The tension and anxiety in the airport waiting area was immense. It was Sunday, March 1 2020, and a small minority of the vacationers in the waiting lobby of the Flamingo International Airport in Bonaire were also apprehensive about reports of the new coronavirus no longer being contained in its country of origin. Stuffy, humid, and inadequately air conditioned, the collective frustrated groans from the passengers of three flights vibrated the airport’s foundation.
The airport gave the task of giving everyone the bad news of their delayed flights to the most adorable employee in the terminal. As the tiny koala-sized human struggled to announce the flight delays, I started to smile. It was at this point that I made eye contact with another group of divers sitting a few metres ahead of me.
“What in the world could you be happy about?” Smiling back, the amused diver responded at my unexpected display of merriment.
“Do you like Pokémon,” I asked.
“Um, that voice you just heard,” I said, gesturing for her to turn around to see the announcer struggling to put the microphone back on the raised stand. “Just came out of Jigglypuff cosplaying as a human.”
Looking back, she let out a burst of laughter, and for some reason her first response when she turned back around was, “What in the world do you do for a living?”
After a short talk about our respective lives, I noticed the Citizen ProMaster Diver on her wrist and mentioned that I occasionally write about watches. Her smiling father quickly turned around and proudly showed me his very own battle-scarred Citizen ProMaster Diver. I moved closer to sit with the family (remember when this was an option?) and learned how this dive watch had been their constant companion for many years.
Solar-powered watches by Citizen and Seiko are the most frequently worn watches on dive sites, especially by dive professionals. They offer a time-telling experience that is free of meddlesome battery changes, free of needing to wind and set a watch due to not wearing it since your last dive, and most of all, they can take a beating without fear of gaining or losing time.
Having owned this watch and dived with it in a man-made lake for training a couple of months prior, I decided to write a review of this watch. Fast-forward through a year that was filled with chaos, and I finally found the time to write it.
On the Wrist
“So why do you guys have the same watch?”
Presenting his black version of the ProMaster, the father said, “Well, I have been wearing this for ages and never notice it unless I need to tell the time.” Gesturing towards his daughter he continued, “So I bought her one in blue and we always wear them on our dives.”
This basically sums up the wearing experience of this dive watch. Sure, nowadays with trends shifting toward smaller cases, enthusiasts may balk at the stated 44mm case size. Due to its lightweight construction, a 12mm-thin case that hugs your wrist like a close friend (remember when that was a thing?), this watch wears better than most 38mm dive watches.
Along with it being comfortable, this watch is pretty unassuming. The rubber strap supplied is a thin rubber strap with an adorable and subtle no-decompression chart. It is a long strap and will accommodate a 5mm wetsuit for the average wrist. If your wrist is smaller than 7 inches, the tail will wear proud, however. The father and daughter both had their watches on the stock strap, and they looked to be in good condition save for the faded chart on the father’s wrist. I personally dove with it on a 20mm bespoke rubber strap while trying on different dry suits, and its low profile was very welcome.
I found that this watch looked perfectly at place while wearing jeans and a t-shirt to a friend’s backyard barbecue (remember when we used to do those?), and especially at dive sites. Though it is an attractive watch, its dial, case, and bezel design would result in me leaving it in the watch box when I needed to wear a dress shirt.
The Case and Bezel
The brushed case, flush bezel, and a simple bezel insert are elements of a classic tool watch. This sense of purpose is echoed in its finely knurled crown positioned at 4 o’clock that proudly displays the ProMaster logo. The crown itself is manufactured to a high standard, but when operating it, it has a wobbly stem. This is probably the biggest indication that it is a budget-oriented dive watch. The functionality of the crown and stem is faultless in practice and mirrors other watches in its price range.
On the topic of the price range, this watch has a mineral crystal like most of its competition. The gentlemen’s watch in the airport did sport a lot of scratches on its crystal, but again at this price one cannot complain. He certainly did not.
The 60-click bezel is flush with the case, and offers additional grip with grooved ridges that proved functional while wearing gloves. This is not the grippiest bezel on the market, but it does a great job and like the rest of the watch, simply gets out of your way. There is a little play, but its tolerances feel purposeful as if they were calculated. The choice of a 60-click mechanism makes for a perfect elapsed timing companion for the recreational diver. This simplicity should be welcome for those not concerned with the precise timing of a task.
The acts of time-telling and elapsed timing are easy due to its dial and hands. The applied indices offer great legibility in tough lighting conditions by reflecting light when possible. This is welcome for the lume of this watch does not burn very bright or for very long. One will get approximately an hour of luminosity from the indices and hands, but not much more when it comes to usable illumination. This is easily remedied by charging the lume with your dive torch and should not be a deciding factor if you are considering using this watch for its intended purpose, as typical recreational dives with one standard tank range 40 to 60 minutes.
The pointed seconds hand lines up perfectly with the printed and applied indices, and offers a low battery mode where it beats every other second. The hands are designed with a lot of character and yet do not get in your way. The minutes hand is painted orange while the hour hand is polished. Lastly, the date window at 4 o’clock is designed well and very legible.
This watch is available in both black and blue, and I went with the blue simply because it was on sale. After seeing the black version in person, I preferred the blue as it was not as severe in its personality. Both watches offer the wearer a tool watch aesthetic, but the blue does so while not taking itself entirely too seriously. Like the rest of the watch, the blue of the dial, bezel, and strap once again do nothing to grab your attention. Even the audible tick resonating from this watch is refined, muted, and gentle.
Watch enthusiasts usually overlook solar-powered watches in this price range in favour of mechanical watches such as the recently discontinued Seiko SKX. While the regular consumers of such sites as The Watch Clicker and the wonderful 40&20 podcast usually identify themselves as watch enthusiasts, they have shown the savvy and discerning taste to recognise when certain watches are better for the regular person. True, this watch may offer absolutely nothing in terms of bringing excitement to an enthusiast owner, but that is where this watch excels. It excels in fading to the background and simply doing its job reliably and with as little fuss as possible.
Like the sea of Toyota Camrys on suburban roads, such watches occupy the wrists of casual scuba divers. So, when a friend asks you, the “watch person” in his or her life, for a watch to dive with, suggest this Citizen. It is a tool that is really well suited for beginner and intermediate divers, and is arguably one of the best on the market for this price. This ProMaster now sees duty as the backup dive watch in my bag, and will most likely reside on the wrists of future dive buddies as we take our giant strides together.
Check out more dive watch reviews at The Watch Clicker
Check out the Citizen website
Citizen Promaster Specs
*Height of the watch from the wrist to the top of the crystal