[VIDEO] Hands-On with the Citizen Promaster Dive Automatic aka Fujistubo aka Barnacle

When we first caught wind of a modern Promaster Diver “Barnacle” from Citizen earlier this year, it quickly shot to the top of our most heavily anticipated releases of the year. Would this be the watch to unseat our near unanimous favorite from last year, the Seiko SPB14X? Did it need to? Probably not, as Citizen has a real knack for funky divers that Seiko decidedly doesn’t, but this watch, a new Challenge Diver is a different story. This is an everyday wearable diver, and how we end up judging this watch relative to other Promaster Divers is shifted to meet a different challenge, so to speak (sorry). 

The Promaster Dive Automatic collection contains some of the more approachable and familiar dive watch designs from Citizen, and it’s growing. The latest additions capture an historic Challenge Diver reference and attempt to bring it up to modern spec. The story goes something like this: in 1983 a barnacle-covered Citizen watch from 1977 was found on an Australian beach, and upon closer inspection the watch was still dutifully ticking away. The new watch takes this as its base, and applies a modern execution that, on paper, feels exactly on point for current dive watch trends. 

The new Challenge Diver, which is much easier to say than NB6021, gets a full super-titanium case and bracelet, and houses the brand’s 9051 automatic movement. This, paired with the charming ‘70s design that oozes charm, position it neatly across from the likes of Seiko’s newer upscale Prospex divers. Better yet, it’s priced just south of the Seiko references. In hand, these two watches shake out rather differently, however.


Citizen’s Super Titanium is exceedingly, almost disconcertingly light, and this watch has very little in the way of heft to speak of. I generally have favorable feelings about titanium watches, and appreciate a well built, lightweight watch, but this Citizen doesn’t quite reach that level of refinement. The case and bracelet of this Citizen have a feel, and even sound, that is unlike any other titanium watch I’ve handled. Perhaps it’s the nature of Super Titanium, but this is one watch that could use a bit of heft under the hood. 

That said, worn on the rubber strap or even a fabric passthrough strap, the watch is very comfortable and easy to get along with. I’d go so far as to recommend the black colorway of this watch over the blue variant, as it comes on a polyurethane strap, and cuts a couple hundred bucks off the price in the process. It doesn’t alleviate all of the issues I have with the watch, but it’s a step in a better direction. 

The titanium Super Titanium case measures 41mm in diameter, and a long lug design makes for a near 49mm lug to lug distance. Total thickness is a hair over 12mm, making for a relatively manageable package on the wrist, aided by the absence of any real weight. The shape of the case has an organic quality to it, with no real hard lines or edges to speak of. The corners are soft, and the case wall gently tucks under the bezel assembly (more on that in a minute) in a submission manner. The texture is uniform satin brushed that further accentuates the softness of the shape. The only real contrast, which is a bit jarring, is the fully polished bezel assembly that looks to have been sunken into a still soft case.

This bezel assembly has a presence all its own, and feels disjointed from the rest of the watch due to its shape and finish. The edge is crimped in a way that looks like it was formed around a scalloped bezel edge, but didn’t quite get the sharpness, resulting in a slippery grip. The insert gets a 90º bend toward the dial to seal the lip created by the chamfered crystal. The insert and assembly feel hollow when tapped on, further contributing to the overall plastic-y feeling this watch has. The just-too-small crown at the side of the case doesn’t help the situation either, I’m afraid. 

One thing I enjoy about the bezel are what look to be the pad printed numbers. They have an old-school vibe that I rarely see in modern dive watches and they nailed the look. 

Moving to the dial and it’s the same story. A great design marred by questionable execution. I really enjoy the design of this dial (and the whole watch, for that matter), but there’s one small detail that keeps grabbing my attention, and that is the hour markers. Not their shape or size, but rather how they’ve been added to the dial. They don’t look to be separate pieces applied to the dial, rather, they appear to have been pressed or pushed into the dial from the bottom, as there is no crisp line separating them from the base of the dial, but rather a gentle slope that betrays them as all a part of the same single piece. Perhaps this was an intentional decision, and it certainly has a certain visual effect that may honor the original execution?

The overall lack of refinement in execution is all the more peculiar when held next to some other Citizen divers, such as the Aqualand and the supremely funky BN0227 in my own collection. Each of these watches boast crisp details and excellent finishing decisions. The bezel pieces alone account for a gulf in fit and finish. These watches show exactly what Citizen is capable of, and provide a glimpse of the potential of just how great a watch this NB6021 could have been with a little more time in the oven. 

Each of these small details add up, and take away from what is an otherwise brilliant concept. This isn’t a bad watch, but boy, it could have been a great one. As it sits now, it is not in the same league as the Seiko SPB149 that I have sitting next to it on my desk, nor as the BN0227 in my watchbox. It’s easy to see how it could be, though. With a redesigned bezel assembly, a heftier insert, and a slightly more refined bracelet, I’d be singing a very different tune about this watch right now. I certainly hope Citizen continues with this watch and takes the time needed to dial it into its full potential. Until then, I’ll stick with their more whimsical dive watch designs, which are in a league of their own. Citizen.

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Blake is a Wisconsin native who’s spent his professional life covering the people, products, and brands that make the watch world a little more interesting. Blake enjoys the practical elements that watches bring to everyday life, from modern Seiko to vintage Rolex. He is an avid writer and photographer with a penchant for cars, non-fiction literature, and home-built mechanical keyboards.