Vintage Review: Citizen 62-6198 Challenge Diver An Alternative to the Seiko 6105 and 6309 by Michael StocktonJanuary 17, 2020 MIN READVintage Review: Citizen 62-6198 Challenge Diver
We take a look at a popular watch with collectors, the Citizen 62-6198 Challenge Diver: a credible alternative to 70’s Seiko divers.
I’ve patiently waited to write an article on any one of Citizen‘s 150-meter divers from the 1970s. You see, I picked up an example of today’s Citizen 62-6198 Challenge Diver nearly four years back from a friend here in Germany, and while it’s an excellent example, it’s a bit controversial due to some details I’ll share later. And so I did what most watch collectors do, and that’s hunt for a second example. I finally hit pay dirt sometime during 2019 and now felt like a good time to give you a peek at what I think represents a series of watches that are great alternatives to the more oft-discussed Seiko divers from the period.
The Citizen 62-6198 Challenge Diver – a Tough One to Capture
Let’s just go ahead and get this out of the way: Photographing the Citizen 62-6198 Challenge Diver is hard work. Both crystals — OEM on the strap example, aftermarket on the braceletted model — are preposterously reflective. I think I grabbed the images relatively well, but there are some shots where my bald pate makes an entrance (apologies in advance). Moving on, the Citizen 62-6198 Challenge Diver is a dive watch within a series of pieces made from the late ’60s up until the early ’80s. To make things extra interesting for collectors, the vast majority of the models look perilously similar.
Watch companies rarely make things easy on us collectors.
Furthermore, variations exist amongst the various references (and even within the references when it comes to things like dials, hands, and bezels). Watch companies rarely make things easy on us collectors. Citizen was no exception. To make matters worse, getting the information from the horse’s mouth is nigh on impossible. It would be a blessing to have a service that could discern what makes a particular reference correct, but no such tool exists (at least in English). Furthermore, Citizen itself prefers to stay quiet on the subject and, distressingly, no longer offers to service these veterans of the deep.
The 62-6198 is Relatively Popular
I chose the Citizen 62-6198 Challenge Diver to kick things off because I managed to acquire what I believe to be an exquisite example. But frankly, the 62-6198 is a good start for any 150-meter Citizen article, because it’s a pretty popular reference. While no one knows what the future holds, this model has enjoyed a long production run thus far. It first hit the shelves in the early ’70s and hung around until roughly 1977. These dive watches were sold globally and, judging from the numerous forum postings, were particularly popular with US servicemen and were available at international PX’s.
Not a Daring Design, But a Good One
The Citizen 62-6198 Challenge Diver is well-known for being a good-looking and sturdy diver with its 40mm stainless steel case and 20mm wide lugs. Seiko proponents like to criticize the Citizen case for being a bit boring (or even derivative), but I think it comes off as purposeful. Besides, while I am a massive Seiko fan and the 6105’s are amongst my favorites, one could easily argue that the Citizen designs are even more timeless.
Unlike lume on Seiko watches of the same era, this stuff most often refuses to die.
Perhaps that’s the benefit of a slightly more anonymous design? As you can see, the Challenge Diver contains a no-nonsense black dial that’s chock-a-block with that lovely bright green lume Citizen used during this period. And unlike lume on Seiko watches of the same era, this stuff most often refuses to die. I happen to like the simple rectangular shapes Citizen chose for the hour markers. Sure, they’re somewhat similar to those of the Seiko 6105 series, but they’re bigger and bolder here.
Aside from the case design, the other element that divides opinion is the “Rolexian” handset on the Citizen. With a “Mercedes” pip on the hour hand and lollipop design of the sweep seconds hand, one can’t help but wonder why Citizen chose to imitate the Crown so blatantly.
Nowadays, we’re so accustomed to this handset being “borrowed” whenever brands feel like it, we barely notice it. At the time, the similarities would have caused much more consternation among collectors. Luckily for this watch, the passing of time has made this decision more acceptable.
The bold, bidirectional friction-fit bezel is an almost ever-present feature of Citizen divers. It has a pip at the 12 o’clock marker and minute markers through the first 15 minutes. If original, expect to find these in rough shape. Thankfully, a near-perfect (and high-quality) aftermarket option exists.
The Citizen 62-6198 Challenge Diver – Made From Good Ingredients
While Seiko was off adding a proprietary locking crown system (that ultimately failed) to the 6105-8110, Citizen used a tried and tested screw-down system. And while it was effective at keeping water out, these crown tubes are essentially part of the case and. A stripped tube basically means one has a paperweight on their wrist (or at least a watch that needs to stay very dry). This is exactly the same problem as faced by owners of the late ’70s Seiko 6309 diver.
But, aside from this, the Citizen 62-6198 Challenge Diver did bulk up on quality and used two different gaskets on the crystal. That additional security has proven worthwhile, as a lot of these have survived in fairly good condition. Have a look at this article for the construction as it’s somewhat unusual. Finally, a typical threaded case back was also used in order to help maintain the quoted 150 meters of water resistance.
A Little Swiss Infusion
The Citizen 62-6198 Challenge Diver was available on either a strap or bracelet. I happen to own one of the “H-link” bracelets, and it’s a really well-made accessory. I know that Seiko didn’t offer bracelets on their divers at the time, but this bracelet easily bests what Seiko was attaching to its chronographs during the period. It’s well finished, light, and easy on the wrist hair. But the real surprise for me was the option of a Tropic strap direct from Citizen. I like the fact that it even came with a signed Citizen buckle. Really, how cool is that? And by the way, it’s the second or third vintage Citizen diver I’ve bought out of Japan with such a strap, so they were clearly popular.
The Caliber 6000 Automatic Sits Inside
The Citizen 62-6198 Challenge Diver is outfitted with the 21-jewel caliber 6000 automatic. It’s a sturdy runner that ticks at 21,600vph and can be hand-wound. The movement also affords a quick set date complication, which is welcome. Just as with Seiko, Citizen’s implementation fo this convenient setting function pre-dates that of a lot of Swiss companies.
Also interesting is the use of a red date wheel. It’s a unique characteristic of the 62-6198 that adds some very subtle pop. After all, that deep crystal without any magnification keeps the date somewhat unreadable.
A Truly Wearable Everyday Vintage Watch
With its thick mineral crystal, beefy case, and lasting design, the Citizen 62-6198 Challenge Diver is an unapologetic watch, suitable for use every day. I’d probably slink away from sporting a Tropic strap regularly, but that’s fine because these watches look good on any number of options (including the original bracelet). At 13mm thick and with a lug-to-lug length of 47mm, the watch feels a little bulkier than your average Submariner, but it’s still easy to slide under a sleeve. Plus, with its traditional diver looks (once again, I am thinking of the Sub), it can actually be dressed up or down with success.
A Word About Variants…
As I mentioned, being confident of anything when it comes to models like the Citizen 62-6198 Challenge Diver is basically impossible. As you can see from this article alone, there are two different dial variants. The application of the “Citizen” logo and the addition of “water resistant” differ on each. There are also multiple styles of the case back. In this article, you can see two, but there is reputedly a third. The other case back is similar to that of the pictured model on the strap but with narrower writing. And finally, you see that the model on bracelet contains a black date wheel. I’ve asked about exceptions to the red date wheel, and some collectors came back and said that it’s possible. But I’m not so sure. I think it is more likely it has been changed at some point. If you’d like to see more about variants of this model, head here.
I genuinely believe that the Citizen 62-6198 Challenge Diver is a worthwhile addition to anyone’s vintage collection. It’s well-finished, reasonably easy to find, and relatively affordable. Prices are now in the $700-$1,000 range. That’s a steep rise from the $200-$300 they used to go for 4-5 years back. Regardless, you’re getting a lovely, in-house piece from a large brand for a fraction of the price of anything Swiss. And despite it being such a problematic candidate to photograph, it’s a treat to look at in the metal. Learn more about Citizen here.
Brand Citizen ModelChallenge DiverReference62-6198DialBlack with lume-filled indicesCase MaterialStainless SteelCase Dimensions40mm Diameter, 47mm Lug to Lug, 13mm Thickness, 20mm Lug WidthCrystalMineral GlassCase BackScrew-down stainless steelMovementCitizen Cal. 6000 automatic, 21-jewels, 21,600 bph hand winding, quick set dateWater Resistance150 MetersStrapStainless steel bracelet or rubber Tropic StrapFunctionsTime (HH:MM:SS), Date, and Bi-Directional Rotating External Dive BezelSpecial Note(s)In production during the 1970's Watch of the Week
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Michael was born in South Florida in the USA. As a full-time role, he works in the Automotive Industry. He's lived and worked in many locations and when he's not cruising at 30,000 feet, he calls Germany home. Michael became… read more
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