Friday, October 05, 2007

El Lumo Comparo

The premise; you are left on a desert isle with a watch on your wrist. That’s right… you’re Gilligan or perhaps the Professor if you are fortunate. The question; which watch would it be if your choices were limited to only the Citizen Promaster NY0040-09W or the Fortis B-42 Marinemaster 647.11.42M. At first glance these watches spec out fairly equally. Both watches are powered by automatic day/date movements, both are designed to be water resistant to 200 meters, and both have luminous dials. However, the Citizen is the mass produced product of one of the world’s watch giants, while the Fortis is somewhat less mass-produced and is the product of arguably the greatest watch making State in the world. Does being Swiss Made warrant an entry fee nearly 10 times the Citizen’s modest cost? I don’t really have an answer but will tell you what I know.
Let’s get right to the heart of the matter and start by talking about the movements which power these watches. The Citizen is powered by the Miyota 8203 movement. The Miyota 8200 movements are long lived and durable but do, in my opinion have some glaring weaknesses. The 8203 does not hack or hand wind and its rotor wind only unidirectionally. Realistically you can use the time proven reverse twist to hack a Miyota, but not being able to wind the watch by hand is bothersome to me. Having said that I must also state that in my experience, most Miyota movement virtually spring to life as soon as you pick up the watch. As for the unidirectional rotor, perhaps not the model of efficiency, but it has been my experience that the 8200 series have adequate power reserve. What about the question of accuracy? I would venture the Miyota movements usually run a bit fast at about +20 to +25 seconds gained per day. In my world, this is perfectly acceptable as a wise man once told me to always be early! Miyota movements have proven durability.
The Fortis is powered by an ETA 2836-2 automatic movement which has also been a veritable workhorse in the watch industry. I own several watches with this movement and must count it among my favorite watch movements. Long known for its accuracy, durability and serviceability, the 2836 can be both hacked and hand wound, allowing the watch to be set with greater accuracy. Its rotor is bidirectional and power reserve is more than adequate. The accuracy of this movement is exceptional with common variance of +5 to +15 seconds gained per day. I would venture to say some of my most accurate watches feature these wonderful movements. They are rock solid accurate and durable to boot.
As for the cases which house the movements, both are quite similar in dimension unbelievably, although the Fortis wears much larger than the Citizen does. Both cases are approximately 42 mm from 8:00 to 2:00. The Citizen’s case really has to stretch into the lugs to make this measurement. Both measure 13mm thick, but again the Fortis wears larger. The Citizen’s caseback bumps out where the movement lies inside while the Fortis’ caseback is flat with graceful curved lugs which wrap the wearer’s wrist. The Citizen’s lugs hint at curving down but really don’t fulfill this promise they hint at. The Fortis is a larger watch, as by my measurements it is 52mm from lug to lug while the Citizen’s lug-to-lug distance is 50mm. The Citizen’s case is highly polished on the back and side with a brushed bezel while the Fortis’ case is satinized or brushed. The Fortis case wears extremely comfortably, wrapping the wrist and feeling extremely solid and centered. Perhaps my 7.0 to 7.25 inch wrist (it depends on the heat or lack thereof) is perfectly suited to this size case as the Fortis fits me like a glove. The Citizen’s case causes the watch to hover on the wrist due to the movement’s bump out on the caseback. This isn’t intrinsically uncomfortable to me but it does not come near approaching the Fortis for comfort.
I’ll combine the dial, hands, crystal and bezel together as these elements all work in concert to make the watch legible. The Citizen’s dial is the model of simplicity with large outlined markers at the cardinal numbers with the exception of the three, which houses the day/date display. The day/date display is black with white markings which is a favorite of mine. Additionally there are large dot markers every 5 minutes and a chapter ring with a minute track. The chapter ring is a nice touch as it gives the dial some depth. The dial itself is luminous and coated with something called lumibrite, which gives the dial a weak yellow/green tint. The luminous material is strong and remains charged a vivid yellow/green well into the night but does begin to degrade and look a bit patchy after several hours in the dark. The hands are a problem with this watch for me in the dark. As you can see, the hands are large, outlined in black and coated with the same luminous material as the dial. In my opinion, placing lume on the hands was unnecessary and hinders legibility in zero light conditions. The hands would stand out in stark relief to the dial if they were entirely black or outlined a bit more. The crystal is the veritable Hardlex with which I have never had an issue. I must tell you that glare was a factor in bright light conditions with this watch, particularly when driving. The bezel is a 60 click black and silver affair, which is easily grasped and manipulated.
The Fortis is one of the most legible watches I have ever seen. I swear you could read the time across a football field it is so elemental. The milky white dial is coated with Superluminova and glows a very frosty shade of blue. The cardinal numerals are all marked with large black stick markers except the 12, which has its own marking, and the 3, which houses the day/date display. Again, the day/date is black with white markings. There is a minute track with numbers every five minutes and a chapter ring with 24-hour markings. Again, the chapter ring adds depth and provides a useful function. The dial’s Superluminova coating is rich and inviting and oh so white. The lume is exceptional and remains brightly charged for ate least 6 hours in my experience. Degradation is even across the dial and stands in stark contrast to the makers and hands making zero light legibility a snap. The hour and minute hands are simple thick black sticks, which are highly legible day or night, and the second hand is a most pleasing shade of dare I say, baby blue and contain a luminous ball. This is a subtle touch but one I find very beautiful. The sapphire crystal is coated with anti-reflective material on both sides, which is very apparent when using the watch in bright light conditions. I never understood exactly how AR coating made a difference until acquiring this watch. The bezel is a beautiful piece of stainless steel, which gives the watch a little dazzle in my opinion. Overall, the Fortis package is highly legible and aesthetically pleasing in extreme.
Now a word on the crowns of each watch as they are both unique in their own right. The Citizen’s crown is distinctive in that it is located at the 8:00 position. This makes for great comfort when wearing the watch under strenuous conditions, but is a bit bass-ackwards in my right-handed world. Nonetheless, the crown’s action was sure and it screwed down intuitively. The crown on the Fortis does not screw down but is water resistant indeed. Strangely enough, I felt myself making sure the crown was fully depressed while in the water. Bit of a nervous twitch.
The Citizen came to me on a hideous rubber strap which I quickly swapped out for a double ridged green rubber strap Canadajo donated to my cause. On this strap, the watch has been quite comfortable and practical. It makes for a lightweight package which is appreciated on a hot summer’s day. I opted to order my Fortis on a bracelet and it truly is an exceptional one. I am not even tempted to remove this bracelet and go rubber. It is also interesting to me to note the perfect fit of the solid end links into the case. No other watch I have with the exception of my GMT Master II has a better fit in this regard.
So Gilligan, which watch will it be?? Overall, I would have to pick the Fortis and it seems a much more purpose built tool that will stand up to years of abuse. The citizen Promaster excels too in functionality, but in my opinion it is not as solid as the Fortis. This should come as no surprise. I also found the Marinemaster a tad more comfortable on my wrist due to its excellent case design. I have used these watches roughly building fires, swimming in pools and lakes and generally just USING them. I would contend that everything the Fortis does, the Citizen does nearly as well while costing just a fraction of what the Fortis costs. Is the difference in cost reasonable given the tasks either of these watches can perform? I am not certain. I think the Fortis is priced accordingly given its outstanding qualities, and the Citizen Promaster is an exceptional value at the price I paid for it. Is it conceivable the proven Miyota movement might run longer without servicing? Time will tell how these watches hold up and I’ll be sure to keep you in the loop.


jrmartin said...

Yo prefiero, sin duda, el Citizen.

YoYo said...

I believe the NY0040 does, in fact, hand-wind.

Anonymous said...

I own the ny0040 and it hand-winds.

Anonymous said...

It' s a good review(and for that I thank you) but I have to point out your biggest mistake:
Almost all of the Miyota automatic movement(including 8203) can be hand-winded. This is one of the reasons( i'm a member of a diver-enthusiasts watch forum) why most of my friends prefer Citizen instead of Seiko Monster(although it's an awesome watch!) or Orient Mako.
Thanks and all the best!

Unknown said...

The Citizen NY0040-09W can be handwinded actually.