Mad or Nomad

Well I did it – I bought one of the 3 contenders discussed in my last post and whilst any one of them would have been OK, I admit to being influenced greatly owing to an offer I couldn’t refuse!  (160% off) and maybe surprised myself by getting the Wenger Nomad or in this case – the Wenger Patagonian Expedition Race Compass LED Nomad (model 70434).

Wenger Patagonian Expedition Race Nomad LED Compass

Wenger Patagonian Expedition Race Nomad LED Compass

This model differs from the 70430 Nomad as it has the black PVD treated stainless Steel case and top bezel.  The case screw back is standard stainless steel with the Wenger logo in the center, model number and notes Water Resistance as 100m (10bar) so OK for swimming or snorkeling.   The Stainless Steel used in this watch is 317L grade, which is a high quality low carbon alloy.
It also has a bright GREEN digital LED display (stealth) instead of the more common Red.

As size was important and this watch whilst 43mm diameter also has considerable depth at 15.2mm and weighs incl strap at 101gms, so is a serious chunk of Stainless on your wrist.  It’s about as large as I can take (170mm wrist), the thickness adding to the equation and certainly justifies my concerns on size with these function watches.  For example a 45mm diameter watch with a similar depth would simply be too big for me.  So I’m relieved to say this one is a good fit and extremely comfortable, owing much to the excellent flexible thick black silicon strap with black metal buckle.

At 43mm Dia & 15.2mm Depth - this is my limit - but very comfortable.

At 43mm Dia & 15.2mm Depth – this is my limit – but very comfortable.

On top there is a “fixed” bezel  with text denoting functions of each of the 4 neat unobtrusive push buttons.

The watch dial has a black background with white luminous coated numerals and the white colored hands are skeleton.   Whilst Wengers description doesn’t say, the hands also have white luminous coated arrow tips.
The luminous quality is about average though irrelevant as a single push on the TIME pusher @8 and the large Digital LED Display fires up bright green.  There is also a red colored center seconds hand.  The clear flat mineral crystal is described as “Sapphire coated” by Wenger.  I assume this is a synthetic Sapphire overlay to give increased scratch resistance.  I would guess this is similar to Seiko’s Sapphlex.  A hardened mineral crystal laminated with sapphire.

The LED display is a gem and images on most web sites and this one too don’t do it justice!  (you’ve got to take the photo quickly (5 secs) and it tends to focus on the hands!).  It is however – Very large, very bright and very clear and push the appropriate button, Day, Date and Month or Time can be displayed, each for 5 seconds per push.

Green LED display on demand - here showing time

Green LED display on demand – here showing time

Year is not shown, but is set and shown on initial setting.  It’s possible to set the Digital Time as a 2nd Time Zone if required.  The button @2 operates the Digital Compass – a short push and compass indicates with LED dash markers running across the center of the face from 9 to 3 for a few seconds, simultaneously a small Green arrow shows under the Red Swiss Army Cross @12 (in effect illuminates the cross) which is the watch direction, then large Green LED numerals denote the heading in degrees in the watch center.  The display remains lit for 30 seconds.

Compass reading 359º - shows direction for 30 seconds.

Compass reading 359º – shows direction for 30 seconds.

As usual before using the compass it must be calibrated and this model allows Magnetic Declination input and this is easily done just after calibration.  In my locality the declination is quite small at 2º 9’ west (or -) and this compensates for the difference in Magnetic North and True North.  Once set the Digital Compass should indicate more accurately.  These little magnetometers are limited in accuracy, so a general heading is all you can really expect and common sense for the rest!

To calibrate this model place the watch horizontally on a flat surface and press the Compass button for 3 seconds.  This brings up CAL on the LED display.  Then turn the watch clockwise steadily and slowly for 2 full revolutions.  The LED display will alternately light small markers clockwise and across the dial.  When you’ve completed the turns you can either leave it – it will automatically read the heading for 30 seconds then switch off,  or press the Compass button to input any magnetic declination – pressing the DAY button adjusts the Declination angle figure from 90 to – 90.

Magnetic Declination can be found easily online on various sites but you can also use your UK Post Code (saves you entering Latitude & Longitude or GPS co-ordinates) at the Geomag site HERE

It has to be said that for serious compass work I doubt anybody uses a watch Digital Compass anyway – but as a quick indicator of direction and heading if you are out in the hills it can be useful.

However  I’ll definitely still keep my Recta map compass under my Tilley hat when out and about – just in case.

A good point I noticed – the use of the 2 o’clock position button as the Compass is very sensible as I wear my watch on the left wrist, it can easily be operated on the move as it were (with the watch horizontal of course) with the right hand.

I almost forgot the ordinary time functions – The analogue time is set and adjusted using the main crown and the date, day, digital time, month and year adjusted with the various buttons – very simple.  In addition the day/date/month format can be changed from Month/Date to Date/Month so good for UK users.

Conclusion –

Really quite pleased with this model.  It’s solidly built and with a dark matte PDV treated Stainless Steel case and I like the excellent and large LED display, which is very easy to read.  The Wenger LED Nomad tells me the Time, the Date, Day, the Month, has a 2nd Time Zone if required and has Digital LED Compass on demand, that tells me more or less where I’m heading as and when I need it.  It’s very comfortable and fits my wrist nicely – and I was lucky enough to get it at a bargain price.

What more do I need?

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The other Swiss Army model ST-5000 by Victorinox is slightly different in operation.  When the compass button is pushed the watch specifically indicates North.  You then pick your direction of travel and then swing the watch to the direction required and “lock” it into the system.  Then hold the watch horizontally, press the compass pusher and check the light display whilst turning the watch – and when the Green is lit – that’s your heading again.  However it doesn’t have a DAY or DATE indication, so a VERY basic watch with a Digital Compass is all it is and a little disappointing.

Another option is the Wenger Compass Navigator– which has a small liquid filled swing out compass – really neat.  Doesn’t have the fanciness of Digital, but it’s quite practical.  However as I got the Nomad at a knock down price – it would be double what I paid . . .  And considering you can get a liquid filled map compass for under a £5 note – it makes you wonder just what we’re playing at?

More on that in my next post.

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Compass compacts 5

Well here we are at Part 5 amazingly as I intended only to have a Parts 1 & 2 quick review of what was available to meet my criteria.  During the process however it seems that perhaps my priorities changed.  Started out wanting a Casio style function rich watch, preferably analogue or ana-digi in operation and appearance, with the addition on a Digital Compass AND a specific requirement regarding the size.  It had to fit comfortably on my smallish/medium sized 170mm wrist – and not with a brick on my wrist as in some “B” movie Science Fiction video games.

My first idea included the Casio Pro Trek range, the smallest about 49mm diameter, but then found some smaller alternatives and perhaps less well endowed in the function department.  But I found myself drawn more to these than those multifunction models.  Let’s face it – how often would I use a Thermometer or Altitude ( I’m far too old to ski, or climb) and I already own watches with World Times, bought specifically as they were so easy to use (some are not).  Also having all those functions means steep learning curves, especially if you’re not using those functions every day.  In fact I know friends with multifunction monsters lying in drawers unused – worn once and if they did decide to use it, they’d  have to find the darned instruction manual.  Is it worth the bother I say to myself?  Also do I want to wear a large sports watch with obvious, protruding buttons all over it – even at 47mm diameter (which some consider small . .) it catches your sleeve and if solar is wasted as in Scotland with our awful weather, sleeves usually cover our wrists.

But a Digital Compass does appeal as I still do a bit of walking, even orienteering once in a while with map, so a compass to which I can refer would be quite handy – I’d certainly use it.

Anyway I’ve made my decision (I think) though I have to say it is a VERY close run thing between 1 and 2.

1st choice –

Tissot T-touch Expert (strap version) Titanium model T013.420.17.202.00. (I changed models owing to Touch 11’s not having Azimuth setting as I understand it – a requirement for orienteering – and necessary imo).

T-Touch Expert Model T013.420.17.202.00

T-Touch Expert Model T013.420.17.202.00

No World Time, but a more modest dual Time, which let’s face it is all I really need, very good Digital Compass, analogue and digital displays, clear uncluttered dial, easy to read, Altitude, Thermometer, Chronometer, Dual Time and Weather Trend plus two Alarms. It looks as good on the wrist hiking as it does with a tuxedo and it has discreet buttons and a classical look.

Operation – Well this watch has just about everything but looks so conventional and if you thought the Wenger was stealthy – this is Uber stealthy!  However even with all these functions it is remarkably easy to use.  The touch screen is a joy to use and calibrating this watch looks as if it is – OK a learning curve – but fun and educational too.  Once set up it’s simple simple.  Compass wise just press on the crystal at Compass and the hour and minute hand line up like a pointer and True North is indicated by the minute hand.  You can also set it to track your desired heading (azimuth) quite easily and you’re on your way.  Needless to say both calibration, Magnetic and declination settings can all be set by following clear guidance in the instructional manual.  OK I hear you say, but what was all that above about not needing all these functions?  Yeah – I know – it must be the boy gadget freak in me!

2nd choice

Victorinox Pathfinder ST5000 Titanium.

Swiss Army ST5000 PathFinder

Swiss Army ST5000 PathFinder

Superb Digital Compass, “follow the green” light headings system, lockable bearing function, uncluttered dial, simplicity of use – great looks – dressy but “interesting” and nice luminous ana-digi plus dual time.

Operation – first calibrate compass and allow for declination (where you are and local map) – simple single button push – green arrow shows True North – watch top @12 shows your current direction and is indicated in digital display as degrees.  To lock the heading direction you wish to travel simply push the button again – this locks it to memory.  The row of lights above the display keeps you on track – the Green when lit shows 0º deviation (in other words you’re on track), a yellow light either left or right indicates you’re deviating from desired heading by 5º to perhaps 20º, and Red either side by a larger amount.  So simple, simple – keep Green lit and you are on track.  After about 15 seconds the Pathfinder will go into snooze mode, but a single push on the button and it’s active again.  Even I can understand this simple function use and its very intuitive.  Interestingly the watch has two batteries – a Renata 362 for the Watch time and a CR2032 for the Compass and note there are gaskets and an 0 ring, so care should be taken when changing batteries etc.  And maybe at my age, this is the one really!

3rd choice –

Wenger Nomad LED model 70430

Honest watch, classical look, unusual ana-digi dial, Dual Time display, big clear numerals.

Wenger Nomad LED Compass Watch

Wenger Nomad LED Compass Watch

Operation – This whole watch is really very simple – easy to use and when you wish to find North simply push the Compass button.  Unlike the Pathfinder this model will simply display your heading (suitably adjusted of course during your initial calibration and declination check) and the top of the watch (red arrow under the 12) will point out your current direction.  Say 225º – remember it because as you walk your direction will probably change even if you’ve selected a point further on your route (a tree or hill for example) – and the display will show your actual heading (on demand).  So no track locking with this model – it is a basic compass function – and one of the things I like about it – it is what it is.  And it doesn’t look like a big compass thing on your wrist – just a normal watch.  This has to be good in my opinion.

If I was to go for the Casio all singing and dancing model it would have to be the amazingly priced SGW500H-1BV (assuming I could source it).  Getting the low priced model would allow me to gain familiarity with this style without great expense.  So this model would be the one of choice especially as it is also the smallest one with these functions in the Casio range at 46.8mm diameter.

Now as to the Suunto – Well I have to confess I had a quick look in our local retailer and each model I tried (3 versions) was a trial for me to read. In perfect light and at the perfect angle maybe these are OK, but in the shop, hopeless and outside the door just as bad and reflective too.  So I decided that my first impressions gained a few years ago still stand and the fact that this is Part 5 and I really don;t want to do a part 6!  However I do think these are not for me and the ones I tried were really too large and looked out of place on me anyway.

Just to finish (at last) – choosing the winner was really difficult and interesting to note that the two close choices 1 & 2 are very different.  One has many functions and the other not and being honest I could easily at the end of the day pick either one of them!  A bit like my car choice this year – Monday was an Audi, Tuesday was a Mercedes, Wednesday was an Audi, Thursday was a Mercedes, Friday was an Audi and on Saturday I bought a Volvo!!!!

ps – I knew this would happen – someone asked me what Azimuth is and not being an expert I advised that someone to look it up in Google – I’m sure there are many references. 
For what it’s worth I’ve always assumed that Azimuth was the angular compass heading measured towards East from North.  And Compass direction (and not a lot of folk seem to realize this) is actually not expressed in degrees at all – but in compass speak as I used to call it when I was a scout.   On boats we used to say things like, we’re on a heading of NNE Captain!  And as you see from the following table thing NNE is actually 22.5º azimuth.

N (0°), NNE (22.5°), NE (45°), ENE (67.5°), E (90°), ESE (112.5°), SE (135°), SSE (157.5°), S (180°), SSW (202.5°), SW (225°), WSW (247.5°), W (270°), WNW (292.5°), NW (315°), NNW (337.5°)

Hope I’m right but that’s about my sum knowledge of navigation I’m afraid, which is why thinking about it (this is what’s called indecision!)  the ST-5000 Pathfinder is so attractive.  Decide where you want to go and follow the GREEN dot.  And for me with my limited (as you see) knowledge of navigation – super simple seems VERY attractive!

Note 1 – 23rd January – I have revised the Tissot model to one of the “Expert” versions – as stated above it includes the ability to set Azimuth, which is used for tracking your own heading.  I don’t believe the T-Touch 11 has this feature.

Note 2 – 24th January – The ST-5000 Swiss Army Pathfinder is basically a time and compass model – no day or date indication, which I think an omission – I assume the present digital display won’t allow the required number of digits.  I would however love to see it upgraded to day/date in their next version, should there be one as it would make it a more complete watch.

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Compass compacts 4

I had almost forgotten this analogue model from Swiss Army – the Wenger Nomad Compass 70430 LED.

Wenger Nomad LED Compass Watch

Wenger Nomad LED Compass Watch

At first glance it looks as if it could be an ideal size at 43mm diameter and the dial set up also looks very clear with large skeleton style hands in white Super Luminova luminous material (as are the numerals).  Without using the LED the dial has a simple black background and with the LED function large red LED figures appear.

Operation – On pressing the Compass button a red arrow will light just below the Wenger Cross and the compass will calculate, then display very quickly the heading in large LED red figures across the centre of the dial.  As the button function is “on demand” it displays only for 30 seconds then it will turn off automatically.  The compass can be calibrated and also the declination angle can be set at the same time.  The declination angle being the difference between Magnetic North and True North (Pole), which is different depending where you are in the world.  Most maps show the declination angle in Minutes/Degrees east or west and these can be input to the watch using the compass button.  Once input the Nomad will automatically compensate the bearing for you.

As with most of the digital compasses the watch should be held horizontally to take accurate readings.  Basically to take a compass reading, point the top of the watch (with the red arrow @12 towards the direction you wish to follow, then press the compass button.  The compass bearing of that direction will then show in degrees in large RED numerals.  North for example will be 0º, East 90º, South 180º and West 270º.  I note however that there is no “heading memory” so once you have established the heading you wish to follow, you’ll have to remember it as it can’t be “locked” into the system.

A specially designed Swiss Quartz movement is used and contained in a brushed finish stainless steel case with a black PVD bezel, upon which are shown the functions of the watch in rather large red lettering,  a proper steel screw back and Water Resistance of 100m.  The LED digital display also shows day, date, time and Compass plus a 2nd Time Zone, so quite well specified.  The bracelet is a conventional lugged (22mm) fitting and there are alternative versions that feature a silicon rubber strap and also some have a GREEN LED, which I personally might prefer.

So what you get here is a nice solid conventional looking watch with large white numerals in an uncluttered black dial, with a center second hand (always nice to see that the watch is running!).  The “Stealth” LED display, on demand remember, only pops up if you want to check the day, date, month with the appropriate button and the compass lights up when you press compass – now is that simple or what.  I’m warming to this already!

So here you are – if you want a solid performer with an unfussy dial set up and a compass function that is not over complicated, then this might be a worth while choice.  And from my point of view at 43mm diameter and only 10mm depth, should fit my wrist very well.

It is also around half the price of the Tissot T-touch and the Victorinox Pathfinder, which is of course another consideration.

So yet another contender . . . . it would appear that my choice is becoming more complicated.  I think Part 5 (goodness what have I started?) will have to be a serious re-think perhaps of what I actually want, after all.  Mmmmmm . . . . . this I did NOT expect!

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Compass compacts 3

As said at the start I will only include “Digital Only” models IF they come within my diameter limit AND they have obvious clarity – though so far there are very few that meet the criteria.

That said my next find is one of the cheapest digital compass models I’ve come across and whilst “Digital Only” model I thought it worth a look.  It’s from Pyle and as the image here shows it appears to have great contrast, so clarity may not be an issue and it has for the price a very comprehensive set of functions, including Digital Compass.  This is the Pyle Ski Master V Professional Sports Watch Model PSKIW25GN.

The Pyle Ski Sports Model PSKIW25GN

The Pyle Ski Sports Model PSKIW25GN

Unfortunately unable to find the dimensions of this watch at all, even on the Pyle web site, which is a bit annoying.  It maybe a less expensive model than the top two contenders, but the Digital Compass data on the instructional .pdf file is surprisingly comprehensive.  In fact after a quick glance this model does  appear quite highly specified, but until I physically handle one I have no data on ease of use.  In addition to the Compass it has Altitude, Weather Forecast, Barometer, Thermometer, Dual Time. Alarms, Chronograph, Ski Log data, which seems impressive.

From the instructions I’ve seen, the series of 6 dots on the upper dial denote Magnetic North, Compass direction is shown just below in figures, bearing direction is shown by the main figures, the 12 position is the bearing direction of navigation and current time is shown by the bottom figures.  The watch image here is shown displaying normal time, day and date plus temperature.

If this watch is genuinely compact sized OK, but I’m still to be convinced by the digital display clarity.  I would have to see one in the flesh to check, plus I note after reading the instructions, this display could be quite daunting, unless used every day to get familiarity.  It appears to be exactly the same model as the Meteo Pro Weather Watch from Wiesmann Klein, but with a different strap set up – prices differ – the Pyle is £59.95 and the Wiesmann £80, though the latter seems overly excessive for a strap change.

Pyle offer quite a range of Sports orientated Digital Only watches similar to Suunto, though obviously a lower priced product range.  The Casio Tough Solar I featured in Part 1 is around the same price but as I found out, it’s not available here in the UK, whereas the Pyle is.

Anyway it looks as if there will have to be a Part 4 as I’m finding more Digital Compass watches that I first thought.  And yes I should look at Suunto even though these are Digital Only, but admit to a certain reluctance.  The reason being that I had a couple of older models in my hand in a mountaineering shop a year or two back and frankly I could not make out the digits as the dials and digits were far too dark and barely legible.  I also noted at the time they were very large to me and at the very limit of my wearable size.

I am willing to check them out again but ONLY if I can get them physically in my hands and on my wrist for a serious look.

Compass compacts 2

Decided to revise this post to allow what I consider two very close Digital Compass watch contenders to be on the same page, as it were.

The first Digital Compass find is from Tissot – very high quality built and somewhat more expensive Tissot T-Touch Expert Alarm Chronograph T0134201105700.

T-Touch Expert Tissot Alarm Chronograph Compass watch

T-Touch Expert Tissot Alarm Chronograph Compass watch

A watch that comes with Analogue and digital display (like the Casio Pro trek, but conventional) and some 6 functions, so a highly specified watch.  The dimensions at 44mm diameter and 14mm depth are within my remit and from images I’ve seen so far it sits very compactly on the wrist.

There are a few different models of this series and I note that dimensions differ as do prices, so I will have to narrow the search down to ensure the best for me.  However the Titanium cased one Expert model will probably be my choice.  Note the available functions around the perimeter of the dial.  What is outstanding with this watch is the sheer amount of functionality – it is pretty awesome I have to say.  Weather prediction data is covered by the Meteo function @12, Altitude functions covers difference data, ascent and descent speed and lots more.  The compass shows North, angle, variations and the outer bezel rotates for quick navigation assistance.

So far in my investigation of compass watches, this one is the most impressive and with a considerable amount of very serious kit contained within it’s very solid and compact high quality steel or titanium case.  No gimmicks here – even the T-touch screen is very, very good and a great quick method of operation.

One point I’ll make now is that whilst folks love these added functions, it is fact that many owners simply do not take the time to understand what they have just bought.  I know of a few friends who have Compass and Altitude function Casios, who have not a clue as to the correct use.

“Oh the height indication is way off” or “this compass doesn’t point north at all” – and when I mention in conversation “Do you calibrate the altimeter at any time?” – I get a blank look!  Or “Yes I did it when I first got it!” Or “have you adjusted the declination setting?” – and again the blank look.  So it’s all very well having all these wonderful functions, but like the traditional chronographs with that lovely outer chapter or bezel with Tachymeter figures on it – just how many users have a clue as to what it does or how to use it?

And this is true with the new multi-function watches like the Casio or T-touch – there is a certain learning curve required to gain the most from the watch – it’s not just about the looks.  Though who am I to say that’s not just as valid a reason for buying – I mean you like the look – buy it!  However in the case of the top models these can be quite expensive, so it seems a pity that some buyers don’t take the time to find out how it all works to get the best from it.

Of course depending on the model and the price range the Digital Compass functions themselves may be very different – one that points North and that’s it, or one that provides additional data that you can use practically in the field. It’s sometimes difficult to know just what they provide on the available blurb on the web.  So reviews are handy – if you can find one regarding your watch choice of course.
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Continuing my quest for compact Digital Compass watches (analogue preferred) I found myself another real serious bit of kit.  From Victorinox – meet the Swiss Army ST5000 PathFinder.

Swiss Army ST5000 PathFinder

Swiss Army ST5000 PathFinder

Lovely Titanium cased, black dial, Swiss Quartz with black rubber strap, this model oozes professionalism.  Anti-reflection crystal and no gimmicks, just a very well specified Digital Compass with practical functions and ease of use.  A 5-point LED color Light System showing Heading Accuracy, Heading memory, an 8-point LED Magnetic North Indicator System, a Rotating Compass Rose Indicating Cardinal & Intermediate Points, 15-degree Increments.  Analogue luminous hands and numbers, screw down case back, 50m Water Resistance and all in a Titanium 42mm diameter case – all looks pretty impressive.

High contrast digital display @6 and a leveling bubble @4/5 gives this watch a rather outstanding presence and the dial clarity is very good and very easy to read.  A short press on the large button @7 and a green arrow seeks and freezes to indicate North – very clearly indeed.  You can then instantly lock your heading and a series of lights above the small digital display keeps you on track – green for go and red for off track – the digits say by how much etc.  From a walker’s point of view simply “follow the green” – that has to be good!

This is the first model I’ve found that seems to say – this is a very good watch AND a very good practical Digital Compass.  Certainly bears further investigation.

There is also a video introduction to it HERE.

Both models have really impressed me – The Pathfinder as it has a wonderful simplicity of operation coupled with sheer quality and the Tissot, whilst similar, has a huge function array in addition and it too seems simple in operation.

But I’m very taken with both so currently I’ve got them neck and neck!

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Compass compacts 1

The subject of this Part 1 & 2 post is simple.  Can I find a Compass Watch that does NOT, because of it’s SIZE  look silly on an average wrist? – in other words a Compass watch model that is a sensible size.

One of the problems with adding functions to any watch is the fact that the more you add, the larger it becomes.  Larger in diameter and often depth too, both of which can make a wristwatch and the wearer look rather silly.  And to make the search that more difficult I add another personal criteria – I would like Ana-Digi as I much prefer the main time keeping part of any watch to have hands – in other words I don’t want a digital display only model (I find them difficult to read as the contrast quality of most regardless of price, can be quite poor).  I also have to accept that there are quite a few Compass watches and some are clever and useful, others less so and this is not always price dependent.

However, that said I may include one or two digital only models, but only IF they are a sensible size and are easy – and I mean easy, to read.

My wrist is about 170mm in circumference and a watch size of 45mm diameter is about my limit, without looking like a total geek.  Slightly larger may just be possible as long as the watch case is not too thick.  But 50mm and up, forget it.

Casio Pro Trek PRG 5501 AER analogue/digital Solar

Casio Pro Trek PRG 5501 AER analogue/digital Solar

The most prevalent Compass model is Casio and the first one is in the “larger than I would like category” is the PRG-550-1AER Pro Trek Solar at 48.8mm diameter and 14mm depth.  It’s Analogue with digital sub-display and as most of this series share the same dimensions, I’ll leave it as the Tough Solar/Pro Trek ana-digi representative.  One caveat – re’ the size – I would have to try it on the wrist before serious consideration.

Compass watch - Casio SGW-500H-1BV

Compass watch – Casio SGW-500H-1BV

Of course I found a Casio candidate in my last post – the SGW-500H-1BV a cheaper Casio model but not available as far as I am aware in the UK – It also has fewer functions with only Digital Compass and Thermometer in addition to the normal Casio digital set up – BUT it was smaller at 46.8mm diameter and 13.6mm depth, so is still very much a viable candidate.

Timex Adventure Fly-back Digital Compass T49865

Timex Adventure Fly-back Digital Compass T49865

I also checked out Timex as they do offer Digital Compass models too and the first one I considered is the Adventure Fly-back Compass Chronograph T49865 series.  This is an analogue 6 hand Quartz model with Digital Compass including magnetic declination compensation, dual time, date @3 and Water Resistance quotes as 100m.  It is handily sized at 44mm diameter and only 12mm depth, which is really quite good.

I much prefer this model to their Tide-Temp Compass version – it seemed over cluttered for me and this one seems cleaner, though whilst the clarity issue will have to be checked out, it looks worthy of consideration.

Timex also do a T49688SU all digital model, which is smaller yet at 41mm x 13mm, though the Digital Compass looks a little simplistic to me.  I have not checked it out fully as being digital only, it can wait till I exhaust the analogue and ana-digi choices first.

Anyway in my first Digital Compass model look see I’m actually quite impressed with what I’ve found so far.  The more expensive Casio models seem to be reasonably serious with their functions, cheaper ones less so, which is or should be fairly obvious.

In Part 2 I’m having a look at two more models that offer a Digital Compass function from Tissot and Victorinox, as both appear to me to be more traditional watches.  Both are within my size range and both are Analogue/Digital.

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Casio – compact choice?

Well I’ve been considering replacing/adding to my old Casio collection and whilst the models I have are still available, I want one with more rugged features and added functionality if possible.  Basically I would like one that maybe has an additional function or functions, like a Digital Compass or perhaps Solar Power or maybe Radio Control.

Now perhaps at first glance this seems an easy find, but I have one overriding requirement – size.

There is no doubt that when you start to add functions, invariably the diameter and thickness of the watch increases and in fact the main two reasons for not owning a Digital Compass watch is just that –

1) They are too big and
2) I don’t want a digital only display –
My preference is for analogue with a secondary digital display.  This latter reason (2) simply because – I take my watch off, lay it on the window ledge or bedside cabinet and with digital only, at my age without glasses, there’s no way I can tell the time.  Also in bright daylight or some interior lit situations, it is often quite difficult to even make out the digits – so Hands are a must.

Checking out the Casio range I looked at the Pro Trek range as I like the extra functions they can provide, but the diameter (width) is often 50mm+ which for my smallish wrist, frankly, is a bit silly.  The only ones that come within my size are the “slimline” series, or PRG110 style, but these are solely digital.

So my criteria –
47mm is the absolute maximum diameter to fit my wrist – no exceptions.
Analogue/Digital but must have good clarity/contrast etc.
Usual Casio functions package as my minimum standard – incl World Time.
Added functions – if useful to me – Solar powered, Compass and/or Radio Control etc.

G-Shock models were out of my size range, most at + 50mm, with the odd one at 46mm (the 960 series) but again digital only.  The Standard analogues (GAC100) were also +50mm and some of the Digi-Ana models not only too large at + 50mm, but many had cluttered dials and part or full skeleton hands, which did nothing for readability.

The G-Lide series whilst actually OK size wise, were not quite the specification I required and having a permanent “tide info” display, didn’t appeal, not being the nautical type.

Tough Solar AQ-S800W-1E47.6 X 42 X 10.6 mm/33 g

Tough Solar AQ-S800W-1E
47.6 X 42 X 10.6 mm/33 g

However the “standard” range seemed more promising.

The Tough Solar AQ-S800W-1EV is only 42mm diameter and 10.6mm depth which is ideal – with World Time for 31 Time Zones and Solar Powered, it is a pretty good specification.  It also has the hour and minute hands in white edge & lume with the hands overlapping the centre pivot which I like.  Finding this one was at least a start, as I was becoming apprehensive that no Casio was actually going to meet my requirements!

This model has quite a good specification –

Resin body with mineral crystal, 100m Water Resistance, Solar Powered, World Time, LED light for the digital display, Chronograph, Stopwatch etc, 5 Daily Alarms, Auto Calendar, Hourly Time Signal, Long sleep time of 23 months in darkness on full charge, very light weight at only 33g.  It is also a nice clear face which means clear to read and without being cluttered as so many models can be.

This could be a pretty good update of my current models and Solar Power is a nice  additional function.

The others in the Standard range AW 80 series are basically the same as my old models – in fact the AW-80V-5BV looks exactly like my old Telememo 30 with it’s cloth strap too.  So a bit pointless in getting one of those . . . .LOL.  The fact that it’s still made is a testament to it’s popularity I guess – so not a bad purchase those years ago.

Now whilst the Tough Solar model is a consideration, I have find another model with a different specification – a Twin Sensor model from the OutGear series that could also be a serious contender – the SGW-500H-1BV

Compass watch - Casio SGW-500H-1BV

Compass watch – Casio SGW-500H-1BV

However this is a bit larger, I assume owing to the Digital Compass and Thermometer functions and is right at the limit of what I can wear.   I do have a couple of other watches at 45mm diameter and I just manage OK with those.  This model is 46.8mm diameter x 13.6 mm – and I hope the depth does not cause an issue.  It’s the smallest diameter Casio with Compass I’ve seen, the rest being huge.

Once again the dial arrangement isn’t cluttered, the hour & minute hands are broad & lumed (no centre overlap, but clear to read), a decent sized digital display @6 with good contrast and large figures, large solid numeral markers on the hours and a neat twin spoke & arrow red colored pointer hand for the compass indication. Whilst the Thermometer sensor is of no real benefit to me, like the old Telememo, it is not permanently displayed but demand only, so doesn’t add to dial clutter, which is fine.

Other specifications are – 100m Water resistance, Resin and aluminium case, World Time (31 Zones etc), Digital Compass (North) which has bidirectional calibration, plus Magnetic Declination correction, Thermometer, Stopwatch, 5 daily alarms, Auto Calendar etc etc – or the Casio “package” as I call it.

This certainly appeals, as I have always had a liking for a compass watch, especially as most are giants, well over 50mm and frankly silly.

I also looked at the Edifice range and two models were of some interest but had no function advantages over my current models and I did not some issues not least of which was clarity with both the ones I looked at.

Model – EFA-135D-1A3V is neat at only 42.8mm diameter and 12.7mm depth (ideal in fact) and has a neat dial arrangement, not too cluttered and at first looked OK.

Casio Edifice EFA-135D-1A3V World Timer

Casio Edifice EFA-135D-1A3V World Timer Anti-Magnetic

But – I had a chance to see a few images of the actual watch and at no time could I easily see either of the digital displays clearly. These in reality were quite small and dark and this is where pictures on the web can be so misleading, so I am very unsure as to whether it should be a contender .

The EFA-131D-1A1V is similar in function though slightly larger at 46mm and thinner at 12.5mm.

Casio EFA-131D-1A1V World Timer

Casio EFA-131D-1A1V World Timer

The dial is not too bad, the broad white hour and minute hands helping, though the seconds sub-dial @9 is a little cluttered for me.  I also noted permanent signal markers on top of the upper digital display window which seem obtrusive.

I also noted a You Tube video on this watch and whilst the digital displays seemed quite bright, the dial overall appeared over shiny and reflective – a feature I’ve noted before on some Casio models.  So again I have reservations.  Specification wise as the other Edifice without the anti-magnetic reference.

So the Edifice models I’ve discounted, basically as whilst modern looking, they offer nothing new or added in the way of functionality and clarity really looks as if it would be a problem for me.

To summarize –

1 – The Tough Solar AQ-S800W-1E – Ideal size, standard function set, good clarity PLUS the addition of Solar Power.  Under £40.00.
2 – The SGW-500H-1BV – Size within criteria, standard function set, good clarity PLUS the added Digital Compass.  Again inexpensive.

On investigation however it appears that neither is readily available in the UK.  New Zealand Yes, South Africa Yes, Hong Kong Yes – but NOT UK!

Either is a good choice.  For a straight replacement with added Solar Power the Tough Solar model is good and the Outgear model with Digital Compass is attractive in the SGW500H 1BV series (there are a few versions/colors etc).  The prices are good (low actually) and could be worth sourcing either one out of Hong Kong – I can wait 3 weeks or so.  But I do have the feeling this range must be a cheaper made product in comparison to their larger Pro Trek range – so I’ll wait and see.

Addendum –
After considering the Casio models, it’s made me question the availability of Digital Compass models at a sensible size!  And it’s got me thinking perhaps other Makers might have alternatives that are not so large.

So I’m checking out Swiss Army and Tissot T-Touch – and any others I can find albeit more expensive.
It also looks like the subject of my next post has just been decided. . .

//

So – do I get a new Casio?

I do have a couple of old Casio models I bought many years ago, both at the lower price range bought with a few years between each other, they are actually versions of the same model AW80 Telememo 30.  Both times these I confess bought as “holiday” watches and when I was working in Africa.  The second one with the nylon strap was an emergency purchase as my current watch at the time was “drowned” in a river crossing and was declared deceased.  Both Casio models are still working perfectly and I have to admit both are also nice to wear and as fairly dependable timekeepers not at all bad.

Casio Telememo 30 - two versions

Casio Telememo 30 – two versions

Specification wise these are typical Casio – 50m Water Resistance (100m now I believe), World Time for 29 Time Zones, Stopwatch, 3 Alarms including 24 hour countdown, LED light, Hourly time signal etc etc.  But one of the best things I do like about both of them is that they are a sensible size!  Just 40mm diameter and a height of only 13.5mm including the domed crystal.  And that’s one of the problems I have at the moment looking at current Casio models – many of them such as the ProTrek or G-Shock are very large indeed and simply look silly on my smallish wrist and uncomfortable because of it.  A pity really as these ones are those that seem to get my interest.  So can I find a really well Casio specified up to date model that I can actually wear without looking like a geek!  I could of course get another one just like those two above – but I mean – two the same is careless, but three!  I mostly want something that’s really moved on since then – something new!

Now it is also fact that I did own two more up market Casio models.  One was a Radio Controlled low price model that a friend who passed away left me, which was OK but not my style and I gave it to a young son of another friend.  The other was entirely different and at the time bought directly from Japan, before it was available in Europe, but I sold it on – and why?

Oceanus Manta and cheaper friend - also RC.

Oceanus Manta and cheaper friend – also RC.

It was a Casio Oceanus Manta Radio Controlled model, World Timer, Solar etc etc. and very expensive too I recall, but for all that, I found it annoyingly difficult to read.  Such a simple thing really in that there was too much chrome edging to numerals and hands and the crystal was not the best anti-reflect I’ve come across.  So whilst a superbly made and specified watch, it annoyed me intensely, and it had to go.  I mean there was my old £12.50 in a shop sale Casio Telememo 30 sitting there and I could see it and read it easily! And it even had World Time too!

So OK I’m looking to find a Casio that is really well specified, but easy to see, read and use – and it must NOT be too large.  Seems simple doesn’t it?

However after looking around when writing the last post on Casio it was then and now apparent that there are just so many models available from Casio that this might not be an easy task.  Especially as I am a Watch Collector – and we as a species are pretty fickle indeed!  Some would ask why I’m wasting my time with these digital quartz affairs when much of my collection is composed of classical mechanical timepieces?

My answer is simple really as I collect any type of watch, be it mechanical or digital and often whilst looking for a particular “look”, come across one though preferred mechanical is actually quartz – then so be it.  In fact I have a collection split of 50/50 mechanical to digital, so it is not a problem for me and in fact is fun.  It is a different kind of “like” I suppose, the mechanical movements models delight me in their complications, skill and quality of manufacture – also there is an elegance from some of the very old established Swiss makers that simply cannot be surpassed – the fact that perhaps made in 1885 a timepiece is still performing almost as good as when it was first hand made – is a total joy for me.  Just to wear it and watch it perform.

Quartz watches have their own charm I suppose – the ingenuity of micro-electronics and lots of functionality allied to a visually pleasing case and face, within a small dimension is a skill too.  The continual historical reference of many watchmakers today even with digital application is gratifying – those that can merge the two usually make watches that I would want today.  But as for the Casio style – I already have a few of their great rival Citizen both modern and also 1970’s vintages and still have to acquire a good example or examples of Seiko, another excellent name from the 1970’s to the present.

But it’s Casio I’m looking at this year and my quest begins now and over the next few posts I’ll check out what’s on offer.

I have to say I’m quite looking forward to it!

Casio – time for people

Seems to me that the name Casio has been around for years and especially as I used to travel the world from the Near East to the Far East, from Europe to the Americas and Casio was just – there.  My first calculator was of course Casio and I think I also had a tiny musical keyboard, also Casio and indeed all my friends have something made by Casio too.  And yet we’re really only talking of back to the 1970’s probably, which is not that long ago, but certainly was the marvelous and wonderful years for the explosion of “people” electronics.  With the emergence of LED and LCD and miniaturization of electronic components, suddenly as if from nowhere – Casio was born.  Established as a Company way back in 1957 and developing the Casio 14-A compact calculator (an all electric one!), this was just the start.   With their (1960) new manufacturing Company in Tokyo, followed by a European facility in Zurich in 1967 the Casio Company was up and running. . . .fast!

They made and still make a dizzying array of products from Electronic Dictionary’s to Calculators (of course), to Cash Registers to Labelling machines.  Musical Instruments to Projectors to Cell Phones and Digital Cameras.  In fact if it was small, consumer attractive, then Casio probably made it.

The CASIOTRON - 1974

The CASIOTRON – 1974

Then in November 1974 they came out with an amazing watch product – The CASIOTRON – an electronic watch with complications.  And it had to have something different as the Japanese watch making industry was virtually a “closed shop” and quality and price was the name of the game.  So Casio produced something that bit different.  Not only did this watch show hours and minutes and seconds, but a 10 second continuous counter plus the month and the day, but also had a unique function that could automatically determine the number of days in a month – an “automatic” calendar.  It had an easily visible Liquid Crystal Display that was simply sensational at that time.

I’m almost sure I got that first model too, but it’s so long ago now I can’t remember!  I certainly had quite a number of Casio models over the years though and when one “died” I tended to get another.  Mostly the older prototype displays gave up the ghost eventually, but as with everything Casio did, they improved on it next time round!  Their motto of “creativity and contribution” is not a bad goal and one that still drives the company today.

As said, the range of watches is truly exceptional and a simple click on Google will find hundreds of examples, though here I show just some of the milestones of this interesting Company.

In 1983, Casio released a new watch that overturned the normal ideas of the watch and clock industry.  Bucking the trend this rugged design of the G-SHOCK was based on a unique concept of a really tough watch that could be dropped from the top of a building and still not break.  It really took off in the USA as this idea definitely appealed the the guy in the street.

It had quite a few features such as the high contrast crystal display, stopwatch, timer, auto-calendar and so on, but all in this rugged high performance urethane cased body, which totally protected the inner movement

The G-Shock DW-5000C

The G-Shock DW-5000C

by design.  This high impact plastic structure gave superb shock resistant properties.

Just a year later in March 1985 another innovation which was based on the novel idea of making the watch and plastic wristband all one piece, was the PELA FS-10.  Here Casio used a new hybrid moulding technology which applied plastic moulding and microelectronics expertise.   This was amazingly thin at only 3.9 millimeters and very light at 12 grams and it was an immediate success and became the watch industry’s first million-selling model.

Super thin Casio PELA fs-10

Super thin Casio PELA fs-10

I can’t ever remember seeing one of those at the time, but this image shows that it was a very sleek affair.  I particularly like the “drivers” style slanted display so when driving the car you can easily see the time (assuming you’re a left wrist watch wearer of course).  The integrated plastic strap really suits it very well and what’s interesting for me is the quite different look of this model compared to the G-Shock – a different market I would think and yet produced with the same flair – that’s Casio for you.  It also shows the Company vision and producing watches for all tastes.

After entering the business of timepieces in 1974, Casio released watches with various advanced features, including a calculator function (C-80 released in 1980), and a dictionary function (T-1500 Walking Dictionary released in 1982).  The company obviously decided that the wrist could be host to not only a timekeeper but also a sort of computer on the wrist and in 1984 out came the Databank Telememo 10 (CD-40).  This again took the watch world by storm selling over 6 million of them in the next 5 years.  It had all the now recognizable Casio watch functions, but added a databank function that could save and recall 10 groups of 16 letters or numerals, which simply did away for the need to carry a personal phone-number organizer or diary in the pocket.  So much easier on the wrist.

Casio CD 40 - Databank - the first of many.

Casio CD 40 – Databank – the first of many.

Quite a few of the models now appearing were including functions that were simply not seen on watches before, such as in February 1989 when the BM-100WJ or “Weather Predictor” appeared.  Note what I call the Casio “look” starting to appear, which is still very common today.  This model I suppose was the original Pro-trek style watch of today, with the introduction of features that those out on the trails might want one day.

First Baby-G - the DW-520 for ladies

First Baby-G – the DW-520 for ladies

Casio BM-100WJ - the weather predictor.

Casio BM-100WJ – the weather predictor.

It should also not be forgotten that Casio don’t just make digital watches, but analogue features more often than realized – just look at today’s models and you see quite a swing towards dual display – that is Ana-Digi and some of the current range are, disappointingly for me, very much bigger than the old ones.  Perhaps in part due to the heavy complication factor of all those extra “handy” functions – a bit “Swiss Army Pocket Knife” perhaps.  I do remember seeing a “Swiss Army knife” that was so big and swollen with gadgets, it was hardly “pocketable” any more!

And the ladies are not to left out either as Casio have always had a range of ladies watches – some smaller versions of gents models such as the “Baby-G” which replicate all the features of the standard G-Shock series, and also some non digitalal display models such as the “Sheen” series, pictured below.  In fact that ladies Sheen model shown here is a very smart watch with really decent high tech features, ceramic bezel, sapphire crystal and a Sun and Moon indicator, date window and so on – not a poor relation by any means.

Ladies Casio Sun & Moon with ceramics bezel

Ladies “Sheen” model – Sun & Moon with ceramics bezel

In June 1999 things really started to move with the introduction of  the SATELLITE NAVI, in the Protrek series.  This had almost unheard of advanced features, the main one being to easily determine directions and distances in relation to your location or destination.  This was now becoming a real asset for those involved in outdoor activities such as climbing or fishing, where lightweight compact devices come into their own in comparison with more cumbersome equipment.

I show the first and second generation of these in the following images.

Satellite Navi - first generation GPS

Satellite Navi – first generation GPS

2nd generation GPS Satellite Nav

2nd generation GPS Satellite Nav

Radio controlled watches soon followed and in 2001 the WVA-300 was the world’s first radio-controlled watch that indicated accurate time by receiving standard time radio signals, and also powered by a solar cell.

The watch took the watch industry by surprise as it was believed that it simply wasn’t possible to build an advanced-function watch using solar cells.

It featured a very low power consumption and miniaturization using very advanced developments such as an energy-saving CPU based on a SOI (silicon on insulator) format, and a super-miniature detection IC.  An advance perhaps gleaned from their camera technology, which of course was going on apace at another division within the Casio empire.  Not surprising it’s said if you buy a watch or a camera today, then it’s probably out of date by the end of the week!  Such is the pace of modern micro-electronics.

So we’re just about up to date with this highly innovative Company, Casio and I attach a few images of some other models that are around.  I would certainly give them a look maybe in more depth than many do, as they have an awful lot of variety out there.  One thing I am certain of however is that once you’ve seen a Casio – I assure you, you have NOT seen them all!

Casio Red G-Lide GLX 5600-4ER - 200m WR Chrono

Casio Red G-Lide GLX 5600-4ER – 200m WR Chrono

Snap_2013.01.12 10.37.11_002

G Shock GA100-1A1ER

G Shock GA100-1A1ER

Snap_2013.01.12 11.16.28_011

Movado gem

An interesting watch Manufacturer Movado and with some styles from the past that have always interested me, this one I recently obtained is such a model – that I couldn’t resist.

1960's Movado S Kingmatic Auto Sub Sea model

1960’s Movado S Kingmatic Auto Sub Sea model

Without doubt the best dial gents Movado I’ve yet seen, this was a must purchase.  1960’s vintage with a Movado Cal 395 – C Automatic movement.  This is their famous Kingmatic Sub Sea model with 28 jewels and running as sweet as it did when new this sort of mechanical marvel never fails to impress me.  Over 50 years and still perfect it has a neat 34mm diameter gold 40 micron plated case, center sweep seconds and applied gold numeral markers on 12, 3, 6 and 9.

Movado "bumper" Cal.395-C movement

Movado Cal.395-C movement

As you see the above image shows an immaculate Cal 395 movement with the classic Movado rotor assembly, Incabloc shock protection in a very neat layout.  The Calibre number can be seen clearly at the foot of this image and note the Movado “top Hat” plate atop the rotor.  Obscured by the rotor it also states Movado Factories, Swiss and 28 jewels.  Lovely action too this rotor and quite silent in operation – this is a class item indeed.

Full stainless screw back with Movado logo set.

Full stainless screw back with Movado logo set.

The stainless steel screw back has a full Movado medallion logo set with Kingmatic S and the 4 horse chariot design in the centre.  Sub Sea and 28 jewels are the other markings on the back.  The crown is the original Movado logo and the lugs are set to fit an 18mm strap, which in this case is a nice quality though non-original Condor stitched leather variety with gold colored buckle which sits it very well.

Classic dress Movado Kingmatic

Classic dress Movado Kingmatic

This model like so many of that time is that nice size so favored by many of the classic watch makers @ 34mm which allows it to fit most wrists easily and neatly.  For me every thing about this watch is just right – beautiful face, great look, slim, elegant, perfect size, lovely automatic action and a joy to wear.

Looking good at any age.

Looking good at any age.

The Kingmatic automatic model (and the Tempomatic before it) took the watch world by storm when it first came out in around 1962 and the Kingmatic was made probably till around 1967.  The Company started off life way back in 1881, the name “Movado” meaning “always in motion” in Esperanto the Company has over 100 patents and over 200 awards and still operating today.

This is now my third Movado and my second mechanical model – I have also a Quartz and all have impressed me very much.  The quartz one also has a highly individual dial face and a certain neat quality – and I can now see where the heritage comes from.  This Sub Sea model especially with it’s rather unique face, it’s sleek movement and beautiful condition is my first purchase of 2013 and will certainly be on my wrist on many, many occasions I’m sure – and that surely is as good a testament you can have for any watch.