In-Depth: The Citizen Aqualand: Beginning Of A Legend, Finish Of An Period

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The 12 months 2019 marks the 30th anniversary of Citizen’s Promaster line, a collection of watches which have change into properly often known as true instrument watches, typically beneficial to these on the lookout for a “beater” or a “journey watch” because of their ruggedness, performance and affordability. These watches, constructed for air, sea, and land, have had acquainted names like Altichron, Nighthawk, and Aqualand, in addition to quite a few variations of dive watches, from automatics to quartz, to photo voltaic charged Eco-Drive. However 4 years earlier than Promaster turned an official identify within the Citizen lineup, the primary technology Aqualand was a dive watch that broke new floor whereas, satirically, foretelling the tip of an period – that of the true diver’s watch.

The Aqualand’s pièce de résistance: the digital depth sensor.

That first Aqualand, reference C0023, debuted initially of 1985 and was the primary watch to include an digital, digital depth gauge. To be clear, depth gauge watches weren’t new by that point. Favre-Leuba and Aquadive had them within the early ’70s, and crude, unreliable digital dive computer systems existed way back to the 1960s. However in a wearable traditionally-styled watch, this added performance was revolutionary. 

Few issues say “instrument watch” like a strap printed with no-deco limits.

The 1980s had been a transitional interval, not solely in watches however in diving as properly. The times of a diver carrying a mechanical analog wristwatch to trace dive instances, paired with old skool no-decompression tables, had been coming to an finish, as watch know-how and diving science appeared forward. The Citizen Aqualand bridged this period. With a dynamically updating, exact depth gauge, dive timer, and the no-deco limits printed proper on the rubber strap, this was an entire bundle with which a diver might safely perform a dive, with all of the instruments essential to restrict overexposure to nitrogen and the dreaded bends. Moreover, the Aqualand saved the dive information, so most depth and dive time could possibly be reviewed and logged when again on the floor.

Across the identical time the Aqualand debuted, the digital dive pc was surfacing, a instrument that might in the end spell the loss of life of the dive watch as a needed instrument. In 1983, the Orca Edge was launched as the primary dependable, fairly reasonably priced dive pc. Then, in 1986, Suunto launched the primary of its lengthy line of computer systems, adopted by a Swiss model, UWATEC. These instruments swept away the comparatively primitive dive watch, with their capacity to dynamically replace no-deco instances throughout a dive, log many hours of backside time, and introduce underwater alarms for speedy ascents, depth limits, and decompression stops. 

The final true diver’s watch.

Whereas dive computer systems gained momentum and fame, the Aqualand turned, in impact, the final dive watch constructed for, and purchased by, actual divers who wanted a instrument for timing dives. Certain, Seikos, Rolexes, or Omegas would go on for use by divers, as both a backup timer or just a Luddite’s desire, however the nice majority of divers rapidly adopted the dive pc because of its superior performance. For the report, I all the time put on an analog dive watch on the wrist reverse a dive pc, and it serves different features equivalent to timing swim distances, deco stops, and floor intervals. And on this regard, the Aqualand nonetheless is superior as a backup, because it gives a second supply of depth information ought to a dive pc go clean – one thing that has occurred to me on two events.

A good friend of the writer: a Nice Lakes wreck diver, within the early 1990s along with his Aqualand strapped to his console.

In fact, most watch lovers sniff at quartz watches today, however I’d contend that the unique Citizen Aqualand is now a collectible watch, a major milestone of dive timing historical past whose depth gauge and different features, rivals the uni-directional bezel or the helium launch valve in historic significance. And I’d say it has stood the check of time properly. Regardless of the bulbous depth sensor appendage on the left flank, the watch retains a somewhat traditional dive watch look, with its matte metal case, vivid fingers, 60-minute hashed timing ring, and superbly knurled crown and bezel edge. The unique 24mm vented rubber strap screams “instrument watch” due to the now iconic No Deco Restrict markings. It’s nonetheless some of the distinctive and recognizable dive watches from a distance, and one of many few you continue to see on wrists of divers headed out on a morning wreck dive constitution.

Citizen produced the C0023 Aqualand into the 1990s, in each metal and gold-accented variations. There was additionally a uncommon model with a blacked-out case, made considerably well-known on the wrist of Jean Reno’s character within the French diving film, Le Grand Bleu. The watch, whereas rugged and helpful, additionally was identified for chewing by batteries, particularly when used for diving often. This was considerably problematic because of the truth that it used three batteries behind an rectangular caseback held tight by six tiny screws. This was no drawback for a watchmaker, however for a diver who tried his hand at house, getting a superb seal, or not shedding a screw, was a problem.

Behind the caseback: three batteries.

Within the early ’90s, Citizen up to date the Aqualand with the ref. JP2000. It appeared nearly similar, however was improved with the added performance of dive alarms for max depth and speedy ascent, plus reminiscence for extra logged dives. It additionally went to a screw-on spherical caseback and a single battery. If you happen to’re searching for the look of the unique Aqualand, the JP2000 is the one to search for these days, except you’re a hardcore collector or purist.

I occur to personal an Aqualand C0023 that, judging from its serial quantity, was inbuilt January of 1985, making it one of many earliest examples. I had it totally serviced and have taken it diving in every single place from the Maldives to the Florida Keys to the Caribbean. It stays a devoted companion underwater, nostalgic however extra helpful than all the opposite retro divers I strap on, extra for the novelty than as a instrument. 

The writer along with his previous Aqualand, reef combing in Bonaire.

Name me a wild-eyed zealot screaming into the wind, however I place the unique Citizen Aqualand within the pantheon of nice dive watches, alongside the primary Fifty Fathoms, the Rolex Submariner, and the Doxa SUB 300. When one appears to be like on the arc of growth of this most beloved style of sports activities watch, all of it started in 1953 and reached its fruits in 1985. Every little thing after that’s mere wrist sweet.

Pictures by Gishani Ratnayake


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