Citizen Nighthawk BJ7017-50ET review
- Date acquired: Nov 26 2005
- Production date: Aug 2005
- Source: Capital Mall, eBay
- Price paid: USD147 (w/o shipping)
- Status: In production
Having a plethora Seiko watches by late 2005, I thought of trying out a Citizen watch for a change. The Citizen Nighthawk had garnered a cult following in SCWF and received a mixed bag of responses. Some liked its undeniably classic and unique looks. Others shunned it because it was quartz controlled, too large or the dial looked too busy and distracting. For some, it was a love-at-first-sight kind of timepiece while for others like me, it was an acquired taste.
As for myself, I researched the Nighthawk for several months before deciding to buy it. I had first tried on the Nighthawk at a local watch store and I thought it was kind of gruesome looking on the wrist. It’s big. And the dial has real estate so wide that it goes all the way to the bezel. But it’s one heck of a solid watch, comprising some design influences perhaps from Breitling and mated with Citizen’s reliable Eco-Drive technology.
When I was ready to buy one, I chose to bid on eBay as I knew I could get the price that I wanted, which is about USD150 or less. The local store was asking MYR950 (USD283) for it and I decided to buy from Capital Mall on eBay again.
The Citizen that I bought is the affordable Asian version, model BJ7017-50ET. It shares some similarities with the so-called “Euro Nighthawk", which actually has a different designation – the AS2031-xx series. The European Nighthawks considered luxury models – they are equipped with radio controlled, atomic clock synchronization and sa pphire glass.
The U.S. version BJ7005-59E (left) and the Japan market version PMD56-2776 (right)
Citizen Japan also has its own Nighthawk for its domestic sales – the rather expensive PMD56-2771 with a Duratect-treated titanium case and bracelet. It looks very much like its European siblings, except for its radio controlled, atomic time clock receiver and is available only in Duratect treated titanium finish.
The Eco-Drive in a nutshell
Citizen’s Eco-Drive is basically a solar powered quartz movement which converts light energy into electricity, which in turn charges a built-in rechargeable lithium ion battery. Citizen cleverly disguises its solar panels into the watch dial or sub-dials, you wouldn’t notice them unless you looked carefully! You can charge the watch by natural or artificial light. The brighter the source of light, the quicker the watch charges its internal battery. However, it’s advisable not to leave the watch in direct sunlight for long periods as high temperatures can cause damage to its electronics.
Fully charged, an Eco-Drive watch can go without light (like being stored in a drawer) for 6 months or for years on sleep mode, depending on the caliber. The Eco-Drive Perpetual Calendar models have a power saving or sleep mode that disengages the hands while internally keeping track of the time, stretching its power reserve to a few years.
Sadly, the Nighthawk’s B877 caliber is a standard Eco-Drive movement and once fully charged, continues to tick in darkness for six months without needing light.
Citizen claims a typical lifespan of 20 years for its solar cells but nobody has owned an Eco-Drive watch for two decades let alone 10 years, so we’ll see if the Eco-Drive technology lives up to the manufacturer’s claims.
On another note, Citizen’s arch-rival Seiko does have a few solar powered models (like the V145 caliber) but Citizen has the upper hand in solar watch marketing. While Seiko prefers to push its Kinetic range of watches, Citizen decided to capitalize on its strength in solar powered timepieces. That said, in the late 1990s Citizen did release the Eco-Drive Duo movement, which is a hybrid motion and solar powered watch. It was probably superfluous to have a Kinetic-like movement as well as solar cells.
A discontinued BJ3074-58 Eco Drive Duo
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that it’s effortless to charge an Eco-Drive Duo using light instead of via wrist motion. The hybrid movement was also expensive to manufacture and Citizen later decided to drop its Eco-Drive Duo models altogether.
Citizen really stands by its Eco-Drive technology. It has released many types of watches based on Eco-Drive movements, from their entry level models to their hand made, artistic Campanola flagship range. The Japanese watch manufacturer is actively campaigning its Eco Drive models although it does have a handful of battery powered, ordinary quartz models.
Some complicated movements that require more battery power, as with certain Campanola models are non-Eco Drive. The Navihawk range of pilot styled watches are battery operated as opposed to the more expensive Skyhawk range, which are Eco Drives.
Look and feel
The Citizen BJ7017-50ET appears to be carved out of a solid chunk of stainless steel. On the 22mm solid linked bracelet, it weighs about 150 grams un-sized. It is mostly satin finished and leaves no traces of shiny “bling-bling". I would say the Nighthawk is more of a serious tool watch rather than dressy. Its 200m water resistance rating lends credibility to its tool watch theme.
Not that you’d want to take this watch for scuba diving – the Nighthawk is not meant to be a diver’s watch in the first place.
A unique feature of the Nighthawk is its large and deep, sunken dial. It’s been touted as a pilot’s watch owing to its rotating internal E6B flight rule bezel. At first glance, the dial seems to be cluttered. Once you’re accustomed to the watch, you’ll learn to ignore the background text and reading the time becomes a lot easier. When the Nighthawk is viewed at arm’s length, the 800-plus tiny characters become a distant blur.
The dial looks rather busy when viewed closely…but
…from a distance the clutter becomes less noticeable and the dial stands out clearly! 🙂
The main crown is the screw-in type and has a nice knurled design in addition to the signed Citizen Promaster logo at the end. A nice touch. The other crown at the 8 o’clock position rotates the inner flight rule bezel but isn’t as nicely finished as the main crown.
Manipulating the main crown is easy, it unscrews quite easily and has two detents – the first detent is to set the date and adjust the hour hand (to suit the local time zone). The second detent adjusts the main hands which also turns the 24-hour hand.
The BJ7017 interestingly, comes with the much coveted satin finished, three dimensional relief caseback with its U.S. counterpart (the BJ7000-xx series) sorely lacks. For reasons known only to the Citizen Watch company, only the U.S. Nighthawks have the actual “Nighthawk" logo on the dial, full lumed index markers, framed “12" and “6" numerals and a rather plain, mirror-like polished caseback with laser etched markings.
Below is a photo of a non-US market, Nighthawk’s caseback. Note the deep relief text and world map embossing, which is uncommon for a watch at this price point.
The embossed relief caseback is fitted only to non-US Nighthawk models.
Setting the time
It was pretty confusing for me to set the time (and second time zone) when I received the watch. I figured out that I had to set the dual time hand first, since it’s geared to the main time hands. Then I had to adjust the hour hand according to the local time. Since I find a fixed 24-hour time (synchronized to the local time) pretty useless, I would first set the 24-hour hand to GMT, which is 8 hours behind my time zone. Then I would push in the crown to the first detent and spin the crown clockwise to adjust the hour hand to my local time.
Setting the hour hand is kind of tricky because it only goes clockwise – you can’t reverse the direction. If you miss the intended hour, you’ll have to move the hand one complete revolution. Unfortunately this also advances the date when you cross midnight so you’ll have to set the date (be sure that the time isn’t between 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. when you adjust the calendar) to the previous day. Then adjust the hour hand to the desired time.
What I noticed about the watch is that the hour hand has some excess play in it, so it doesn’t precisely point to the hour. Therefore at 6 o’clock, the hands my not line up straight as it should be. I discovered that I have to manipulate the main time hands to get the hour hand to line up properly. Perhaps this is an inherent flaw of an adjustable hour hand or the B877 movement itself.
While most modern Seiko watches change the date by turning the crown clockwise, Citizen prefers to use the opposite direction – anticlockwise. I have to constantly remind myself that with the Nighthawk, changing the date means anticlockwise direction or I’ll mess up the hour hand’s position.
I measured the BJ7017-50ET’s dimensions as follows:
- Diameter: 42mm (w/o crown), 46mm (w/ crown)
- Lug-to-lug: 47mm
- Thickness: 13mm
- Lug width: 22mm
- Bracelet width: 24mm, tapering to 18mm at clasp
The bracelet is top notch, solid links all around and flush fits at the lug ends of the watch. The clasp has dual push buttons and a signed “Citizen" flip lock but has only three micro adjustment holes. Which means that the watch can be either too snug or loose. On the wrist it sits rather comfortably and doesn’t shuffle about.
The BJ7017-50ET viewed from the rear. Image from PMWF Watch Corner.
The Nighthawk is also a dual-time or GMT watch. It sports a semi-circular twin-scale with a double ended, asymmetrical 24-hr hand. It looks pretty confusing how to read the second time zone at first. The Nighthawk’s 24-hour scale is divided into two segments – the inner scale in white text representing 1 a.m. to 12 p.m. while the outer scale, printed in hard-to-read deep red color, represents 1 p.m to 12 a.m.
Below is a borrowed photo of a closeup of the BJ7017-50ET’s dial. In this example, the dual-time is set to the local time (7:32 pm) instead of a different time zone.
The dual time hand (the small red pointer) is pointing to past 1900 hours
The double ended 24-hour hand has two tiny pointer heads resembling a tiny aircraft, the shorter hand has a white pointer while the longer side is colored red. At any one time, only one of the hands will hover above the appropriate scale. To read the second time zone, all you need to do is to match the color of the aircraft-like tip to the scale’s color. Therefore, the shorter white hand will only reach the inner a.m. scale while the longer hand will extend to the outer p.m. scale.
The Citizen Nighthawk has a different type of luminous compound than Seiko’s. It uses Superluminova lume and glows a cool blue hue. Quite a stark contrast from the traditional green lume that Seiko uses. Citizen’s lume doesn’t glow as brightly as Seiko’s LumiBrite but it fades much more slowly than Seiko’s. I have no trouble reading the time for at least six hours in total darkness once I energize the lume sufficiently.
The hour and minute hands are distinct from one another and you’ll easily distinguish them in the dark. The “12" and “6" numerals are also lumed and aids in reading the time. I wished the second hand was also lumed, but it’s unfortunately not – it’s just painted white.
The Nighthawk’s lume emits a blue color and lasts several hours (borrowed photo)
- Caliber: B877
- Caseback: B877-S015979
- Movement type: Solar powered quartz, 32kHz crystal
- Loss/gain: Less than 15 sec/month
- Construction: Stainless steel
- Crystal: Mineral glass, flat profiled
- W.R. Rating: 200m
- Luminous material: Superluminova
- Power reserve: Approximately 6 months
- Battery type: Internal rechargeable lithium-ion
- Movement Japan, cased in Japan
Here are some pics of my Nighthawks. The one with the inner white bezel is the model BJ7010-16F on leather strap (also an Asian variant).
If you’re looking for one, I would recommend that you get the Asian version rather than the U.S. one. The lovely relief caseback is worth its admission price. The Asian model is probably the least expensive and it comes in a variety of dial colors – light blue, black with white inner ring and all-brown. Choose the U.S. BJ7000-series if you prefer the “Nighthawk" logo and the full lumed index markers.
Where to get the BJ7017-50ET cheaply? It seems that Capital Mall has stopped selling/auctioning the Nighthawks lately. I would recommend that you check out the auctions from Time Paradise, also a reputable seller based in Singapore. Good luck!
What I liked:
- 200m water resistance
- Solid link S/S bracelet with dual push buttons and flip lock
- Striking looks, high contrast dial
- Blue colored lume
- E6B flight rule calculator
- Dual time capability
- Eco-Drive solar powered movement
- 22mm regular lugs
What I didn’t care for:
- Excess play in the hour hand
- Date window a bit too small
- Second hand doesn’t line up precisely to minute markers
- Not enough micro adjustment holes in bracelet clasp
|Affordability||Build quality||Looks||Features||Value for money||Overall rating|
Note: More orange boxes represent better scores.
This is my personal assessment of the reviewed watch and does not necessarily reflect the views of others.
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Hello Quartzimodo aka Stratman,
Im Dito from Indonesia, Im the person who ask you where to find Seiko divers watch in Malaysia last time,remember? Thank you for the information. After a long search, I bought a Seiko black monster which is difficult to find in Indonesia at a best price. Actually, Seiko price in Indonesia is more cheaper than Malaysia if you know where the best store. Perhaps, when you visiting Indonesia, I will show you there. In here,I still found Black Knight and the White one easily,also a lot of Seiko5 model. But if you searching for Monster or SKX 007,it almost impossible. Also, you may find a lot of high quality secondary watch in Batutulis Market,where you can find Swiss or old Seiko model (ex. Seiko Bullhead or Old Omega Seamaster) at good condition and lowest prices!
Actually,I just bought a second-hand Citizen Nighthawk,cause it make me falling in love since the first time i saw. It is truly a simple and very good watch and I just read your review just now. Never know that we have same taste about watch. A japanese watch enthusiast,specially in utility watch.
Anyway, thanks for the guidance last time,and please inform me if you want to have watch hunting in Indonesia, someday!
I’m glad to know that you’ve gotten the Citizen Nighthawk, albeit a used one. It should remain trouble free for a long time, provided that you keep the watch exposed to light frequently.
Every country’s Seiko distributor has its own marketing department and they decide which models are to be sold. It’s strange that you can’t find either the Monster or the SKX007 whereas the 7s26 Knights are abundant. In my country it’s the exact opposite. 🙂
I haven’t visited Jakarta yet but if I do I will definitely get in touch with you. I’m more interested to find vintage Seiko watches and I hope the Batutulis Market will have the calibers and models that I want.
Just bought a black nighthawk in Montreal, had seen it before and liked it. Once I got home and took some time to look at the watch, I noticed that the second hand didn’t match at all with the second markers. Very annoying. Decided to research the subject and that’s how I came upon your site. It seems that you have noticed this problem too but I am wondering how much inaccuracy is acceptable ? Could there be a mechanical problem ?
I’ve had good luck with some of my Seiko quartz watches whose second hands hit precisely on the markers. For a quartz watch to have a precisely positioned second hand, two things are required:
1. A perfectly manufactured stepping motor for the second hand.
2. Precisely printed minute markers on the dial.
If your watch’s second hand is consistently off the markers all around the dial, it’s possible to have an experienced watchmaker gently nudge the second hand precisely to the 12 o’clock spot. This should make the second hand fall squarely on all minute markers.
If your watch’s second hand hits the markers precisely in some areas of the dial and is off in other areas, then it could be a case of an imperfectly printed dial. There’s not much you can do about this.
It might interest you that even high end Swiss models are not spared of this phenomenon – not even the Omega Seamaster quartz is 100% dead-on the markers.
Quartz watches are usually mass produced and manufacturing defects do occur. However, the manufacturer will usually point out that the second hand inaccuracy is within their manufacturing tolerances.
Quartz movements are also subject to a degree of second hand backlash or free play. Excessive backlash will result in poor precision in the second hand motion.
If I were to buy a quartz based watch (that includes Citizen Eco Drive and Seiko Kinetics) and if the brick-and-mortar store has more than one piece of the same model, I would definitely choose the one with the most precisely hitting second hand. If the store has only one model left, I’m out of luck.
From my experience and reading others’, Seiko quartz based watches appear to be more precise on the markers than Citizen’s but even that, not all Seiko watches are that precise.
I wished the Nighthawk had more precise second hand motion (neither of my Nighthawks are) but I’ve seen more expensive watches like the Tissot PRS200 with far worse second hand precision.
Hope this helps. Just enjoy the watch as it is. 🙂
I don’t know exactly when this Nighthawk was launched, but it first appeared for the Southeast Asian market sometime in 2005 if I’m not mistaken. The matte three-dimensional caseback makes this model worthwhile to buy compared to the U.S. version with the cheap looking, polished caseback. The only thing that’s missing from the BJ7017-50ET is the “Nighthawk” text, the full-lumed index markers and raised “12” and “6” markers.
About a month ago, I bought the US Nighthawk BJ7000-52E and I am beyond pleased with the watch. For some reason, I prefer the US version better. I find the “Nighthawk” moniker in the dial, plus the fully lumed markers and raised 12 and 6 numerals more attractive than in the Japan-Euro versions of the Promaster Sky, its official model name.
The raised caseback is very nice, but for me, not a deal braker. Honestly, you don’t get to see the caseback much with the watch on your wrist. I bought mine from the local Citizen AD for US$210 plus the 5 year US Citizen warranty. Yet another reason why I did not get the Promaster Sky BJ7010 version as those only come with 1 year international Citizen warranty.
This is a wonderful watch, yet not very well known outside of WIS circles. Seiko does not make anything that remotely resembles the Nighthawk IMHO. Citizen really spent the time and money in the dial design. the build quality, as you noted, is solid. This watch looks and feels more expensive than its sub $200 price tag would suggest.
I think the Nighthawk/Promaster Sky is destined to become an instant classic the day Citizen pulls the plug on it.
Thanks for the enjoyable review.
Everyone’s personal tastes differ and for every Nighthawk owner who’s perfectly happy with the U.S. version, there are those who prefer the non-US Nighthawks instead. Some feel that the Nighthawk’s dial is cluttered as it is and could do without the additional “Nighthawk” text. Others appreciate the matte embossed caseback – not only it’s more aesthetically pleasing, it doesn’t leave skin oil marks after wearing it. The Asian and European Nighthawks also come in a variety of colors and features whereas the U.S. version is as varied as Henry Ford’s first automobile – the Model T.
Long, extended warranties are somewhat unique only to the U.S. market (Seiko USA has a 3-year warranty while Citizen USA offers a 5-year period). You get only a 1-year warranty elsewhere, including Japan.
Hi Quartzimodo, firstly a wonderful and in-depth review of the watch. I too like the watch, it suits my style pretty well. The large dial, the stainless-steel material, in fact the point that people make about a cluttered dial seems kind of invalid to me, since a plain dial would make it look like one of those expensive rollex watches which only ARE expensive, while they actually look like cheap ones.
The only problem I have though, is the price. The price mentioned on Citizen’s website is $395 (usd) 😛 much beyond my range. I will be purchasing the watch from Singapore..do you think it can be purchased at a price lesser than that? i am in love with it :(!
The Nighthawk is a cool watch to own and gives good value for money. USD395 is rather steep for a stainless steel Nighthawk but if you read it from Citizen’s website, the price is an MRSP. Street prices should be much lower than that (less than USD300). You shouldn’t have any problems if you buy from the reputable online dealers in Singapore.
Very sorry for getting back to you late because I was busy during the month of July. 🙁
I’ve not been keeping tabs of Citizen’s product developments for quite some time, really. If you’re referring to the classic styled Nighthawk, e.g. the Model BJ701x series like the one featured in my review, there are none available with a Perpetual Calendar function.
However, Citizen has recently introduced a drastically different looking variant with a radio controlled, atomic time synchronization AND Perpetual Calendar. Citizen calls it the “Nighthawk-AT” (model AT4110-55E) with an all-new E650 caliber. This model appears to share the same lug design and the same 22mm solid linked bracelet as the “classic” Nighthawk models.
Because the Nighthawk-AT has three multifunction sub-dials, there isn’t any space for the iconic, large “12” and “6” lumed hour markers that defines the “classic” Nighthawk series. I’m not sure if you’ll like the new “Nighthawk-AT” as the dial is kind of “busy” looking – but it does have an alarm and a chronograph function which the traditional Nighthawk lacks. Oh, with sapphire glass as an added bonus. 🙂
Thank you for this great review. I also bought this watch 6 months ago, based on your pictures and opinions on the forum. Really a great watch.