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Citizen Promaster Jounetsu Review

A big and bold LE from Citizen

It was another late Friday night and we both still were at our workstations. As a habit, my friend and I would send each other messages with links to watches and used cars we found interesting. At the time, I was searching for a titanium sports watch to wear daily. At 11:30 PM that night, I stumbled upon this Jounetsu edition Citizen Promaster. I copied the link and sent it over to my friend and we quickly talked about it and how impressive it was. Ultimately this pursuit would lead me to the Omega Speedmaster X33.

However, the next morning my friend sent me a message out of the blue. “I ordered the Citizen from last night! I have no idea whether I’ll like it or not. Let’s see when it arrives.”

Two weeks later it arrived from Japan and my close friend immediately knew that the watch was not for him, so I purchased it from him. As I wore the watch to my car, I felt something was off with the watch. Furthermore, I was oddly left feeling a little disturbed whenever I looked at its dial. It would take a month until I finally figured out why this almost objectively perfect watch was strangely perturbing.

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Introduction

Different societies have different priorities, and the products that come from varying regions reflect this.  In Japan, time and its importance have been weighed more severely than in other cultures, and continue to be. Coupled with a focus on being environmentally sustainable, it is easy to see how many decades ago Citizen came upon making the watches that they do today, quartz watches that are powered by small solar panels that occasionally use radio signals for atomic time updates, or in the case of the watch we are discussing today, GPS satellites.

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Enter the Citizen Promaster Jounetsu Diver. This dive watch in its 800-piece “Jounetsu” (very roughly translated into passion) limited release celebrates the very best of what makes Citizen unique in the industry. As a result, Citizen has almost made the perfect watch.

On the Wrist

“Furry likes them big,” said the WatchClicker himself on the 40&20 Podcast. Thankfully Will was talking about the Bulova Precisionist review, but he was not wrong. I do like watches that are larger than 40mm. When looking at this 47mm Citizen dive watch, one can envision tables being flipped by enthusiasts at the claim that such a watch could come so very close to being perfect. Well, thankfully due to the use of Citizen’s Grade 5 Super Titanium that is reinforced with their proprietary Duratect scratch-resistant coating, this watch wears very comfortably. Weighing around 130 grams, depending on how many links you would have to jettison in the fitting process, this watch remains mostly comfortable throughout the day.

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This watch and its size only become an issue in two ways. First, you will notice this watch as it catches onto your shirt or coat, as its 15.5mm thickness is somewhat amplified by the very grippy and protruding bezel. Second, the 50mm case-to-crown measurement ensures that any activities with a lot of wrist flexion will cause some discomfort. This is made more noticeable by the pushers. Outside of these two circumstances, this watch is incredibly comfortable. The construction of the watch overall is one of its strengths, and it contributes to this watch disappearing on your wrist as the day marches on.

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Bezel, Bracelet and Case

The case strongly resembles larger Omega Planet Oceans. The shape is nearly perfect for all but the smallest of wrists. All three crowns will dig into your wrists throughout the day, and this brings up the first design choice that not only is questionable from an aesthetic point, but from a functional one too. The pushers at 2 and 4 o’clock have a fake screw-down design in order to make the watch look more substantial. If the ribbed screw-down portions were absent, and the pushers were more flush to the case, this would result in a more comfortable watch. The crown itself thankfully is a screw-down crown helping ensure its 200-metre water resistance. Unfortunately when unscrewed, it wobbles too much for a watch at this price. This is something which is often overlooked by many brands. The operation of the crown of the watch mirrors the steering feel of a car. It is how the user interacts with the device directly. Poor steering feel leads to the driver feeling disconnected from the driving experience. Poor crown operation results in the watch owner thinking that the internals of the watch are cheap, regardless of how the rest of the watch is constructed.

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However, the rest of the case construction and its finishing are superb. The wonderfully contoured caseback and downwardly swooping lugs make for a perfect fit on a human wrist larger than 16.5 cm. Even more impressive is the level of finishing. The brushed and polished elements are almost on par with the Omega Planet Ocean mentioned above; this in a watch that is eight times cheaper and with a titanium case. Citizen have truly mastered finishing their titanium cases. This is especially apparent in their top-of-the-line Chronomaster timepieces, and it is great to see this level of manufacturing at this price point. 

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The anti-scratch Duratect coating is also something that has been refined to nearly a point of perfection over the decades. On examples such as my Skyhawk from decades past, fingerprints and grime would find their way onto the watch and leave behind a residue. This is also true of my FujiFilm XPRO3 camera which uses Citizen’s proprietary Duractect for its titanium top and bottom plates. On this Promaster, this is not the case. The residue left behind from the oils of the human hand is much more refined and much less noticeable.

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A reoccurring theme for this review is just how close to being perfect this watch is, and the bracelet is yet another example of this. The only sore point is the male end links which make this already large watch even larger. The natural lug-to-lug measurement of the watch is 52mm, but those end links extend a further 6mm. Other than that, yes, the bracelet is perfect. Its articulation is sublime, and its diver’s extension is the best that I have used from a functional standpoint. It may not be the prettiest, but it beats anything from Rolex, Omega, and other watch brands for on-the-fly adjustment. The mechanism is engaged by pulling the two triangles on the clasp towards the tang which uses a twin-trigger button. This allows the 20mm dive extension to be deployed. What makes this the perfect diver’s extension is that it can not only be adjusted while still wearing the watch, but it can be tightened without needing to use the diver extension release tabs. This simply makes using it that much easier.

The bezel, once again like the rest of the watch, is almost perfect. From a functional point of view, it is indeed perfect. The 120-click bezel works flawlessly and has zero play. Its “tinny” sound reminds you that the bezel and the case are made of a high-grade titanium, and this adds to the unique experience that this watch offers. What is really a misstep is the typeface used on the bezel. Some would argue that this is subjective and should not be criticized as harshly as I am about to do. The reason why so many other designs endure is due to the cohesiveness of their design elements. The cartoonish and aggressive typeface used on the bezel clashes with the elegant and classical typefaces used on the dial. The shape of the numerals on the bezel do in fact mirror the indices at 12, 3, 6 and 9 to some extent. This is the only form of cohesion to be found in regards to the bezel’s typeface and the rest of the watch. Many people I spoke to, this one design decision ruined the watch for them. Some even called it ugly, and one even said it was heinous. The disconnection between the bezel design and the rest of the watch is probably the biggest flaw from an aesthetic point of view. The other flaw in another odd design decision is more divisive, but for a much smaller portion of the public: the dial colour and texture chosen on this limited edition timepiece.

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Dial Details

The clinic was filled with what seemed like the props and casting from the lowest shelf available. Upon entering and turning myself and the wheelchair occupant around, to our left was an anxious mother with a child in her arms. Though obviously a child, the child was gigantic for his age and resembled a young adult who had a bad fall during football practice, not an eight-year-old with symptoms that resembled COVID-19. Directly ahead of us was the loud disrupter. With his mask pulled halfway down, he barked unintelligible rantings into his phone, all the while perplexing the man on the other end who pleaded for him to calm down. Directly ahead was the receptionist whose exhaustion could have easily been the poster for everyone’s mindset two years into the pandemic. To my right was a sign about different kinds of wounds and the services at the clinic. It was then that I looked down at my Citizen and instantly knew why I could not connect with the watch. That was when I entered the role for the maniacal laughing and unstable moron who laughs to himself while everyone else slowly backs away.

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When looking at the watch online, the colour of the dial looked odd. Surprisingly, in person it looked even more strange. Citizen has a series of watches that they gave the “Jounetsu” treatment to, and they all have brilliant red dials, except this one. For an entire month I asked people what they would call this particular red pigment, and everyone was left flabbergasted. The closest name I could find for the dial was from the HTML colour code index. The unfortunate name it uses for this shade of pigment is called Indian Red, but this is not really what this dial looks like in real life. Using a beautifully subtle sunburst and glossy finish, this dial colour becomes richer and deeper depending on the environment. This dynamism for some unknown reason made me even more uncomfortable. It was not until I stood in front of the wound specialty poster that it hit me. Over the years I have treated many wounds, and I have done this often in 2021. This dial looks like an open wound that has just been sterilized. The dynamism of the dial becoming richer resembles the open wound once again becoming flush with fresh blood moments after it has been sterilized. Making matters worse on this limited edition, Citizen decided to make the lower half of the dial textured. Up close, the texture looks like a checkered pattern. This texture from afar looks like the tearing of flesh suffered in avulsions. When I realized this, I could not stop laughing. My friends who are first responders and doctors also agreed that the dial looked exactly like a freshly sterilized avulsion. Citizen obviously did not do this on purpose, but it has made the watch a very comical experience for me as the owner. As a result, I cannot call this dial appealing, but this may be different for you.

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Thankfully, most of the other design choices for the dial are splendid. The indices have beautiful polished borders and adequate lume. The lume lasts throughout the night if charged, but your eyes will need be adjusted to pitch darkness to make sense of the hands and indices past 1 AM. Positioned between 6 and 7 is a gracefully placed polished circle for the power reserve and day indicator. The date window perfectly mirrors the indices at 9 and 6. The typeface used for the date wheel is simple and classic, and in line with the typefaces used for the rest of the watch, save for the cartoonish bezel.

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The inner bezel features all of the world’s time zones, 38 in total, but with an adorable quirk (Note to the reader: I used the term adorable here simply to annoy my editor) [Ed. note: it worked]. Some of the time zones have been renamed to specific dive sites such as Galapagos and The Great Barrier Reef.

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The pointed seconds hand looks like it was stolen from a Planet Ocean, and is painted white like the hour and minute hands. This is not a bad thing. The broad, partially skeletonized hour and minute hands are a little awkward in operation. They are both very thick and too short, thus making exact time-telling a little harder than it needs to be. With the hands being too thick and too short, this results in inaccurate time-telling which defeats the purpose of such a purpose-driven watch. For instance, when viewed at angles while driving, it is hard to differentiate between 4:36 or 4:39. Citizen has a long history of making quirky dive watches with quirky handsets, and the ones found here are no different. On certain watches that have analogue/digital displays, shorter hands can be forgiven in order to not block the digital display – see the Seiko pictured below. Here there is no such excuse, and this is simply a mistake. Stepping back, it does look like the bezel and the hands came from different watches in a corporate parts-bin sharing strategy, but this is not the case. 

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However, what does impress is how the hands hit their markers perfectly and with a precision that elevates the user experience greatly. This is because of the wonderful movement.

The Movement

Citizen released the F150 GPS-enabled movement back in 2015, and that is the base for the F158 used in this watch. The major difference is that when depressing both pushers, the watch enters its dive mode. This mode disables the pushers. When both pushers are pressed simultaneously again, the watch returns to its normal time-telling mode. This allows for the seconds hand to not be interrupted. This is useful when carefully measuring your ascent rate or when training student divers.

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The watch successfully receives the GPS signal it needs for updating the time in under 3 seconds, and this is a far superior method of updating the watch than radio-controlled watches. Left to its own devices and without the aid of GPS, the highly accurate and thermo-compensated movement is accurate to being within a single second fast a month.

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When put into power-saving mode, this watch can hibernate for seven years without losing track of time. Using and setting the watch could not be simpler, either. Pull out the crown once to set the time zone that you are in. Pull it out once more to manually change the time. The pusher at 2 indicates how much power you have in reserve in the lower half of the subdial. The hands line up from a scale ranging from 12-6 indicating how effective the current light is for charging the timepiece. The pusher at 4 shows you whether the last attempt at receiving the satellite signal was successful. This is shown by the seconds hand moving to OK or No. When depressed for a couple of seconds, the watch will then try to receive a GPS signal. The GPS system used in this Citizen puts the ones used in modern Apple Watches, Garmins, and Suuntos to shame. Granted it is attempting to ascertain only one piece of information across that bandwidth, where as a Garmin would also be searching for topographical data. In those sports activity watches, attempts to update the time using GPS satellites would either fail or take a couple of minutes, especially if the user is standing anywhere close to a building, a tree, or a divorce lawyer. 

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Final Thoughts

The Citizen Promaster Diver Jounetsu Edition is objectively nearly perfect from a functional standpoint. Its finishing and level of refinement make this watch a bargain at this price. The use of titanium and Duratect coating are brilliant and almost make the watch worth owning just for this reason. The movement is perfect in how it operates, and very impressive when experienced first-hand. Knowing that I have a perfectly accurate reference time on my wrist makes the enthusiast in me joyful. 

The design decisions of the out-of-place bezel, the hilariously gross dial, and short hands are all something to be noted if you are considering this exact model. The typeface used on the bezel is something that I could eventually get over, but it  made most people I showed it to reject the watch on the spot. The very odd dial colour and texture actually resulted in me wearing the watch less than I would otherwise. When I look down at my wrist, it looks like I am looking through the watch at my wrist with its skin and flesh violently torn off. For the first month of owning this watch, I could not articulate why this watch made me so uncomfortable. I was annoyed by this, for the watch has so many things going for it. Sadly, in actual practice it does nothing but remind me of the trauma of others. Of course, your mileage may vary regarding this particular dial pigment, texture, and finishing. With all this said, I am keeping the watch, for it is a technical masterpiece and the dial is something I find very funny when in a dark mood. 

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Would I recommend this watch to others, and for whom in particular? First, I would recommend either the blue or green regular editions of this watch. Second, I would recommend this watch to anyone who enjoys brilliant engineering. The overall quality and substance of this watch is a definite highlight. This is a great watch for the travelling professional diver as well. The diver extension clasp also makes it the perfect warm water companion. Cold weather drysuit divers will have to look into sourcing exposure suit straps as they would with any other watch. The regular editions only come with the wonderful rubber strap, however.

If these quirky and off-putting design decisions are something that you personally like, you will be treated to a wonderful experience. With the only functional missteps being the protrusion of the crowns into one’s wrist, the short hour and minute hands, and the wobbly crown, I would definitely recommend this watch to someone who can look past the design decisions mentioned above.

Pros:

  • Amazing movement that is a wonderful technological tour de force
  • Finishing on the titanium case is splendid and punches way above its price point
  • The diver’s extension clasp mechanism is actually useful and easy to use
  • Though a large watch, it masks its size through its use of Grade 5 Titanium
  • Easy to use and set
  • The GPS chipset used is phenomenal in its speed and real-world use

Cons:

  • The dial colour and texture are questionable
  • The typefaces on the bezel do not match the rest of the watch
  • The hour and minute hands are too short, making telling time at a glance more difficult than it should be
  • The crown, when unscrewed and extended, is too wobbly for a watch at this price point
  • Can be uncomfortable on smaller wrists, especially during activities that require a lot of wrist flexion
  • Features of the Calibre F158:
    • Accuracy of within plus/minus 5 seconds a month when not relying on the GPS signal
    • Satellite Radio Reception (GPS)
    • Automatic time zone identifier function 
    • Dive mode
    • Power reserve of 7 years when fully charged and put into its power-saving mode
    • Perpetual calendar until long past anyone will remember that you ever existed
    • Day Date
    • 38 time zones
    • Charge display
    • Low battery warning system
    • Overcharge protection 
    • Temperature compensation 
    • Impact detection
    • Hand correction mechanism
    • Environmental light level metre

Check out more Citizen reviews at The Watch Clicker

Check out the Citizen website

Citizen Promaster Jounetsu Specs

Case Width

47mm

Thickness
15.5mm

Lug-to-Lug
52mm

Wrist-to-Crystal*
14.9mm

Lug Width
22mm

Weight
130g (sized)

Crystal
Sapphire

Strap

Grade 5 titanium bracelet

Water Resistance
200m

Lume
Yes

Movement

Citizen F158

Price
$1,618

*Height of the watch from the wrist to the top of the crystal

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