For all the interesting stories told about the heritage of watches, it’s not often you hear them coming out of the Japanese brands. This makes the origin story of the latest vintage-inspired Citizen Kuroshio ’64 something of a rarity as it was one of the very first water-resistant watches to be made in Japan and has had a history worth talking about.
These days it’s expected that even the cheapest of watches come with some sort of water resistance making it more convenient for everyday use. It’s easy to forget that this feature was not readily available on watches in the early part of the 20th century to a point that even the washing of hands would require the owner to take off his watch. The Swiss had managed to invent and patent water-resistance in watches by the 1920s but it was only in 1959 that Citizen became the first of the Japanese manufactures to be able to offer a watch with 50 metres of water resistance and they called it the Parawater. The name was taken from the word “para” meaning protection and “water” to indicate what the watch was protected from.
These days 50m of water-resistance is in dress watch territory while most mechanical dive watches can go do a depth of 200m and more, the accomplishments of the Parawater may not seem all that special. But remember, at the time of its unveiling, 50m was better than anything else available in Japan. Citizen was so proud of this fact that for this watch, they even put the ‘Parawater’ labelling where their ‘Citizen’ brand usually was.
To accomplish this water resistance, Citizen used a combination of O rings made from a special rubber (butadiene acrylic nitrile copolymer) in various sizes for the caseback and crown. According to Citizen, this solution was inexpensive, and they were still able to keep the watch priced at JPY 6,000 which was roughly half the monthly salary of a Japanese high school graduate at the time.
The name Kuroshio ’64 comes from the project “Kuroshio 64” which was part of a study on the Kuroshio (black current or Japan current) undersea current that flows past Taiwan and the southeast coast of Japan. This experiment was conceived by the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and the Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology where they released bottles into the oceans off the Japanese coast. In these bottles, they would include survey forms for anyone who found them to send back.
Seeing this as a great marketing opportunity, Citizen decided to collaborate on the project, to also showcase the water-resistant aspect of their Parawater watches. They designed distinctive bright yellow buoys and attached the Parawater underneath, along with the survey forms for the study. In 1964, 47 buoys with a Parawater watch were dropped off the coast of the Sanin sea and incredibly, each watch that was found was still functioning perfectly.
For the Parawater, now reborn as the Citizen Kuroshio ’64, they decided to keep the distinctive ‘arrowhead’ hour markers for the watch along with the domed crystal that is made of mineral glass. The size has been updated to a modern 41mm in diameter while the dial has been embossed with a sunburst-like texture inspired by the ocean waves. The crown has been updated to make it easier to grip while lume dots will now accompany the hour markers. As for its movement, the Citizen Kuroshio ’64 is powered by Citizen’s own Calibre 8310 which has a hacking function along with 60 hours of power reserve.
The price of the Citizen Kuroshio ’64 also harks back to the affordable nature of the original and starts from MYR 1,750 to MYR 2,080 and will be available in Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, China, Hong Kong SAR, Taiwan region, Korea, Philippines and Cambodia.
Case: Stainless steel
Case size: 41mm
Crystal: Double domed mineral glass
Movement: Citizen Calibre 8310
Water Resistance: 50m
Price: MYR 1,750 to MYR 2,080