A guy named Jason posted a video on YouTube of his ATV53-2834, that helped push me over the edge to get one. I was also fortunate to time my interest so that I'd pick one up at auction for about 50% off JPY MSRP. I like this watch so much, I thought some other folks might appreciate it if I gave it a fairly indepth write-up.
Many of the Japanese product manufacturers create special editions of their products that are only sold in Japan. The limitation is such that official product retailers in other countries cannot get any inventory of these products. Your only hope would be to physically visit a local retailer in Japan to purchase the product. Why do Japanese companies do this? There is something about Japanese society that craves exclusivity and this is one of the ways they show it. Well, a global economy is just that--global. When a seller offers something exclusive, a buyer will eventually find them, especially on "that auction site". And so, through the right channels you can obtain exclusive Japan market products on-line. Thankfully, I found such a channel and got the Attesa ATV53-2834.
Before I go into my impressions of the watch, here's a brief background on what influenced my choice for it:
When I first learned of Citizen's Eco-drive technology in 1998, I was really intrigued. Having long been a believer in solar energy from my childhood days, I was thrilled when Casio came out with solar watches affordable to the mass market (prior to this, you could only find them in rare models of high priced brands). Citizen also had a version of a solar watch, but comparatively it was very expensive. For me, Casio was the choice. But when LCD watches began to slip out of fashion favor, Casio cut back on their models and the solar line was discontinued. Naturally, other watch brands stopped making them as well, until a decade or so later when solar started making a comeback. Today, I think Casio sells more solar recharged watches than any other brand.
Citizen's foray back into solar watches came via their "Eco-drive" technology. It's an intriguing layered design which does not show any sign of a solar cell on the face. Going over a nice array of design choices, I eventually found a model I liked, a titanium alarm chronograph that I still wear to this day. I ended up getting two more Eco-drive models in the years that followed (one stainless steel model for dressy occasions and an Aqualand diver watch for plunging beneath the ocean surface). However, there were some design issues I was hoping Citizen would address. They came up with some great casing designs and watch faces to go with the Eco-drive, but some of the functionality was lacking. The biggest culprit had to do with setting the alarm, which was cumbersome and time consuming. I even wrote to Citizen with my complaints and offered some suggestions. I was politely thanked with a courtesy e-mail and follow-up inquires went unanswered.
Eventually Citizen did answer two of my most serious complaints: Ease of setting the alarm and a power level indicator. A striking model that Citizen addressed these two issues in is the Calibre 2100. It is a nicely designed watch, but a bit chunky for my tastes. I felt that if I was going to fork out several hundred dollars once more, it would be on a watch that really meets all of my needs.
The Citizen Attesa ATV53-28xx series
When I spotted this Citizen Attesa series on a Japanese watch website, I quickly recognized that it had everything I've ever wanted from the Citizen Eco-drive model line. The only thing that held me back was the price. The MSRP was very high for what I'd normally pay for a watch, but even still the discounted prices appearing on eBay were quite higher than the MSRP of my other Citizen Eco-drive watches (which I never paid full retail for). I would have to summon up the courage to break my price point limits.
The ATV53 series features the 2831, 2832, 2833, and 2834 models. They all share the same movement, the super robust U600, and are made of titanium (both casing and band). Everything else is pretty much cosmetic variations in color on the face, casing, bands, and levels of anti-scratch treatment. So, I ruled out the 2831 right away, as it has a blue face that I don't find appealing--all of the other models have black faces. Next... the 2832 has a black bezel, but silver case and band. The 2833 has a two-tone case, with black bezel and some black accents on the band. The black accents all feature Duratect plus DLC. Then finally, you have the 2834, which is completely black with Duratect+DLC treated casing and band (plus a 20th anniversary limited edition case back stamping), red accents on some of the hands/indicators, and a backlight for the LCD displays. I really like the two-tone look of the 2833, so I set my sights on that model... and when I found these watches being sold on eBay at times not much lower than the 2834, I began to think it would be better to spend the extra money on the 2834. And so, I waited... and finally got one at the price I wanted.
The three things I appreciate most about the ATV53-2834 are the ability to set the alarm without the scrolling of the hands, the very visible hour/minute hands, and the micro adjustable band.
- Prior Eco-drive models with alarms would force the scrolling of the minute and hour hands to set the alarm time, which can be annoying if you're 12 hours away from the current alarm time. The novelty of seeing the hands spin automatically wears off after a while, as you sit there waiting for the alarm time. This model lets you set the alarm rapidly.
- I can definitely tell the time with a very brief glance on this watch, even in low light. Digital requires a little more effort.
- My wrist expands and contracts quite a bit, depending upon my activity level and the air temperature. So, metal banded watches have to be fitted to my wrist so they won't be too tight when my wrist is expanded the most. This means the band gets loose around my wrist at times, something I find annoying. The adjustable band on the Attesa solves this problem quite well. I'm surprised not more watch manufacturers provide such a feature.
The U600 movement is versatile and provides a number of useful functions. Analog displays show the local time, UTC time, 24-hour indicator, and battery level (it also doubles as a regional atomic clock synchronization selector). The left LCD display shows the home city and mode function information. The larger LCD display on the right shows the "away" city, and can be configured to show other information like the time and date. There's also a countdown timer, settable up to 99 minutes, and a chronograph. One of the key capabilities is the sophisticated atomic clock synchronization mechanism, which performs routine time calibration from one of three atomic clock signal stations (depending on your worldwide location). And lastly, the watch is solar power assisted (Citizen's renowned Eco-drive technology). Under a full charge, you can put the watch in a drawer for 6 months and it will still show the time accurately. Beyond that, the hands will no longer display the time but the time keeper will continue for up to another 2 years. So, you certainly don't have to worry about your watch running out of power when you don't wear it for a while (quite a contrast to the roughly 48 hour limit of a mechanical movement).
All of the watch functions work well and dependably... no surprise there, as Citizen has a reputation of making high quality movements. The modes are actuated by pulling out the crown to position #1, then rotating it. It could use a little more friction, so that position #1 is easier to select without slipping to position #2, but overall it works. The back lighting is bright enough to see the LCD displays clearly. The lume longevity is decent--not the best, but good enough for casual use. One other thing I really like is the countdown timer... you can set it, then return the watch to your usual function position (e.g. "Cal" for showing the date); the timer continues on and rings when it reaches 0. This is really handy for a little reminder when you need it. Overall, the watch is fairly easy to use. The method for setting the home and abroad cities and setting the atomic clock zone is not intuitive... you need to read the manual to get it all figured out. But it's not all that hard. I would download the U600 manual from Citizen and keep it on a computer for easy reference, rather than having to break out the paper manual from time to time.
The Visual and Tactile Experience
Size-wise, it's bold without being clumsy. It's the biggest watch I've owned so far and it feels "just right" (not heavy and not too light). The band isn't as contoured as on my older titanium Citizen, but it is still comfortable. And the micro adjustment really comes in handy. I find myself using it once or twice during the day in warmer months. NOTE: If you size the watch yourself or have it done by a jeweler, be advised that the band segment pins are fitted with a very small "collar" for a friction fit. Those collars are easily lost. You take out two pins to resize the band, so if you lose both collars you're not going to be able to wear the watch--the pin won't stay in. I lost one of them before I noticed their presence and fortunately kept my eye out for the second one.
As far as appearance goes, I find this watch to be the most handsome in my collection. It is the antithesis of a minimalist looking Sinn watch, with its busy face. But it's done well and the primary hands don't get lost in it. The mix of brushed matte and gloss black accents is superb. Some of the nice touches I like are the red accents (especially the second hand), the "faux chrome rivets" around the mode selector dial, the chrome trim around the hour markers, and the mix of gloss and matte black throughout the casing and band. The attention to detail is obvious, making no mistake that this is not your usual Citizen watch. It has been said that for formal affairs, you don't wear any kind of watch other than a pure analog, but in this case I'd make an exception. I have a strong appreciation for good watch design and have had my sights on a number of watches in the marketplace today, but I have to admit that my desire for those has been tempered by this watch. Which is a good thing, as this was no cheap watch either!
The Gripes (just a few)
Of course, nothing is perfect and this watch could stand a few minor improvements. The big hands get in the way of display information all over the watch face. Some of them are inconsequential, like the battery level and 24 hour indicators. But the whole lower half of the watch consists of the mode selector dial and the LCD screens. What if you want to do a count-down timing function, but that big fat minute hand is blocking the way? You either wait a few minutes or you try angling the watch to see the info. Citizen should definitely have put in a "park hands" function, scrolling them up to 12 o'clock on command when you need them out of the way. Lastly, it's a very minor point... although the band is comfortable, the outer edge is rather sharp. I wish Citizen had rounded it off a little more. You don't feel it on the wearing wrist, but you do when you touch it with your other hand. It also makes me wonder how well the DLC will last on it--hard edges are the bane of DLC. Other than my two main gripes, I really like the look of the watch.
According to Citizen, the ATV53-2834 is a limited edition run of 3,000 pieces only for the Japanese market, so it is bound to have a "unique cachet" outside of Japan. The Duratect hardened titanium plus the DLC coating and AR sapphire crytal means these watches will be looking good for a VERY long time. I hope to keep mine for as long as I possibly can (at least until Citizen manages some revolutionary advancement that makes this one seriously obsolete, but by then this will be a 'vintage classic').
However, if you don't mind a stainless steel model with a graduated bezel, you can opt for the Citizen Skyhawk JY0000. This is a USA market watch with the same U600 module and very similar watch facing, which is often sold on eBay in the low $300's. If it came in titanium, I would have gone with this model instead.
And now for the obligatory photos:
On the wrist and looking pretty good! LCD back light has a contrasting orange hue with good visibilty.
The lume activated in low light. Wish it would stay brighter longer.
A shallow angle, whereby the chromed accents are more visible.
You can see the "lens" effect of the curved crystal and the inner bezel markings specific to the atomic clock synchronization.
The sky blue lume at full glow. I just wish the lume half-life was a little slower.
The blue lume and orange back light contrast pretty well.
The watch profile. Notice the contrasting glossy and matte finishes and how the casing is thoughtfully tapered.
The very attractive nautilus Attesa logo on the band clasp.
The useful band sizing feature demonstrated. You can see it's about a good quarter inch. I noticed that I forgot to take off some of the protective plastic. Also, what looks like a blemish on the link attached to the clasp is actually a black imprinted band serial number.
I'm still very fond of this watch. Citizen naturally came out with other Attesa models since. They're really nice looking and one sports a bezel that is rotated with a knob. One other thing I'm very appreciative on this watch is the strength of atomic clock synchronization. It continually does a better job than my Casio watches and doesn't seem to mind whether the watch is on a west or east facing window sill.