Exploring the world of watches on a budget

Oh No, There Goes Tokyo - EcoZilla!: Citizen BJ8050 (Part 1)

Sometimes I need a discreet watch. Something tasteful and unobtrusive that will slip under my cuff and won't clash with my suit or draw too much attention to itself. Sometimes I want to stand out a bit, maybe with a pop of color on the dial, or a unique strap. Sometimes, not every day mind you, but sometimes I just want a great big honking beast of a watch. A watch that says something. Something like, "Hey, look at me! I'm wearing a watch! Ask me the time! ASK ME!"  On those days, I bust out the Zilla.

The Citizen Promaster Diver BJ8050-08E, dubbed "EcoZilla" by the watch community, is not for the meek.  It is, by any standard, huge. The brushed stainless steel case measures 48mm wide, 18mm thick, and weighs over 6 oz.  It is slightly bowl-shaped and topped with a brushed unidirectional diver's bezel with deep, polished finger grips between each of the boldly engraved and painted numbers. The bezel moves firmly, with a loud and satisfying click at each detent.  A knurled screw-down crown flanked by stubby guards is set at 9:00. The texture of the crown is repeated in a ring around the outside of the case, but it is purely decorative.  The case back provides another reminder of its under sea credentials, in the form of a deep and detailed engraving of an old fashioned diving helmet.  

The black dial lies approximately 10 feet below the flat mineral crystal, or at least it seems that way given its modest size and the deep-set shadow box effect of the mammoth case. It is surrounded by a second/minute track atop the crystal, and another on the chapter ring inside.  The hands are vintage plongeur (diver) style with a white hour hand and a minute hand trimmed in bright orange.  The second hand has a sword tip, without a tail.  Tombstone shaped markers ring the dial with larger quadrangles at 6 and 9 and an even larger "V" at 12. The marker at 3 is halved by the date window. Text includes modestly sized Citizen and EcoDrive branding at the top of the dial, and the arrowhead Promaster logo in the bottom half with "300m Professional Diver's" below - a phrase also engraved on the upper right quadrant of the case, just in case you forget.  There is quite a lot going on here, but it is the commanding markers and hands that draw your attention. The result is bold, graphic, and highly readable.  Lume glows long, strong, and very blue.

Timekeeping is provided by Citizen's solid and reliable solar powered EcoDrive quartz movement.  In typical quartz fashion, accuracy is excellent.  Also typical, the second hand does not land squarely on the markers, although it comes oh so close.  The battery charges quickly, even when completely depleted, and has a 180 day reserve when fully charged.  The watch is covered by a 5 year warranty should anything go wrong. 

The 08E model comes on a comfortable and functional rubber dive strap with an "EcoDrive" buckle and stainless keeper, as well as an extension for use over a dive suit.  There are no protruding lugs, and no spring bars.  The strap is secured by an integrated bracket fastened with screws directly into the underside of the case.  This provides rock solid security, but it also complicates strap swaps.  While the rubber strap works very well, I find it impossible to keep a watch on the same strap for long.  Fortunately, there is a solution for strap junkies. (Stay tuned for Part 2.).  Another benefit of this lugless system is that it keeps the overall size of the watch in check, making it much more wearable than its dimensions suggest.  Even on my 6.5" wrist, it does not overhang.  From dead-on, it looks slightly smaller than some 44mm cushion cases.  The bulk comes from its not inconsiderable height.  An 18mm tall chunk of metal tends to draw a little attention.  

This is a legitimate tool watch, ISO certified and ready for gas saturation diving (although it lacks a helium release valve).  I have found these capabilities particularly valuable when spear fishing, exploring shipwrecks, um... shark wrestling...  Ok, I don't do any of these things.  This watch will never dive deeper than the bottom of a swimming pool. If it is ever 900 feet below the surface, it either fell off the boat, or I have drowned.  I bought it because it looks so damn cool.  It isn't merely a serious dive instrument; it is the dive instrument of our fevered imaginations.  There are plenty of dive watches that look like normal watches.  The EcoZilla looks like a prop from a deep sea sci-fi movie.  If they remake The Abyss, the Ed Harris character should be wearing this watch.  I am not too proud to admit I bought it because it looks totally badass. 

The watch has an MSRP of $395, but you would be a fool to pay that much. With a quick Internet search you will find it for $237 from several reputable vendors.  If you are willing to buy used and haunt Watch Recon for awhile, you can score one in excellent condition around $150-180. 

The EcoZilla is a lot of watch, maybe too much, but it lives up to its looks. I may be a poser in the diving world, but this is not a poser watch. It has the chops to back up the macho bravado in its design.  Stay tuned for Part 2, in which I take this crazy badass watch and make it even more crazy badass. 

Pro: A big, heavy dive watch that looks like a prop from an action movie.
Con: Big, heavy, and looks like a prop from an action movie.
Sum: Either you love it or you hate it. The Time Bum loves it.

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