After discussing this watch with Ray Mears himself and then going onto purchasing my own, 10+ years later it's time to reflect...
On 2nd October I did a feature here covering a lifetime of travels and adventures with a Rolex Explorer. By way of a follow up we thought it might be worth adding a supplementary about another watch in my collection which generated some interest during WatchGecko’s excellent social evening in Cheltenham. This particular timepiece has been lauded by some as the greatest explorers watch of all time; a lofty title for sure, but not without merit. The model in question is a rare early issue Citizen Pro-Master Tough, or as its colloquially known “The Ray Mears”.
I was lucky to find a new one in an independent watch shop in Abu Dhabi, literally dusty and unloved on a shelf, as it really was not the type of thing people bought out there. I was immediately gripped by its presence; not least from the fact that I had just come off a course with Ray Mears in a Sussex forest where I had noticed the watch, he was wearing. Indeed, I discussed the Citizen with him when he sat at my campfire and was thoroughly blown away by its unique features. This was the early 2000s and even then original Promaster Toughs were getting hard to find so when I discovered the exact “Ray” model in walking distance from my home in UAE all the planets were aligned, and it was an immediate purchase.
Promaster as a range first appeared in 1989 with most models aimed at the professional diving and aeronautical communities. The Promaster Tough was (and still is) the only militaristic style watch in the range. Promasters all benefit from Citizen’s solar powered Eco-Drive technology which is a real plus for an adventuring watch.
The simple knowledge that your watch will never stop or lose function due to a failing battery is very reassuring. The charge is quick, taking only 11 minutes on a cloudy day to give the watch a full 24 hours of power. In a sunny climate it takes 11 hours of sunlight exposure to give a full charge which Citizen claim will last a maximum of six months. This is a key technology target for adventurous souls planning to take the watch to one of the Poles where sunlight is scarce for half a year. The watch also charges all be it slower, in artificial light.
The solar capability is not the only impressive element of the Promaster Tough. The watch is 200m water resistant and is built on a monocoque principle – having no case back. The case is literally a solid block of titanium. Access to the movement is a very specialist job. The anti-glare sapphire crystal is slightly domed, and the luminescence is applied on a dual level basis with the hands glowing brighter than the indices. The legibility of the dial is clear even in the worst light. The watch has a Duratec finish to the titanium making it almost impossible to scratch and the movement is housed in a 16000 Gauss anti-magnetic non-ferrous structure. When you consider the venerable Rolex Milgauss offers a mere 1000 Gauss resistance you start to appreciate the no-compromise construction of the Citizen.
The movement itself has a clever anti-shock feature, no doubt in anticipation of where Citizen imagined the watch and its owner may be. If the watch experiences a substantial knock an electrical signal is sent to the hands to instantly lock and then unlock them. The entire process takes 1000th of a second so there is no perceivable time loss and the accuracy of the watch is maintained and the hands are not knocked out of sync.
I prefer to wear my Promaster on a ZULUDIVER NATO with satin steel keepers. The Classic Bond straps look particularly good on it and take the knocks with the watch. It originally came with an almost indestructible Kevlar strap but I did not find this very comfortable, so my OEM strap is in pristine condition, having only been worn a few times. An interesting side note about my personal watch is the serial number. It is 3D0001. I have approached Citizen twice to ascertain just how low this number is, but sadly they have never responded. (If any WatchGecko reader can shed some light I would be most interested and grateful.)
The highest temperature I have worn the watch is 50 degrees C (that’s 122F in old money). It was with my son on the highest dune in a roasting desert in the Empty Quarter of the UAE. In that one desert hike, the watch probably absorbed a full six months charge! The coldest temperature it has known was last winter here in the Derbyshire Dales when it joined me on a snowy walk in -13C.
The Citizen is not my only solar watch. One of my main daily go-to watches is, by comparison, a relatively cheap but exceptionally functional Casio AQ which I confess charges quicker and retains 10 months of power due to its smart sequential shutdown process. In every measurable way, it is truthfully the better watch, but it does not have the kudos or adventurous feel of the Citizen which is 20 years its senior.
I probably do not wear the Promaster enough but when I do my love of it gets rekindled. I truly believe it is one of the greats. A true Super-Quartz long before Breitling employed that term. It is much overlooked other than by true watch fans and early models are well worth sourcing online. There are newer models of course and a current 2018 version from Citizen but there is something thoroughly uncompromising about the first design watches which were crafted to tackle G-Shock head on.
It is getting harder to find pristine early models – many look like they have hiked the length of the Amazon and back – but then again I suppose that is what Citizen intended for this unique watch.