I think at some point in every watch collector’s lifecycle, the idea of an isolated, accurate, and self-sustaining timepiece becomes remarkably fascinating. The hunger for accuracy can come from anywhere, but it can often stem from our frustrations with mechanical pieces that have let us down. As TBWS has evolved, the concept of a “grab and go” quartz option has been something several readers and listeners have pursued ferociously—and the Citizen Eco-Drive Promaster Diver* seems to be an option that consistently comes out on top. For me, this is a watch that holds a special place in my heart, after Kaz gave it to me as a gift a few years ago. Now after serving me for quite some time, I think it’s a great idea to finally get my thoughts down on the site.
The first time I laid eyes on the Citizen Eco-Drive Promaster Diver was during my time perusing Terry’s ToxiNATOs Instagram feed, and seeing it with an attractive bunch of straps. Something about the compact case styling, care-free Eco-Drive movement, and low price just really spoke to me. But, naturally, I took way too long to make a decision. That’s when my best bud Kaz stepped in and gave it to me during the great TBWS Christmas gift battle of 2016. I was floored from day one and now, I get to scream my praises from the top of the world.
It’s a good idea to start with what was perhaps most surprising after getting this one on the wrist—case proportions. The watch almost feels lugless and the compact fit really translates well on the stock strap or a NATO. On paper, we have a 43mm case diameter, 48mm lug-to-lug distance, and a thickness of just 11.5mm. Combine that with the super lightweight nature of the Eco-Drive movement, and you have a watch that almost feels like a titanium diver… especially on a nylon strap. Water resistance is 200m and I had no qualms about taking this one swimming in the Hood Canal off the beautiful shores of Seabeck, WA.
The aluminum bezel incorporates an accurate 60-click mechanism that I find preferable to 120-click systems. It really does hit every mark but the teeth configuration is slightly awkward and not as grippy as I would have hoped. Thankfully, it doesn’t take much to turn it. At 4 o’clock, the crown sits pretty close to the rest of the steel case and is also easy to operate. The bezel insert itself is fully graduated and serves as a good match with the aforementioned click mechanism.
Everything about the Citizen Eco-Drive Promaster’s dial fits flawlessly with the idea of dive watch legibility. Information is clearly marked, the hands cause zero confusion, and the chrome markers are spot-on. Even the 4 o’ clock date window—which eats slightly into the hour marker—is pleasantly integrated. I’m also very impressed with the overall size of the handset, especially when switching between this watch and something like my Doxa, which features really unconventional hand sizes.
While I didn’t get any shots here, the lume is Citizen’s aqua tone BGW9 and I absolutely love it. Low light visibility is no issue and even seconds hand is slightly lumed. All these features make for a dial that’s just fun to interact with. Above all, the blue tone is also a sight to behold and can often transition to a sort of deep purple depending on the light. I’ve also had zero issues with the AR-coated mineral crystal. No chips or scratches… nothing.
Like many of Citizen’s dive watches, the Promaster Diver comes with a polyurethane strap featuring no-decompression limits. It’s comfortable but I quickly removed it and stored it for preservation. Besides, I always found those a bit difficult to manipulate and shape for a comfortable fit. Since then, I’ve only worn the watch on a standard BluShark NATO strap and I think it’s probably the best option. I have, however, seen a stainless steel bracelet offered by Citizen that looks compelling. But, I almost think that it would take away from the attractive, lightweight nature of the watch overall. Still, with a 20mm lug width, it’s going to be incredibly easy to find something that works for you. Come to think of it, sailcloth might be a neat alternative to the stock strap.
Aside from the price, I’d argue that the biggest selling point here is Citizen’s Eco-Drive movement tech. Specifically, it’s the Citizen 3-hand E168 with 6 months of power reserve on a full charge. According to Citizen, this movement is also capable of a +/- 15 seconds per month accuracy range with a 32,768Hz quartz oscillator frequency. Additionally, the movement will also revert to a low charge two-second interval mode if the battery is running low. This only happened to me once and placing the watch on a window sill for a few hours was really all it took to get it back to a full charge.
Even with options from brands like Doxa, CWC, and Omega spanning my collection, I’m still very proud of owning the Citizen Eco-Drive Promaster Diver. It’s another one of those “Honda Civics” of the watch world and a piece I reach for regularly. It has seen a ton of hikes, lake outings, jogging, and casual days at the office. Really, I find it hard to believe that anyone could be on the fence about this one—especially now that prices are dipping so low.
Sure, the bezel could be a little less slippery, but that really is my only issue with the watch. One strike, that’s it. That almost never happens in a watch review. To learn more about the Citizen Eco-Drive Promaster Diver, please visit the official Citizen Watches site.
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Michael Peñate is an American writer, photographer, and podcaster based in Seattle, Washington. His work typically focuses on the passage of time and the tools we use to connect with that very journey. From aviation to music and travel, his interests span a multitude of disciplines that often intersect with the world of watches – and the obsessive culture behind collecting them.