I know a lot of ink has been spilt over this question, but I haven't found any thread that collates the data and miscellaneous info. in a straightforward manner to document the pros and cons of each. I'm ready to pull the trigger on a HAQ and, from what I can tell, two of best options are the GS 9F movement and the Citizen A660, both thermocompensated quartz movements. If you're split between them, which should you choose?
I should disclose in advance that I've only handled the SBGX059 and SBGX061. I've never seen the Citizen Chronomaster in real life (for me it's like the Yeti or Bigfoot or something). That said, the observations presented below are mostly drawn from what I've read across the various forums and blogs, and not so much from first hand experience. I will say, however, that the SBGX061 is especially beautiful, and in person it surpassed my expectations in every way. Also, the Chronomaster is only available in titanium, though the Eco-Drive HAQ counterparts are available in stainless steel. Grand Seiko 9F quartz are available in both titanium and SS. If titanium is a deal-breaker for you, the Chronomaster won’t work.
First of all, fit and finish:
From different things I've read, the slight nod here goes to Grand Seiko. But this is definitely subjective in a lot of respects. In general, however, the GS line is renowned for its finishing. I own the SBGH005 Hi-beat and other Rolex watches (the DJ and Milgauss) and I can confidently say that unquestionably the GS surpasses Rolex with respect to finishing (but this thread isn't GS vs Rolex, so I digress). I think, therefore, that even if the Citizen is superb in this respect, it's hard to imagine it surpasses GS.
Specs and real-world tests across the internet give the nod to Citizen. The A660 is one of the most accurate quartz movements commercially available. See this thread for an excellent analysis:
TimeZone : Public Forum Â» Is the Citizen A010 Movement the Best High-Precision Quartz Movement to Date?
I am quite intrigued and compelled by the theoretical 50-Year service interval for the GS; and I haven’t read anything that suggests that the Citizen movement is vacuum sealed in the same way to promote a similar service interval. Thus, nod goes to the GS.
The A660 movement facilitates independent hour-hand movements when changing time zones (or fall forward, spring back) and contains a perpetual calendar. This is a BIG deal to a lot of people. Nod to Citizen.
Citizen offers 10-year warranty with two free battery changes, one at year 3 and one at year 8. GS provides a 2-year warranty. Nod to Citizen again.
Second Hand & Dial Alignment:
For some, it’s extremely important that the second hand hit the dial markers on each tick. Lots of conflicting reports on this, however. The standard narrative is that, as part of the twin pulse step motor, GS developed a backlash auto-adjust mechanism designed to mitigate vibration of the second hand and ensure the second hand directly aligns with the dial markers. The problem is that real-life performance is sketchy. Some people swear GS excels in this respect. Others say that it’s a luck-of-the-draw kind of thing; some examples perform well in this regard right out of the box, others don’t. A few reports I’ve seen say that if you view the GS second hand under a 10x loupe, it’s all over the place. Sometimes it will hit the marker, sometimes it will hit either side. For my part, I’ll call this a draw, since there is no consensus across the various reports, and since it seems very likely the mileage will vary between examples. Though I think it’s important to note that Grand Seiko specifically designed tech to promote highest second hand performance, and I’m not sure the same is true of Citizen.
Neither watch makes an especially audible tick. Most say that the GS 9F is silent unless you put the watch to your ear in a quiet room and listen closely. A few have signaled that the Chronomaster is even more quiet, that if even if you listen intently you’ll be hard-pressed to hear the ticking sound. This reviewer calls The Chronomaster "completely silent":
Still, not enough valid data to render an objective verdict on this one. Draw.
Citizen has it, GS doesn’t. This is a draw because it’s purely preference. Some absolutely require lume; others prefer the elegant simplicity of the GS markers.
Fit and Finish: GS
Second Hand Alignment: Draw
Movement Noise: Draw
I’ve tried to outline all the most salient criteria to aid in making the decision. A few final comments, though:
GS just has that “look” that everyone digs. Not sure if Chronomaster can compete in sheer sexiness, though it definitely has its own charm and dignity that grows on you. If you can’t take your eye off the GS and think the 50-year service interval is compelling, then the Grand Seiko is for you. But if you want to know that you’re wearing one of the most accurate commercial quartz watches on planet earth with a good warranty and independent hour hand and perpetual calendar, then The Citizen Chronomaster is for you.
Since I already own the GS SBGH005, I’m almost certainly going to scoop up The Chronomaster. But if I didn’t already own a GS, I can say that the decision would be well nigh impossible. This is one dilemma in which you seriously can't go wrong.
Neither pic is mine. But what's a thread without pics?