The cult-favorite Citizen Altichron watch is back with a new variation for 2023 and with a fashion-forward design language. I can’t say how long Japan’s Citizen has been producing the Altichron, but it is most certainly prior to the age of the modern smartwatch. When Citizen first came out with this land companion product to the diving-themed Citizen Aqualand, it was a useful electronic analog instrument. The Altichron movement (known as Citizen’s caliber J280) is part of the light-powered Eco-Drive family and includes a series of features that include an altimeter as well as a compass. Now in 2023, the Altichron is an interesting niche treat and has a style that continues to look like little else on the market.
By viewing some previous aBlogtoWatch Citizen Altichron articles, you can see most variants were sportier and more instrumental by design. The 2023 Citizen Altichron BN4065-07L is more fashion-forward and actually looks a bit retro. No longer is Citizen trying to visualize the Altichron as a state-of-the-art trekking instrument, but now it looks more like a classic tool from the analog era. Gone are many of the busier tool elements from both the case and dial, and for the BN4065-07L, Citizen pairs the Altichron with a nylon textile strap as opposed to rubber.
The new Alitchron case is nice looking in both style and construction. It isn’t at all small at 47mm wide and around 18mm thick (but that is because of the many large hands on the dial). The case is produced from Citizen’s excellent Super Titanium (highly durable and scratch-resistant as well as lightweight), which is given a darker finish thanks to a DLC coating. Over the dial is a domed sapphire crystal, which gives the watch a very different personality than a flat one. There is some visual distortion when viewing the dial from angles as well as glare because of the curvature. Even though this isn’t positioned as a diver’s watch, it is water resistant to 200 meters. In fact, I actually believe the altimeter will go into the negative when you are diving underwater — but the detail on the dial isn’t sufficient to have a precise read of your current depth. For that reason, I wouldn’t consider the features on this watch to have much application for diving — for that activity, Citizen has the Aqualand. The Altichron has always had mountaineering and other high-altitude activities in mind when Citizen originally engineered the product.
Looking at the watch is great, but using it is a bit more complicated. This is not a system that most people can pick up and intuit without careful examination of the instructions. If you know how to use the J280 module’s system, you can access the altimeter and compass functions with a push of a button. Setting the time is also relatively straightforward because it functions a lot like a traditional mechanical watch by pulling out the crown. Everything from manually calibrating the sensors to adjusting the calendar will take some serious study of the instructions (which aren’t too great or friendly to begin with). In today’s era of smartwatches and other wristwatches that feature all these complications and more, I just can’t see that many people taking the time to study (and recall) the nuances of using a niche electronic movement like this.
People who get this BN4065-07L version of the Altichron might also want to experiment with different strap options. The supplied strap certainly is a stylistic choice, but it is on the stiffer side, and often times textile straps tend to fray or age more quickly than other straps. The Altichron uses 22mm wide lugs, and I recommend that people interested in this product wear it on a rubber or NATO-style strap as I feel that those would be great choices for daily wear.
Citizen developed a number of these very high-complication analog quartz movements over the last 30 years. Similar to competitor Casio, Citizen has had to slowly merge their legacy technology with modern connected technology. There is still a big market out there for traditionalists and analog enthusiasts who want more simple, purpose-built tools. I can see someone having a lot of fun with the Altichron when they are out on a hike or a real adventure. The watch features a lot of durability and reliability that you still can’t get with a lot of modern smartwatches. So, there is still merit to Citizen creating and refining these popular legacy watch families such as the Altichron. It might be the case that in the future, Citizen will develop newer all-analog movements that combine more functionality along with a companion smartphone app that lets you make better use of the features and negates the need to study a complex and non-intuitive wristwatch operating system. In fact, they are doing that now, and I think in 10 years we will see products like that and future versions of the Altichron all merge together. For now, there is a lot of fun and nostalgia available for the quirky and cool Citizen Altichron. It might no longer be the best choice for people who need life-saving sensors and gear when climbing, but it is no less reliable or durable as a timepiece that will not let you down. The price for the Super Titanium, Eco-Drive Powered Citizen Altichron BN4065-07L is $995 USD. Learn more at the Citizen website.