When I got back into the modern watch scene a few years ago, I was struck by the feeling that I missed out on an important period of collecting during my hiatus: The "forum days," as I like to call them.
Sure, watch forums are still alive and well, but listening to Cole or James talk about microbrand kickstarters, forum brands, and forum fan-favorites, the early 2000s sound like they were the golden age for affordable timepieces. Looking at those watches – especially the oversized models of the time – always left me with a weird kind of nostalgia (one for an era I never experienced) and left me wondering what I missed out on when I was a teenager.
With Citizen's re-release of the Promaster Dive "Orca" earlier this year, I finally got a chance to check out one of those forum fan-favorites, one of the chonky boys of the early-to-mid-aughts that I wouldn't have previously sought out on the used market.
Let's be honest. The era of short-brimmed fedoras was not an awesome time for design, and for the most part I've been happy not to revisit the aesthetics of 2006 (the year the original Orca was released). To love them felt like you just had to be there. (If you must know, I was preoccupied by getting my driver's license.) Now, here I am with the new Orca in hand and I've found that, despite my original hang-ups with size and design, a fun watch is still a fun watch even if you're 16 years late to the party.
The new Orca comes in three variations, one with a black dial and bezel, another in blue, and a third in a black PVD-coated case with more muted hands (not pictured here). All three could be mistaken at a quick glance for their predecessor. The dials have the distinctive killer-whale-style markings and oversized, textured, wave-like bezel (for easy use with wet diving gloves) taken from the 2006 model. Those markings – which glow bright with blue LumiNova, and the green LumiNova-filled bulging arrow hands – make it so you can read the watch as easily from three blocks away as you can deep underwater. The minute hand (in bright orange on the black variant, and in red on the blue variant) matches the Diver's 200m text on the dial and complements the red accents on the elapsed time readout to give a colorful punch to a watch that doesn't really need help grabbing attention.
In addition to the redesigned polyurethane strap with a giant tang and buckle, the main substantive change comes in the case material and size. While the original Orca was cased in titanium, the new Orca comes in steel and is pared down to a slightly more reasonable 46mm from the original 48mm size. Yes, it's still enormous. But this new "smaller" size comes with the same 200m water resistance. While I haven't seen one of the original titanium Orcas, the steel case with its brushed finish does the job quite well for the price. And as a not so subtle nod to the watch's nickname, there's a big black-and-white Orca swimming across the caseback.
Inside the case is Citizen's workhorse in-house Caliber E168 Eco-Drive solar quartz movement, which has proven durable and reliable. With a full recharge in sunlight, you get a 180-day power reserve and a stated accuracy of +15/-15 seconds per month.
At 46mm and 14.6 thick, there's no mistaking this for anything but a large watch, but it wears at least somewhat smaller than its dimensions might suggest (I know, I know). My guess is that this comes from the slightly domed caseback which means less skin contact with the case. By my measurement the case slopes in a nice curve from 11.3mm (not counting the caseback) with the bezel to 8.3mm without bezel or caseback. That also means that the lugs start slightly higher on the case and contour the wrist better. There's not a tremendous difference between the size the watch is and the size it feels, but the feel takes it from something comical to something comfortable, and gave me that chonky-boy experience I was looking for without feeling unwearable.
So how do I feel now that I've gotten a modern glimpse into the forum days of watch collecting? Well, I think that, at less than $500 for the standard version, the Orca makes a great option for a fun summer diver. While the black dial and bezel might be most traditionally similar to its namesake killer whale, there's something particularly summer-y and bright about its blue sibling, which is the direction I'd go if I wanted a taste of the mid-aughts. As for the rest of 2006, I think I'll skip the fedora.
The Citizen Promaster Dive "Orca." Stainless steel case 46mm x 14.6mm (including the crystal). 50mm, lug to lug. Caliber E168 Eco-Drive solar quartz movement with 180 days of power reserve. 200m of water resistance. Convex Mineral crystal, stainless steel bezel. Polyurethane strap. Price: $475 for black and blue dials, $575 for black PVD case.