Hands-On: The Brilliant And Affordable Citizen Promaster Mechanical Diver NY0120-01EE And NY0129-58LE
I wrote an article on the best Seiko watches under €500 a few weeks ago. The Japanese brand used to rule the “affordable watch” category, especially with diving watches. But with Seiko slowly moving upmarket, that territory is now open for other brands to conquer. An obvious pick is Citizen. The fellow Japanese brand offers a great number of affordable dive watches. With the Promaster Mechanical Divers, Citizen has created a series of watches that offer incredible value for money. Perhaps just as importantly, they look good too. I had a chance to go hands-on with the black NY0120-01EE and the blue NY0129-58LE to determine if these Citizen models were the new kings in town.
We are fans of Citizen here at Fratello. The brand’s rich history, strong focus on functionality, and wide range of watches make it so that everyone can find something in the collection. When I think of Citizen, I immediately think back to the high-end Citizen Caliber 0200 that I reviewed. Another series that immediately comes to mind is the Tsuyosa. With the NJ0150 and NJ0151, Citizen offers a great, affordable, and stylish series with amazing dial colors. But most of all, Citizen, for me, is about incredibly competent dive watches. We have reviewed quite a few here on Fratello. My recent favorites were the Promaster Aqualand Depth Meter with its full lume dial, which is just a ton of fun, and the Promaster Mechanical Diver 200m NB6021-17E, which Nacho reviewed.
Citizen Promaster Mechanical Diver NY0120 and NY0129
The models in this hands-on align with the watch that Nacho reviewed. Although they’re even more affordable, they are also serious dive watches with a focus on specs and competence. Let’s talk specs first. Both watches have 200m-water-resistant stainless steel cases that are 41mm in diameter, 50mm from lug to lug, and 13.7mm thick. Each watch also offers a 60-click unidirectional rotating bezel with an aluminum insert, and you will find a modest screw-down crown on the right side of the case. In terms of finishing, the watch is pretty straightforward, with a fully brushed case and a polished bezel and crown.
If we zoom in on the dials of the two watches, we see that both have a grainy texture. The NY0120-01EE has a black/gray gradient dial paired with a black bezel insert, while the NY0129-58LE has a blue gradient dial with a dark blue bezel insert. The series also features the NY0121-09XE, with a green gradient dial and a green bezel, as well as another NY0120 model. The NY0120-01ZE has an orange gradient dial and a black bezel. Seeing the contrast between these models and the NY0120-01EE we had for review is fun. The orange-dial variant is probably my favorite out of the four because it’s a lively piece. But whatever style you prefer, Citizen has you covered.
The style is typically Citizen
All four dials come with raised (stamped) rectangular indices with high-polished edges and generous lume filling. The markers at 6 and 9 o’clock are slightly wider, while the marker at noon is an inverted triangle shape. You will find a day-date window with a white frame and a smaller hour marker filled with lume at 3 o’clock. The handset is a bit of an oddball combination of styles.
It consists of a Mercedes hour hand, a long and slim arrow minute hand, and a lollipop seconds hand. The minute hand looks especially out of place here. I think the Citizen designers could have done a better job creating a hand that matched the other two in style and width. As it is, it feels odd at best, but a wider hand would visually balance out the design better.
A fun detail is that the dial is placed quite deep in the case and surrounded by a steep rehaut. It’s not always noticeable in the pictures, but the distance between the mineral crystal and the dial is substantial. Another thing that stood out visually to me is that the case shape doesn’t seem as curved in the pictures as it is in reality. The lugs have a steep slope to them that starts immediately where the lugs begin. As a result, in real life, it looks less like a standard skin diver case than the pictures might have you think.
Inside the case, Citizen equips the watches with its in-house caliber 8204-21A. This 21-jewel automatic movement operates at 21,600vph, and it has a 42-hour power reserve and an advertised accuracy of +40/-20 seconds per day. It is hidden behind a very simple screw-in case back that features some small engravings about the details of the watch.
Regarding straps, the black NY0120-01EE comes fitted with a black polyurethane strap. The blue NY0129-58LE comes equipped with a three-row stainless steel bracelet, but the same colorway is also available with the black polyurethane strap (NY0129-07LE).
Wearing the Citizen Promaster Mechanical Diver NY0120-01EE and NY0129-58LE
Judging from these features, it seems that these ISO 6425-compliant divers are a complete package. And once on the wrist, they feel great too, especially considering the sub-€300 price point. They feel like properly made, sturdy dive watches with plenty of charm for the money. The black polyurethane strap of the black NY0120-01EE is supple and easy to wrap around the wrist. When I wore it, the watch felt very familiar, like a true Citizen. It’s hard to describe this feeling, but if you have ever owned a Citizen watch, you’ll know what I mean. It is a feeling characterized by competence and charm but also comes with charming design quirks.
We had the blue NY0129-58LE on the bracelet, and the quality is decent. I do not expect a €300 watch to have a brilliant bracelet, but this was definitely on par with what I had hoped for. The Oyster-style bracelet is comfortable, and the push-button clasp features a dive extension for all your underwater adventures.
As you would expect, the clasp is the least impressive part of the bracelet. It’s a stamped affair with a flip-lock mechanism that reminds me of older Seiko bracelets. It does the job, but it’s far from impressive. However, one nice detail is that the bracelet includes half links, making it easy to get the right fit.
Versatility driven by functional properties
After wearing both watches for several days, I was most impressed by the NY0129-58LE. The blue dial and bezel feel more vibrant and lively compared to the grayish dial of the NY0120-01EE. On top of that, the bracelet also adds some extra style that I love. But I could easily wear it on a rubber strap as well since the watches are versatile in their functionality and style. Admittedly, I wasn’t a huge fan of the relatively small crown. Operating it never caused me any problems, but I always had to do so with my fingertips. I wouldn’t mind seeing a bigger crown that suits the 41mm case better and is easier to grip. It could optimize the visual balance and increase the functionality on top of that.
All in all, though, these new Citizen divers are impressive daily wearers. The black/gray NY0120-01EE on the strap is €269, and the blue NY0129-58LE on the bracelet is €299. The blue-, orange-, and green-dial versions on a strap are also €269 if you prefer one of those models. Whichever one you might pick, it’s hard to go wrong with these new Citizen Promaster Mechanical Divers.
If you are taking your first steps into the universe of mechanical watches or just looking for a great, affordable daily wearer that you can wear during your holidays and adventures in the water, look no further. It’s hard to see any similar, better watches out there for the price.
The closest competitor would probably be the Orient Mako series, although it now starts at roughly €300. It’s pretty safe to say that these Citizen models are the best your money can buy with a small budget. And that is an impressive achievement for the Japanese brand. I would certainly pick one of the four models in this series of Promaster Mechanical Divers, most likely, the orange-dial variant, and mix up the straps constantly. But, as I said, you can’t go wrong with any of the models in the series!
For more information, visit the official Citizen website. Also, please tell us your favorite of the Promaster Mechanical Diver 200m series in the comments section.