CITIZEN Nighthawk 'The Pilot' Cal. H610
PURCHASED- March 2, 2014
REVIEWED - August 12, 2014
(bonus video review at bottom)
On paper the BY0085-53E is my dream watch. The very existence of this watch makes me happy since it marries Citizen's boldest watch design, the Nighthawk, to one of Citizen's premium caliber movements the H610. I prefer steel watches over polished titanium so this particular watch being the only stainless steel version of it's kind was a must have for my collection.
However after a few months with BY0085-53E I've found that the final execution leaves a bit more to be desired. Enjoy the pictures and review below.
1. First 'In Hand' Impressions: 3 out of 5 Stars
After waiting 2 years for this replacement to my long lost original BJ7000-52E Nighthawk it finally came gift wrapped on my Birthday. Was the wait and excitement worth it? Let's find out!
At first glance the stainless steel BY0085-53E Nighthawk Pilot Promaster Sky is an ordinary steel chronograph. Being of the Calibre H610 movement the dial is indeed busy but with small markings, consistent font type, and thin bezel this watch is hardly noticeable at first glance. The only stand out visual which separates this from other chronographs is the large h610 time zone date window.
From the many generic web store pictures online this watch comes across like a powerhouse of tech features and intricate engineering. To the contrary, the BY0085-53E looks modest in person when compared to other premium Nighthawks and especially when juxtaposed with other H610s.
The BY0085-53E doesn't feel bulky and, although I never liked the combination of large sports watch with business attire, this piece fits comfortably under a dress shirt and suit jacket cuff.
The BY0085-53E sports a charcoal face filled with miniscule red, ivory-white and matte-silver dial markings. This makes for a quiet watch when compared to the original Nighthawk watch that debut a strong deep black dial and bright white and silver dial markings.
In fact once you get used to the large date window there are no other stand out features on the BY0085-53E's dial due to the low color contrast between its charcoal gray dial, its matching charcoal gray sub dials and its pewter gray dial markers. Folks that prefer understated accessories would appreciate the look of this watch.
However when paying top dollar for a 'sports' watch after its functions are considered I desire it to have a bit of bite to it or at least one visually pronounced detail beyond the date window. On the BY0085-53E there is just too many shades of overlapping grays that prevent this watch from looking pronounced as one would expect from a sports watch that retails in the $900 to $1,000 range.
2-Design: 2 out of 5 stars
For some reason the generic studio online pictures has the BY0085-53E's dial appearing to be onyx black.
It is NOT! When viewed in person the BY0085-53E dial face is charcoal grey under the surprisingly highly reflective Sapphire glass. These things were both an un-boxing surprise and a let down. I don't like grey dials and don't appreciate the poor application, if there is any, of the AR coating to the glass. The watch glass has much too much glare even on a cloudy day as seen in the picture below.
The BY0085-53E's dial markings and numerical fonts are an off-white (light ivory/light gray with pewter trimmings) so there is not much contrast across the dial.
This low contrast design on the BY0085-53E combined with small dial markings makes it difficult to read in low light conditions. In fact when placed side by side with other H610s under the same dim lighting the BY0085-53E makes your eyes work a bit more to procure time and especially chronograph information.
Functionally a darker pure black dial with brighter white markings and well defined sub dial regions would not only make a better looking watch but an easier to read watch as it does on the LE Blue Impulse BY0080-65E watch. The BY0080-65E's dial region, shown in the photo below, has a much more functional design when it comes to appearance and reading its info at a glance.
Furthermore I don't like that the BY0085-53E's thin minute hand is lifted from the BY000x-xxx Chrono-Time AT series while the stout hour hand is a direct transplant from the original BJ7000-52E Nighthawk.
I assume designers wanted the BY0085-53E visually linked back to both sources but using two different style hands on the face throws it off. It is not an eye sore (this is still visually a beautiful watch) but it could have been done better.
Also the BY0085-53E's chronograph second hand being a non-luminous charcoal grey w/ dark red tip adds to the reading difficulty.
A bright white or tomato red chronograph second marker would look better against a pure black dial (or even the current charcoal dial).
My overall design change would be to use all the main dial hands from the Chrono-Time AT BY0000 watches. I would make the BY0085-53E's main dial pure black, keep its sub dials charcoal and leave the sub dial hands as is. Then make all the main dial markings brighter with reds and whites as well as using polished, not matte/pewter, silver trimmings.
Most importantly I would replace the BY0085-53E's simple single line 12-hour-marker with a double line marker as seen on both the LE Blue Impulse BY0080-65E (shown directly above) and the legendary PMP56-2901 Nighthawk Pilot (shown directly below).
Even an actual '12' like on the AS4020-52E (shown below) would work better just to add some symmetry and style as well as to better distinguish the 12th hour marking from the other eleven other single line hour markers.
At the end of the day the BY0085-53E is still a good looking watch. However the over all design could be much better when considering the remarkable origins on which this watch is developed from (the h610 and Nighthawk family trees) and when taking its hefty price tag into account.
3-Build Quality: 3 out of 5 stars
The Nighthawk build is one of my favorites. A Nighthawk looks rugged from clasp end to case center but manages to exude class and practicality inside the thin bezel, but weighty, case body.
Here none of that comes across. The BY0085-53E Pilot's steel case is light by Nighthawk standards and feels cheap as a result.
I've come to realize the H610 caliber movement make relatively light weight steel watches. The issue here is indeed a relative one but non the less I expected more balanced heft on the BY0085-53E for its cost. If you wore an original (steel) Nighthawk in past and picked up a BY0085-53E, because the watches look the same, the BY0085-53E would feel eerily lighter and flimsy.
Funny thing is, contrary to my experience, the citizen websites list the BY0085-53E at 170 grams and the original steel BJ7000-52E Nighthawk at 158 grams. So I'm not sure what I am missing.
A lot of online webstore and intel also list the BJ7000-52E has having anywhere from a 38mm to 42mm case diameter (I've never seen that number above 42mm) and the BY0085-53E as having a 44mm to 45mm case diameter. Yet side by side the watches look to have the same diameter. Even the Amazon's webstore size charts, shown below, puts the both watches at the same diameter yet Amazon says the BJ7000-52E is 41mm and the BY0085-53E is 45mm. Go figure.
Just don't believe everything you read online. Looking at WUS member's pictures and a trip down to your local watch shop or Mall to visually see and try on what you are buying will tell you everything about that watch.
The BY0085-53E's bracelet is lighter and more rattly than the sturdy original Nighthawk BJ0000-52E. I have already considered replacing the BY0085-53E's bracelet with either the original BJ7000-52E Nighthawk's bracelet or the AS4020 micro multi-linked bracelet shown in the picture right below:
The are some positives to the BY0085-53E's bracelet. It does have a double locking secured clasp and the alternating polished and matte finish linkage pattern looks very good.
The thin bezel rim on the BY0085-53E has polished chamfered edge above the mesh-chiseled side wall which looks great. It puts this watch in a class above the original North American Nighthawks. The sapphire glass is flat and is leveled flush in the bezel.
The Sapphire crystal itself and engraved Promaster case back are a spectacle to behold for North American consumers that do normally see these on our local store bought watches.
Although, for reasons I don't understand, the Sapphire Crystal on the BY0085-53E is not as crystal sharp and dazzling as it is on the BY0003-07E. I'm not sure how or if Citizen uses different quality of Sapphire (or Synthetic Sapphires) and/or AR coatings from watch to watch but the difference in glass quality is pronounced when both watches are side by side in person.
The lume, like on almost all Citizen watches I've owned, is super bright and lasts from sunset to sunrise! You cannot get a better 'passive' lume on a watch today!
That said the BY0085-53E is still a difficult chronograph to use in dim lighting conditions. The BY0085-53E chronograph's second hand and chronograph's minute hand subdial is pretty much invisible at night.
The BY0085-53E's A and B push buttons are soft touch and smooth pressing. The build quality is done very well in these minor details.
The 8 o'clock crown is also impressive with a mesh textured finish identical to the original Nighthawks. I find it is easier to use and fine tune your data markings than the slim thin polished BY000x Chrono Time AT's slide rule crown.
The BY0085-53E's main crown is NOT a screw down crown as found on the original Nighthawks. Here, akin to all the h610 Calibre BY00xx models, the crown spins loosely whether open or closed. It doesn't lock down. This was huge surprise for me and a bit of a let down. The BY0085-53E's crown sticks out, open or closed, and is very vulnerable to popping off if bumped the wrong way. For the price of this watch it should be a screw down crown.
Overall my original steel BJ7000-52E Nighthawk wore like a lifetime product that took daily abuse. To the contrary my BY0085-53E doesn't quite feel like that at all. It is sturdy enough to be an everyday watch but I will be lucky if I can get the same 7+ years of daily wear out of it like I had with my original BJ7000-52E Nighthawk.
4-Features/Function: 5 out of 5 stars
I love the calibre h610 feature set and on the BY0085-53E absolutely no love lost. The chronograph fly-back and alarm setting's speed which all rely on the movement of the second and hour hands seem to move faster than the other bigger dial Chrono-Time h610 watches. Everything works very smooth here on the BY0085-53E. Feature wise the h610 is as complete and perpetual as a calender watch can be.
The BY008x-xxx and H610 Calibre Series ONLY looks intimidating but basically this watch does three things.
1. Time keeping/Alarm - simple to set and easy to use. One click outwards of the main crown allows you to set the current city and when that is done everything else self adjusts to match your time zone. You can also use the two upper and lower buttons to manually set the time. Alarm is set with two crown clicks out and by turning the crown. With the crown out two clicks the buttons turn on, turn off and confirms the alarm chime. The calender, once set, is perpetual.
2. Chronograph/Slide Rule - simple to grasp. In Time Mode the upper button starts and ends chronograph. Lower button resets it. The lone crown at the 8 o'clock works the slide rule inner bezel.
3. Atomic Time Keeping - Automatic Receiving happens every night sometime between 1 AM and 5 AM. I've had several atomics come thru my collection over the years and this one is of the better ones when it comes to ease of use and having a strong appetite for receiving updates automatically (Citizen usually makes good atomics).
Manual Receiving is as easy as HOLDING DOWN the lower button for 3 seconds to start Receiving. PRESSING the lower button checks when the last signal was received and also shows the current charge level. I have experiences with other Atomic watches (notably Casio Protreks) where the Manual Receiving is a tricky process. Here on the H610, as a credit to Citizen, it is simple and easy to use and the radio antenna is very strong and capable.
Generally Atomic Time Receiving will be hit or miss for you depending more on where you live less so than the quality of the watch. Myself being in New York (right at the 1,900 mile radius from the Fort Collins, CO source) I never had good experiences with Atomic Time Receiving on watches since the signal starts dying at 600 miles out from the source and completely dies out from 2,000+ miles out. So whether you get a proper signal or not is a critique of where you live and not the watch itself.
That is the entire description of this watch. It is simple, brilliant and everything works in harmony.
I'm finding the h610 movement as compared to other calibre movements to be one of the most complete movements yet used on an eco-drive watch. You get multi band radio, perpetual calender, 26 time zones, alarm, chrono, date, all in one body. But the real beauty is that ALL THE FEATURES are easy to access and easy to manipulate or adjust. Because of the automatic radio updates you really never have to bother with the time keeping and time zone features since they set themselves based on your location.
The only feature missing is a day of the week indicator which is found on the 2'o'clock subdial on the AS4050. On the BY0085 and all h610 calibre watches a 24 hour indicator sits in that spot.
I don't find myself in want or need for either of these features on a watch so the con and pro of not having the day of the week feature comes down to your preference.
5-Bottom Line: Over All Score of 3.5 out of 5 Stars!
With the pricing of $966 (€695) original retail at the time of purchase considered my over all rating for the BY0085-53E is a tough love 3.5 out of 5 stars. Points were lost for build quality, particularly that flimsy crown, the rattly bracelet and what appears to be a low quality Sapphire (and/or subpar AR coating).
The BY0085-53E's curious design cues also cost it some points. The dark gray and low contrasting gray sub dials and dark pewter markings was not the best idea. Although this watch in itself is still a rare and beautiful timepiece it can be frustratingly difficult to read in dim lighting conditions because of the dial design.
Even at the discounted Duty Free Island price at $550 this piece is still expensive by both North American Nighthawk and Chrono-Time AT standards. At this price point I expected better watch. Outside of appearance and slightly better materials (sapphire and engraved case back) this watch is virtually the same functional watch as the cheaper BY0000-56x that you can buy all over the world for much cheaper.
Furthermore the cheaper, more available, BY0000 watches will get more compliments and will look more expensive on your wrist. So at the end of the day Citizen could have done a much better over all job on the BY0085-53E.
Down the line I plan to get the exclusive high end LE BY0080-65E Blue Impulse just so I could experience a MUCH better dial design and to see what all the fuss is about Duratect DLC Titanium.
So look out for that review as soon as I save up a spare $1,500 for another Citizen watch (but don't hold your breath. LOL).
Funny enough owning the BY0085-53 has made me extrmely interested in purchasing the cheaper AS4020 for a daily wearer. I originally passed over the AS4020 after seeing online pictures of the BY0085-53E.
I'm curious about the AS4020's multi-link bracelet and also its dial design being more detailed and bolder in terms of contrast, based from my observations of online pictures.
By the way Duty Free Island was the supplier of my BY0085-53E watch. Since it was a birthday gift my fiance paid $20 extra for the expedited shipping and to get the watch shipped with a Citizen Watch box.
Shipping time, 3 days from Hong Kong to New York-USA, was much more impressive than the cheap plastic generic box the watch was stuffed into.
I'm not sure but the free shipping option on Duty Free Island's web store just gets you the bare watch in bubble wrap with booklets and regular overseas shipping.
I highly recommend Duty Free Island for your hard to find Citizen watches but don't expect to get more than the watch and booklets in your package.
Overall my time with the BY0085-53E was well spent and after a couple of months I've come to appreciate it as a rare bridge between the timeless Nighthawks and the competent H610 caliber found inside the beautiful Promaster Sky Chrono-Time AT pieces.
Although there is a lot of things I don't like about this watch I definately do not hate it. It may never be a daily wearer or a show piece item but its unique qualities has earned it a permanent spot in my collection.
6-Bonus Video Review!