REVIEW: Citizen "Navihawk"

or How I Learned To Tell the Time in 30 Cities Around the World

by LesZ

Note - click on (almost) any image to see it full size.

Either the printed medium is extremely powerful, or I'm a sucker for watch ads. I suspect the truth lies somewhere between the two, for this review is about a watch I discovered and eventually bought because of a magazine advertisement. Those of you who have read my Breitling Navitimer review (might as well do a little bit of advertising of my own) will know that I'm a bit prone to do this sort of thing. In this instance the timing was particularly apt, as it was November 1994 and I was aboard a Qantas 747 at 37,000 feet, halfway between Australia and the Old Dart (Britain). Towards the back of the in-flight magazine I came across the ad pictured right. Strangely enough, the inside front cover of the mag featured the then brand new Seiko Kinetic, but this watch had done nothing for me. However, the Navihawk interested me very much indeed with its pilot's cockpit-style subdials, including UTC (Coordinated Universal Time, or Greenwich Mean Time). At this point in my life I was doing a fair amount of international travelling, and what with residing in Australia and having folks in England, knowing what the UTC was would be useful. Furthermore it promised easy time zone changing 'at the touch of a button', plus it boasted a slide rule bezel, and you know how much I like those. And the fact that it didn't have a crown intrigued me. Great to help with keeping out the water (10 bar or 100 metres WR), but how did you set the hands? The stainless steel bracelet didn't exactly set my pulse racing—it looked a bit ordinary—but the 'Navihawk' (trying to cash in on the Navitimer name, I thought) was definitely worth investigating further. And so off to the nearest duty-free shop I hurried—and got my first shock. Sticker-shock. I couldn't believe they wanted AUS$795 (US$510) for a QUARTZ. A Citizen quartz at that. (Not that there's anything wrong with Citizen—I've got several and they perform flawlessly. It's just that, well, it's not like it's an IWC or a JLC or something. And remember, this was 1994.) In the flesh the watch was quite attractive with a nice heft to it, and it appeared well-finished with a combination of polished and brushed stainless steel surfaces. However, I certainly needed my reading glasses to make out all the detail. The slide rule, having silver numbers on a black background, was nowhere near as readable as the one on my Breitling Navitimer. But the one big plus was those 22 different time zones programmed into the watch's chip, and like the ad said, they were interchangeable at the touch of a button (well, two buttons, actually, pressed simultaneously). However, at that price it would have to wait.

And wait it did until one day in 1997, when, in a shopping mall, I came across a jeweller's shop having a closing down sale. And there, right at the front of the window, were two Navihawks going for the sale price of AUS$245 (US$157) each. This was too good an opportunity to miss (or so I told my wife, who happened to be with me). The only trouble was neither of them was the 'white hands and markings on all black face' as depicted in the ad, which was what I wanted for maximum legibility. I had a choice of either green luminous subdials plus gold pushers and gold bezel edge on a blue leather strap (as shown on the smaller of the two watches in the ad), or an all-luminous face (except for the digital displays) with orange hands on a rubber strap. I decided on the former as being the less garish of the two. As a bonus there was an additional one year guarantee (in Australia only) on top of the original 12 months international guarantee. I was pleased about this until I found out Citizen gives a 5-year guarantee in the US.
The box I was given was a quite ordinary rectangular plastic affair, nothing to write home about, and I suspect it was a generic Citizen box rather than the more swish Promaster truncated cylindrical affair I've seen elsewhere. The instruction manual was a comprehensive booklet in four languages (English, German, Italian and Japanese), with 30 pages devoted to each. The English was good and the instructions clear.

I diligently worked my way through the manual, finding out about all the functions. Believe me, this watch is one clever cookie. I then turned my hand towards setting it to my local time zone—Australian Central Time, which is GMT+9.5 hours. Shock number 2. This watch knew about practically every time zone in the world except—you've guessed it—Australian Central Time. I could set it to Sydney time, which is GMT+10, or Tokyo, which is GMT+9, or Perth, which is GMT+8, but not Adelaide. As you can see from the scan below, Citizen think Australia has only 2 time zones. If they can put New Delhi in at GMT+5.5, why not Adelaide?
I eventually had to compromise by using Sydney as the digital time zone but setting the analogue time to Adelaide time. (To read how I did this, click here.) This meant that the time in every other zone was half an hour slow. To say I was a bit peeved is putting it mildly. I should stress however that this sort of compromise will only apply if you live in remote places like Central Australia. At almost every other inhabited point on the planet you'd be OK (so long as your timezone differs from UTC by a whole number).

I wrote above that this watch is one clever cookie. Let me tell you why.

As you can see from the photo opposite, there are analogue displays for hour, minute, UTC and 24hr local time. Let's number the four pushers as follows: top right 'A', top left 'B', bottom left 'C', and bottom right 'M' (for 'mode'). (This is for Walt O., as he loves little arrows.) Pushing 'M' repeatedly cycles the digital display through time, calendar (day, date and month correct to 2099), alarm 1, alarm 2, alarm 3, chronograph (with split-time function), countdown timer, and city set mode (on or off, i.e. you can select which cities you want to display so you don't have to cycle through all 30 of them). The three alarms, if set to "on", remain with the time zone they were set in. I found this out the hard way after being woken up at some ungodly hour because I had forgotten that a 4pm appointment time in London is 1.30am in Adelaide. (Actually, relying on the alarms to wake you is a bit dicey if you are a heavy sleeper because they aren't very loud; a daytime appointment would be OK.) Setting is achieved by pulling out 'M' and using the 'A' and 'C' pushers. The time including daylight saving adjustment is set similarly. Now comes the clever part. As soon as the digital time is adjusted, the hands move to the correct time automatically, without losing or gaining a second. Adjusting for daylight saving is a snap, and is most easily achieved with the mode selector in the SET position.

[Another trap for young players which is related to setting the alarms was pointed out to me by Dr Ralf Fritzsch of Hamburg (whose sigfile says "Unix IS user friendly - it's just selective about who its friends are"). The Navihawk keeps track of the alarm times (when set) by noting the offset from UTC. When daylight saving is implemented, thus increasing the offset by 1 hour, the alarm time is similarly advanced by 1 hour. As an example, say you set the alarm to wake you at 7.30am (in your timezone, no daylight saving). When summer rolls around and you adjust for daylight saving, the alarm time will display 8.30am and go off at that time. In other words, if you make an adjustment for daylight saving (either on or off), double check that the alarm is displaying the time you want.]

You will notice that there are two little windows either side of the mode sub-dial. These are the 'help display' which give clues as to what's likely to happen if you push the buttons at any particular stage. The one at top left says 'HR', which stands for 'Hands Retract'. Say the hands are obscuring the digital display; press 'B' for 2 seconds and they retract to the 12 o'clock position, enabling you to see the display. To remind you you're in the HR position the minute hand of the UTC dial wags back and forth by 1 minute. For a demonstration of the hands retracting click here (careful—409kb download and you'll need an mpeg player such as Window Media Player installed). Seeing what the time is in other cities is achieved by simply pressing the 'up' or 'down' buttons, i.e. 'A' or 'C', till you come to the one you want. Changing your local time zone is easily accomplished by pressing 'A' and 'C' simultaneously to switch between the analogue and digital times—for demo click here (508kb download).

  *** Setting instructions ***

If you don't have an instruction manual or would like to know more about how to set and use the functions on the Navihawk, you can see an abbreviated set of instructions in Acrobat Reader format by clicking on this link. More comprehensive instructions (and an interactive video!) can be found at the Citizen of America webpage Settings.

OK, so it can do all that clever stuff. What's it like to live with? Firstly, the Navihawk is part of the Promaster series, so it's built for an active life. Second, I knew the blue leather strap was not ideal for my taste, and certainly not if I wanted to go swimming or sailing. So soon after I bought the watch I ordered the two-tone (stainless steel and gold) bracelet to complement the two-tone finish on the watch. The bracelet is of average quality but is nicely made with solid outer and folded inner links, and has a positive clasp with flip-lock. I had to have two links removed for it to fit my 7.5" wrist properly. It does have a tendency to pull the occasional hair though. In fact, it wasn't until I looked at this photo that I realised it still had one of my hairs caught in it (arrowed). Other than that it's quite comfortable. The watch itself is no lightweight, but on the wrist it fits snugly and the weight is not noticeable. In order to conserve battery power, the minute hand advances every 20 seconds. Accuracy is well up to the usual quartz standard—it gains less than 0.2 seconds per day, rain or shine. The crystal is mineral glass, ever so slightly convex, has no anti-reflective treatment, and is scratchable. How I came to scratch mine badly enough to warrant replacement is an unusual tale.

Uluru (Ayers Rock) - click to enlarge
I was visiting Uluru, which is the Aboriginal name for Ayers Rock some 300km or 200 miles south-west of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory. At 867m (2844 ft) high the Rock is often touted as the biggest monolith in the world (it isn't, by the way), and it attracts visitors from all parts of the globe to view its spectacularly changing colours at sunrise and sunset, and, if they feel fit and daring enough, to climb it. (The local Aborigines would prefer people not to climb the Rock as it has deep cultural and spiritual significance for them, but they don't actively discourage those who want to.) Anyway, there is an Aboriginal interpretive centre nearby, and visitors are encouraged to wander through and gain some insight into what it all means for the locals. I was wandering through with the rest of the bus party when I came to a small room in which a film was showing. The room was absolutely pitch black in spite of the reflection off the screen, upon which were emblazoned 4 or 5 Aboriginal women who were engaged in a tribal dance. My attention was naturally drawn towards the screen while I made my way towards the back of the room. It was only when I made sudden and severe contact with a brick wall that I realised exactly how small the room was. And that's how I scratched my watch.

The 'pilot' theme of the watch (culminating in the 'Blue Angels' special edition) is evidenced by the stylised two 'fixing screws' on each subdial, supposedly reminiscent of dials on an instrument panel, the lettering on the subdials, and of course the slide rule bezel. As mentioned earlier this is not the easiest of slide rules to use because of the small numbers and lack of contrast, but it does work (I used it to do the currency conversions in this review). Calculations involving time are aided by the proper hours/minutes scale running around the outside of the dial. The bezel rotates smoothly in both directions but with enough friction to prevent it moving by itself or from a casual knock. Eight small triangular tabs are provided around the circumference of the bezel to assist in turning it. The main digital display is large enough to be readable, but the lettering in the 'helper' windows is miniscule. The pushers have a springy action rather than a click as in a mechanical system, but for me they work alright. I have seen reports from a couple of Navihawk owners who claim the pushers are too easily activated by mistake, probably by the back of their wrist, but I haven't had this experience. Similarly, I've seen a comment (by a pilot) that the watch reset itself under loading of several g-forces during a steep turn. Again, this hasn't been my experience, but then Boeing 747s don't loop the loop very often (thank goodness). The manual says the watch can safely be used for non-contact sports such as golf, so I'm surprised a steep turn in a plane would cause it to reset. The hour markers are a gold/luminous combination and are of unequal length, although symmetrically balanced left and right. At first this inequality disturbed me, but I don't give it a second thought now.

[Update 28 Feb 2000: I received a communication from Keith Surowiec, a pilot in the USAF.  This is what he says:

"You brought up an interesting point about the g-forces resetting the watch that I can confirm for you.  I fly F-16's in the USAF and I, like many of my fellow pilots fly with the Navihawk, because of its versatility and convenience.  However under the strain of combat level G-forces 8-9 times the force of gravity the watch does come a little unglued.  For example the last time I had a malfunction the UTC hand time and digital time refused to match.  On another occasion the analog time refused to switch to the digital time upon pressing the A and C buttons.  Both of these problems were solved by doing a master reset and reloading the current UTC time.  I'm not sure if it is the actual G-forces or the pressing of the plungers simultaneously in some fashion or a combination of both that cause these problems.  Nevertheless it is a great watch and has served me well since 1996."

Another correspondent (also a pilot) is of the opinion that the Navihawk's chip can become 'confused' after many button presses, requiring a reset to get it back on track again. Whilst this may be so, all I can say is that so far this hasn't happened to me (touch wood).]

To sum up, in the 2½ years I've owned the Navihawk it's done its job extremely well. Nothing has fallen off or gone wrong, all the functions work well, and it's continued to run extremely accurately on its original battery. It has practically every function I could wish for, and has proved especially useful and convenient when travelling. I must confess I haven't got it wet yet, but judging by my other Citizen quartz 100m WR, I'm sure it would hold up OK. [Update 28 Feb 2000:  I have taken a dip in a pool with it on, and am pleased to report everything is A-OK.  I was more worried about scratching the face on the side of the pool than its water resistance.]  

I believe it was overpriced at its original price point, but at the price I paid it's a bargain. (I found out later this was approximately cost price.) And in spite of my fond feelings for mechanical watches, I have to admit there are some things that only an electronic watch can do. Its reliance on a battery is obviously a disadvantage, but realistically only a minor inconvenience every three years or so. And to counter that inconvenience, there's the advantage that you can leave it in the drawer for months at a time whilst trying out new additions to the collection, then dig it out with it showing the correct date and time. An interesting thought is that had I set the time correctly when I got it, then put it away for 2½ years, it would now be only 3 minutes fast.

click to enlarge
So, how could it be improved? Well, for starters it would be nice if it knew the time zone where I live. Secondly, a backlight of some description would be handy, because the luminous material isn't all that wonderful on the hands, and anyway they tend to get lost in the green of the subdials on my particular model. In an attempt to improve legibility I had the space in the hour hand filled in with luminous material also, but it hasn't made much difference. A later model which some call the 'Navihawk 3' (but I believe is really the 'Wingman VI'—see photo left) does have its LCD displays backlit, but it doesn't have the ability to automatically set the hands or switch analogue and digital times, which to me is the great attraction of the Navihawk. Oh yes, one other thing. How about a power reserve indicator or signal to let you know the battery will expire in one month? Now, that would be handy...........

Specifications (for the technically minded)

Make and model:  Citizen ProMaster Navihawk World Time Chronograph #JN0005-32L 62-0013
Calibre:  C300. 32,768 Hz. Antimagnetic to 60 gauss.
Case:  Polished and brushed stainless steel; stainless steel screw back; no crown. 12.6mm thick. Slide rule bezel. Bezel diameter 41mm across tabs. Mineral glass crystal. Distance between lugs: 20mm.
Water Resistance:  10 bar or 100 metres.
Functions:  Analogue: hours, minutes, mode, UTC, 24hr local time. Digital: time & calendar for 30 cities, 3 alarms, chronograph (records up to 24 hours in 1/100 sec.), 60 minute countdown timer (settable in increments of 1 min). Calendar programmed from 1994 to 2099.
Guaranteed accuracy:  +/- 20 seconds/month under normal temperature conditions. Measured accuracy: +6 seconds/month.
Operational temperature range:  0°C to 55°C (32°F to 131°F).
Power cell:  One silver oxide SR 927W; approx. life 3 years.
Special features:
  • Analogue hands set from digital display
  • Instant time zone change by pressing 2 buttons simultaneously
  • Hand retracting system to ensure clear view of digital display
  • Help display
  • Selectable zone setting to reduce number of displayed cities
  • Easy setting/removal of daylight saving adjustment


Since writing the above review, certain developments have occurred. Firstly, in March 2001 the battery finally gave out, after exactly 4 years of faithful service. This gave me the opportunity to photograph the inside of the watch, and also capture my trusty watchmaker, John Gaskin, at work at his bench.

Here John is about to disembowel my beloved Navi in order to instal a new battery. Interestingly, the old one kept powering the watch until the voltage dropped to 0.4 volts, which is a far cry from its original 1.55 volts. What makes it tick?

And here's the gubbins, surprisingly more complex than I thought it would be. Zero jewels, but three coils (one for each stepper motor) in place of the usual one in quartz movements. Note the battery under its diamond-shaped cover, and the circular initialising instructions (in English and Japanese) pasted onto the inside of the caseback. navi_mvt1

The business end of a Navihawk minus the battery. The plastic spacer enables Citizen to fit a square peg into a round hole. click to enlarge

Here's what the initialising instructions say:

"(1) After installing a battery, short (AR) and (+) of the battery twice.

(2) Set mode hand to "CHR" or "RACE" mode and pull (M) then set to ZERO."

I don't know about you, but even with the instructions I'd be terrified of shorting out the wrong thing and rendering the whole shebang useless. I think I'll just leave the battery changing to John.
Thinks: I wish I knew what I was doing The new battery is in, the ALL RESET has been performed, and the final adjustments are being made. I'm glad he knows what he's doing.

  The In-between Timezone Problem

I mentioned above my frustration at finding out that despite being programmed for 22 timezones, the Navihawk doesn't recognize my local timezone, Australian Central Standard Time, which is GMT+9.5 hours. However, I've found a partial solution to the problem, which may also help other Navihawk owners living in timezones offset from GMT by fractions of an hour.

The solution lies in doing an ALL RESET, and then adjusting the hour and minute hands not to zero (midnight), but (in my case) to 11.30pm. I then set the timezone to Sydney, which is GMT+10 hours, and input the current Sydney time and date. The result is that all the digital times for the various cities around the world are now correct in relation to each other, and the analogue hands display local (Adelaide) time. The only drawback is that when switching between timezones (say Adelaide and New York), the new digital time is correct but the analogue time is ½ hour slow. Still, I suppose you can't have everything. (If you clicked on the link to get here, use your browser's BACK button to return to near top of page.)

The March of Progress...

The second development is that Citizen have continued to refine the Navihawk concept resulting in new models, notably the Eco-Drive Skyhawk, the titanium Eco-Drive Navihawk, and the latest addition to the stable, the Navi Hawk 2000GT. Each of these has its advantages and disadvantages compared to the others.

The Eco-Drive Skyhawk is a big, heavy watch—so much so that among the watch fraternity it has gained the affectionate nickname of "BAS", or "Big Ass Skyhawk" (I don't make up the names, I just report them). Despite its bulk and weight it is comfortable to wear (unless you have small wrists), thanks to its integrated bracelet which is far more substantial than that on the original Navihawk. The Eco-Drive movement, once fully charged, will keep correct time for up to 4 years even in the dark, and of course never needs a battery change. (Citizen claim the rechargeable secondary battery will still be able to provide 80% of its original capacity after 20 years.) The movement's phenomenal accuracy (30 seconds a year or better) initially led me to believe it was thermo-compensated, but it isn't. (For further information, see my in-depth review of the Skyhawk.)
As can be seen from the photo, the Skyhawk's dial is reminiscent of that of the Navihawk, but with subdials at 2,6 and 10 instead of 6,9 and 12. This has necessitated a reduction in the size of the digital readouts, with a consequent reduction in legibility. (The watch in the photo needs its hour hand aligning correctly—luckily this is easy to do with the 'hands zeroing' procedure.) Functions are selected by rotating the crown in either direction (without pulling it out), which is probably more efficient but also has the disadvantage of easier accidental operation. Analogue and digital time are still interchangeable à la Navihawk, but the change is slower. The hands don't retract to the 12 o'clock position however. The slide rule bezel is both harder to see and to turn. (Interestingly, the Australian Skyhawks have the inner scale—the 'D' scale—with white numerals on a black background, but every US Skyhawk I've ever seen is as shown in the photo, with both scales having black numerals engraved onto the steel bezel.) [Update—the newer models have black slide rule bezels.] Dial and hands luminosity is improved over the Navihawk, but there is still no backlight. Water resistance remains the same at 100 metres. There is the ability to program in a city of your choice, but only if its timezone differs from GMT by a whole number of hours, which doesn't help Adelaideans, Darwinians and Newfoundlanders (plus a few others). The Skyhawk is also available in titanium, which overcomes the 'heaviness' factor of the steel version.

click to enlarge click to enlarge click to enlarge
  With the titanium Eco-Drive Navihawk, it seems Citizen is having a bet each way. It still employs the same super-accurate quartz movement, but this is housed in a titanium case complemented by a non-integrated titanium bracelet. This makes the whole watch much lighter than the BAS, and more comfortable for those who don't like heavy watches. The dial layout is basically that of the Skyhawk (minus the arabics at 1,3,5,7,9,and 11), but the slide-rule bezel is pure Navihawk. Again, the bracelet is much improved in quality over the original Navi. There is no backlight, although night-time visibility is reportedly superior to both the Skyhawk and the original Navi. Adelaide gets left out of the list of cities on this one, too. Higuchi-Inc, the well-known Japanese dealer, also offer this model on a kevlar/leather strap, and very smart it looks too. (Pictures from Higuchi-Inc website.)

  Navi 2000GT

And here's the latest of the Navihawk derivatives—the Navi Hawk 2000GT. With this all-stainless steel model Citizen has gone back to big and heavy (although with a totally redesigned integrated bracelet), and a conventional, battery-driven quartz movement. It still has the basic Skyhawk dial layout and case design, but with one very important addition—a small pusher on the lower left of the case. This controls the electro-luminescent (EL) backlight, which illuminates the digital displays for 3-4 seconds per push. Analogue and digital times are still interchangeable, and there's a warning when battery life is coming to an end (presumably the second hand moves in 2-second jumps). There's also something called a 'destination timer' according to the catalogue, which is nothing more than a rather complicated count-down timer which can span several days. Mode selection is done by turning the crown. The slide-rule is easier to see than on the Skyhawk, but still somewhat awkward to use. And guess what—Australian Central Time still doesn't get a mention.

  Other Navihawk Variants

It seems there's quite a few Navihawk clones about, all using the Citizen C300 movement. I'm including some photos of these for interest.

First, an Accurist (scan by Pat Clarke). I saw one of these in a shop window in London.
Accurist Navi

Next, an Elgin. This is available in the U.S. for $99 through a home shopping catalog. Note sculptured case and skeletal hands.
Elgin Navi

A no-name Navihawk, with unusual temperature conversion bezel and oyster-link bracelet. This one looks to have a backlight, unless it's just a reflection.
No-name Navi

A genuine Citizen this time, but the lugs have been beefed up and so has the bracelet.

So where does that leave us?

Well, almost all of my improvement "wishes" have been addressed in one or more of the new models. The 2000GT has a backlight and a battery end-of-life indicator. The Skyhawk and the titanium Navi have that wonderful, super-accurate Eco-Drive movement. But my biggest gripe, the lack of an Adelaide timezone, remains unanswered and, it seems, is destined to remain so.

These are all good watches. Which of them you choose is going to be coloured by personal taste, the functions you deem desirable, and the depth of your pocket as the newer models are somewhat more expensive than the original Navihawk. I know of at least one person (who shall remain nameless but he knows who he is, don't you Mark?) who agonized for weeks over whether or not he should trade in his Blue Angels Navihawk for a Skyhawk or titanium Navi, and ended up owning all three (as I warned him he would). As for me, I would like to see a Skyhawk with the Eco-Drive movement, larger digital displays, Navi-style slide-rule, improved luminescence on the hands and markers that lasts through the night (eg LumiBrite or Superluminova), backlight, AND AN ADELAIDE TIMEZONE. Are you listening, Citizen?

© Les Zetlein 1999. I used a Sony Mavica FD-83 for my photos, including the movie clips. Photo of Uluru © Lamotte Editions

If you would like to see a list of other reviews I've done, please click here                  

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Last updated 27.January.2004

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