Challenge Accepted: Comparing Citizen’s Current Line-Up of Vintage-Inspired Dive Watches

In 2022, Citizen brought back its 1977 Challenge Diver in two variants, the Promaster Mechanical Diver NB6021-68L with blue dial and metal bracelet, and the NB6021-17E with black dial and matching rubber strap (see WatchTime’s April issue from 2023 for an extensive introduction to the two versions that were available back then). While the original model from 1977 was water resistant to 150 meters, the Japanese watchmaker went with a 42-mm Super Titanium case for the modern interpretation, an increased water resistance of 200 meters, a sapphire crystal, a comparatively new in-house movement and a rather competitive price tag of currently $636 in the U.S. for the black dial version with black polyurethane strap.

“Inspired by the design of the 1977 Citizen Challenge Diver that was found on an Australian beach in 1983, the watch was covered in barnacles after having been submerged in the Pacific Ocean for years but was still ticking. That history has inspired our new Promaster Mechanical Diver and given it the affectionate nickname, Fujitsubo – Japanese for barnacle.”

Citizen Watch Company of America

Inside the titanium case, Citizen’s Cal. 9051 movement uses anti-magnetic materials for the balance spring and surrounding components to increase the magnetic resistance of the watch. According to Citizen, the movement maintains its performance “even when placed 1 centimeter from a device emitting a magnetic field of 16,000 A/m.” It should also be resistant to magnetic fields from everyday devices, including smartphones, and can be used aboard ships with magnetic compasses, according to Citizen. Last but not least, the new Promaster is also an ISO compliant divers’ watch (ISO 6425).

On the wrist: Citizen Promaster Dive Automatic NB6025-59H which was launched in 2023.

Unsurprisingly, the combination of a classic dive watch design, a modern in-house movement and the brand’s proprietary space-age material (Super Titanium is five times more scratch resistant and 40 percent lighter than stainless steel) made the Promaster Dive Automatic Fujitsubo instantly a global success. In 2023, Citizen added a third version to the collection, the NB6025-59H with a Super Titanium case with DLC coating. Its “robust case surrounds a graduated gray dial with bright luminous hands and markers, contrasting nicely with the dark case and bracelet for a strong aesthetic of sport style and performance.” This version is currently listed for $956 on Citizen’s website.

While all versions of the 42-mm Fujitsubo come with Super Titanium cases, the latest release also features a dark DLC coating (diamond like carbon) and a graduated gray dial for a stealthier look.

But there is more: Outside the U.S., Citizen has recently started to introduce another, slightly different Challenge Diver model, the new NY012 series of diver’s watches. This stainless steel execution not only “offers a vintage look,” but also an even more aggressive price tag of 269 euros (on strap).

The Promaster Mechanical Diver NB6021-68L with blue dial from 2022 (left) next to the NB6025-59H from 2023 (middle) and the NY0121-09XE with green dial and stainless steel case case (right). Note: all three watches are mounted on aftermarket single pass straps. 

There are currently at least five versions available with gradient dials with grained finish (plus two other ones with a smooth dial surface). These pieces were introduced in several countries (not the U.S. though) throughout 2023, and while these new models do share some obvious similarities, they are still quite different from the titanium version (the two most obvious differences being the minute hand with a small arrow head, and the case with straight end). Should you be considering getting either one, here are the most important differences:

Model:NB602 Series NY0121 Series
Case:Super TitaniumStainless Steel
Diameter:42 mm41 mm
Height:12.3 mm13.7 mm
Weight (w/o strap):54 g81 g
Movement:Caliber 9051, automatic, -10/+20 seconds per day, 28,800 vph, 42-hour power reserveCaliber 8204, automatic, -20/+40 seconds per day, 21,600 vph, 42-hour power reserve
Functions:Hours, minutes, seconds, dateHours, minutes, seconds, day, date
Price:from $636from €269 (currently not available in the U.S.)

Personally, I think that, while both types of the Challenge Diver re-editions offer excellent value for money in their respective categories, the titanium models come with a cleaner design, a more interesting and modern movement, better finish and Citizen’s signature alloy Super Titanium. The slightly heavier stainless steel versions, on the other hand, do have a larger, more convenient crown and certainly look and feel equally great on the wrist, especially with the gradient dials. Most importantly, they come at an almost unbelievably attractive price. Still, if I had to choose, I would probably skip the NY0121 Series and go with a Tsuyosa Automatic from the NJ015 series, with stainless steel case and a seamlessly integrated, matching bracelet for everyday use, and one of the titanium Fujitsubos for everything else. – This watch comes very close to being perfect, the only thing missing, perhaps, is an applied or raised logo on the dial. To make a decision between one of those three, however, would be indeed a pretty tough challenge…

For more information on the three Fujitsubos currently available in the U.S., follow these links:

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  1. I really like what Citizen is doing with these watches, and with their new GMT movement. Nice to see them using their resources to expand into more mechanical models, and to acknowledge their past.

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