There’s something endlessly charming about a solid, affordable dive watch. When executed well, entry-level divers can deliver a blend of style, functionality, durability, and a stress-free wearing experience (there’s a lot less stress involved in damaging a sub-$1000 diver than there is with banging up a $10,000 luxury showpiece) that makes them ideal candidates for daily wear and strenuous use. In the current market, few brands have played to this niche more effectively than Citizen, and among the Japanese giant’s myriad affordable dive options, the “Fugu” line stands as one of the most enduring automatic options. For summer 2023, Citizen looks to expand this versatile collection with an array of new styles, unified by an intricately textured dial inspired by the seabed imprint left by male fugu pufferfish attracting mates. The new Citizen Promaster Dive Automatic “Fugu” NY0137-09A is undoubtedly the most striking of the bunch, twisting the classic “night diver” concept into a striking black and blue colorway while offering all the durability and performance fans have come to love from the series.
As with previous versions, the black ion-plated stainless steel case of the Citizen Promaster Dive Automatic “Fugu” can be deceptive on paper. Although nominally measuring in at 44mm-wide, a series of clever case design decisions help this watch to wear more like a 42mm or even 41mm watch on the wrist. The first of these elements is the dramatically rounded case side undercut. The “Fugu” opts for a high visual beltline along the case sides, rendering everything below the upper edge of the case side in a sloping polished surface. Thanks to this bowl-like slope, the actual footprint of the case on the wrist is far smaller than a conventional 44mm-wide design, and the polished surface helps to visually mask the overall width and thickness. In addition, the short, gently curving lugs help to minimize the lug-to-lug length of the “Fugu,” further emphasizing the compact feel. Lastly, there’s the slimming power of black at play here, working to minimize the apparent size of the case in the same way black clothing does. Like the rest of the “Fugu” line, though, this case is also packed with unorthodox visual touches. The knurled 8 o’clock crown is the most immediately obvious of these love-it-or-hate-it elements, placed out of the way to minimize the chance of accidental impact on the wrist. It’s a move that takes the more common 4 o’clock crown’s design concept to its logical conclusion, and there’s something charming about its uncompromising practicality, even if it can make winding and setting a bit more of a chore than a standard 3 o’clock crown.
Of course, the bezel design is the backbone of the “Fugu” line, but this rounded, partially toothed dive bezel architecture is likely to be the watch’s most divisive point. The mix of smoothly rounded surfaces and broad-toothed edges is what gives the “Fugu” its name (thanks to its alleged resemblance to the rounded body and spines of a pufferfish), but in practice, the bezel is a mixed bag. It’s exceptionally easy to grip and operate, with a light, smooth rotating action, and zero back play. However, the extra-light brushing doesn’t leave much of a visual impression on the wrist, particularly underneath the black ion plating. This leaves the bezel assembly with a somewhat under-finished look on the wrist. Likewise, the deep navy blue bezel insert is where the watch’s price point truly shines through. The sheen and anodized hues of aluminum bezel inserts can give a design a real sense of vintage-style charisma, but here, the end result feels too shiny on the wrist, with an exaggerated shift between nearly black and a brighter blue depending on the viewing angle. Around back, Citizen fits the watch with a solid caseback featuring a stylized pufferfish engraving. As befits a dive watch, Citizen rates the Promaster Dive Automatic “Fugu” for an ocean-ready 200 meters of water resistance.
Although at first glance the Citizen Promaster Dive Automatic “Fugu” NY0137-09A may look like other fully lumed models in the lineup, the dial surface is where this model truly comes into its own. The entire main dial surface is given over to a pale green, subtly ribbed radiating pattern inspired by the sand patterns made by male pufferfish during mating season. It’s a nuanced, detailed texture with clear marine undertones, meshing well with the dive watch styling and calling to mind sea urchins and sand dollars as well. In addition, this pattern is fully inlaid with luminous paint, giving this piece a striking style once the lights go out. The rest of the dial layout is carried over from the rest of the “Fugu” line, with broad needle-tipped sword-and-arrow hands paired to wide printed trapezoidal indices for maximum legibility in any conditions. Like other “Fugu” models, however, the day/date display at 3 o’clock might prove contentious among enthusiasts. With its simple cutout design and a lack of framing, this element can come across as somewhat abrupt and disruptive.
Citizen powers the Promaster Dive Automatic “Fugu” NY0137-09A with its in-house Caliber 8204 automatic movement. As a stalwart presence in Citizen’s stable since the ‘70s, the Caliber 8204 is a solid, reliable entry-level platform that can be readily repaired and serviced with ease. Given that this is an older powerplant, though, it’s understandable that its 21,600 bph beat rate and 42-hour power reserve are not quite cutting edge in the current watch market. During our testing period, the Caliber acquitted itself well, averaging out to +8 seconds per day in accuracy.
To complete the design, Citizen fits the Promaster Dive Automatic “Fugu” NY0137-09A with a vented accordion-style rubber strap in deep matte navy blue. Accordion straps are a fixture among modern Japanese divers, and this one stands above the competition thanks to its soft flexibility, sturdy thickness, and breathable comfort. This is a design that would lend itself to a variety of strap options, though, so if utilitarian accordion straps aren’t to your taste there is an easy remedy.
The entry-level dive watch category is one of the most hotly contested spaces in the current market for a very good reason – the blend of utility, reliability, and style in this corner of the watch industry is undeniably compelling, and Citizen currently stands as one of the leaders in this competitive race. The “Fugu” line has built a cult following for itself over the years, and it’s easy to see why. The new Citizen Promaster Dive Automatic “Fugu” NY0137-09A pushes this fan-favorite collection into new visual territory, all while delivering a solid blend of reliability and functionality. The Citizen Promaster Dive Automatic “Fugu” NY0137-09A is available now through authorized dealers. MSRP for this watch stands at $650 USD as of press time. For more details, please visit the brand’s website.
>Model: Promaster Dive Automatic “Fugu” NY0137-09A
>Price: $650 USD
>When reviewer would personally wear it: When swimming, diving, or at the beach, or as a sports watch for more rugged applications.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Diver fans looking for an affordable but distinctive option for regular wear.
>Best characteristic of watch: Intriguing dial texture, deceptively compact wearing experience, and reliable in-house movement.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Uninspiring case finishing; simplistic aluminum bezel insert.