Saturday, March 1, 2014

Review of Citizen Signature Diver BL1285-53L

The Citizen Signature line continues to be a great option for those looking for a watch with high end features that don’t break the bank. The Courageous Diver models were released a few years ago in 2011 in a variety of dial and movement options. They have since been reduced in selection, but price wise remain the most affordable option of the entire Signature line. There is a trade off in quality on the Diver model relative to the more expensive Signature models, however, the Divers still represent a good option for something nicer than an entry level Citizen or Seiko.

With the discontinuation of the Signature Chronograph, the Diver model (located in the Courageous line) is the only remaining sport Signature. Unlike the Chronograph model, much of the intricate work on the case and bracelet are lost on the diver, but the Diver still carries much of the Signature DNA.

Dial and Hands

The dial of the Signature Diver uses a radiating sunburst effect which is very pronounced. This adds depth and detail to the dial, but also camouflages the solar cell underneath so that it is not apparent at all. Citizen used a similar effect on the BN0085-01E diver and it works well with both models. My only complaint about the dial is that in bright, direct sunlight, it can act as a prism and result in a rainbow appearance on the dial which can be distracting. The hands are identical to those used on the Skyhawk AT and also show continuity with the other Signature models available at the same time. The applied lume is polar white on both the markers and hands and looks really good. The lume glows blue in the dark. The second hand is also lumed and painted white for legibility. The date window frame also shows continuity with other Signature models as as well. The index markers are applied and faceted and are easily legible against the dial. The chapter ring is much steeper than those seen on the more common Japanese divers which is good, because I prefer divers without chapter rings. The chapter ring is fully indexed but the dial is not. Citizen branding is printed crisp and clear on the dial.

Crystal and Bezel

One of the key features of the Signature line is the use of a dual anti-reflective coated sapphire crystal. Use with the Diver model does not disappoint and to be honest is one of my most favorite features of the entire line. While some manufacture’s have problems with the durability of the exterior coating of their AR crystals, both of my Signatures have held up perfectly (knock on wood!). There’s not much else to say about the crystal other than you really can’t see it much of the time.

The bezel is steel with what feels like a steel insert. The bezel itself is fairly simply with a smooth polished finish and crenelations at the 10 minute markers for easy grip. The bezel rotates unidirectionally with more of a clicky feel than the dampened feel more common on Seiko divers. The insert is dimensional with the 10 minute numbers engraved in relief against a blue field with engraved radiating lines. There’s no denying the similarity of the bezel to that of the Tag Aquaracer or even the Ulysse Nardin Marine Diver, but it looks good and so far has held up fine. There is a lumed bezel pip and it is green in color when glowing.

Thanks to Noompsie Kevin for the under bezel pictures.

Case and Bracelet

The finishing on the case and bracelet are probably the only let down for this model. Unlike the other Signature models which showcase incredible finishing work on the steel far above their price point, the work on the Diver is very simple and plain. Perhaps this is an intentional design to help balance the detailing of the case and bezel. Perhaps this is an attempt to give the Diver the looks of a tool watch. The case is fully satin brushed with some minor detailing around the lugs and crown guards. The crown is polished and double knurled and looks good. The caseback is engraved with the Citizen heraldry. Like the other models it is not very deep, but certainly much nicer than the typical laser engraving Citizen uses on its casebacks. The caseback is screw on and the overall water resistance is 300M although I don’t believe this model is ISO certified.

The bracelet is a solid end link with a faux 5-link band. I think the bracelet looks cheap and I would have preferred a basic oyster. At least the removable links are held in with screwed like the other Signature models. Also common to the other Signature models is the use of partial sized links and the clasp which sits flush to the links and is engraved with the Citizen branding. Fortunately Citizen used their better judgement and used a standard size lug at 22mm for the bracelet which combined with the short lugs offers a lot of aftermarket potential for straps.


With the Diver line you have a selection of either a three-hand perpetual calendar E764 or a perpetual calendar with chronograph, alarm and second timezone E820. While many people may be attracted to the multi function of the E820, I’m not a fan. If you like the look of the sub-dials, then that’s great, but I find the functions to be a disappointment as you’re just expecting too much from a full analog movement. The perpetual calendar is a great feature and I wish all quartz watches used it. Not only does it self adjust for short months, but it also uses a dedicated motor to adjust the date precisely at midnight rather than the 90 minute lazy flip over used by conventional quartz and mechanicals. Both calibers also have a handy button at 2 o’clock which permits for the adjustment of the hour hand by full hours and is very useful when traveling as it does not require fully stopping the watch. Simply push the button in with a pen and then adjust the hour hand with the crown up or down. Of course the movement is a solar charged Eco-Drive, but you probably knew that already.


In conclusion the Citizen Signature Courageous Diver delivers exactly what you expect with no surprises….another great value option with some high end features at a reasonable price. It is a very nice option for someone looking for something nicer than the basic entry level Seiko or Citizen and could easily satisfy someone looking for a single watch for all occasions. the current MSRP on this model is $795. I bought mine from Arizona Fine Time at a healthy discount because nobody should ever pay full MSRP.


Crystal diameter 31mm
Case diameter 43mm
Case diameter to crown 47mm
Lug to Lug 48mm
Thickness 12mm
Lug width 22mm
Weight 170g

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