We are now in the era of the GPS watch – which is a segment that, in my opinion, defines the apex of traditional electronic watch technology. In this review of the CitizenPromaster Navihawk GPS timepiece, I will discuss what makes this product so impressive, why I like it, what it is not, and what the future might hold for truly useful watches of this kind.
It is difficult to consider how to talk about GPS watches once again, as we have been covering modern GPS-equipped timepieces for quite some time. While Citizen didn’t invent the GPS watch, it did arguably start the modern trend of “self-sufficient” GPS timepieces with the introduction of the Citizen Satellite Eco-Drive back in 2011. Today, there is a healthy competition between the big three Japanese watch makers – Casio, Seiko, and Citizen – to each promote their own take on the modern GPS watch.
What is a modern GPS watch in this context? For me, a modern GPS watch is self-sufficient (self-charging battery, or a battery that lasts a long time), does not need to connect to a host device (like most smartwatches do), is durable (can be taken on adventures), and is able to offer a large amount of utility to the wearer. While brands like Garmin have their own GPS watches, it is the Japanese who are leading the pack when it comes to modern self-sufficient GPS watches, in my opinion. Thus, many timepieces which have very short battery lives (smartwatches), or have other ergonomic or durability downsides, should not be included in this particular category of GPS watches.
Of course, the idea of a GPS watch is a beautiful thing. Evolving from watches which receive radio signals (where available) from stationary atomic clocks around the world, GPS watches receive signals from global positioning satellite arrays. These constantly beamed signals offer the time and calendar information, as well as location information (time zone). Thus, a modern GPS watch is able to either manually or automatically receive these signals so that the time on your wrist is perfectly accurate.
Mechanical watches are accurate to a few seconds a day, while traditional quartz movements are accurate to a few seconds per month. Combine a quartz movement with the ability to update itself with GPS signals, and you are talking about the ability to have perfect accuracy anywhere on the planet assuming you have line-of-sight to the sky. Moreover, Citizen’s Eco-Drive movements are light-powered. Citizen produces special Eco-Drive dials which allow light to enter through the dial to a photo-voltaic cell right underneath. The trick that Citizen is able to offer versus its competitors is a dial that allows light to enter, but does not look like anything but a traditional watch dial. In the context of the Citizen Promaster Navihawk GPS, what I like about it so much is that it feels like a traditional watch with the light-powered and GPS-equipped elements of the movement being more or less hidden or secret.
Inside of this Citizen Promaster Navihawk GPS watch is the Citizen-produced (we visited their impressive Japanese factories here) caliber F900 Eco-Drive movement. This GPS movement is still pretty new, and was originally introduced in the Citizen Eco-Drive Satellite Wave F900 watch. The Satellite Wave collection remains a design winner for Citizen, but is a lot less mainstream or traditional than designs like this Navihawk. Citizen is experimenting a lot with less “techie” designs seeing how easily it can make GPS watches fit within their more mainstream timepieces. There is also a more simple movement that doesn’t have all the features of the F900. That used to be the F100 movement, but is now the F150 movement, which you can find in watches such as the Citizen Satellite Wave World Time GPS watch (the nomenclature can get a bit confusing, I know). A major goal for the brand is to create smaller and smaller GPS-equipped watch movements, so that they can eventually start making women’s GPS watches as well. So with that said, while Citizen’s (and those from Seiko as well as Casio, for that matter) GPS watches aren’t small, they are perfectly wearable (and thin enough) given today’s size standards when it comes to men’s watches.
The caliber F900 movement builds on an interface that Citizen has been working on for decades. The main dial offers the time, date, day of the week, and second time zone at a glance. Using the function selector and pushers, you have further access to a battery charge indicator, chronograph, alarm, and second time zone adjuster (world time). There is a slight learning curve to using all the movement’s features, but it really isn’t that bad.
An amazing and endearing irony in this super high-tech watch is the design integration of a rotating slide-rule bezel. This is part of the Navihawk collection heritage – which for a long time has existed as Citizen’s “professional” pilot and aviation watches. Most people think of dual analog/LCD screen displays when they consider many of the Navihawk watches that are on people’s wrists. The Citizen Promaster Navihawk GPS has a fully analog dial, which lends itself well to a classier, more timeless look that I appreciate.
Anyhow, rotating slide-rule bezels (made popular by the Breitling Navitimer collection) are an arguably handy but very archaic way of performing mathematical equations on your watch. In that link, you can learn more about how to use them. I personally never have, but these “tools” on watches more or less serve aesthetic versus utilitarian roles these days (even though you can technically still use it). The bezel has a smooth, but relatively secure rotating action.
Dial-wise, I like what the brand has done with the Citizen Promaster Navihawk GPS for the most part. Yes, the dial is busy, but purposefully so. Everything there is meant to do something, and for the most part, there are minimal decorative elements. Where there is dial decoration it is meant to prevent the watch from looking boring. Citizen has a nicely textured face and polished rings around the subdials. The hour markers are perhaps the most blingy element on the dial, but in a good way since the lume-topped, applied and faceted hour markers are both visually attractive and very legible. This is one of those busy dials that doesn’t make it hard to read the time.
I was lucky enough to be in Japan at Citizen while they were actually assembling these exact watches. Even though this is a “quartz” watch, how they are assembled is almost the exactly the same as a more expensive mechanical watch. The hands are applied by hand, and each dial is carefully inspected for damage or dirt resulting from the construction process – which, again, is mostly done by hand. These watches are lovingly made, and for Citizen represent the current apex of their “professional” Promaster watch collection.
Look closely at the dial and you’ll see a lot of little markers that have to do with the various GPS functions, such as receiving a signal and whether or not the watch synchronized with the GPS signals properly. I am not going to dedicate any time to discussing too much about how to use the GPS functionality because Citizen has instructions for that which are going to be more complete. For the most part, what you need to know is that in order to manually synch with GPS and get the time updated, you press down a pusher until the watch goes into receiving mode – I discuss this more in the video.
GPS connectivity is impressively good so long as you are outside. That means a usual sync time of under 10 seconds, and the watch actually receives signals from more than one satellite when possible. Indoors given the lack of signal (or very weak signal), you aren’t going to be able to use the GPS functionality. So that isn’t good news for cave dwellers (though they might have other problems to consider as well). Citizen Eco-Drive GPS watches love light, and they need to see the sky.
This particular reference CC9030-51E (and CC9030-00E) Citizen Promaster Navihawk GPS watch dial has a green ring around half of the inner dial as well as some additional green accents. Opt for the pricier black-coated titanium CC9025-85 and you get a fully monochromatic dial that more people might prefer. The green is subtle and is sort of a signature “GPS color” you seen in some Citizen GPS watches. I don’t mind it, but the watch would be slightly more timeless in pure monochromatic tones.
I could spend a few thousand words speaking about how to use the watch and its various features. If you want this Citizen Promaster Navihawk GPS or other GPS watches and need to rely on a specific feature then I recommend you carefully read their instruction manuals. For example, in order to use the chronograph feature you need to perform a few steps – such as pull out the crown, adjust the watch to chronograph mode, and wait for some of the hands to realign. Citizen uses its technology to make great use of fewer hands, but that means some features can’t be used at the same time. I would consider things like the chronograph to be more “good to know about if I need it” functionality, but this perhaps isn’t the perfect timepiece if you need to use a chronograph (stopwatch) feature all the time.
This and many other Citizen watches are ideal as “set it and forget it” watches, which is a goal of many Japanese timepieces. The idea is long-term reliability without any attention or hassle. This is fundamentally different from Swiss watches that often seek user engagement to create a different type of relationship with watch and wearer. A mechanical watch, for instance, requires regular winding and time adjustment. People who like that experience might find a timepiece such as this boring because they don’t need to mess with it. That’s really beside the point because a timepiece like this is a pure survival tool that you can depend on exclusively because it doesn’t need to be babied. If you can appreciate that (as I do), then you’ll quickly find a place in your collection for the Citizen Promaster Navihawk GPS (or something like it).
On the wrist, the Citizen Promaster Navihawk GPS is 47mm wide and about 14-15mm thick. That isn’t too bad given a pilot watch of this type. Citizen currently produces the watch with a steel or black-coated Super Titanium (hardened and scratch resistant) case, and on a bracelet or strap. I highly recommend the metal bracelet for style and comfort. If you prefer the watch on a strap, then I would consider getting an aftermarket strap. On the reference CC9030-00E steel model on strap, Citizen makes use of a black synthetic strap with contrast green stitching. I’m not in love with the colors or materials, but the good news is that you can put your own strap (22mm wide) on the watch easily enough.
Funny enough, I measured the Promaster Navihawk GPS watch next to the Seiko Astron GPS Dual Time (aBlogtoWatch review here), and the dimensions are almost exactly the same – which I found interesting. Both are good watches, and they are direct competitors. If you like the more distinctive styling of the Seiko Astron collection, then go with that. The Citizen is going to be the best choice for people who want a more classic or conservative look with all this fancy functionality.
Further positive case construction details include use of an AR-coated sapphire crystal and water resistance of 200 meters. This really is a watch you can take out into the world with you and beat up. Citizen manages to get 200 meters even without a screw-down crown. I also find the case design to be attractive, being masculine with interesting details but by no means over-the-top. This watch has really grown on me, and the combination of traditional dial design, high-tech functionality, and the spirit of a seriously useful tool come together to create a product that, at least for me, is very endearing.
Citizen offers other models with its F900 movement, as we all know, and Citizen will continue to improve on its GPS watch functionality and performance as the years go on. If you want to avoid the smartwatch route for now, but still want something smart, a timepiece like the Citizen Promaster Navihawk GPS is really ideal. Further, even though this is “a more expensive Japanese watch,” the price feels really fair for what you are getting. Don’t forget that a lot of Japanese watches still operate on a “street price,” meaning that you can get one of these for under $1,000.
The top-of-the-line (for now) Citizen Promaster Navihawk GPS watch is the reference CC9025-85E in black-coated Super Titianium and it has a retail price of $2,095. Then, there are the two steel models which are the reference CC9030-00E on the strap with a retail price of $1,295, and the reference CC9030-51E steel model with the matching bracelet that has a retail price of $1,395.
>Model: Promaster Navihawk GPS
>Price: $1,295 – $2,095
>Size: 47mm wide
>Would reviewer personally wear it: Yes.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Someone looking for a reliable and useful sport watch with a conservative character that will be accurate anywhere in the world.
>Best characteristic of watch: Beautiful mixture of utility and independence from tinkering. Attractive, conservative design offering a tech watch for an audience that doesn’t like the aesthetics of tech watches. A lot of watch for the money.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Given the price, you won’t see an absolute fanatic attention to fit and finishing as you might on a Swiss watch many times more expensive – but nevertheless, everything looks and works very well. Green color accents not for everyone. If you want a strap, you are better off getting your own.