March 12, 2023
The original Citizen Promaster Nighthawk was one of the early darlings among online watch enthusiasts, and it was frequently a top recommendation on various forums due to its feature-packed design and budget-friendly price point. At its core, the Nighthawk is a dual-timezone pilot’s watch with a slide rule bezel and solar Eco-Drive movement. However, with a highly legible display and more-than-generous water resistance, the Nighthawk ultimately garnered a diverse following of dedicated fans among numerous different demographics who all appreciated the watch for its function-forward design and rugged construction. After more than a decade of production, Citizen finally updated the Promaster Nighthawk in 2020, and while the new model offers much of the same core package when it comes to its functionality and specifications, it also represents a significant aesthetic departure and includes a number of notable changes.
While the original Nighthawk offered a fairly traditional overall case profile, the new Citizen Promaster Nighthawk (ref. BJ7138-04E) draws its design inspiration from stealth helicopters, and it features thick angular lugs with brushed sides and large polished top surfaces. Crafted from stainless steel, the case itself measures 42mm in diameter by 13mm-thick, with a lug width of 22mm (Citizen actually lists this measurement as 21.97mm), and an overall lug-to-lug distance of approximately 47mm. Just like the original Nighthawk, the new version features a mineral glass crystal protecting its dial, while the reverse side of the case gets fitted with a solid screw-down stainless steel caseback. Personally, I would have preferred a sapphire crystal, although Citizen has a habit of fitting mineral crystals to many of its Promaster sports watches, despite using sapphire crystals on other models at significantly lower price points. One theory I’ve heard is that this is intentionally done due to the slightly higher impact resistance of certain types of mineral glass (despite being less scratch resistant), although I think most collectors would still prefer to have a sapphire crystal whenever possible.
The bezel fitted to the Citizen Promaster Nighthawk BJ7138-04E features a black PVD finish and prominent diagonal grooves running around its perimeter. Everything about its appearance suggests that the bezel would rotate and be used to operate the internal slide rule scale located on the underside of the crystal, similar to how the bezel operates on something like a Breitling Navitimer. However, the outer bezel is actually fixed, and rotating the internal slide rule scale is instead done by turning the secondary crown located on the side of the case at the 2 o’clock position. While the crown for the internal bezel is unsigned, the other crown at the 3 o’clock location is engraved with the Promaster collection’s double arrow logo, and it is used to access the movement. Additionally, despite the fact that the time-setting crown doesn’t screw down on the new Citizen Promaster Nighthawk like it did on the original model, the watch still offers an ample 200 meters of water resistance, meaning that it is more than capable of surviving just about any aquatic activities you might encounter.
While the dial fitted to the new Citizen Promaster Nighthawk offers much of the same core layout as the one fitted to the original version, its appearance has received a significant aesthetic overhaul. The center of the dial still features a double arc-shaped 24-hour scale that is used in conjunction with the additional double-sided hand with color-coordinated, airplane-shaped tips for designating AM versus PM hours. On the original model, white and red were the two colors that were used for the secondary timezone display, while the new version of the Citizen Promaster Nighthawk swaps out red for orange but keeps the same fundamental design. The style of the hour markers has also been updated to a printed style of largely Arabic numerals with a large triangle at 12 o’clock and batons for the remaining cardinal point. Additionally, while the secondary 24-hour timezone display doesn’t receive any luminous markings, all twelve of the indexes, plus the hour and minute hand are finished with lume that emits an aqua blue colored glow to offer easy access to the time in low-light settings.
Just like the original version, the dial fitted to the new Citizen Promaster Nighthawk features a date window at the 3 o’clock location, and while there are numerous small updates to the various fonts and text that appear throughout it, one of the biggest changes is in regards to the internal slide rule bezel that sounds its perimeter. Rather than having the internal track of the slide rule scale printed along the outermost edge of the flat section of the dial, the entire slide rule has been moved to the large angled chapter ring. The angled section now contains the inner fixed track for the slide rule, while the outer rotating track appears on the section of the chapter ring that sits parallel to the underside surface of the crystal. With all of the markings on the flat section of the dial now dedicated to the two different timezones, the updated design for the new Citizen Promaster Nighthawk is ultimately able to offer greater at-a-glance legibility.
Powering the modern Citizen Promaster Nighthawk ref. BJ7138-04E is the brand’s Eco-Drive Cal. B877 solar quartz movement, which is the exact same caliber that can be found inside the original Nighthawk watch. Like other Citizen Eco-Drive calibers, the B877 is capable of charging itself with either natural or artificial light, and it will stay running in total darkness for up to six months at a time once fully charged. Offering set-it-and-forget-it timekeeping performance with known-quantity reliability, the solar-powered nature of Citizen’s Eco-Drive range means that routine battery replacements aren’t a necessity, and Citizen is easily an industry leader when it comes to light-powered technology. Personally, I’m a big fan of Citizen’s Eco-Drive movements, although this particular one has one serious drawback when it comes to the quickset adjustability of its hands and date display.
When operating the Citizen Eco-Drive B877 movement, pulling out the crown to the first position and rotating it in one direction will jump the local 12-hour hand forward in one-hour increments, while turning it in the other direction will advance the date display. The problem here is that you can only move the hour hand forward (not backward), and the date display changes when the local 12-hour hand passes midnight. This means that setting the Promaster Nighthawk to a timezone that is just one hour earlier requires you to jump the hour hand forward nearly full rotations — and then, because the date display has also advanced by this point, you will need to rotate the crown in the opposite direction to advance the date nearly a full month until the previous value appears once again. The inability to jump the hour hand backward is the key drawback with this design, and I would really consider the Nighthawk to just have a dual timezone display (something for tracking a single constant timezone such as UTC/etc.), rather than actually offering either “caller” or “traveler” GMT functionality.
Fitted to the 22mm lugs of the Citizen Promaster Nighthawk ref. BJ7138-04E is a two-piece olive green leather strap that is inspired by the color of classic military uniforms. Tapering from 22mm at the lugs to 20mm where it connects to an incredibly chunky signed pin-buckle, the strap itself is fairly thick; however, the material is decently soft and comfortable right out of the box, with very little break-in time required. All things considered, the strap is reasonably nice and quite a bit better than many other options at this price point, although I do question whether or not leather is the most appropriate material for this particular model. While the Nighthawk isn’t specifically designed for aquatic use, it does offer the same depth rating as many purpose-built dive watches, and since there is no explicit mention that the leather strap is waterproof, it would have been nice to see a different material used here instead that would allow users to take advantage of the Citizen Promaster Nighthawk’s surprisingly generous water resistance.
There will inevitably be some people who prefer the original Nighthawk due to its slightly more traditional design, but that model had been in production for more than a decade, and this new version represents enough of an update to the point where it feels like the Nighthawk has evolved in a tangible manner. That said, rather than primarily updating its aesthetics, adding a sapphire crystal and a new movement with a proper independently adjustable hour hand would have made the new Nighthawk an absolute home run, and you could even justify the removal of the screw-down crown on the grounds that it makes it easier to quickly update the local timezone. That said, with an official retail price of $495 USD, the Citizen Promaster Nighthawk ref. BJ7138-04E remains firmly positioned on the affordable end of the spectrum, and it is often even available at a discount with a small amount of searching. Although there are other watches that are more practical for travel and keeping track of multiple timezones, the Nighthawk still represents an incredibly compelling offering due to its feature-rich design and robust construction. For more information on the Citizen Promaster Nighthawk, please visit the brand’s website.