Hands-On Citizen's Latest Titanium Dive Watch Is Neo Vintage Without The Weight
Citizen makes a lot of dive watches. From the modern and funky Orca and EcoZilla to the legendary (and nerdy) Aqualand, and even the humble NY0040, the brand is widely known for going its own way when it comes to dive watch design. The new Promaster Mechanical "Challenge" Diver 200m manages to stand out by, at first glance, being somewhat more run-of-the-mill.
It's a '70s-themed 41mm dive watch with conventional styling, a black or blue dial, and the offer of either a rubber strap or a metal bracelet. It has 200 meters of water resistance, a unidirectional elapsed time bezel, and it uses an automatic movement with a date. On paper, it's a single unit of ISO-compliant dive watch and little more.
On wrist though, it's something else.
That's because this neo-vintage mechanical diver uses a case made from Citizen's own Super Titanium, which is 40 percent lighter than steel and, thanks to the brand's Duratect surface hardening, is five times harder than stainless steel (not to mention retaining titanium's hypoallergenic and rust-resistant properties). I don't know about you, but when I first saw this new Promaster diver (reference NB6021-17E), I made a lot of assumptions and immediately compared it to the baseball card stats of several other ~40mm neo-vintage dive watches.
I figured this was simply Citizen hedging their bets against some of their more wild designs by offering an option that doesn't rock the proverbial boat. And though that may be true, that assumption speaks only to the Challenge Diver's aesthetics.
Once I had this Citizen on my wrist, the looks combined with the surreal lightness of the case work to offer a wrist presence and wearability that belies anything born of the 1970s. The case is 41mm wide, 12.3mm thick at the top of the recessed yet domed sapphire crystal, and 48.5mm lug to lug. Those are normal proportions for a generally wearable dive watch but get this, on the rubber strap the Challenge Diver only weighs 70 grams. For reference, the sized bracelet for my Seiko SPB143 weighs 82 grams. Just the bracelet.
Strap this titanium diver to your wrist and it's as though there is no mass in the case of the watch. It all just blends in with the bulk of the strap. It feels great, and with 20mm lugs, you can swap in any strap you like. Want it to really disappear on your wrist? Throw the Challenge Diver on a perlon and the total weight drops to just 60g.
Inside its featherweight case, we find a Citizen 9051, which is a 4 Hz automatic movement that has hacking, hand-winding, a date display, around 42 hours of power reserve, and an anti-magnetic hairspring. This movement is exclusive to Citizen and is protected against magnetism up to 16,000 A/m and rates the 9051 at -10 to +20 seconds per day.
This movement has very similar specs to that of the Miyota 9015, which I have had in several watches over the past few years and have never found any reason to complain about. It's a solid movement and this latest generation's antimagnetic properties are an added plus, especially at this price point.
While the official name is the Promaster Mechanical Diver 200m, the Challenge Diver nickname comes from the naming of the original reference model from 1977. As good as the Challenge Diver is on wrist (very), it's not perfect. I found that the touchpoints don't convey the same solid feel you might expect from a steel dive watch.
The bezel has a 60-click action and aligns nicely, but its rotation is a bit vague and I think a heavier action would improve the experience. And, though this may come down to a simple matter of opinion, while the crown works well and is easy to manipulate, I do wish they had opted for a larger diameter. It both looks small and feels small. Pedantic, you say? I nod and smile in return.
Legibility is good, as is the lume, and though the Mercedes hour hand isn't my favorite, it does align with the original model that Citizen is using to inform this design. The dial is an inky reflective black and the lume is bright and lasts long enough to be useful. Ultimately, I'd say it looks vintage but wears like a very modern watch. Citizen was the first brand to offer a full titanium watch back in 1970, so it's no stranger to the material, but how many titanium neo-vintage dive watches can you think of? Even outside of dive watches, there simply aren't that many examples.
So while the Challenge Diver offers a knowingly conventional dive watch aesthetic, I found it also provided a distinct wrist presence. It wears really well, and quite differently from much of its competition.
Priced at $795 for the black dial with a rubber strap or $995 for a blue dial on a full titanium bracelet, the Challenge Diver is not without its fair share of competition in terms of vintage-effect dive watches around 40mm. While the most literal competition is from the Baltic Aquascaphe Titanium, which is a lovely watch of a similar size, spec, and price point (though a different aesthetic), I'd imagine most of you are wondering how the Challenge Diver stacks up against a widely known quantity like the Seiko Prospex SPB143.
Weirdly, these are two very different watches that share loosely similar inspiration. Picking between the two comes down to what you value on your wrist. Ignoring the SPB147 – which I don't at all care for due to its coloring – the SPB143 costs as much as $400 more than the rubber-strapped Challenge Diver. That gap drops to $200 if you get a bracelet for your Citizen. I didn't get a chance to try the bracelet, so I can't weigh in with specifics. That said, when we're talking titanium, I figure the bracelet is always worth considering, especially for a watch where you could easily change the strap. Ultimately, what I'm saying is that a price gap of 20-30+ percent is not to be ignored, especially at the crest between three- and four-figure amounts.
The Seiko has a more sturdy-feeling bezel, but it's also 120 clicks. I prefer the crown of the Seiko as it's a bit larger and suits the case nicely. The specs are very similar, but the Seiko is a touch smaller in width and lug to lug (40.5mm wide, 13.7mm thick, and 46.5mm lug to lug), while also being a bit thicker. On my wrist, I'm not sure I could tell the difference aside from the thickness.
Where there is a difference, a big difference, is in the weight. While I prefer the look of the Seiko, the comfort and effortless presence of the Challenge Diver are not to be overlooked. On wrist, they are very different watches. If you don't typically like dive watches due to their heft, or you're looking for a very lightweight experience that doesn't exhibit any of the normal weight transfer of a steel dive watch, the Citizen Promaster Mechanical Diver 200m has a lot to offer.
With solid pricing, good specs, and recognizable good looks, the Citizen Challenge Diver manages an uncommon merging of an old-school aesthetic with a new school material that feels almost too light in the hand and excellent on your wrist.
As a fella who generally prefers steel sports watches, the Challenge Diver made me wonder why I have this bias. Is it the reassuring weight of steel? Or more that titanium is most commonly used for watches that don't always align with my tastes? With this latest throwback diver from Citizen, it turns out that I could have my titanium and like wearing it, too.
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