Throughout the watch collecting
world, one often hears of the “grail watch.” These
are generally watches that an enthusiast has been lusting after for
some time and plans to one-day own, but due to cost, rarity, or both, immediate ownership is not possible. Most watch collectors
have not only a grail watch, but a list of grails. For me, these
include such pieces as the Ernst Benz Great Circle Chronoscope, any
titanium Panerai Luminor, Fortis Marine Master Chrono, Breitling
SuperOcean Chrono, etc. It’s a long list.
Occasionally, I come across a
watch that is not in the normal grail price range, but has many of the
features or styling that draws me to some of my grail watches. A good
example of this is the Citizen BL5250-02L: a handsome titanium
chronograph with military and aviation styling not generally found in its price range. I have been interested in a BL5250 (the 02L
designates a leather strap, where as the 53L is the titanium bracelet)
for a couple of years, but only recently found myself ready to give one a try.
I will admit — I had very high hopes for this watch, and it has not let
me down. Here are the specs:
- 42.5 x 13mm all titanium case.
- Mineral crystal.
- Lug width of 20mm.
- Blue dial.
- Solar Eco-Drive movement.
- 270 day power reserve.
- 1/20 second chronograph (max 60 minute).
- Perpetual calendar.
- Dive style countdown bezel.
- 24 hr register.
- 200m water resistant.
Although in general I was very happy with the BL5250, there are some issues to point out.
The watch can be cycled through features by turning the crown
when it’s in the “0” position (setting the time and date use the
traditional “1” and “2” pull-out positions). By turning the crown, one can click
through the “time,” “CHR,” “L-TM,” and “ALM” settings (the 6 o’clock
register points to the active function). So, to activate the
chronograph, one must advance the crown clockwise one click, then push
the 2 o’clock pusher to start the chronograph. The 2 o’clock register will
show the elapsed minutes, and the large second hand reflects the chronograph
seconds. I found this somewhat inconvenient as the chronograph should activate when the 2 o’clock pusher is pressed; switching to the chronograph feature should be automatic as the pushers won’t commonly be used for anything else. Having to go through two steps
forced me to leave the BL5250 in the “CHR” mode all the time,
forfeiting normal seconds.
The next issue involves the “L-TM” and “ALM”
modes. Both require the watch to move the hour and minute hands to set
points. The L-TM mode will show a second time zone (theoretically
handy for travelers) and the ALM mode shows the current time
setting for the alarm. The BL5250 takes a very long time to change from the
current time to either of these values since the hands move slowly, cannot jump between AM and PM, and will only advance in a counter-clockwise fashion. When testing this, I simply removed the watch from my wrist and went to get something to drink. This is more then just a minor annoyance; it has deterred me from
using the ALM and L-TM features for anything except testing.
The alarm on the BL5250 is not especially loud. I didn’t expect something that could wake me up or that I could hear at a concert, but it is not loud enough to be all that useful. The volume was very similar to the beeps from a Timex Ironman as the features are
Lastly, the BL5250-02L comes in a standard circular Citizen
zippered box and is fitted to a medium brown faux leather strap with
contrasting Breitling-style stitching. This strap is thin and rigid, and
wearing it encouraged me to switch to a black Hirsch Liberty strap. If
you have the option, spend the money on the 53L version of this watch
that comes with the titanium bracelet.
All of these deficiencies considered, there is still a lot to like about this watch. The case is fantastic, very light, rides low, and has a nice medium mirror
polish that compliments the high polish of the unidirectional bezel. The pushers are
soft and have just enough resistance to let you know they’ve activated. The style of the watch is highly legible and displays its aviation heritage with pride. The blue luminous paint glows brightly and has good life — not as long as a dive watch, but enough for a movie or long night drive. The dial is very unique with its
blue printed matrix or “waffle” pattern that generally comes across as black
except in more direct and harsh light. When the true
color of the dial is visible, it tends to look like the subtle coloring
of the anti-reflective coating applied to watch crystals on many sports
watches. I have been wearing the watch on a black leather strap for
some time, and can say that for all intents and purposes, the dial of this watch might as well be black.
The registers are a glossy purple-black with an inlaid
circular pattern radiating from the centers. The mirror-like dive bezel
is unidirectional and has a “perl” at the 60 point for luminosity. The
chapter ring features a tachymeter for measuring speed over a known
distance using the timing of the chronograph.
The design and build of this watch are typical Citizen quality and leave little to be
desired. The BL5250-02L is very comfortable due to a nicely shaped case
and the light titanium fabrication. I wore the watch daily for over a
months and never grew bored of it as the chronograph was always ready (as long as
the watch is left in CHR mode), and the Eco-Drive movement
keeps very accurate time, needs no winding or battery changes, and features a very nice
perpetual calendar. It would be nice to see an atomic version of this
watch that forgoes the alarm and the bizarre second time zone feature
for a traditional chronograph and GMT hand.
If you’re specifically looking for a watch with an alarm or GMT feature, the BL5250 will likely let you down. On the other hand, if you are
hunting for a well-made, relatively cheap aviation style chronograph, look
no further. The BL5250 can be found for between $240 and $269 (leather or bracelet, respectively), and for that money it represents great value in a
reliable, handsome, and well made watch.
By James Stacey