Citizen Modena Perpetual Calendar Alarm Chronograph in Titanium (BL5110-52E)
An Owner's Review

My poor Seiko 7T32-based chronograph was leaking. A bad battery change had caused the crown shaft to rust, so no matter whether I changed the case gasket or not, the case was no longer watertight. I was tired of being extra careful when washing my hands, and seeing the chrono second hand clear off a nice circular window through the fog on the inside of the crystal was the last straw. I needed a new watch.

When I started looking, I decided that I needed several features: quartz, analog, chronograph and alarm, silvertone case and bracelet, and real water resistance (the Seiko had been rated "water resistant" but had no depth rating). After looking for a few weeks, I ran into this (image taken from www.citizenwatch.com):

Citizen Modena Perpetual Calendar Alarm Chronograph in Titanium (BL5110-52E)

The specs were as follows:

Had I found my perfect replacement watch? It had everything I wanted, and with a 200M water-resistance rating, I wouldn't have to worry about washing my hands with the watch on. The styling, albeit not really a "dress" watch, would look fine with a suit or a T-shirt. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted it. I finally decided to buy it online for $300 (Princeton Watches).

As luck would have it, within a week of buying this watch I got bitten by the mechanical watch bug and started collecting inexpensive mechanical watches (Seiko 5, Citizen 7, Orient, Swatch, Poljot, etc.) so the BL5110-52E got relegated to just another watch that I'd wear in rotation. However, I recently needed to take a trip to the east coast, and I figured that it would be the perfect travel watch thanks to the alarm and local time features. So I wore it for a week straight while on my trip and got to know it better. This review is the results of my studies.

Aesthetics and Design

First Impressions

The BL5110-52E comes in a box that contains a quite nice cylindrical display case and a thick instruction manual and warranty booklet. All in all a nice presentation for a watch in this price range.

Case and Bracelet

I'll speak about the case and bracelet together, since the bracelet is integrated to the case and cannot be replaced with another style bracelet or strap.

The case and bracelet are in two-tone solid titanium - some of the titanium is polished and some of it is brushed. This does not really come out in the picture on the Citizen web site - if anything the actual watch looks way better. The finish is superb - however, I have found that the titanium is not very scratch resistant - I already have a scratch and a smudge on the bezel, and some scratches on the polished part of the links nearest the clasp. However, it may just be that I am very rough on my watches.

When I received the watch the bracelet was sized very large. There is no fine adjustment at the clasp, so all adjustment must be done by removing or adding links. On each side of the clasp there are 3 full-size removable links, plus one slightly shorter link (I'd say about 3/4 the size of the full size links). By combining full and 3/4 links, you should be able to get a nice adjustment if your wrist is anywhere near normal size. Unfortunately, my wrist can be generously described as "skeletal" (6 1/4") and I found it impossible to get a snug fit around my wrist. The problem is not that there are insufficient removable links - I still have two extra links remaining in the bracelet - rather the bracelet is not flexible enough near the case to curve enough to hug the sides of my wrist. If I remove either or both of the extra links, the bracelet will not get shorter horizontally, it will just compress into my wrist vertically. However, it gets pretty close, so it's not that big of a deal. People with small wrists should be advised that they may not like the way the bracelet and watch sit on their wrist, however.

Although the fit and finish of the case and bracelet are in general very nice, there is one place where the fit is not very good. The ends of the bracelet at the clasp do not match up correctly, being about 1/2 mm out of alignment. This is on the inside of the wrist, so people won't see it usually, but is a bit of a disappointment when you see the rest of the fit and finish being so nice.

Crystal, Dial and Hands

The crystal is made of mineral crystal, and is very slightly domed. It does not seem to have any sort of non-reflective coating which is a pity, as sometimes reflections from the crystal make the dial somewhat difficult to read.

The dial is a textured black. The main dial seems to have very fine concentric ridges - these are not visible with the naked eye, but reflect the light in a way that makes me think that is the texturing used. Think of the effect of looking at light reflected off a black vinyl LP - that's the effect that the main dial has. The dial has "CITIZEN" in chrome letters at 12:00, with "Eco-Drive" in smaller white letters beneath it, "PERPETUAL CALENDAR WR 200" in white at 8:00, and "TITANIUM" in white letters at 4:00.

There are three subdials on the main dial - at 2:00 is the "function" dial, which is used to indicate both minutes and 1/20th seconds in chronograph mode, at 6:00 is the "mode" dial which indicates which "mode" (TME (time), CHR (chronograph), ALM (alarm) or L-TM (local time)) the watch is in (more about "modes" in the section on the movement), and at 10:00 is the 24-hour dial. The subdials are also textured with concentric ridges, however these are larger and deeper than the ones on the main dial and can be distinguished with the naked eye.

The main dial has no numerals - there are applied hour markers at all hour indexes except for 4:00 where the date window is located. The marker at 12:00 is in the shape of a broad arrowhead, the markers at 1:00, 3:00, 5:00, 7:00, 8:00, 9:00 and 11:00 are narrow arrowheads, and the ones at 2:00, 6:00 and 10:00 are rectangles (arrowheads would intrude into the subdials at those locations). The markers are quite pronounced and seem to be chromed. The date window at 4:00 is bordered with a thin frame of the same chrome.

The hands are all silver/chrome. Each subdial has a small straight silver hand. The minute and hour hands are leaf shaped with luminous material inside a relatively wide silver border, and the second hand is straight except for a small widening about 3/4 of the way out with luminous material applied. The minute chapter is on the outside of the dial, with luminous dots at all the hour markers (2 dots at 12:00). On the minute chapter are also indicators for whether the alarm is set or whether the watch is low on charge (more about these when we talk about the movement). In general, it is easy to read the time, unless there are reflections off the crystal.

The luminous material on the hands is quite bright and is easily visible in the dark. The material in the dots on the minute chapter, however, is a different story entirely. It needs a lot of sunlight to charge up, and even then glows much less brightly than the hands. Unless you are in total darkness you may not be able to see these dots.

Fit and finish on the dial is excellent. The hands tend to hit the markers either straight on or very close to it. The only flaw I could find is what seems to be a small hair on the dial between the 7:00 and 8:00 markers, which is only visible when the light hits it just so. In very strong sunlight, you can just make out the separation between the Eco-Drive solar cells beneath the dial.

Movement

The BL5110-52E is run by Citizen's Caliber E81 movement. This movement uses Citizen's Eco-Drive technology to power the watch, providing a 270-day power reserve, and is rated at +/- 15 seconds a month. In my case it seems to be maintaining at least this precision - in one week it has not lost or gained a second when checked against my reference "atomic clock". The movement offers a chronograph measuring up to 60 minutes in 1/20th second increments, an alarm, local time setting, and a perpetual calendar until 2100, as well as normal timekeeping.

Eco-Drive and Power Reserve

This watch has a rated power reserve of 270 days - this means that you can stick it in a dark drawer for more than 8 months and the watch will still be running. Part of the reason for this is the "power saving" feature built into the watch. If the watch does not receive enough light to charge the internal battery, the watch will go into "power save" mode. In "power save" mode, the second hand will stop moving (although the minute, hour and 24 hour hands will continue operation). When the watch receives enough light, the second hand will quickly move to the position where it should be and then start moving at one-second intervals. This can sometimes be disconcerting when you pull the watch out from under a long sleeve and you see the second hand "racing" around the dial, but it is an ingenious solution to the power issue. However, one wonders why they put luminous material on the second hand, since it won't be moving when the luminous material is necessary.

The watch does not need much light to keep it running - per Citizen's specifications, 2.5 hours of light in a normal office is enough to get it to run for a full day (just 5 minutes outside in cloudy weather will do the same thing, or 1.5 minutes of full sun). This means that you don't really have to worry about the charge unless you constantly wear long sleeves that cover up the watch. In this case it may be a good idea to place the watch under your bedside lamp while getting ready for bed to give it an extra "kick". Citizen says that there is no way to overcharge the watch. They have rated the internal battery for 20 years of service.

As well as stopping at 12:00 when there is no light, the second hand also works as an early warning system when the charge is low. If the watch is low on charge, has stopped, or needs to be set (because it stopped and was started again by being exposed to light), the second hand will stop at one of three marked dial positions to indicate this.

Timekeeping

If you are accustomed to the Seiko 7T32-based chronographs, the E81 movement will be a shock. The main timekeeping portion of the Seiko movement seems to be mostly mechanical, albeit driven by a quartz oscillator instead of an escapement. By this I mean that the minute and hour hands are geared directly to the second hand on the secondary dial. The sweep second hand is used only for chronograph seconds and secondary functions like the alarm and local time are on secondary dials.

The Citizen E81 movement is a very different animal. Instead of going for a mostly mechanical movement, the E81 seems to be a mostly digital movement with an analog display at the front end. The sweep second hand is mechanically independent from all other hands - this allows for it to stop in "power save" mode (see above), work as both the main timekeeping second hand and the chronograph second hand, and act as an indicator for various warning conditions and settings. The minute, hour and 24-hour hands are geared together and connected to a single stepper motor. This stepper motor can only move in 15-second increments, which means that these hands move only 4 times a minute. Again, I am sure that this is for power saving purposes - when in "power save" mode only 4 movements per minute are required to keep the hands showing correct time.

Main time is shown when the "mode" dial is turned to the "TME" (time) setting, or when the "mode" has been switched to "CHR" (chronograph) from "TME". Setting the time is done by pulling the crown out two clicks when in the TME (time) mode. When this is done, the second hand will return to the 12:00 position and stay there until the crown is pushed in again, when it will start moving in 1-second intervals. This means that you cannot set the time without "hacking" the watch back to 0 seconds. The minute hand will move to the nearest full minute marker. Turning the crown one click will move the minute hand one minute in the same direction. If you move the crown quickly several clicks in the same direction, the minute hand will start moving rapidly in that direction until you turn the crown back one click, whence the minute hand will stop at the nearest full minute marker. I found the fast setting to be erratic - sometimes you can turn the crown quickly and the hand will only move a few minutes, other times it will start rapid motion but stop seemingly with no rhyme or reason. However, since you don't need to set this watch very often, it is not a big deal. The hour hand and 24-hour hand will move with the minute hand as it is being set.

Perpetual Calendar

The perpetual calendar will show the day of the month automatically taking into account the number of days in the month and leap years (until 2100). To set the date, you pull the crown out one click. The second hand will move to one of the hour markers which will indicate what month the calendar is set to (1:00 is January, 2:00 is February, 12:00 is December, and so on). You can change the month by pressing the lower chronograph pusher - each push will advance one month. The year is set on the "function" subdial - the hand on this dial will show the number of years since the last leap year - for 2002 this means you would point to the "2" position. Use the upper chronograph pusher to change the year. To change the date, you can turn the crown clockwise to go up a day, or counter-clockwise to go down a day.

Since the perpetual calendar simply stores the number of years since the last leap year, it won't work automatically in 2100 (since it will think that 2100 is a leap year). However, if your watch is still working then (and I see no reason why it wouldn't), you can simply advance the date one day on March 1, 2100 and the watch will be set for another 100 years.

Chronograph

Citizen has taken another page out of the digital watch world in adding "modes" to the watch. Unlike the 7T32 which has a dedicated chrono second hand which can be started at any time by pressing the start pusher, the Citizen's sweep second hand wears many hats. To use the chronograph, you need to turn the crown until the hand on the "mode" subdial at 6:00 points to "CHR". At this point the second hand will move to the 12:00 position (the minute, hour and 24-hour hands will continue to show the correct time).

Pressing the top pusher will start the chronograph. The watch will beep, the second hand will make one fast revolution of the dial, and then start moving at one second intervals. I suppose that the fast revolution is visual feedback that the chronograph has started - since the second hand moves at only 1-second intervals (vs. the 1/5 second intervals of the 7T32) it may not be obvious that the chrono is started. The "function" subdial at 2:00 will indicate the number of elapsed minutes.

Pressing the upper pusher again stops the chronograph. At this point, you can press the lower pusher and the "function" subdial will show the 1/20th of a second portion of the time (there are two scales on the "function" subdial, the outer one is unlabeled and divided into 60 portions measuring minutes, and the inner one is divided into 20 portions labelled at .2, .4, .6 and .8 and indicates fractions of a second). Pressing the upper pusher again will restart the chronograph, if it is left pressed for about a second it will reset the chronograph to 0. There is no split-time or lap-time functionality.

Local Time

By turning the crown until the "mode" subdial indicated "L-TM" (local time), you can set a secondary time zone. The minute, hour and 24-hour hands (and possibly even the date indicator) will rotate until they are indicating the secondary timezone (this can take a while if the timezone difference is great). You set the secondary time zone by pulling out the crown two clicks when in "L-TM" mode. Turning the crown one click clockwise will advance the setting 1 hour, turning it counterclockwise will turn back 1 hour. The local time will always be a full number of hours from the main time, so it cannot be used if you are in one of those strange timezones which are off by a half hour.

If you switch to chronograph mode from local time mode, the minute, hour and 24-hour hands will continue to display the local time, not the main time

Alarm

You can check the alarm by turning the crown until the "mode" dial indicates "ALM" (alarm). The second hand will move to one of two marked positions on the dial that indicate whether the alarm is on or off. Setting the alarm is done by pulling the crown out two clicks and turning it clockwise or counterclockwise in the same way as setting main time. The alarm is a 24-hour alarm (unlike the 7T32) - the 24-hour hand will move with the minute and hour hands while setting. You can turn the alarm off by pulling out the crown either one or two clicks while in "ALM" mode and pressing the upper pusher to toggle between "on" and "off". The second hand will move to the appropriate marker to show the current setting.

If the alarm is set, it will sound for 15 seconds at the appropriate time. You can stop the alarm sound before the 15 seconds are up by pressing either pusher.

Conclusions

I must say that this is a very nice watch. It seems very accurate, and has most of the functions that any business traveller might need. It is stylish, and should be very versatile (you might not want to wear it to the Opera, but it definitely goes fine with a suit). You should not have to ever worry about batteries, and the 200M WR gives you peace of mind if you forget to take it off before going to the beach or pool.

There are some flies in the ointment, however. The biggest problem for me is the fit of the bracelet around my wrist. If you have a beefier wrist than mine, however, this should not be a problem. Also, the titanium seems to scratch more easily than stainless steel - again not a problem if you take better care of the watch than I do.

Now that I have it, would I buy it again? Tough question. If I hadn't been bitten by the mechanical watch bug, I'd say "definitely". If I'd started on the mechanical watch path before I bought the Citizen, I might never have bought it and instead spent the money on more mechanicals. However, I am glad that I do have it - it makes an excellent "wear and forget" watch for when I don't want to worry about resetting and winding.

In conclusion, I think that this is a watch that you should check out if looking for a multi-function, somewhat dressy, robust quartz watch.


038373
hits since 01/23/2014
Valid XHTML 1.0!Valid CSS!Last updated 10/15/2006 - webmaster@mclure.org