No one needs a wristwatch. Least of all when you’re tearing down a mountain at 30 miles per hour. But it sure is neat to look down at the bottom of a ski run and see an altimeter on your wrist drop a couple thousand feet. I’m not sure downhill skiing is the best use for the Citizen Promaster Altichron, but it works. I went hands-on with this mountain guide of a watch while skiing in Colorado over the holidays. I found that this burly 46 mm watch looks good in any casual setting, even if the novel complications don’t serve much practical function.
The Citizen Promaster Altichron is an altimeter/compass combo, each function activated by the left-hand pushers. A sensor at 9:00 takes the pressure measurements feeding the altitude readout. Time setting is handled by a push/pull crown at 4:00. A screw-down crown seems like an obvious upgrade that would suit the watch’s sporty vibe.
You’ll want to peruse the 77-page manual to learn the ins and outs of this complex beast, but once you have the hang of it checking the altitude or the direction is as easy as pressing the top or bottom pusher.
The altitude readout is a bit complicated, with the center scale and big red arrow pointing to current altitude in increments under 10,000 ft, and the subdial at 9:00 counting each 10,000 ft jump in the high alpine—and beyond. The scale tops out at 32,000 ft.
The arrow also doubles as the compass hand, which points north at the push of a button and can be used in conjunction with the freely rotating bezel to find your way. The bezel movement is restricted only by friction, which makes the rotation a bit rough.
Despite the busy dial, a pair of simple white broadsword hands remains legible, even in lowlight thanks to ample blue lume. Although, the hour markers are tiny dots that have a hard time glowing without some deliberate charging with a bright light.
Those big hands are run by Citizen’s Eco-Drive movement, a quartz movement recharged by sunlight. The altimeter subdial at 9:00 moonlights as a power reserve indicator. The secondhand has a typical quartz tick, but the movement is firm and precisely aligned with the minute register.
At 46 mm across and 14 mm tall, this watch has plenty of wrist presence. Too much presence in some situations. Fitting the watch under the cuff of my ski glove was impossible, but the rubber strap was long enough that I could loosen it and slide the watch up my forearm, under my jacket. That made using it on the slopes a chore. I’d want to try wearing this astronaut style, with a long Velcro strap on the outside of my jacket. Around town, the rubber strap was a bit stiff, but reasonably comfortable, with a thick pin buckle that matches the proportions of the watch.
This is a well-made piece that adds a little novelty, without overwhelming the practicality of the watch. And while a digital ABC (altimeter/barometer/compass) provides more functionality, the style of this analog dial is much more adaptable. It could easily be a daily-wearer when you’re spending more time on the boards than in the boardroom. citizenwatch.com
Citizen Promaster Altichron (bn5058-07e)
- Price: $550USD (MSRP)
- Who’s it for? You know your way around the backcountry, or at least want people to think you do.
- Would I wear it? It’s on the big side for me, but the rubber strap makes it surprisingly wearable.
- What I’d change? Make the case thinner and the hour marker lume larger.
- Standout feature? It’s an altimeter! It’s a compass! It’s a watch!
Tech Specs from Citizen
- Case Material: Stainless steel
- Case Dimensions: 46 mm x 14 mm
- Lug Width: 22 mm
- Movement: Citizen Eco-Drive Caliber J290
- Crystal: Anti-Reflective Mineral Crystal
- Strap: Rubber with pin buckle
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