Vintage Eye for the Modern Guy: Hands-On with the Citizen Promaster Tsuno Chronograph Racer
In March of 2018, Citizen revealed the Promaster Tsuno Chronograph Racer, a 1970s inspired bullhead chronograph developed to commemorate a century of the company’s operation. The watch was considered a quick success among pundits and enthusiasts after its announcement, and I’ve been looking forward to going hands-on with it ever since. About a month ago, I received word from Citizen that the watch was ready, and a week after that, it was strapped to my wrist for the better part of two weeks.
To quickly recap the re-edition, it comes in a 45-mm stainless steel case with a bullhead configuration (located on top of the case rather than on its right side, similar to a bull’s horns) for the chronograph pushers. There are four different dial colors: blue, orange, white, and white with red accents. Each has their own quirks such as a metal or leather integrated bracelet, a steel or black bezel and accents, and varying degrees of the limited copies with two being capped at 1973 total pieces. Each uses the same dial configurations, the same Citizen Eco-drive E210 movement, which integrates a solar-powered quartz mechanism with a mechanical chronograph, and they all hover around the same price point, currently being advertised at either $795 or $895.
As mentioned, the new model was produced for the 100th operational anniversary for Citizen, and to do so it homages two models in the 1972 Challenge Timer and 1973 Tsuno Chrono (or Horned Chronograph). These two watches were both bullhead chronos — a ‘70s specific design initially pioneered by Omega — and then popularized by such brands as Citizen, Seiko, Bulova, and Breitling. In these vintage watches, just as in today’s bullheads, the design tended to add a pretty significant amount of bulk to the case, eventually causing the style to fall out of favor moving into the 1980s and beyond.
Initially, my thoughts on the piece matched my expectations. The Tsuno Chronograph Racer is a very handsome watch unlike anything else on the market in its unique bullhead design. For me — a writer who specializes in the neo-vintage market of watches — it was a fine example of the trend and a wonderful homage to the 1972 Challenge Timer and 1973 Tsuno Chrono. I was wearing the black and white dial version of the watch, and I frequently took pause to appreciate its blend of vintage attributes in the color scheme, dial design, and case shape, along with the unquestionably modern twists throughout like in the integrated bracelet, number of complications, finishing, movement, and additional dial details.
Upon first wearing it, I realized the watch doesn’t have a dedicated 1/5th-second chronograph counter via a sub-dial as I previously thought, but instead just has marks delineating 1/5th of a second between each of the seconds on the main dial. I also learned the watch doesn’t use a flyback mechanism as marketed by the brand — which would have been quite a feat at this price range — with the chronograph counter simply flicking back to its neutral point upon reset. The chronograph pushers also need a pretty significant force to activate, which at first was quite frustrating as I was testing out the watch, but soon became something I enjoyed.
After a few days, I began to appreciate the size of the piece. At 45 mm and as a bullhead design, the watch is naturally a bit wider, but these traits also make it significantly taller on the wrist. Fortunately, through some clever dial design and the unique location of the crowns and pushers, the watch appears very balanced for its size, and the overall case feels less wide than it actually is. The taller case does make you more likely to bump the watch on door frames and table edges, which may inevitably lead to some scratches, a defining feature of vintage bullhead models that have been beaten by years of use.
The only real problem I encountered was due to its size and weight which made it too large to fit underneath most of my sleeves but too heavy to wear alone absent a cuff to secure it. To remedy this, I wore it exclusively with sweaters, which made for a fine look and one appropriate for this time of year, though come late spring and summer I’m not sure how I would have remedied the dilemma.
As for the watch’s various features, the alarm is easy to use through a simple push of the 5 o’clock crown and serve as a wake up call, the location of the chronograph pushers feels natural (as was partially the point for invention of the bullhead design), and the solar powered mecha-quartz Caliber number E210 movement kept accurate time and gave the appearance of mechanical movement — just as it was designed. The integrated bracelet was easy to adjust, and the double folding clasp and overall finishing gave the watch an extra feel of luxury uncommon in its retail price. Overall, the watch had a useful assortment of functions I found myself frequently taking advantage of.
As a whole, I enjoyed wearing the Promaster Tsuno Chronograph Racer for a couple weeks, and it was a nice mix-up from the normally smaller and slimmer watches I tend to own. By its size alone, I do think the watch would do better in a collection than as a sole watch one wears, but this is largely personal preference. On its own, between its homage to the 1972 Challenge Timer and 1973 Tsuno Chrono alongside its very cool dial configuration, useful technology, and reasonable price point, the watch seems like a welcome addition to many collections. Hopefully, the Tsuno Chronograph Racer will be the forebearer of more vintage-inspired watches developed by Citizen from their vast historical archives, and with Baselworld only about a month away, we should find out soon.
For the most recent article in the “Vintage Eye” series, in which we compare the Evant Decodiver with its historical influences, click here.
Caleb Anderson is a freelance writer with a primary focus on vintage watches. Since first discovering horology, he has garnered extensive knowledge in the field and spends much of his time sharing his opinions among other writers, collectors, and dealers. Currently located near New York City, he is a persistent student in all things historical, a writer on many topics, and a casual runner.