(Pocket-lint) - It's safe to say that the smartwatch market is a little complicated. Tech companies make smartwatches, fitness bands, but also fitness trackers that look like watches, and watches that are more like fitness devices than anything else - you know what we're saying. Plus this abundance of wrist-worn tech covers a plethora of different software setups.
Thankfully, however, the world of fashion keeps things a little simpler. Google supplies the software (Wear OS), the brands just have to create a pretty case and strap to put it in. Which is exactly what Citizen has done with its first proper smartwatch: the CZ Smart.
- 46mm stainless steel case
- 22mm quick-release strap
- 3ATM water-resistant
- 8g case weight
As you'd expect from a premium fashion watch brand, the CZ Smart comes in a few different finishes. There are classic silver-colour cases with red and black or blue accents, each with various strap styles and materials. The model we were sent to test is rather stunning in its dark grey and black getup.
It's classy and elegant, featuring contrasting glossy and matte brushed metal all the way up both the stainless steel link bracelet and the case. That means that while it's all virtually the same colour, those contrasting finishes give it an edge and stop it from being dull. It's subtle but also somehow quite striking in its beauty.
You can get it with a silicone or leather strap, yet the price remains the same regardless of which strap you order it with. That means you're better off ordering the one with the metal strap and then if you want a different material, you can buy it separately. Additional straps vary in price depending on material, but in truth you can order a 22mm strap from anywhere and it'll fit.
As you'd suspect, however, getting the metal bracelet to the right size is a fiddly affair. It doesn't come with the tools required to pop the pins out of the links to remove them, and some of the pins were stubborn and tricky to remove in our experience.
The bezel around the screen has a scalloped edge, while simple white blocks are printed on it to act as the index. It's in the design that you find it offers a bit more than some of the cheaper watch options. It feels sturdier and more purposeful than Fossil's similar watches, for example.
The Citizen is durable too. Featuring 30m water-resistance means it's perfectly capable of surviving if you get caught in a torrential downpour or forget to take it off before plunging into a pool.
In classic Google Wear OS style, there are three control buttons on the side. The middle button also acts as a rotating crown, so you can rotate it to scroll up the on-screen interface. The 'clicky' feel is quite subtle, but it's tactile enough that you know when you've pressed it. We'd like a bit more here to give it a more authentic mechanical feel, but we're nitpicking.
The underside of the watch is identical in design and features to all of Fossil's Gen 5 models. It's a basic black outer with two metal rings around a protruding heart rate monitor. That also means it comes with the same magnetic charging disc as the Fossil Group watches.
It's a shame in some ways that the Citizen doesn't ship with a charger that's a little more premium in design. Still, it works well and having those two little physical contacts to charge the watch means it's quicker than most wireless chargers. Just 40mins can fill 80 per cent of the battery.
Screen and software
- Fully round 1.28-inch AMOLED display
- 416 x 416 resolution
- Wear OS software
Apart from in its design, all other functions and the experience of the watch feels largely the same as any other style-focused Wear OS watch. After all, there's only so much you can do when running a the same platform as every other maker.
Some manufacturers have differentiated by implementing their own tracking or wellness apps, or loading it with their own custom watch faces. Citizen has done that to an extent, but its attempt is a little lacking as there are only four Citizen-designed watch faces. So it's very much a case of downloading third-party ones from the Google Play Store if you want to change up the look properly.
It's a similar story with the included wellness app from Citizen. Yes, it can track your runs or outdoor walks, and show basic activity data on your wrist. But to get the most from the watch it's best just to stick with Google Fit because that way you can sync it to that account and have it on your phone too.
Google Fit has improved over the course of the past year or so, and offers enough basic data to keep you well informed of your fitness. You can track outdoor activities, with GPS/route data for walks and runs.
Wear OS - when paired with an Android phone - is great for interactivity. You can reply to messages that pop up on your wrist, and those animations are colourful and attractive. Plus, there's Google Pay for contactless payments from your wrist which has relatively wide support from banks. Although, still not quite up to Apple Pay standards.
All of this interface is displayed on a sharp, completely round 1.28-inch AMOLED display. It's bright and vivid and the resolution makes it plenty sharp enough.
Performance and battery
- Snapdragon Wear 3100
- 8GB storage
- 24+ hour battery
- GPS and HR data
It's safe to say that if you're looking for a smartwatch primarily as a fitness tracking device, the CZ Smart won't be top of your list. Because, while it does the basics well enough - counting steps, measuring sleep, and 24 hour heart rate - it's not so great for actually tracking specific activities.
GPS performance in our tests was inconsistent at best and - on one occasion - quite far off being accurate. On a regular short drill session that's somewhere around 3.5km it measured more than 4km somehow, when distance was not really close to that. We took it on a couple of short walks too, but on those it was accurate enough.
It's not just GPS accuracy that makes it less than ideal for avid runners, it's the battery life too. Being used in its regular smartwatch mode without any specific activity tracking it'll last maybe 36 hours before needing to be snapped on to its charger. Use it for more battery intensive activities, like tracking a long outdoor run, and that battery drains much quicker.
That means that while its sleep tracking is actually quite accurate, you'll never use it for that because by the end of the day it won't have enough charge to make it through the next one, so you'll have to charge it at bed time every single day.
This isn't a unique problem for the CZ Smart though, it's pretty much standard battery behaviour for Wear OS watches, the Apple Watch series, and even Samsung's non-Wear OS watch.
It performs its smart functions well. Despite using what is an old watch processor now - it's the Wear 3100 from Qualcomm, so a generation out - its animations are fluid and, once downloaded, apps load quickly enough. It even makes for a decent wrist-based speaker phone for those times you need to quickly answer a phone call and can't grab your phone.
On the face of it, Citizen's first smartwatch seems pricey compared to some of the competition. In terms of performance the CZ Smart is essentially the same as the Fossil Gen 5 series, so that extra expense may be hard to swallow for some.
But the Citizen brand has a perceived value. Plus the CZ Smart's quality and design is fantastic - with the contrast between the shiny and matte black making it simultaneously subtle and striking. It has a refined approach to the finer details that make it look more premium than most.
In the end, it's this eye-catching design that's going to sell it. Because otherwise it simply does all of the same stuff as any fashion brand's Wear OS watch - including not being especially long-lasting per charge.
So if you're in the market for a stylish smartwatch to go with your Android phone, the Citizen CZ Smart is a super option.
Fossil Gen 5 Garrett HR
On the face of it, the Gen 5 Garrett is very similar in style to the Citizen, it also features identical hardware and software (plus/minus some watch faces and wellness additions). More importantly though: it's considerably cheaper.
Montblanc Summit Lite
At the other end of the scale the Summit Lite from luxury brand, Montblanc, is a much pricier watch. But it's a design that won't find anywhere else.