The Citizen Promaster 1989-2019: the story so far
The history of the Citizen Promaster collection is one of the most exciting in the history of Citizen watches and the world of diving and sports watches too. If you love Citizen watches, whether they are those powered by an Eco-Drive movement or a robust (and virtually unstoppable) Miyota mechanical movement, there's no doubt that the Citizen Promaster collection is the technological pinnacle of the brand's offering, and a successful story that turns 30 this year.
We are a few days away from Baselworld 2019's opening ceremony, and I'm willing to share with you a few notes about the untold story behind the origins of the Promaster collection and what we might expect Citizen to launch on this extraordinary occasion, including some product previews.
The Citizen Promaster collection's most recent evolution.
The Japanese have set industry standards, especially among sports watches, that many other watch companies have then successfully applied. Citizen has produced, over the years, and still does, watches featuring cutting-edge technology and excellent product reliability, geared towards the accessible market segment. However, the brand has in recent years worked hard to step-up and grow its brand awareness and price point accordingly; a strategy the brand initially rolled-out in 2013 when it launched the modern Promaster Altichron collection along with some new Concept Watches.
Design wise, the 2013 Citizen Promaster Altichron marked a turning point for Citizen, in my opinion, and the new style the brand decided to introduce, back then, has consistently influenced all the new products that have followed. Regarding the Altichron in titanium, I was among the very first to own one, in Italy.
The story behind the Citizen Promaster collection: it all started with the Citizen Parashock and the Citizen Parawater
My aim is not to talk about the history of Citizen watches that I will analyze in a separate article, or the brand's dedicated page (here is an example of how a brand page looks). I want instead to talk the products that lay the foundation of the widely acclaimed Citizen Promaster collection; like the iconic Aqualand, for example, that is a milestone among diver's watches and that my peers and I wrapped around our wrist during our teenage.
Citizen is one of the very few vertically integrated manufactures, a company where not only are all the parts crafted but so are the tools and machinery to make those parts. It is therefore interesting to share what came before the Citizen Promaster watch collection, proof positive of the Japanese approach to technological innovation and Citizen Watch's engineers' challenging spirit.
Two are the dates that marked the birth of the modern Citizen Promaster collection: 1956 and 1959. In 1956, Citizen produced its first shock-resistant watch, the Citizen Parashock and in 1959 it launched its first diving watch, the Citizen Parawater. The Japanese brand organized, to prove the anti-shock properties of the newly released Citizen Parashock, some public demonstrations across Japan, such as the one held in front of the Kyoto railway station, in which a team of engineers dropped a Citizen Parashock from a helicopter. All the tests were successful: after each of these demonstrations, the Parashock was still ticking.
Three years later, Citizen debuted the first water-resistant Japanese watch and one of the very first diver's watches in the world. Both projects confirmed that Japan was a great contender in developing new technologies, and, little known fact, was a fair competitor to Swiss brands in making excellent and innovative mechanical timepieces too.
In the case of the Parawater, Citizen performed two tests, the first one held in 1959, where the brand's technicians tied a watch to a buoy and threw it from a ship located in front of the Japanese coasts. The buoy was then towed to the shore and the timepiece, once arrived at its destination, was thoroughly checked to verify its effective operation.
In a second experiment, the Trans-Pacific Test, 130 Parawaters were anchored to various floating buoys, specifically designed for doing this experiment, and launched from the deck of a ship in the Pacific Ocean. The Ocean currents carried buoys and timepieces towards the North American coast. The journey of the watches lasted about a year, and when the buoys and the Parawaters were finally recovered, they were still working.
The first Citizen Promaster watch
The Citizen Promaster collection was launched in 1989 and sported three models. It initially included the Aqualand for the Marine category (the Aqualand, alone, was initially introduced in 1985) featuring caliber C020 and ISO 6425 certification; the Altichron with caliber C040 equipped with an altimeter from -300m to 5000m and the forerunner of current satellite and radio-controlled timepieces belonging to the Promaster Sky category, boasting caliber C080 and a world time setting function.
The Aqualand is the only one out of those three to have remained almost unchanged over the last thirty years and is the oldest Citizen Promaster in a collection that currently includes the 2017 Citizen Promaster Eco-Drive Professional Diver 1000 BN7020-09E and the 2014 Aqualand Depth Meter BN2024-05E for example.
The Citizen Promaster Aqualand officially debuted in 1985 and was the first dive watch equipped with a digital depth indicator. The Citizen Promaster Aqualand thus revolutionized the world of professional diving because, for the first time in the history of diving, a brand had come with a true divers' wristwatch, featuring a digital depth gauge, powered by three lithium batteries hermetically sealed by a case back secured via six screws.
Three years before marketing the Aqualand, Citizen watch had proved already its expertise in crafting instruments for professionals when it released the Citizen Professional 1300m (1982), a professional divers' watch made of titanium.
The Citizen Professional 1300m was the third in a row of watches that included two other variants, both in titanium, that guaranteed a water resistance of up to 800m and 300m, respectively (the photo below is property of andrema on watchmen.forum-nation.com).
These three timepieces were part of the Titanium Professional collection and the forerunners of the modern Promaster collection just as was the Aqualand in its original version to the first Promaster collection. Regarding the Titanium Professional range, we're talking about professional watches made in limited quantities and highly sought-after by collectors, in particular, the Titanium Professional 1300m. From 1989 onwards, the collection has rapidly grown, including many more timepieces like the Citizen Promaster JP3000-53L or the Citizen Promaster JP3020-56L, just to name a few.
What to expect at Baselworld 2019?
The new Citizen Promaster Aqualand is undoubtedly at the center of this year's celebrations and will be launched in many variations. The new Aqualand has an Eco-Drive movement and aesthetically draws inspiration from the original model. Citizen has begun to introduce it in new colors and as a limited edition watch on some markets.
The Citizen Promaster 200m Diver BN2030-88L Team Kuroshio Limited Edition, for example, was created in partnership with the Kuroshio Team, which participates in an international challenge that involves 22 countries and aims at precisely mapping a large area of the ocean placed 4000 meters below the sea level.
(Photo credit: courtesy of Citizen Watch; Horbiter®'s proprietary photo-shooting)
Gaetano C @Horbiter®