As one of the largest watch companies in the world, Citizen produces an incredibly wide assortment of different models, and it is one of the few brands that creates what I would consider to be thoroughly modern watches that still adhere to a traditional analog display. Additionally, when I say “modern,” I don’t just mean models with contemporary styling, but rather that the movements themselves offer functionality that still feels cutting-edge, even in today’s world of digital displays and smartwatches. A prime example of this is the Citizen PCAT collection, which takes the brand’s light-powered Eco-Drive technology and adds a perpetual calendar, radio controlled timekeeping, and a wealth of other advanced features. The PCAT name itself actually stands for “Perpetual Calendar Atomic Timekeeping” and the Citizen PCAT CB5918-02L is a fully analog timepiece with refined styling that offers many of the same features as an advanced multi-function digital watch.
Crafted from stainless steel, the case of the Citizen PCAT CB5918-02L measures 43mm in diameter by 13.4mm-thick, with 22mm lugs and an overall lug-to-lug profile of approximately 50.7mm. While the case largely features a high-polished finish, the top surfaces of the lugs are brushed, which offers additional contrast and helps to highlight their angular faceted shape. Additionally, similar to other Japanese watches with large case diameters, the Citizen PCAT features considered proportions, and the way that the lugs sharply angle downwards helps to create a surprisingly manageable presence on the wrist. Unlike many other Citizen watches, the PCAT series features a sapphire crystal above its dial, and on the CB5918-02L version featured here, the fixed bezel surrounding it includes a dark blue insert with an engraved tachymeter scale finished in white.
The reverse side of the Citizen PCAT CB5918-02L receives a solid stainless steel caseback that has been given a brushed finish, while access to the movement is granted by a multi-function crown flanked by a pair of pushers that protrude from the 3 o’clock side of the case. Although this control layout is identical to a standard chronograph, the actual functionality of the crown and pushers is far different, and they are used to control multiple different features of the watch, simply depending on the designated mode of operation (more on that later). Despite the fact that neither the crown nor pushers screw down, and the caseback appears to be of the pressure-fit variety, the Citizen PCAT CB5918-02L still offers a rather generous depth rating, and it features 200 meters of water resistance, meaning that it is entirely capable of being worn throughout the vast majority of aquatic activities.
Given the fairly extensive functionality of the Citizen PCAT series, its dial is rather information heavy, and it could best be described as an expanded version of a three-register chronograph dial. With that in mind, just like the crown and pushers, some of the registers and hands perform multiple different functions, simply depending on the specific mode of the watch. On the Citizen PCAT CB5918-02L, the dial is a navy blue color with polished silver elements and small white and gold accents. In addition to its three sub-dials, a date window sits at the 4 o’clock position, while both the minute track and a scale for measuring hour offsets from UTC sit along an angled chapter that surrounds the periphery of the dial. The overall appearance is quite cohesive, and despite the significant amount of functionality offered by the radio-controlled Eco-Drive movement, the dial actually features a fairly minimal amount of numbers and text.
Luminous elements on the Citizen PCAT CB5918-02L are limited to its hour and minute hand, along with small blocks that are located on the outer edges of its faceted hour markers. Regarding the purposes of its three sub-dials, the register at 6 o’clock serves as a function selector that displays the current mode of the watch (time, chronograph, setting, and alarm), while the sub-dial on the left-hand side displays the time in a 24-hour format. With that in mind, the sub-dial sitting on the right-hand side is a multi-function display that changes based on the specific mode of the watch. When the PCAT is in its standard time-displaying mode, this register tracks the day of the week; however, it also serves as a power reserve indicator, function selector for the alarm, display for daylight savings settings, and even the minutes totalizer for the chronograph.
Similarly, while the centrally-mounted seconds hand with a trident-shaped counterweight tracks the running seconds for the time, it also jumps to the 12 o’clock position when the watch is set to its chronograph mode, and this allows it to function like a traditional chronograph seconds hand and be used with the tachymeter scale on the bezel. With that in mind, the seconds hand is also used for displaying other pieces of information, and it jumps around the dial to serve as an indicator to convey certain things like the current world time setting and whether or not the movement has recently been synchronized to its radio-controlled signal. Having these multi-function display elements helps the Citizen PCAT CB5918-02L maintain a fairly clean display, although it also complicates its operating instructions since you will need to memorize different functions that are performed by the same hands and buttons on the watch.
While the minimal amount of dial markings on the Citizen PCAT CB5918-02L allows this model to have a relatively refined overall appearance, this approach also slightly hinders certain aspects relating to its functionality. For example, the 24-hour register only features faint tone-on-tone hash marks placed every two hours along the interior of its contrasting ring, and this means that is essentially just an AM/PM indicator unless you really look closely at the dial. Similarly, the only way to track the elapsed minutes when using the chronograph is to measure them against the tiny scale that is printed along the thin gold ring that outlines the sub-dial. Other models from the Citizen PCAT collection feature more text-heavy dials, and while these options do benefit from superior at-a-glance legibility, they also offer a significantly less refined overall appearance compared to the CB5918-02L and its siblings that follow a similar core design.
Fitted to the lugs of the Citizen PCAT CB5918-02L is a blue leather strap with a crocodile-style pattern and white contrast stitching that tapers from 22mm at the case down to 20mm where it connects to its signed deployant clasp. Like most of Citizen’s leather straps, the version fitted to the PCAT CB5918-02L is of surprisingly good quality, and the clasp is a step or two above what is typically found on Citizen’s watches. Crafted from brushed and polished stainless steel, the double deployant-style clasp is signed with Citizen’s logo, and it features a double push-button release with perlage adorning the inside surface of its folding structure. All things considered, the included leather strap is quite nice (especially for this price point), although given the rather generous depth rating offered by this particular model, a more moisture-friendly alternative might have been a more practical option.
At the heart of the Citizen PCAT CB5918-02L is the Caliber E660, and just like all of Citizen’s Eco-Drive movements, the Cal. E660 can be powered by either natural or artificial light. In addition to featuring radio-controlled timekeeping that synchronizes to an atomic clock for 24 different time zones, the Citizen Cal. E660 also includes a 60-minute chronograph, a programmable alarm, a perpetual calendar, day and date displays, an additional 24-hour register for the time, daylight savings settings, and the ability to check both the power reserve and whether or not the watch has recently received its atomic timekeeping signal. Additionally, the Cal. E660 movement also offers on-demand signal reception, which allows users to manually trigger the watch to scan for its signal to synchronize its timekeeping. When it comes to long-term accuracy, my experience with the Citizen PCAT CB5918-02L has been more-or-less perfect. The perpetual calendar properly accounts for the different number of days in each month, and any time that I checked its timekeeping, the watch was nearly spot-on to the exact second due to its radio-controlled synchronization.
Rather than setting the time or the date, pulling out the crown and rotating it will move the small hand within the sub-dial at 6 o’clock, which changes the mode of the watch. Meanwhile, the two pushers are used to operate the various features within each of the different modes. For example, when the watch is set to its chronograph mode, the two pushers will allow you to start, stop, and reset the chronograph. However, when the watch is in its “time” mode, the upper pusher will allow you to check both the world time and daylight savings settings, while the lower pusher will allow you to check the power reserve and verify whether the watch has been synchronized to its radio controlled signal. In these instances, the seconds hand and the smaller hand within the multi-function register will jump to various locations and stay there for 10 seconds, with their positioning indicating the different values of their respective settings.
If you were to wear the Citizen PCAT CB5918-02L as your everyday watch, I imagine that you would quickly get quite comfortable with navigating its various different modes and features. However, for those who often forget how to use their digital watches after prolonged periods of not wearing them, operating the Citizen PCAT’s fully analog display might prove slightly more challenging. For example, should you find yourself needing to adjust the time while traveling, doing this is achieved by changing the current world time setting for the movement, rather than by just pulling out the crown and adjusting the hour hand to its new location. Similarly, unless you permanently keep the PCAT in its chronograph mode, you will need to first pull out the crown and rotate it in order to change the mode of the watch before you can actually use it to start timing an event.
In many ways, the Citizen PCAT CB5918-02L slightly suffers from what I like to call “Swiss Army Knife Syndrome” — which essentially has a similar underlying message to the famous “Jack of All Trades” adage. The classic Swiss Army Knife is an incredibly practical and useful tool; however, because it tries to do everything, it doesn’t actually do all that many things especially well. With that in mind, while the Citizen PCAT CB5918-02L is less practical than a standard chronograph for measuring elapsed time and more difficult to use than a digital alarm watch, the simple fact that the PCAT series is capable of such a wide variety of different functions is its own unique strength, and it is a highly capable alternative for the person who wants a lot of functionality in a watch that still offers a fairly refined and traditional overall appearance.
Going back to the famous “Jack of All Trades” analogy, the actual full saying is “a jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one” — and this certainly applies to the Citizen PCAT CB5918-02L. While it is undeniable that the PCAT series is less practical than other watches when it comes to performing a single specific function, this model scores big when it comes to versatility. While a Swiss Army Knife is less practical than a traditional knife when it comes to simply cutting things, it is the ideal option for the person who occasionally might need a knife, tweezers, a screwdriver, and a can opener, but really only wants to carry a single tool. Similarly, the Citizen PCAT CB5918-02L isn’t the watch for the person who requires the absolute most practical stopwatch or alarm, but rather for the person who sometimes might require a wide variety of different features, but really only just needs an accurate and reliable daily timekeeping companion.
With an official retail price of $650 USD, it’s undeniable that the Citizen PCAT CB5918-02L offers quite a lot of functionality for the money, and just like many Citizen models, you can often find the PCAT series at a discount with a little bit of online searching. While the slightly convoluted operating instructions might be a bit overwhelming for some individuals, it’s important to remember that this really only comes into play if you want to use some of the watch’s more advanced features. For those who enjoy the extra functionality but really just want a true set-it-and-forget-it ownership experience, the Citizen PCAT CB5918-02L is an ideal candidate, and with refined looks and ample water resistance, this particular model is perfectly positioned to be someone’s everyday watch. For more information on the Citizen PCAT collection, please visit the brand’s website.