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Exploring The Human Body’s Secret Underwater Mode With The Citizen Promaster Aqualand

Exploring The Human Body’s Secret Underwater Mode With The Citizen Promaster Aqualand Wrist Time Reviews

I’ve never been seasick before. But right now, I’m gripping the sides of a red and white buoy that’s heaving to and fro, at the mercy of a fresh two-meter swell rising out of the Pacific, and I desperately need to puke. All around me, raindrops scatter the surface of Potrero Bay as it rises and falls, but I don’t feel them under the thick 3.5mm hood of my wetsuit. “Are you OK?” my instructor Gauthier Ghilain asks, his concerned eyes piercing my fogged, low-volume mask. My stomach is in knots, preventing me from drawing deep breaths. The constant tossing of the buoy changes the positioning of the dive line, making it extremely disorienting to track underwater. I should be focusing on the horizon, but I glance at the Citizen Aqualand on my wrist instead, its depth-gauge history reading a current max dive depth of only around 40 feet — well short of the day’s targets. I’m stressed, and my overall comfort level is extremely low, resulting in a heart rate that’s far higher than it should be — particularly for the discipline of freediving, which demands total relaxation in order to fully activate the body’s secret “aquatic mode” that enables one to hold their breath without the limitations that come pre-programmed into our land-dwelling brains.

Exploring The Human Body’s Secret Underwater Mode With The Citizen Promaster Aqualand Wrist Time Reviews

“I feel like shit,” is the most articulate response I can muster. “So do I,” he nods, half-grinning with all the reassurance of an elite athlete enjoying a home court advantage. Even if he’s lying, the tactic works. We’re both suffering, so I press on, fighting to regain composure. It’s what years of competitive cycling have taught me: not how to duck-dive with grace, or how to equalize the pressure in my ears while upside-down using the more efficient Frenzel method, but how to dig deeper and suffer just a little longer than the guy next to me. I wait for the next roller to pass, release my grip on the buoy, and awkwardly kick forward, body almost forming the correct “L” shape, and I plunge back down the swaying yellow line.

Exploring The Human Body’s Secret Underwater Mode With The Citizen Promaster Aqualand Wrist Time Reviews

The new Citizen Promaster Aqualand (ref. BN2038) isn’t a purpose-built freediving watch, per se, but instead more of a rudimentary analog dive computer that tracks time, current depth, and a memory of maximum depth up to 70 meters, which should be more than adequate for most adventurous scuba or freedivers. Should you enterprise to go deeper, you’re probably diving with a wrist computer, as well, but don’t worry — the Promaster is water resistant to 200 meters. Tracking depth at a glance is easy: Current depth is read by the red-arrow hand, which rests in the “zero” position pointing to 3 o’clock. Now, red isn’t an entirely practical color for a crucial element in a dive watch’s handset, as red is one of the first in the spectrum to fade after descending as few as 20 feet. Luckily, the depth hand is filled with blue lume that contrasts the green luminous plots around the dial, so it remains highly legible at any depth. Tucked beneath this arrow is a white max-depth memory indicator, which remembers your most recent maximum depth, crucial for calculating safety stops or surface intervals between repeated dives. This depth can be recalled or reset ahead of your next dive using the pushers on the opposite side of the case.

Exploring The Human Body’s Secret Underwater Mode With The Citizen Promaster Aqualand Wrist Time Reviews

The Aqualand also houses a charge indicator (or a power reserve, to crib some mechanical-watch parlance) and a very conservative ascension alarm that beeps if you’re returning to the surface too quickly — of course not critical when freediving, as one may surface as expediently as one’s urge to exhale dictates, without injury — but it could prove vital when scuba diving where a comparable scenario could prove deadly. And just like past Aqualand models, all of these capabilities are, more or less, hidden behind a classic three-hand timekeeping visage until the watch head is immersed in water, where a small, gold-colored sensor tucked flush into the caseband at 3 o’clock activates a secondary aquatic mode and the real fun begins.

Exploring The Human Body’s Secret Underwater Mode With The Citizen Promaster Aqualand Wrist Time Reviews

Similar to the Aqualand, the human body also contains its own hidden water-activated mode called the “mammalian diving reflex,” which collectively refers to a chain reaction of physiological responses that take place within the body when the face comes into contact with water. Individually, each of these responses is relatively benign, but together they represent something much more interesting: an evolutionary survival response that overrides the basic systems governing the body’s homeostasis, enabling it to dive deeper or longer on a single breath. In very broad strokes, think of the dive reflex as the exact opposite of the acute stress response (also called “fight or flight”), which discharges the sympathetic nervous system to essentially weaponize the body, steeling it against perceived attack with adrenaline and increased blood flow to the extremities. Conversely, the dive reflex slows everything down — particularly heart and brain activity, while shifting blood flow from the extremities to core vital organs (heart, lungs, brain), and contracting the spleen to release blood into the circulatory system, thereby increasing available oxygen, before all of those oxygen stores are re-routed to the heart and brain — all of this is initiated the instant I draw my last breath, release my snorkel and duck my face beneath the surface of the churning sea.

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Exploring The Human Body’s Secret Underwater Mode With The Citizen Promaster Aqualand Wrist Time Reviews

Cast in stainless steel, the BN2038 isn’t the first Aqualand with Citizen’s Eco Drive caliber J250 execution (a solar-charged, quartz-powered movement with the aforementioned dive complications), but it’s extremely important to note that this edition has been mercilessly reduced in size from the similarly equipped 53mm monster that is the Promaster Aqualand BN2029 to a far more manageable 46mm. Granted, it does lose the sapphire crystal, DLC-coated bezel, and some of the more premium finishing of the BN2029, but I’d consider it a fair tradeoff to have a watch that’s markedly more comfortable to wear.

Exploring The Human Body’s Secret Underwater Mode With The Citizen Promaster Aqualand Wrist Time Reviews

Plus, bear in mind that most of the visual footprint of the Aqualand belongs to the water-pressure sensor at 9 o’clock, and the pushers at 8 and 10, which recall or reset the maximum depth indicator, respectively. Also much more manageable in the new edition are the 22mm lugs, a 16.5mm case height, and a perfectly wearable 52mm lug-to-lug length, the combination of which makes it a comfortable daily wear in addition to being an abundantly capable dive tool. But while these conservative dimensions suggest a broader purpose and appeal than past Aqualand models, they don’t betray the original purpose-built, instrument roots of the Aqualand itself.

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  • Hands90

    If I did not just buy a Doxa 4000t on it’s way to me, I would have bought this.
    I’m really happy to see this re-release – kinda.
    Very cool.

  • Thanks Agnar! And yes, you can hear the alarm very easily underwater – it’s a series of beeps in semi-quick succession if you’re ascending at a rate that’s quicker than twenty feet per minute, I believe.

  • Appreciate that!

  • Hands90

    That’s true to a point but I still prefer them.

    • SuperStrapper

      No argument, I know many who think the same way.

  • Independent_George

    Great read. Thanks, Zach!

    • Thanks bru! Good to have you!

  • Appreciate that!

  • Raymond Wilkie

    I get seasick just looking at a boat never mind being on one. Four minutes and sixteen seconds…Impressive. I get sore ears going down to the deep end of a pool.
    That PR is a bit ridiculous.
    No lume shot?
    I’ll have a black faced dial thanks (ref. BN2037)

    • Ahh, you’ve got the best-looking of the bunch!

  • Really appreciate that! Thanks for reading 🙂

  • Jason Swire

    Brilliant article Zach. It’s always great to read about dive watches used by actual divers in their element. Also that’s a hugely impressive achievement at four minutes sixteen!

    • Thanks Jason! Very much appreciated!

  • egznyc

    I started feeling ill as I read the article – but that’s meant as a compliment! I’ve been there, getting seasick on a rocking boat, and it’s not pleasant.

    But the idea of holding one’s breath for over four minutes seems completely foreign to me ;-). I’m curious about the urge to exhale, as I’d assumed from my own limited experience that one would instead feel an urge to inhale. (Is it important to keep one’s lungs filled, rather than slowly exhale, to get the best result?)

    • Thanks for reading, and great question! Gonna paint this in pretty broad strokes, but the “urge to breathe” as it’s usually referred to is really actually your brain telling you to exhale – to release all that built-up carbon dioxide that can eventually acidify your blood if you don’t get rid of it. It’s kind of a weird misconception with the breathing cycle, but it’s CO2 buildup that triggers the cycle, not a decrease in available oxygen. That’s why conservation of energy underwater is so important – carbon dioxide is a by-product of energy expenditure, and speeds up those painful urges to expel it. The guys that are really good at this are just really good at managing their CO2 levels through relaxation and conservation of movement, and understanding the signals their bodies are telling them.

  • Mikita

    Excellent read. And very cool Promaster, in its natural habitat.

  • Very cool watch, if I spent more time in the water this would be fun to have.

  • Polerouter

    Very cool article, although remotely connected to watches, to be hones :). The world of free diving could not be stranger to me, as my personal record during 2 breathes is around 2 seconds, and my record in 100 meters swimming is around 50 meters. But that makes me find it all the more fascinating. If you want to go further on the subject, I would recommend the breathtaking TED talk by french champion Guillaume Nery https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rai3pwH3XrU

    He also made awesome short films with his wife Julie Gautier, also a free diver.

    • Nery’s done incredible things for freediving – huge fan of his (and his wife’s) film work, as well as his conversation efforts. Met him at a Panerai event at SIHH earlier this year, and he could not be more humble and down to earth. A true champion for the sport.

  • Larry Holmack

    Really good article…and an impressive 4:16. As for the watch…I’ll be on the look out for one on the deal of the day sites..or when Casio appears on that Home shopping channel that is known for selling watches.

    • Thank you! And ‘Citizen’ 😉

  • benjameshodges

    Ah man. Gave me anxiety just reading this. Took a deep breath at the end. Incredibly visceral article that you only get from well written text.

    • Really appreciate that bru!

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