Hands-On Review – Cheap Trills with the Citizen Alarm Date

The Skinny 

  • Diameter: 37.5 mm
  • Thickness: 13.7 mm
  • Lug to lug: 46 mm
  • Water Resistance:
  • Movement: Citizen Caliber 3102
  • Price Paid: $230

The Dilemma of Unaffordable Vintage Watches

In today’s world where information is shared and transmitted instantly by social media, bargains in the vintage watch world are hard to find. Fortunately for bargain seekers, vintage mechanical alarm watches remain a mostly underappreciated niche. The only alarms that have resonated (pun intended) with collectors at this point are the JLC Memovox and Tudor Advisor. Despite the best efforts of some vintage dealers, many if not most vintage alarms can still be found for less than $1,000.

The Citizen Alarm Date provides an especially good value for a surprisingly low amount of money. Citizen’s vintage offerings have not drawn as much attention and love from influencers and the blogosphere. The only Citizen that I can think of that has some cachet is the Bullhead caliber 8110 bullhead flyback chronograph that Brad Pitt wore in a movie. I owned one of these but unfortunately it had some mechanical problems and I ended up selling it. The Alarm Date is based on a more reliable caliber with fewer potential problems.

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In fact, the Citizen Alarm Date caliber is a modified version of an AS1475. The Adolph Schild caliber 1475 is the most widespread vintage mechanical alarm caliber because it was inexpensive, robust, reliable, available to third parties, and provided a loud sound. I have a tendency to dismiss AS1475 watches because they are very common but it is worth noting that the coveted Tudor Advisor used a slightly modified AS1475 as well. I think that more importantly from a mechanical point of view (if not from a dealer’s point of view), the AS1475 was used as a basis for some modified alarm calibers including the Citizen Alarm Date. Citizen’s movement modifications included making the movement larger, adding a non-quickset date feature, and increasing the number of jewels to 21 from 17. The movement winds more smoothly than AS1475 examples that I have handled but other than the date, the functions are the same as its precursor.

What really surprised me was that this example of the Citizen Alarm Date is a relatively large watch with a modern wearing experience. The 37.5 mm diameter is large for a vintage watch and the thickness, long lugs, date magnifier, and large double crowns give it a contemporary wrist presence. In fact, the 46 mm lug to lug distance is the same as many modern sports watches being only 1 mm less than my Tudor Black Bay 58.

I would describe the case design as elegant, with elongated lugs that taper from the 37.5 mm diameter of the case to an 18 mm lug width. The lugs are faceted and the case has a nice shine to it. The crowns are oversized which makes winding of the alarm and timekeeping mainsprings easy. The caseback has a retro feeling of an old jar lid with an inner round protuberance with markings in the center with an outer doodle. The welding point of the caseback pin which is struck by the movement’s hammer to sound the alarm is visible from the outside, making it easier to align the caseback when snapping it back into place. The back has the markings of “S.S.” indicating that the material is stainless steel, “Parawater” which was the name of the first water resistant Citizen watch in 1959 and is used here similarly to the term “Seamaster” or “Oyster” to designate a water resistant case, the model name of “Citizen Alarm Date” in the typical cursive font, the model designation “ALDS 51301-Y”, and the serial number. The serial number can be interpreted using an online decoder, and together with the “Parawater” designation indicates that the watch was made in 1965. The caseback is a snap-off, with an inner gasket for water resistance and a small pin on the crown side to align the caseback with the movement so that the caseback pin aligns with the alarm hammer.

The silver dial has a sunburst finish. The markers are a bit flat but appear as faceted double sticks. The dauphine hour and minute hands are well proportioned and reach just shy of the hour and minute marks. The alarm indicator hand is an arrow and the running seconds hand is a standard stick with a triangular counterweight. Citizen Alarm Date is in cursive script at 12. Above it is “4H” indicating the four hands of the watch. At 6, the watch is described as a “Para Water” which as previously described, indicates a water resistant watch. In between the “Para” and “Water” is the depth rating of “40M” in blue, which is a nice detail. The crystal’s date window magnifier is large, similar to a more famous brand. The date window is surrounded by a metal border.

Overall, I think the Citizen Alarm Date may be the best deal in vintage watches today. For less than the cost of some straps you get cool mid-century watch design in a contemporary size. The date window magnifier gives the flavor of a Datejust, while the sunburst dial with the elegant hands and lugs give the feeling of a vintage Grand Seiko. The large crowns along with the long lug to lug distance and the thickness of the watch gives the watch a wrist presence similar to a modern chronograph. There is really no other vintage watch quite like the Citizen Alarm Date.