Having a plethora Seiko watches by late 2005, I thought of trying out a Citizen watch for a change. The Citizen Nighthawk had garnered a cult following in SCWF and received a mixed bag of responses. Some liked its undeniably classic and unique looks. Others shunned it because it was quartz controlled, too large or the dial looked too busy and distracting. For some, it was a love-at-first-sight kind of timepiece while for others like me, it was an acquired taste.
As for myself, I researched the Nighthawk for several months before deciding to buy it. I had first tried on the Nighthawk at a local watch store and I thought it was kind of gruesome looking on the wrist. It’s big. And the dial has real estate so wide that it goes all the way to the bezel. But it’s one heck of a solid watch, comprising some design influences perhaps from Breitling and mated with Citizen’s reliable Eco-Drive technology.
When I was ready to buy one, I chose to bid on eBay as I knew I could get the price that I wanted, which is about USD150 or less. The local store was asking MYR950 (USD283) for it and I decided to buy from Capital Mall on eBay again.
The Citizen that I bought is the affordable Asian version, model BJ7017-50ET. It shares some similarities with the so-called “Euro Nighthawk", which actually has a different designation – the AS2031-xx series. The European Nighthawks considered luxury models – they are equipped with radio controlled, atomic clock synchronization and sa pphire glass.
The U.S. version BJ7005-59E (left) and the Japan market version PMD56-2776 (right)
Citizen Japan also has its own Nighthawk for its domestic sales – the rather expensive PMD56-2771 with a Duratect-treated titanium case and bracelet. It looks very much like its European siblings, except for its radio controlled, atomic time clock receiver and is available only in Duratect treated titanium finish.
The Eco-Drive in a nutshell
Citizen’s Eco-Drive is basically a solar powered quartz movement which converts light energy into electricity, which in turn charges a built-in rechargeable lithium ion battery. Citizen cleverly disguises its solar panels into the watch dial or sub-dials, you wouldn’t notice them unless you looked carefully! You can charge the watch by natural or artificial light. The brighter the source of light, the quicker the watch charges its internal battery. However, it’s advisable not to leave the watch in direct sunlight for long periods as high temperatures can cause damage to its electronics.
Fully charged, an Eco-Drive watch can go without light (like being stored in a drawer) for 6 months or for years on sleep mode, depending on the caliber. The Eco-Drive Perpetual Calendar models have a power saving or sleep mode that disengages the hands while internally keeping track of the time, stretching its power reserve to a few years.
Sadly, the Nighthawk’s B877 caliber is a standard Eco-Drive movement and once fully charged, continues to tick in darkness for six months without needing light.
Citizen claims a typical lifespan of 20 years for its solar cells but nobody has owned an Eco-Drive watch for two decades let alone 10 years, so we’ll see if the Eco-Drive technology lives up to the manufacturer’s claims.
On another note, Citizen’s arch-rival Seiko does have a few solar powered models (like the V145 caliber) but Citizen has the upper hand in solar watch marketing. While Seiko prefers to push its Kinetic range of watches, Citizen decided to capitalize on its strength in solar powered timepieces. That said, in the late 1990s Citizen did release the Eco-Drive Duo movement, which is a hybrid motion and solar powered watch. It was probably superfluous to have a Kinetic-like movement as well as solar cells.
A discontinued BJ3074-58 Eco Drive Duo
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that it’s effortless to charge an Eco-Drive Duo using light instead of via wrist motion. The hybrid movement was also expensive to manufacture and Citizen later decided to drop its Eco-Drive Duo models altogether.
Citizen really stands by its Eco-Drive technology. It has released many types of watches based on Eco-Drive movements, from their entry level models to their hand made, artistic Campanola flagship range. The Japanese watch manufacturer is actively campaigning its Eco Drive models although it does have a handful of battery powered, ordinary quartz models.
Some complicated movements that require more battery power, as with certain Campanola models are non-Eco Drive. The Navihawk range of pilot styled watches are battery operated as opposed to the more expensive Skyhawk range, which are Eco Drives.
Look and feel
The Citizen BJ7017-50ET appears to be carved out of a solid chunk of stainless steel. On the 22mm solid linked bracelet, it weighs about 150 grams un-sized. It is mostly satin finished and leaves no traces of shiny “bling-bling". I would say the Nighthawk is more of a serious tool watch rather than dressy. Its 200m water resistance rating lends credibility to its tool watch theme.
Not that you’d want to take this watch for scuba diving – the Nighthawk is not meant to be a diver’s watch in the first place.
A unique feature of the Nighthawk is its large and deep, sunken dial. It’s been touted as a pilot’s watch owing to its rotating internal E6B flight rule bezel. At first glance, the dial seems to be cluttered. Once you’re accustomed to the watch, you’ll learn to ignore the background text and reading the time becomes a lot easier. When the Nighthawk is viewed at arm’s length, the 800-plus tiny characters become a distant blur.
The dial looks rather busy when viewed closely…but
…from a distance the clutter becomes less noticeable and the dial stands out clearly! 🙂
The main crown is the screw-in type and has a nice knurled design in addition to the signed Citizen Promaster logo at the end. A nice touch. The other crown at the 8 o’clock position rotates the inner flight rule bezel but isn’t as nicely finished as the main crown.
Manipulating the main crown is easy, it unscrews quite easily and has two detents – the first detent is to set the date and adjust the hour hand (to suit the local time zone). The second detent adjusts the main hands which also turns the 24-hour hand.
The BJ7017 interestingly, comes with the much coveted satin finished, three dimensional relief caseback with its U.S. counterpart (the BJ7000-xx series) sorely lacks. For reasons known only to the Citizen Watch company, only the U.S. Nighthawks have the actual “Nighthawk" logo on the dial, full lumed index markers, framed “12" and “6" numerals and a rather plain, mirror-like polished caseback with laser etched markings.
Below is a photo of a non-US market, Nighthawk’s caseback. Note the deep relief text and world map embossing, which is uncommon for a watch at this price point.
The embossed relief caseback is fitted only to non-US Nighthawk models.
Setting the time
It was pretty confusing for me to set the time (and second time zone) when I received the watch. I figured out that I had to set the dual time hand first, since it’s geared to the main time hands. Then I had to adjust the hour hand according to the local time. Since I find a fixed 24-hour time (synchronized to the local time) pretty useless, I would first set the 24-hour hand to GMT, which is 8 hours behind my time zone. Then I would push in the crown to the first detent and spin the crown clockwise to adjust the hour hand to my local time.
Setting the hour hand is kind of tricky because it only goes clockwise – you can’t reverse the direction. If you miss the intended hour, you’ll have to move the hand one complete revolution. Unfortunately this also advances the date when you cross midnight so you’ll have to set the date (be sure that the time isn’t between 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. when you adjust the calendar) to the previous day. Then adjust the hour hand to the desired time.
What I noticed about the watch is that the hour hand has some excess play in it, so it doesn’t precisely point to the hour. Therefore at 6 o’clock, the hands my not line up straight as it should be. I discovered that I have to manipulate the main time hands to get the hour hand to line up properly. Perhaps this is an inherent flaw of an adjustable hour hand or the B877 movement itself.
While most modern Seiko watches change the date by turning the crown clockwise, Citizen prefers to use the opposite direction – anticlockwise. I have to constantly remind myself that with the Nighthawk, changing the date means anticlockwise direction or I’ll mess up the hour hand’s position.
I measured the BJ7017-50ET’s dimensions as follows:
Diameter: 42mm (w/o crown), 46mm (w/ crown)
Lug width: 22mm
Bracelet width: 24mm, tapering to 18mm at clasp
The bracelet is top notch, solid links all around and flush fits at the lug ends of the watch. The clasp has dual push buttons and a signed “Citizen" flip lock but has only three micro adjustment holes. Which means that the watch can be either too snug or loose. On the wrist it sits rather comfortably and doesn’t shuffle about.
The Nighthawk is also a dual-time or GMT watch. It sports a semi-circular twin-scale with a double ended, asymmetrical 24-hr hand. It looks pretty confusing how to read the second time zone at first. The Nighthawk’s 24-hour scale is divided into two segments – the inner scale in white text representing 1 a.m. to 12 p.m. while the outer scale, printed in hard-to-read deep red color, represents 1 p.m to 12 a.m.
Below is a borrowed photo of a closeup of the BJ7017-50ET’s dial. In this example, the dual-time is set to the local time (7:32 pm) instead of a different time zone.
The dual time hand (the small red pointer) is pointing to past 1900 hours
The double ended 24-hour hand has two tiny pointer heads resembling a tiny aircraft, the shorter hand has a white pointer while the longer side is colored red. At any one time, only one of the hands will hover above the appropriate scale. To read the second time zone, all you need to do is to match the color of the aircraft-like tip to the scale’s color. Therefore, the shorter white hand will only reach the inner a.m. scale while the longer hand will extend to the outer p.m. scale.
The Citizen Nighthawk has a different type of luminous compound than Seiko’s. It uses Superluminova lume and glows a cool blue hue. Quite a stark contrast from the traditional green lume that Seiko uses. Citizen’s lume doesn’t glow as brightly as Seiko’s LumiBrite but it fades much more slowly than Seiko’s. I have no trouble reading the time for at least six hours in total darkness once I energize the lume sufficiently.
The hour and minute hands are distinct from one another and you’ll easily distinguish them in the dark. The “12" and “6" numerals are also lumed and aids in reading the time. I wished the second hand was also lumed, but it’s unfortunately not – it’s just painted white.
The Nighthawk’s lume emits a blue color and lasts several hours (borrowed photo)
Movement type: Solar powered quartz, 32kHz crystal
Loss/gain: Less than 15 sec/month
Construction: Stainless steel
Crystal: Mineral glass, flat profiled
W.R. Rating: 200m
Luminous material: Superluminova
Power reserve: Approximately 6 months
Battery type: Internal rechargeable lithium-ion
Movement Japan, cased in Japan
Here are some pics of my Nighthawks. The one with the inner white bezel is the model BJ7010-16F on leather strap (also an Asian variant).
The Citizen Nighthawk is a solid looking watch and I’m certain I’ll get many years of enjoyment out of it. With regular lugs it means that it opens up to many 22mm strap options. Would I buy it again if I lost or sold this watch? No, because I have another Nighthawk with a white colored inner bezel (pictured left, above) – the BJ7017-16F. Maybe I shouldn’t have purchased the second Nighthawk…
If you’re looking for one, I would recommend that you get the Asian version rather than the U.S. one. The lovely relief caseback is worth its admission price. The Asian model is probably the least expensive and it comes in a variety of dial colors – light blue, black with white inner ring and all-brown. Choose the U.S. BJ7000-series if you prefer the “Nighthawk" logo and the full lumed index markers.
Where to get the BJ7017-50ET cheaply? It seems that Capital Mall has stopped selling/auctioning the Nighthawks lately. I would recommend that you check out the auctions from Time Paradise, also a reputable seller based in Singapore. Good luck!
What I liked:
200m water resistance
Solid link S/S bracelet with dual push buttons and flip lock
Striking looks, high contrast dial
Blue colored lume
E6B flight rule calculator
Dual time capability
Eco-Drive solar powered movement
22mm regular lugs
What I didn’t care for:
Excess play in the hour hand
Date window a bit too small
Second hand doesn’t line up precisely to minute markers
Not enough micro adjustment holes in bracelet clasp
Value for money
Note: More orange boxes represent better scores.
This is my personal assessment of the reviewed watch and does not necessarily reflect the views of others.