In part 1, I looked at the Citizen BJ8050 EcoZilla, declared it badass, and promised to make it even badassier. In part 2, I deliver on that promise with a strap swap.
"Gee, thanks Time Bum," you sarcastically reply, "I never would have thought of that. So glad I have you to help."
Well, first of all, lighten up. Second, the EcoZilla is not a normal watch so a strap swap requires some specialized equipment. Third, I have a few truly awesome straps to pair with this bad boy, so read on.
The watch does not use a conventional lug and bar arrangement. Instead, each half of the rubber strap contains a C shaped, stainless steel mount that slips directly into the case. The mounts are held with a retaining ring that is then secured with screws passing through each mount and directly into the case. It is an incredibly secure attachment, as each strap half is held with two screws, with all four maintaining tension on the ring, preventing the mounts from coming adrift even if you manage to lose one or more of the screws the course of your undersea adventures. Also, by dispensing with lugs, it reduces the size of what is already a rather large watch. The drawback is that it is more difficult to fit a replacement strap. Your only options are to cut the mounts free of the rubber strap and have them sewn into a custom molded leather strap, or to purchase an aftermarket part, machined for a precise fit.
I did not want to cut up my rubber strap and I wanted to have more strap options than a single, custom made piece, so I hopped over to Suppaparts and ordered a pair of adapters for $75 shipped. The Suppa adapters match the shape of the original but add conventional lugs and a Panerai style screw bar to accept a 24mm strap. They are machined from titanium with a brushed finish that is a close match for the stainless steel Citizen case. It is not perfect, but it requires close examination to detect the difference in materials. There are some hard angles at the trailing edges of the lugs, but overall fit and finish is very good. Installation is a breeze. The adapters fit without a fuss, sliding neatly into place, and appear every bit as secure as the factory parts. The adapters increase the overall length of the watch, giving it a lug-to-lug of 56mm, which is the most my 6.5" wrist can accommodate. They do not appreciably increase the weight of the watch. There is no part of the assembly that requires opening the case back, so water resistance is unaffected.
Suppaparts is part of SteVral, which also produces Benarus and Raven watches. The adaptors are produced in Thailand but U.S. orders are shipped from SteVral's Kansas warehouse, which makes shipping cheap and quick for domestic sales. Those with the EcoZilla's big brother, the titanium cased NH6930-09F AutoZilla, can order the Suppas in a blasted finish. Those who own a bracelet model are out of luck, as Suppas only work with the rubber strap model. If you decide to give them a go, I advise you to act quickly as they tend to sell out, and you may be waiting a couple of months for the next batch to be produced.
With lugs in place, it was time to try some new straps. The EcoZilla is massive, so any strap needs to have some heft or else it will look thin and weedy by comparison. A heavy nylon 3-ring zulu would certainly be a good choice for a dive watch like this one, but too obvious. Besides, in my life, the watch is far more likely to dive into paperwork than into to ocean depths. A quick look in the strap drawer brought forth a $45 Panatime MB-1 "Loco" Horse X Stitch. The strap is 5mm thick beige leather with a suede finish and black stitching. With a brushed Pre-V style buckle it worked beautifully with the watch, more than holding its own against the bulky case and dressing it up a bit. Just a bit, mind you. There is no way you will ever wear this monster with a tie, but the light color and soft finish work great with jeans and a polo or button-down Oxford on a weekend.
Strap number two brought the Zilla right back to prime tool watch status. The USARV 1965 vintage canvas strap by Diaboliq Straps of Düsseldorf, Germany is made from old Swiss Army bags. Judging from the stains and the slightly musty smell, those donor bags were very well used indeed. The strap has dark gold stitching, unfinished holes, and ammo leather backing. Two floating keepers hold things in check, one canvas, one weathered leather. The result is decidedly martial, but exuding less military precision and more mercenary swagger. On this strap, the EcoZilla looks the business, and by that, I mean the business of overthrowing Third World countries. Joe of Diaboliq will occasionally post inventory for sale on Watch U Seek or Facebook, but if you are interested in a particular strap or custom order, you can contact him directly at email@example.com. Prices vary but are quite reasonable, generally coming in well under $100. This strap also came with an ammo leather key fob - just the thing for keeping the keys to your tank.
The third and final selection came from Lederarts Watchstraps of Zurich, Switzerland. Made from a 1942 vintage Swiss Army ammunition bag, it is 4mm thick with a simple straight stitch and prominent stampings. When it arrived, it was a uniform dark glossy brown that vanished with the first bend, revealing grain and a variety of lighter tones for a far more interesting distressed effect. Some may scoff at an ammo strap on a diver, but the relatively stiff and beefy leather is an excellent match for the size and weight of the watch, and the brown tones play nicely off the brushed stainless case. Like the USARV, it is a badass strap that has the cajones to back up this badass watch. Prices run from 55-75€, shipped. You can see my initial review and more pictures here.
The EcoZilla is perfectly good right out of the box, and dedicated divers will do well to leave the stock rubber strap in place. It looks good, is solidly mounted, and is really quite comfortable. It also has the advantage of a wet suit extension strap. Strap junkies, on the other hand, should definitely check out the Suppa adapters and explore the possibilities this big, weird, and wonderful watch can offer.