The Citizen Promaster BN0220 Is The Guilty Pleasure You’re After
The Citizen Promaster BN0220 is the least expensive fun I’ve had watch-wise this year. From a glance, it may look goofy, but students of the vintage Japanese diver game will recognize this beast. After trying one, they (and anyone else who dares) will realize that Citizen has done a very, very good thing here.
A few months ago, I was cruising some of my favorite Japanese sites when I stumbled upon a slew of funky-looking Citizen watches. I’m a huge “student” of vintage Japanese dive watches, so they were instantly familiar, yet somehow different. See, back in 1982, Citizen released a rather stunning titanium diver with a nutty 1300m water resistance rating. With numbers like this, this was just showing off versus Seiko and its Tuna. Still, it was neat stuff, and like the Seiko, this very odd diver made do without a helium escape valve. The watches had some wild styling, a left-mounted crown, screws at the case corners, and a robust quartz movement. They were expensive and are really hard to find today. I’ve passed on a few purely because spending several thousand (whatever currency) didn’t seem prudent at the time. Now, with the Citizen Promaster BN0220, we have a worthy, albeit lighter-spec stand-in.
The Citizen Promaster BN0220
So, back to my internet browsing… The batch of very ’80s divers on the screen was in fact a rerelease from Citizen that had somehow escaped me. Way back in March this year, Citizen published a press release on the new Promaster BN0220 and it seems that everyone missed it. Well, I bought one of these from Japan — an unnecessary move as they are available everywhere now — and I’m here to tell you that this watch is awesome.
Let’s lay out some specifications on the Citizen Promaster BN0220. Firstly, this watch uses a 45.8mm “square” case in the brand’s Super Titanium Duratect MRK material. Whew, that’s a really long way of letting us know that Citizen has performed all sorts of surface hardening to protect against scratches and dents. They claim that it is 5 times (!!) harder than stainless steel. Inside, the E168 Eco-Drive movement silently toils away for up to six months without exposure to light.
A 60-click unidirectional bezel sits next to a hardened mineral glass crystal while a screw-down crown helps assure 200 meters of water resistance. Citizen provides a black 24mm polyurethane strap that could double for silicone in terms of softness and a strap extender for wetsuit duty. It’s worth noting that the strap is paired with a really nice signed titanium pin buckle.
Impressions of how this watch looks
We don’t see ’80s Citizen watches as often as similar-era Seiko models. I guess Seiko was far more global. The nice thing is that watches like the Citizen Promaster BN0220 allow us to look backward and realize that Citizen was making some truly cool stuff. This watch has a wonderfully legible dial, and aside from a nearly invisible date window, it’s really sharp! Bold indices with gold surrounds work well with similarly chunky hands. A steep rehaut with gold hashes seamlessly reaches a bezel that actually looks like ceramic (I’ve read that it is aluminum). Then, the case extends upward at the corners to protect the bezel in a way that Tuna fans will appreciate. The case corners look a bit funny on “paper,” but they’re nowhere near as radical in person.
Speaking of the case, it’s unlike any titanium case I’ve ever held. It has a slightly rough finish that reminds me of cast iron parts. It’s weirdly tactile and will stand out in your collection for that reason alone. Interestingly, the screw-in case back and pin buckle have more typical anodized-looking finishes. As far as interfaces, the bezel is pretty satisfying to use on the Citizen Promaster BN0220. It isn’t overly tight, but there’s no noticeable slop either. The crown is also really good and feels exactly like the Promaster Tough “Ray Mears” that I enjoy so much.
Wearing the BN0220 is a dream
From pictures on the internet, the Citizen Promaster BN0220 looks like a big, honkin’ piece of metal for the wrist. Oh, how wrong that is! With sub-46mm dimensions and a reasonable 14.3mm of thickness, this watch wears like a dream. Don’t forget the lightness that titanium brings as well. I wouldn’t call the watch small because, laterally, it has presence. But this is a really good answer for someone who likes the idea of a Tuna but struggles to make it work. Plus, this watch doesn’t porpoise at all on the wrist. The strap is also fantastic. There’s one “locked” keeper and another that’s free to adjust to your liking. I’m sure some will play around with straps, but it’s certainly not necessary. All in all, this watch looks like quality on the wrist, and it absolutely justifies its price, if not more.
Pricing, thoughts, and whatnot
If it’s not already obvious, I’m pretty impressed with the Citizen Promaster BN0220. It’s really well-built and feels like a watch that can take whatever comes its way while still offering loads of character. Like the “Ray Mears,” watches like this are a great substitute for something like a G-Shock if digital isn’t your thing. Moreover, the BN0220 may lack the sheer depth worthiness of its inspiration, but it still carries an ISO rating and should be good enough for most divers. Plus, the Eco-Drive movement feels like an “authentic” choice since the original was quartz.
I have no idea why Citizen made such a minor splash when this watch was first released (two other versions came as well with DLC coated cases and either blue or green camo dials). The aforementioned press release was well done and, clearly, this is not just a JDM release. It’s the perfect alternative to the Seiko Prospex Solar Tuna models, and Seiko certainly isn’t bashful about pushing those. The Promaster BN0220 retails for $525, or somewhere around €500. Realistically, though, I’ve seen them for sale in the $300-400 range around the world (you’ll need to do a bit of web searching), and I can’t help but call that a screaming deal. If you’re still stuck on what to grab for this holiday season in that approachable, yet quality-laden category of watches, this is about as perfect as it gets.