The Japanese brand has been in the business of (also) making GPS-equipped watches for quite some time now. Their new Citizen Promaster Navihawk Satellite Wave GPS (ref. CC9030-51E) is a fine example of how you can get a lot of experience, a block of high-grade steel, a handful of silicon parts and create an absolutely wonderful object that can be a watch, a gadget, and even a surprisingly low-priced fashion statement as well!
As usual for the collection, the new Navihawk features that famous “modern pilot’s watch according to Citizen” styling. The approach can only be described as “take a brutally oversized case, stuff everything you’ve got in it, and don’t forget to cover every square millimeter of its surface with indicators, markings, and inscriptions.”
The lower-priced Navihawk A-T model with its analog-digital display that utilizes the same approach doesn’t look terribly convincing. This GPS-equipped model, however, looks a lot more interesting. Not in the sense that the design is original or new (it is not in both cases,) but there is something in it that makes it look solid and, well, expensive, if you don’t mind.
I think it has something to do with the overall quality of the otherwise rather generic design. The typefaces both on the dial proper and the rotating bezel look like they were carefully chosen; all elements that should be readable in less than optimum conditions are either covered with enough luminous compound to light a small room or printed using a high-contrast color scheme; the case itself is complex and elaborately finished; and, surprisingly, nothing is exaggerated to a point where you just have to roll your eyes, sigh, and try to un-see it.
Yes, there ARE some things that don’t look especially great (the solid bracelet is probably the first one that comes to mind, size and weight being the second,) but otherwise, the watch makes a very strong impression. No, it doesn’t make my heart go racing, but, if I was on the market for this sort of gadget, it would probably make a short-list of three that I would probably really consider as a candidate together with Seiko Astron GPS Stratosphere (which is dressier and more expensive) and Breitling Emergency II (which is outrageously more expensive, almost prohibitively so, but also more high-tech). Hm, I think the choice is actually obvious.
Case & Bracelet
There is a lot of high-tech machinery inside this mechanical monster and it probably needs a lot of space to successfully pack the GPS antenna and the caliber itself, so the watch is predictably big. At 47 millimeters in diameter, it is a tad smaller than the brand’s earlier attempts at this sort of gadgets, but it still leaves an impressive footprint on your wrist. The lugs are very short and therefore the total length of the Navihawk GPS is just over 51 millimeters, but (probably in order to make it look more proportional) the piece is also quite thick, so some may find wearing it not especially comfortable.
Also, it is crafted not from lightweight titanium as the 2015 model, but from ordinary stainless steel, so it is also quite heavy and this, too, doesn’t make it more comfortable: you will feel the weight of the case constantly pressing against the back of your hand. They tried to mitigate the problem with a relatively short notched crown (it is protected from lateral shocks with massive crown guards, but still must provide good enough grip for most people) and a set of wide, but short push-pieces.
Putting ergonomics issues aside, I would like to say that the case actually makes a very good impression if esthetics is what you really care about. The shape of the case is well thought-after, as is the rotating bezel with an inevitable Breitling-style slide rule engraved on it, and the pushers with fine slots in them (the latter will probably attract dirt and dust, but would be easy to clean with something as mundane as a toothpick.)
All in all, I would say that the watch looks like it is worth every penny that Citizen plans to charge for it (see below.) Frankly, I don’t see any serious issue with the shape of this device.
Well, perhaps the bracelet doesn’t look terribly convincing, but it is that rare case where Citizen uses a set of standard lugs, so replacing the bracelet with something more “brutally refined” would not be a problem, although this will increase the overall cost of the watch.
The dial on this new Promaster Navihawk GPS may not look as interesting as the one on the 2011 Satellite Wave (ref. CC0005-06E) that featured a linear layout of its sub-dials, but, well, at least it is easier to read even despite more threads of information that are simultaneously available to the owner of the watch.
The modes on the bezel flange (like GPS and local time reception) are indicated by central second hand, while the rest is displayed by perfectly visible pointers on the sub-dials. If this is your first watch of this kind, you will probably need to spend some time reading the owner’s manual that goes with this timekeeper, but after all is more or less clear, reading all the data becomes sort of natural. Oh, maybe not as natural as that on a device with a high-resolution LCD screen like the recent bunch of smart-watches released by major brands, but sort of natural.
The relatively wide hour and minute hands with all the light-green lume applied to them, too, allow to read the watch in any light, and I have an impression that is these two indicators (as well as the mid-sized date aperture between four and five hours) that will get 99 percent of your attention after you have played enough with all the fancy functions of the gadget and start using it as a normal watch. Same goes for the alarm indicator at six o’clock. Featuring the usual military-style 24-hour display with the standard (albeit tiny) hour and minute pointers, the indicator is easy to comprehend and is also quite useful in case you plan to rest really well and to sleep more than 12 hours straight (although you probably don’t want to find yourself THAT tired.)
Styling-wise, I would say that this is one of the best multifunctional timekeepers released by a Japanese brand during the last decade. Although not terribly innovative, it is actually quite elegant and, well, designed for the grown-ups, not for the first-graders as many members of the G-Shock family tend to look like.
The Caliber Eco-Drive F900 that powers this new model is the same movement that we have first seen last year when Citizen presented the new iteration of their new Satellite Wave collection of GPS satellite-synchronized timekeepers. Featuring satellite signal reception speed close to 3 seconds as well as a high-speed twin-coil motor that was ‘specifically’ developed for this new family, the mechanism corrects any error in its readings almost as fast as a blink of an eye. To get the watch synchronized, all you need is to push the dedicated button while standing someplace where the gadget with its tiny antenna will be able to receive a signal for the sky.
Still, even if you don’t want to correct the watch manually (if pressing the button with your finger can be called ‘manual adjustment’,) the mechanism is still good enough to keep time gaining or losing no more than five seconds per month. Can’t call this sort of accuracy crazy impressive, but it is still good enough for a quartz watch that is as expensive as this one.
Well, of course, there is a minor ‘fine print’ to that: after you first start the watch (or, for example, emerge from a place where no GPS signal reception is possible,) the device will still need at least half a minute to figure out where on Earth it currently is. From my perspective, this doesn’t sound terribly inconvenient, but you should still keep this ‘feature’ in mind. Also, from what I have seen before, the system used by Citizen is considerable (at least 10 percent) faster than similar designs from Casio (I am talking about G-Shock GravityMaster GPW 1000 here) and Seiko and is generally more convenient: you don’t have to press and hold the button for as long, and the aforementioned electric motor that drives the hands is, too, a lot faster.
As all Eco-Drive movements, the mechanism is constantly recharged whenever the tiny solar cell on its dial will receive enough natural or artificial sunlight to get electrons going inside its layers of, um, whatever material they use to make these particular cells.
As for its reliability, I can say neither good nor bad about this engine: the mechanism is still relatively new and there is still just not enough data to jump to any sort of conclusion. Still, like with any kind of expensive electronic device, you would probably be better off if buying it with full warranty. But it’s sort of common sense, isn’t it?
Pricing & Availability
The Citizen Promaster Navihawk Satellite Wave GPS (ref. CC9030-51E) will go on sale later this year with recommended street price €1275 in Europe and $1395 in the United States. As for the rest of the world, the price will heavily depend on your local taxes and customs duties. From where I stand, the price looks interesting for this sort of gadget: it is definitely less expensive than most high-end quartz watches made by Swiss-based luxury watchmaking brands and it definitely offers more functionality than most of them.
I can’t predict on how good it will be at retaining its resale value, but, if you don’t plan to flip it after the first week on your wrist, you probably shouldn’t worry about that either.
Build quality: 5/5
Value for money: 4/5
Citizen Promaster Navihawk Satellite Wave GPS (ref. CC9030-51E) specification
Price: RRP €1275 // MSRP $1395
Movement: Caliber Eco-Drive F900, GPS-syncing (time adjustment for 27 time zones/cities), Made in Japan
Accuracy: +/- 5 seconds per month
Power reserve: Virtually unlimited
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date, satellite GPS Timekeeping Technology with Worldwide Reception, perpetual calendar, 1/20 second chronograph, power reserve indicator, alarm, military 24-hour indication
Case: Stainless steel
Size: 47.00 mm
Case height: 15.00 mm
Lug width: 22 mm
Hour markers: Luminous
Water resistance: 200 meters
Strap: Stainless steel bracelet with fold-over clasp with push-button, alternately polished and brushed links