Who shops for a specific brand and buys the least emblematic offering in its product line? Last year James Stacey rightfully pointed out that the first Promaster Automatic "Fujitsubo" Diver (a.k.a. the "Challenge" Diver) is – on its face, at least – one of the most run-of-the-mill dive watches in Citizen's lineup. When I think of Citizen I often think of giant and eye-catching watches – the 46mm Orca, the full-lume 46mm Eco-Drive Promaster Dive, and yes, the 48mm Ecozilla – all looking like they could swallow a tuna whole just like they'll swallow your wrist. And they're iconic.
Kudos to anyone who says to themselves, "I want a Citizen because I love the brand," and then goes and picks the most "standard" of its watches. Maybe you love a neo-vintage deep cut. Maybe you're a traditionalist across the board. But if you're reaching for a "Fujitsubo" out of the entirety of Citizen's modern cult-classic – largely big and wild – affordable options, you're probably in the minority of Citizen enthusiasts. I can't fault you, the original Promaster Dive Automatic Super Titanium release (and the blue-dialed model which I own) is – again to steal a line from James – "something else."
Well, it's something that Citizen just took up a notch with its new DLC-coated version of the Super-Titanium Promaster Dive Automatic. Now it's "something else" and a little bit more.
The new Promaster Dive Automatic series start from a strong base, not a one-to-one reproduction of the brand's vintage "Challenge Divers" but for those fans of vintage dive watches from the 1960s and 1970s, you immediately know where the inspiration comes from. My first reaction when I saw the original releases was the similarity to the Seiko 62MAS, but that was just the style of the time.
Of course the watch is beefed up a bit from the vintage era, with 200m water resistance and a slightly larger 41mm case (up from 40mm of the vintage watch). The 20mm lug width is the standard I always hope for in a diver like this, easy enough to grab a NATO and slap it on in the summer months. But why would I want to take it off the bracelet?
Understanding Black-Coated Watches
I don't want to oversimplify things here, but a big part of why I love this watch is the general vibe (as the kids say) of how the case, bracelet, and dial all come together. I have a massive (probably illogical) love of "coated" watches. Whether it's PVD, DLC, or any other coating, you've got my attention, and if I had unlimited funds, I'd probably build a collection of every vintage coated watch.
Here Citizen has chosen a Duratect DLC coating (not PVD as you might find listed on a number of retailer's sites) for the case and bracelet. While Citizen calls this a black coating, it's more of a dark grey unlike the real matte black you would get on a watch like a Porsche Design Chronograph 1 or vintage Heuer "Dark Lord." The color shifts in the light much more as well, which I thought was an interesting difference from most of those matte coatings which soak up light and don't have a lot of contrast to the facets and shape of the case.
The dial follows suit with a fumé-style. It's not a Moser-level fumé, but you shouldn't expect that for $1,200. The amount of gradient from the dark outer edge to the inner grey section doesn't really come through in Citizen's online images, but it's a dramatic effect in person. You'll notice in the photos here that the dial also shifts hue, from a slightly green tint to more magenta (something that might not be surprising to any photographers that work with light, color balance, and grey tones frequently), depending on the light and the colors the watch picks up from the surrounding environment.
The inclusion of a date window is always contentious – here's where you insert the joke about how much trouble you're in if you need to know the date underwater – but it didn't faze me one bit. Obviously color-matching date windows to dials creates a more unified design but with a gradient dial like this, it would be hard to match the gradient. The contrast of the white isn't that stark because of the indices around the dial.
Aside from the coating on the case, it bears saying that Citizen's Super Titanium cases are pretty incredible. In this instance, you get the same 41mm wide by 12.3mm thick case dimensions James talked about in his review. There's the same domed and recessed crystal, the same exclusive Citizen 9051 movement inside – 4Hz automatic movement with hacking, hand-winding, date, 42 hours of power reserve, and anti-magnetic hairspring – and everything else that people have enjoyed about the previous releases. Sure the movement can feel a bit, well, "affordable" on the wrist. The lightweight case seems to accentuate the occasionally wild and slightly loose feeling rotor inside. But as long as it keeps on ticking.
But the material of the case itself is key here. In talking to a lot of different people in the industry and watch collecting community, it seems that almost everyone has a few Citizen watches in their collection even if they own pieces 100x the price, and the Super Titanium line is one of the standouts. One person called them "nearly indestructible" which, while a bit hyperbolic, goes to show how much of a beating they seem to be able to take. In fact, maybe it's not too far off seeing as the original vintage Challenge Diver got the nickname "Fujitsubo" (or barnacle) after one spent years in the ocean before washing up on the beach in Australia covered in barnacles. I have a feeling this watch could do the same.
There are always a few concessions for a more affordable offering. I recently put my blue version of this Citizen next to Tudors Pelagos 39 and was reminded that the bracelet on the Citizen is a bit stiff. It's barely noticeable on the wrist but when you set the watch down you notice how high it sits and how little flex you get between the first link at the lug and the rest of the bracelet. I'm curious to see if that will loosen over time.
It's worth pointing out that this is a real dive watch and does the trick well. With a screw down crown, dive bezel, and dive extension by way of a sliding portion of the clasp, you can put the watch through its paces, and I did, taking it for a few dives recently in the warm waters of the Bahamas – a rough place to review a watch, I know.
The bezel rotates well even with my pruney fingers trying to grip it to set my expected dive time while in the water. It's obviously no substitute for a dive computer but if you're reading Hodinkee you obviously know there's nothing like having a good old-fashioned watch on your wrist. The darkness of the dial created a nice bit of contrast that kept the hands and indices legible as we went from a shallower 40ft at the "James Bond Wreck" off the coast of Nassau to a bit deeper at 60 feet where we explored the "Ray of Hope" wreck the next day.
That's aided by lume that stands out from the black watch. The lume doesn't charge quite as fast as you'll find on a more expensive dive watch (nor last quite as long, unlike a watch like a Rolex that seems to glow all night on the bedside table). But it certainly got the job done on these relatively shallow dives, especially after charging an hour in the sun on the boat ride out.
One of the best details I found after spending a few days diving with the new black "Fujitsubo" was how unique it looks after you put it through its paces. As coated cases usually do, the watch quickly took on a bit of character, not from scratches but from water stains from saltwater spray and the drops that hung on after I got on the boat after a dive. These marks would wipe off after a little bit, but why would you want to? It just made the watch all the more unique.
I really try my best to not own too many watches, let alone buy watches that fill the same role as ones I already own or are just different colors of a watch already in my collection. But when you know you already love something, it's hard to not gravitate toward the comfortable and familiar. I almost didn't write about this watch for that very reason. In fact, the watch costs a decent amount more than the older blue-dialed version ($995 for that watch discounted to $796 right now after being on the market for about a year). In fact, I'd guess that the new black watch might eventually get the same discount if you'd wait a year. But the fact that I'm writing this goes to show how hard it is to resist, especially for how much bang for your buck I still think you get.
So here's your answer for who shops for a Citizen diver and buys the new black "Fujitsubo" versus every other watch in the lineup: Someone who wants a hell of a neo-vintage-styled classic for just under $1200.
The Citizen Promaster Dive Automatic in Duratec-Coated Black Super Titanium. 41mm x 12.3mm with 20mm lug width. Black coated Super Titanium, aluminum 60-click elapsed time bezel in black, 3:00 date window and 3:00 crown. 200m water resistance. Citizen 9051 automatic movement with hours, minutes, seconds, date, hacking seconds, and manual-winding capabilities. 42-hour power reserve. Closed caseback. DLC-coated black titanium bracelet. Price: $1,195.
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For more on the new Promaster Dive Automatic in Black Super Titanium, visit Citizen online.