One never quite knows what musical melodies can pop into ones mind, and you’ve seen those color article titles from time to time.  Well, todays article is no exception to that, with the nod going to those newest (now old) kids on the block.  That said, this new Citizen Promaster Tough has nothing to do with that boy band, other than having a name that reminded me of the song.  I’ve been spending time with the Citizen Promaster Tough lately, and want to tell you a bit more about it.

While I’ve certainly been aware of the Citizen lineup, I can’t say as I’ve been overly familiar with what they’ve been producing.  I’ve had a few articles here and there, pretty sure I’ve owned one in my past, and – looking through my notes – I’ve only written one other Citizen review prior to this one.  Which, frankly, is surprising, as they are quite a large player in the watch world.  Aside from their own watches, in 2016 they bought Frederique Constant (and Alpina, another great outdoors watch brand).  They also have the Bulova, Ateliers de Monaco, Arnold & Son, and La Joux-Perret in their portfolio.  So, yes, Citizen is worth being aware of, in my book.

Ok, back to the watch. When you have a watch that carries an adjective of strength right in it’s name – as we have with the Citizen Promaster Tough – then it had better do some things to live up to that moniker.  To start with, the 42mm case is made of stainless steel, which then has an additional hardening treatment applied (which enhances scratch and rust resistance, and is said to make the case 5x harder than untreated stainless steel).  On top of that, the case has a monocoque design (aka, no separate caseback) which not only enhances the rigidity of the package, it also helps keep the case sealed up, as there’s only the one opening (on the front of the case).  This also helps with resistance to shocks and magnetism.  Continuing the theme (and borrowing from their Swiss brands a bit), we’ve got an AR-coated sapphire crystal topping things off, keeping things (again) tough.

Without a caseback, that means you won’t be opening things up on the Citizen Promaster Tough – or at least, not easily.  And that’s fine. While the watch is a quartz model, it’s not one that requires a battery.  The Citizen Promaster Tough features an Eco-drive movement, which means – in this case – that it’s solar powered.  Sure, at some point down the line, that energy cell will likely need replacement, but that’s probably a decade or so before you’d worry about that.  For me, solar-powered plus quartz means a watch that is a no-fuss, low-maintenance, grab it and go sort of a piece.

In the review model we had in of the Citizen Promaster Tough, it was on a stainless steel bracelet that has the same hardening treatment that the case features (there are also variants with textile straps).  When I saw the bracelet, it reminded me of the style that Ball  uses on their watches, with a beveled rectangle set in between the links.  These aren’t polished though (as you’d have on the Ball), in keeping with the tougher, scratch-resistant goal.  Also unlike a Ball watch, here, the end links do not match the profile of the case.  This feels like a miss.  There’s an angle on the lugs that could have either been smoothed out, or carried over onto those end links, and that would have really elevated the design.  Perhaps something for the Citizen designers to consider for the next iteration.

Sizing the Citizen Promaster Tough is a simple affair, with friction pins set into the links of the 22mm bracelet.  No half-links here, though.  If you want some finer adjustment, you’ll be using the adjustment holes in the butterfly clasp.  But, once set, it’s a decently solid feel on the wrist, and seems like it would stand up to some banging around in the outdoors.  And no, I was not intentionally scraping the watch on tree branches and brambles, or dropping it on the ground, though the watch should survive any of that.  It’s just not good manners with a loaner watch, you know?  What I was doing, though, was wearing it around in day to day life.

Whether at the office, around the house, weekday or weekend, the Citizen Promaster Tough blended right on in.  While the case and bracelet aren’t polished, per se, the brushed finish isn’t completely matte, so it doesn’t feel like a straight-up sport watch.  What I mean is, while it may not be your first choice for a black tie affair, the Citizen Promaster Tough will work just fine for anything short of black tie.  There is a bit of polish on the watch, and that shows up on the handset.  This is helpful when you have a bright light overhead.  While the flat sapphire crystal does, ostensibly, have an AR coating, you will get some reflection there.  When that happens, the beveled polished surfaces of the hands catch that light as well, and still keeps things quite legible.

When the lights go down, the 174g Citizen Promaster Tough still stays nice and legible due to the Superluminova that shows up on the indices and the handset.  Also worth noting, that the handset has two different colors of lume.  So, if you have trouble telling your hours from your minutes in the dark, you’ve got some color coding to help you out a bit.

At the end of the day, the Citizen Promaster Tough is a pretty solid option for someone looking for a no-nonsense three-hander.  Sure, at $495 (on the bracelet; the strap variants go for $425) it might give you pause thinking about a quartz three-hander, but there’s a lot going on here.  Time will tell how the hardness process helps out, but this should, in theory, keep looking like the day you bought it for a good long time.  Add in the solar power, and this watch will be like the Energizer bunny – it will keep going and going and going… and keep looking good on your wrist for years to come.

Review Summary
  • Brand & Model:  Citizen Promaster Tough (ref. BN0211-50E)
  • Price:  $495 (the models on canvas straps run $425)
  • Who’s it for?  You’re an outdoorsy sort of person who finds themselves needing to head indoors more and more
  • Would I wear it? Yes – a watch engineered to take a beating while keeping accurate time and solar powered?  Sounds about like a perfect camping and hiking watch, no?
  • What I’d change:  It would be nice if the end link and the lug profiles more closely matched
  • The best thing about it: I’ve a soft spot for solar-powered watches, and here it just silently underscores that this is a watch intended to be out amongst the trees.  I’m also ridiculously charmed by the different lume colors on the handset
Tech Specs from Citizen
  • Band:  SS with Surface Hardening Treatment, Bracelet, Safety Fold Over Clasp with Push Buttons
  • Dial:  Black, Red Accent, Luminous Hands and Markers
  • Case Size:  42 mm (10.75mm thick; 51mm lug-to-lug)
  • Case Material:  Silver-Tone, SS with Surface Hardening Treatment
  • Water-Resistance:  WR200/20Bar/666ft [Swimming, Showering & Snorkeling]
  • Crystal:  Anti-Reflective Sapphire Crystal
  • Functions:  caliber E168, 3-Hand with Date

By Patrick Kansa

A big data developer and leader with a penchant for gadgets, books, watches and beverages. You can find my work on WristWatchReview, Knapsack.News, and Slushpile. If you're on Twitter and/or Instagram, you'll find me there as @PatrickWatches.

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