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August 21, 2011 / kevinhoa

Citizen BL5250-02L

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.
Alarm.
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 changed.

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

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