Inside The Line: Citizen Promaster Air


Citizen Promaster watches were conceived, designed, and developed very much with the professional user in mind, and while they have certainly broadened their appeal to include non-professionals as well, they remain timepieces that offer a full suite of functionality in their respective domains, to the most demanding professional users. In fact, that’s very likely the reason for their enduring broader appeal; if it were not for the fact that they embody the highest level of practicality in specific applications, they would very likely be less appealing to non-professional users, and certainly to pros as well. 

The Citizen Promaster watches were originally designed for use in both civil and military aviation and over the years, countless pilots, co-pilots, navigators, flight engineers, cabin crew, and other aviation professionals have found them to be invaluable companions in the cockpit. Modern aviation relies extensively on highly sophisticated cockpit instrumentation, but even crew of the most complex modern aircraft still like to have backup instruments on their wrists (and pilots of smaller aircraft, with less advanced avionics and navigation systems, still find a backup timer on the wrist something of a necessity).

The Promaster aviation watches in the Skyhawk and Navihawk families have incorporated a number of innovations over the decades, but the basic design vocabulary has remained remarkably consistent – this is partly due to the clarity, legibility, and utility of the original design, and it’s also thanks to the fact that the basic functionality required in aviation, has remained fairly stable over the years as well.

One of the most critical functions for an aviation timepiece is, of course, accuracy. This is true of watches for any category, but perhaps even more so in aviation, where if a watch is being used for navigation purposes, a few seconds of inaccuracy can translate to a position being off by miles. In the Promaster aviation timepieces, accuracy is ensured both through the use of high accuracy quartz timing packages as well as the use, in some models, of multi-band radio frequency control, which provides atomic clock accuracy on the wrist.

Another essential function – and perhaps the most generally useful, not only for pilots but also for travelers crossing time zones – is the ability to tell the time in more than one time zone. Display of both home and local time, in fact, is one of the defining, if not the defining, features of an aviation wristwatch; the ability to easily check UTC (Greenwich time, which is the common time standard in aviation) is also a major plus. 

Generally speaking, Promaster aviation watches have offered this functionality in a very complete fashion – local time is displayed by the analog hands, and time in a second time zone, in a second, digital display; many Skyhawk and Navihawk watches allow the user to easily switch between the two with the simple press of a button. One major practical advantage over mechanical dual time zone watches, is that Promaster timepieces can account for all time zones – generally, mechanical dual time zone watches can only show the difference between local and home time, in time zones with a full hour separation from other time zones, which means in locations such as Newfoundland and India, the second time zone function doesn’t work.

Finally, a feature of almost every Promaster aviation watch is the slide-rule bezel. Somewhat mystifying at first to non-initiates, the slide-rule bezel is actually a mechanical calculator, which allows pilots to calculate critical values such as rate of climb and descent, time and distance calculations, and fuel consumption. The design of the slide-rule bezel is derived directly from one which pilots are still required to learn to use: the E6-B flight computer, or “whiz wheel,” the use of which is a critical part of aviation training and which can still be an essential backup to flight instruments if instrument failure should occur in an aircraft.

Credit by Citizen.


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