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Best Diver for the $ Bar None
on June 14, 2009
Citizen's BN0000-04H has something unique. It may not carry the weight of a TAG Heuer, Omega, Rolex, or other sport-dive watch (in cold hard $, "prestige", or actual literal heaviness for sure), but it really has charm.
With this watch you get the superior time-keeping qualities of a high-grade japanese quartz movement (quartz always runs on a battery - yes, there is a specially-engineered titanium-manganese battery in there) but without the need for any battery change, ever (at least 20 years by Citizen engineers' estimates). This movement blows automatics out of the water in time-keeping. It doesn't have the fluid sweep of an automatic's second hand (it ticks in 1-second intervals), but for me keeping time is what counts in a watch, right?
This is a set-it-and-forget-it watch. It will keep on trucking about 6-months in total darkness from a full charge. And if it does stop, it'll come out of it to full accurate time-keeping with just 15 minutes in the summer sunshine. It will run a whole 24 hour time-cycle with only 4 minutes of light exposure. Eco-Drive is the new deal in watch movement. [EDIT: Not to mention the battery inside is specially made non-toxic. It's a green machine.]
As to its pedigree, it's a real ISO-rated dive watch. There's an easy way to tell with Citizens: if there's an M after the depth rating on the face, it's ISO-rated. This isn't just my theory, this is from Citizen's own product info. This watch wants to see dive time.
The watch face, which some call cramped, feels to me like looking through a porthole in a submarine or something. It's a little deep. I can tell the time just fine. The hour dots are legible in all kinds of light situations. The lume is about as good as Seiko's lumibrite, which is to say, pretty darn good. But it's no Luminox to be sure. [EDIT: The lume, in my tests, lasts well over a 12 hour cycle in total darkness from just 15 seconds of direct charging with a flashlight. Don't think it's bright at all after those 12 hours, though. But it does have a really nice greenish glow when charged.]
The mineral-crystal is domed, but you can see the time even at a pretty sharp angle. I like the dome, goes with the porthole feel. The face also bears a really nicely done little pyramid-shaped grid pattern. That might be the solar cell, but either way, it's beautiful the way it picks up light.
With the hands, some say they're "phallic" but I think they look more like lit candles. Haven't seen hands like them anywhere, and I get bored with all the pointed-arrow and straight-line designs. And they're nice, fat and visible in the dark. Furthermore, everything's outlined in chrome. Has the look of quality engineering.
[EDIT: The second hand lines up almost perfect with the little markers on the beveled inside edge. It's perfect, spot-on precise 50-59 seconds out of a minute on mine, but it isn't perfect every single time. And it varies from minute to minute which 1-10 markers it misses (but it always nails 30-60 for some reason). You'd never notice, however, unless you put the watch right up to your face and stare at it like a crazy person like I did before writing this. That's a very small amount of play in the movement, and for this price, is impressive. You get the same movement in even the more expensive Eco-Drive divers, by the way (for example, the one with the bright blue face, and the famed "Eco-Zilla"). The minute and hour hands, however, are exact on this, every time.]
As to the date window, I like it small. Generally I know what day it is. I don't need that information taking up half of my watch face. But I even like the font used on it. Looks like it could be used on a Navy decompression table.
The bezel is 60-clicks, compared with Seiko's 120, so it feels a little rough. But I like having it at 60. It's more precise. I'm not going to need to time a half-minute of anything with the rotating bezel, ever. [EDIT: I make perfect pasta by using the bezel, by the way. Impresses the girlfriend. Thumbs up here. Also times parking meters. No more tickets for me. Furthermore, the bezel "breaks-in" after a little while and the spring doesn't feel so choppy.]
The band is really soft. It's not hard or stiff, like others say. It feels like high-grade dive rubber. But I have smaller wrists, it could press into some bigger guys'. The watch looks great on smaller wrists, by the way, due to it's smaller size. Doesn't make me look like a wuss. Big plus there. [EDIT: And due to the friction grid-pattern on the back of the band, it doesn't move around on the wrist at all. It's planted on there now.]
And did I mention the case IS ONE SOLID PIECE OF STAINLESS STEEL? I can't get over that. I haven't seen that on any watch in any price-range. [EDIT: The case is specially cast in a mold from molten steel, not machined.] Just cool. Citizen is so confident in their engineering, they make it that much harder to open. And for water to get in, remember, 300M = 1,000 ft.
The screw-down crown. Don't get me wrong, it has a quality feel (doesn't wobble when pulled out) and does it's job. But I'm not going to lie, it's hard to get it screwed down and hard to get it unscrewed because of the steel lip that surrounds it. Seiko's design on the classic SKX007K, for example, is better. However, remember that quartz movement? You'll only need to unscrew that crown about 5 times a year, to set the date for the months without 31 days.
The bezel has printed numbers. These seem pretty durable, whatever they're made of, and I haven't scuffed them yet even after some direct hits. But how much harder would it have been to have the numbers pressed into the bezel?
The crystal is not recessed in the bezel much at all. It'll pick up dings/surface scratches. But hey, it's an affordable watch. It deserves some character. Do not get that crystal anywhere near a brilo-pad though, say, when washing dishes. You'll regret it. It ain't sapphire. [EDIT: And it ain't 2K so who's complaining?]
All in all, great watch with a lot of character. Keeps great time. Comfortable = Not one sharp edge on the thing. Not heavy = forget it's even there. No battery change! One piece of steel! Eco-Drive is fail-safe technology. This watch will give you at least 20 years of maintainence-free time-keeping. And look good doing it.