities. In the case of Citizen, I guess the current Promaster Tough series in steel or the titanium “Ray Mears” comes closest. Let us know what you think of these relatively exotic pieces and if you own one (including one of the chrome cased versions), feel free to chime in with more information.