November 22, 2017
by Ariel Adams
With the reference BN5058-07E timepiece, Citizen of Japan totally re-imagines the previous generation “avant-garde moderne” Promaster Altichron into something that I feel is correctly a lot more mainstream. The previous generation Altichron was a dream piece for anyone that considers themselves a fan of quirky, yet serious tool watches. In 2014, they even released a super niche and cool limited model, the Altichron Cirrus. For 2017 Citizen wanted to make the very practical and impressive functionality of the Promaster Altichron a bit more mainstream in style, so what we now have is a lovely design study in more conservative and traditional design elements as applied to the theme of the Altichron. Did I mention the new 2017 Altichron watches are priced considerably lower than before? There is that too.
What gadget theme is represented by the Altichron? Well, the name “Altichron” (originally introduced by Citizen in the late 1980s) combines “altitude” with “chronometer,” but the better way to think of the watch is as an all-analog timepiece that combines time-telling with a compass and altimeter – in a reliable Citizen Eco-Drive light powered movement package.
Compared to the previous generation Altichron models, the BN5058-07E is practically vintage-styled, though not in a bad way. Citizen adopted a more pilot-watch style theme that looks like the Altichron mated with a 1960s military aviator chronograph.
With that said, the sheer depth of the dial doesn’t make the Altichron feel like anything else. The dial needs to be so deep because the center stem needs to accommodate five hands, plus a sixth hand on the dial for the multi-purpose subsidiary dial. You also get the date. Movement is, as I understand it, unchanged for this updated Promaster Altichron that continues to contain the Citizen caliber 3290 Eco-Drive quartz movement. In addition to the time, compass, altimeter (that measures in really large segments up to 32,000 feet), and calendar, the dial has a power reserve indicator for the battery life.
People generally use the Altichron as a sort of all purpose adventure watch for when altitude is needed, but not in a super precise manner. More useful than the altimeter (for most, given modern technology), is the compass – which can prove really handy. Citizen still makes the Promaster Altichron a lot like a dive watch, so this 46mm wide steel case is water resistant to 200m. Yes, you can dive with it, but the altimeter system is not really designed to operate as a depth gauge for diving. So this timepiece wouldn’t be as appropriate as other Promaster watches under the sea.
Fitting the vintage military watch look is the black-colored rotating bezel, as well as the sober-looking white hour markers and hands against the mostly matte black dial. The result is very legible and conservative, with a pleasant emphasis on pure functionality (with a small hint of color). This is the price point where I would start to expect sapphire crystals, so I think I am not the only one wishing Citizen used an AR-coated sapphire crystal as opposed to an AR-coated mineral crystal.
Citizen does their best to use design tricks to help visually reduce the mass of the Promaster Altichron. No matter how they dress it, the watch will still be pretty large. I think a future generation Altichron deserves to be a lot smaller. This is basically the size of a smartwatch, and you know there isn’t need for a battery or a screen, or GPS for that matter. Thus, if the movement size is what is keeping the Altichron so thick, there might be value in trying to engineer a smaller one. We know Citizen can do it, of course. It is just a matter of priority at the company. I just seem to think there is a market for a slim Promaster “navigation watch” with a compass complication.
The movement has a crown at 4 o’clock, two pushers on the left-side of the case, and also an access point for the air pressure sensor for the altimeter. Citizen says the watch is for a “semi-professional adventurer.” I’m not actually sure who might constitute a professional adventurer these days aside from someone like Indiana Jones. Maybe Citizen has some suggestions on where one – semi-professionally, of course – might want to seek adventure?
Attached to the steel case is a black polyurethane strap that is comfortable, even if it isn’t a style leader. Citizen often pairs straps with otherwise great watches that are best replaced with something that might make for a better high-end look. I think on a black leather aviator-style strap, the Citizen Promaster Altichron might look really cool. Retail price for the Citizen Promaster Altichron BN5058-07E watch is $550 USD. us.citizenwatch.com