Steve's Watches - A New One For 40?

It’s not too often that I get a new watch, but I did, so I figured I’d write about it for fun. It’s nice to write about things of personal interest once in awhile, just to mix things up a bit.

As I approach the “Big 4-0” this October, it had been on my radar screen for quite a long time that maybe I’d finally splash out on a fancy new watch at long last. I’ve been man-crushing on Breitlings for over 10 years now, I also really like the classics from Omega and Tag Heuer, and have recently developed another man-crush on Bell & Ross watches. But why get anything other than what you’ve always wanted? There’s only one watch that I’ve ever really been lusting over, and that’s the Breitling Navitimer.

Man-crush, images via Breitling.com

Drool...

Perhaps this was the year, but then we ended up buying a huge new house that also has five-figure sums worth of “deferred maintenance” and other projects that will need to be done here and there, so that kinda ate up the bling watch budget!!! We do really love our new house. :-)

I still wanted to get a new watch, though. I was thinking, why not just get a newer Citizen Skyhawk Titanium, since I like them so much? I know that in the grand scheme of watches that a Citizen Skyhawk Titanium is not all that "special", but I've always really liked these and they're special to me. My wife’s wedding gift to me was the older Citizen Skyhawk Titanium (right), and 13 years later it's all dinged, scratched, and beat up, much like our lives and my body, but still running strong! :) The orange banded Tissot T-Touch was a 5 year wedding anniversary gift, and it's pretty cool looking, but costs as much as a Breitling to maintain without being nearly as nice as a Breitling! Total running and upkeep costs of the Citizen over 13 years? Nada. It just goes, and I like that.

My Tissot T-Touch Expert purchased 2009 (left), my new Citizen Skyhawk Titanium purchased 2017 (center), and my older Citizen Skyhawk Titanium purchased 2004 (right).

I looked up Citizen Skyhawks on Amazon, and found my new one in the middle being sold "by Amazon" and really liked it, but wasn't ready to spend $679. The next day I walked into Costco, and out ALL the possible watch brands and styles, there is that same EXACT watch, the Citizen "JY0010-50E", and for almost $250 cheaper than Amazon had it for! What an amazing synchronicity! I love things like that and figured I was meant to have this watch for some reason, and so brought it home. 

My fashion queen wife was aghast that I even bought this thing and said "it doesn't count" as a 40th birthday present. Even though she bought me one as a wedding gift, Citizen isn’t "couture" enough for her these days. I speak cars and cameras more than watches. If the Citizen brand is comparable to Honda in the automotive world, then maybe a Skyhawk Titanium is like a fully loaded Accord V6 with leather and navigation and the cool headlights, or maybe an Acura? That’s actually a good analogy, I think. Acura makes pretty solid cars, and this Citizen is a really nice watch, but neither are going to impress anybody that really knows cars or watches. Perhaps the slightly nicer Seikos are more like a Lexus, and then the high end favored Swiss brands like Omega, Breitling, and Rolex are like Audi, BMW, and Mercedes. But am I really trying to impress anybody with a watch? No, I just wanted a new watch, so now I have one. :-)

My New Citizen Skyhawk Titanium (3rd Gen, Purchased 7/2017 )

I really like my “new” Skyhawk. It’s actually a 3rd generation Skyhawk that came out around 2008, so not that new. Citizen has actually come out with 4th generation models now, and this particular watch, the JY0010-50E, seems to be discontinued and doesn't appear on the Citizen website, which perhaps is why I found this one at Costco for a great deal? Makes no difference to me. It’s a watch, and much to the disappointment of some Citizen fans online, the new 4th generation Skyhawks with analog-digital movements are functionally no different than the older ones, so I'm more than happy to get a great deal on one. It's like when a car manufacturer comes out with a newly redesigned model that really isn't any better or different than the old one, so why not get a great deal on the old model while you still can? Same concept. 

Like my previous Skyhawk, there’s a lot going on on this watch. There’s the two circular slide rule rings, the outer of which rotates, and then a third inner ring for rate calculations that goes along with that. There's a charge level indicator, UTC and alternate time zone analog displays, two small digital displays, a mode dial, and then some markings that the second hand will pause at to indicate what’s going on with the radio sync function when active. This is not a simple watch, and you might not be able to just glance at it with the corner of your eye to get the time, but it’s very functional assuming you know how to use all of this stuff.

I do actually use the slide rule function! My wife made fun of me for years with my older Skyhawk not just for having a watch with a slide rule, but for knowing how to use it. But do you have any idea how ridiculously easy it is to set it for instant foreign currency conversions while traveling in a foreign country? We travel a lot, and went to Singapore for a week for our second babymoon. She was doing some duty free shopping one day and constantly wanted to know how much something was in USD, and all I had to do was glance at my watch where I already had the conversion factor dialed into the slide rule, and I had the proper figures. Even today, this is a whole lot quicker and easier than pulling out your smartphone, unlocking it, firing up the calculator app, and then manually doing the math over and over again, when I can just glance at my watch and have it. She’s never made fun of me again for knowing how to use a slide rule! 

The biggest functional difference between this 3rd generation Skyhawk and my older 2nd generation model is the "atomic" radio time syncing feature, which in the U.S., picks up the WWVB 60 kHz signal in Fort Collins, CO, which is run by NIST and really does have an atomic clock behind it. At first I thought that this feature was a bit of a gimmick because you couldn't immediately and easily just get a signal anywhere, and because it can also take a few minutes to sync, but how often do you really need the watch to sync? The stated accuracy of the Citizen U600 quartz moment is +/- 15 seconds per month, which is more than good enough for most people by itself. The radio sync feature is something that's intended to work overnight as you're sleeping, with the watch resting on a nightstand or desk. Even if you only get a sync once a week or once per month, it ensures that your watch is never going to be off by more than a few seconds. As it turns out, just leaving my watch on my nightstand and facing the appropriate direction (the antenna is at the 9 o'clock and needs to be facing towards Fort Collins from wherever you are), it's able to sync reliably every night with a strong indicated signal, so my watch will always be dead nuts on accurate down to the second. That's pretty cool.

Other little improvements include small nubbins on the rotating slide rule ring, so that when the watch inevitably gets caked up with crud you can still grip it well enough to rotate it. They've also reworked the buttons so that you have to pull the crown out to switch time zones, which prevents your wrist from inadvertently hitting buttons when bent. The luminescent hands are still only designed to work in the store only, and fade out fast in the dark. They fade out so fast that I can almost see it happening, so you won't be able to glance at your dark watch face in the middle of the night and tell the time by looking at the illuminated hands! That's part of what makes this a sub-$1000 watch and not a pricier one. This is a very nice watch for the money, but you get what you pay for too! 

Like my older Skyhawk below, this one has an unshrouded convex mineral crystal, designed to suck in as much light as possible from all directions onto the concealed solar cells below, so eventually it will get scratched up like my older one. Different versions have sapphire crystals instead which are very scratch resistant, and I just learned that Citizen will actually upgrade your watch (and perhaps my old one) to the scratch resistant sapphire crystal for a fee. I'll wait until I get some scratches on this one, and then send it in to Citizen to get the upgrade, but perhaps will do that on my sad looking older one first! 

My Old Citizen Skyhawk Titanium (2nd Gen, Purchased 2004)

My old 2nd generation Citizen Skyhawk Titanium Eco-Drive was my wife's wedding gift to me, which is maybe why the Citizen brand has some value to me personally, despite being on the lower end of the totem pole in the watch world? There's nothing wrong with a new Honda or Acura! Think I should finally send it in for a crystal replacement after 13 years of faithful and reliable service? I think I will. There’s a funny story about this watch.

One fall weekend in 2005, I was sitting in a beach chair on the balcony of my apartment in northern Illinois, and took the watch off for some reason without realizing I had done so. I had been moving from state to state and apartment hopping just about every year during this time, and realized there were so many things I was just lugging around that I hadn't touched in years. I did a massive purge because we were planning to move yet again, and that's when I realized I hadn't seen my watch in awhile! I tore through my place up and down numerous times, and felt awful that I had lost it, and was terrified that it might have gotten mixed in with my other junk and that I might have accidentally thrown it out! Winter came and went, and as spring arrived I was starting to pack up my place for another anticipated move. I had forgotten to bring in my deck chair in the fall and it had been encased in a few feet worth of snow and ice over the harsh winter, but that had finally thawed enough that I could bring it in. As I went out on my balcony to retrieve it, there in the mesh pocket of the beach type folding chair still covered in a bit of snow was my watch! It had been sitting out in the freezing cold all winter getting blasted with snow, sleet, freezing rain, and whatever else the Illinois/Wisconsin weather could throw at it. I was relieved!

The watch had put itself into sleep mode, being completely covered in snow and in the dark over the winter, but as soon as it came into the light it fired back up again as though nothing had happened, and was only off by a minute or two. Its charge indicator was low, so I cleaned it off a bit in the sink, and then put it under a lamp. Its small internal battery quickly charged right back up again, and this watch is still running perfectly fine today, 13 years later. It has never seen factory or any sort of service, and has never been opened. These Citizen Skyhawks are solid watches.

The Tissot T-Touch Expert (Purchased 2009)

The Tissot T-Touch was bought as a 5 year wedding anniversary gift, and I really like this watch too. Angelina Jolie wore one in Mr. & Mrs. Smith, which is a movie my wife and I both loved (but so sad these days!!). It's flashy and turns head, and is definitely a pretty sporty watch. The touch feature is handy, and I like to wear this watch whenever we go hiking, because the internal magnetic compass and altimeter functions are perfect for that. Especially if you're hiking up a mountain, you can calibrate the altimeter at the base, and then you'll know exactly how much elevation you've gained, and how much further you have to go. That's good to know.

I love the Tissot, except the upkeep on it is ridiculous. You wouldn't want to trust your mall watch service kiosk to do a battery change, because they probably won't have the proper gaskets and would reuse the old ones, and if they don't put the watch back together properly, the touch screen can be misaligned, and then the touch functions won't work. It's a "touchy" enough watch that you should probably just have it serviced by Tissot themselves. A standard service and battery replacement is less than $100, but because of "case wear and dents" they insisted that the full service needed to be done or else they wouldn't guarantee the watch, which was $300 excluding tax and shipping and handling. The new Citizen I just bought was only $439, and the Tissot when new was around $700. It's a nice watch, but you could buy other watches just for the upkeep on the Tissot T-Touch alone, and it's not nearly a nice enough watch to justify dumping that kind of money into it. This is a scam. The case wear and dents aren't going to go away, so I'm sure they'll insist that it needs the full service the next time it needs another battery. No thanks. I'll refuse, stick with the basic service and battery replacement and skip the guarantee, and just use at my own risk. It's simply not worth the full upkeep money.

The other issue with this particular Tissot is that it's a very big and heavy steel watch. When I was fighting cancer, I became so weak that the watch was heavy enough that I couldn't even raise my arm while wearing it, and I went back to wearing the far lighter Citizen Skyhawk Titanium. Even after cancer, I still couldn't wear the Tissot because of peripheral neuropathy after chemotherapy, and the chronic muscle fatigue issues that I was almost constantly fighting. Every single day was a struggle in energy management for me for years, when you start off the day never feeling like you have anything more than a half tank for the entire day, no matter how well rested. And so, sadly, the Tissot sat for years with a dead battery, and I kept wearing either the Citizen, or an even lighter Garmin running watch that I had picked up used. It was less the static weight of the Tissot, but more its moment of inertia while walking around that would really drag me down. It's only very recently in 2015 that my body finally recovered enough after years of pushing myself after cancer, that it's finally come alive and perked up enough that I was finally able to wear that watch again, and got it serviced. 

The Citizens have been more of a proven partner for me in our crazy lives. They're very much the faithful Japanese cars that just aren't going to let you down, and it's an Eco-Drive, so really will run forever.  Maybe there's something about being a young adult cancer survivor and having a watch that will survive and just keep going forever that I really appreciate. I still really like the Tissot, but not the upkeep. If I'm going to drop a few hundred dollars every few years just to keep a watch running, it sure as heck better be a fully mechanical Breitling or Omega to be worth it. This Tissot is nice, but not that nice. Battery only next time for the Tissot.

So there you have it.


I'm loving my new Acura I mean Citizen Skyhawk, but it doesn't replace not getting a Breitling. The itch is still there, and if anything made the itch worse due to having fired up the new watch bug now!! The Skyhawk is nice, but it just doesn't ooze the quality, refinement, and mechanical precision that a Breitling does as soon as you put it on. I thought my 2nd gen Citizen Skyhawk was a really nice watch, but I knew its place in the world as soon as I tried a Breitling on one day! A Citizen is a good solid watch, but a Breitling is a work of art. and so not really comparable. You wouldn't compare an Acura to an S-Klasse Mercedes, either. They just don't play in the same leagues, and have entirely different purposes.

As much as I still lust over a Breitling, I would never wear one daily, but that's the whole purpose of the Citizen, so it's not like it was a wasted purchase. I like it, and having a new watch at this time in my life puts a smile on my face, so it's worth it. Anyone whose seen my camera gear cabinet knows why I've never gotten a Breitling (ha!!!), but I'm starting to rethink all of that too! Having just had to move all of that stuff to our new place, oh my lord!! How much of it do I really use? Even with the new house having blown my watch budget, I could trade some of that stuff in, scrape together some other money, and still get my Breitling. We'll see, maybe I'll make it happen or my wife will intervene, but "for now" (famous last words?) I love my new Acura (Citizen!). :-)

StevePake.com

UPDATE 8/14/17: I've confirmed with Costco that the Citizen and other brand watches that they carry are what's known as "grey market" watches. Costco isn't an "Authorized Dealer" for said watches and don't sell them at the recommended prices, and so manufacturer warranties don't apply. Costco's own watch guarantee does apply though, which you can find at this landing page here, and you can pretty much return a watch at any point (no time limit) if you're not satisfied, so hold onto your receipts!

No worries about a pretty bulletproof Citizen Eco-Drive, but you'd be on the hook for needed upkeep on your TAG Heuer or Breitling without any warranty coverage. Would you trust Costco to service a fancier Swiss watch properly? I wouldn't. Amazon.com is actually an Authorized Dealer for Citizen watches. For the one I bought, it was $679 on Amazon "authorized" vs. $439 in Costco "grey market", for a watch that doesn't really need any upkeep. I'll keep that $240 in my own pocket, thank you very much! :-)