My last Post featured the fashion watch Infantry but got me thinking. One of my passions today is the combo watch, that is one with both analog and digital displays and I also like the concept of the “military” watch and whilst maybe not the official Mil Spec, I like to get as many of the same attributes I can. What I’m NOT looking for here is a “fashion” watch, but one with serious features and functions that work as they are supposed to.
The finding of a serious military combo watch however is surprisingly difficult as so many models fall short in some manner. Such as back lights that don’t illuminate the dial data effectively, or luminous hands that are not, or over cluttered dial configurations, or even lack of intuitiveness requiring an instruction booklet with you at all times! Now the watch can be simple or complicated but it has to have the basics right, such as good Water Resistance, shock resistance, solid case preferably matte and non-shiny, good night legibility and a sensible function set.
Now funnily enough it’s quite easy to find a digital only model that fits the requirements and one of the better ones (and there are quite a few I have to say) is the Casio 120CM-5 and @$130 easily manages the brief – as do many of it’s variants.
So when looking for my ideal “Mil Spec” style “military combo” model, whilst I could list the requirements, it’s actually easier to check out what’s available and then judge them accordingly as OK or not OK and say why . . .
I checked out quite few Casio models and was surprised when it came to combo watches that this was much more difficult than first thought. Often the models had non luminous analog hands and many were skeleton and often not easily seen against considerable background dial clutter, what with all the various indicators on the dial face. Needless to say none of those interested me at all and each for one or other of these reasons failed to meet my requirements
One feature that really annoyed me was the apparent lack of decent illumination for night use. Without luminous hands Casio have attempted to light the entire face with a light at the edge of the dial, which was only partially successful if, at all – lighting analog hands from the side just doesn’t work too well. But in providing such a dial light the digital display was left in darkness without a dedicated back light. Now OK that doesn’t bother me too much as at night I basically want to see the time, not fiddle around with digital settings and so on.
However this is a poor do – conventional watches with luminous hands, if decent quality, are fine for night use, whereas many of these modern analog/digital models don’t feature luminous hands at all – and I don’t understand why not. Surely specifying luminous hands eliminates the need for a dial light and by having it allows for the usual relatively simple Casio digital back light (as the Casio 120CM-5 watch shown here). Surely this makes sense?
But it doesn’t appear so as almost all current models feature rather poor dial and digital lighting and few luminous anything – indeed judging my comments on many video reviews it’s a bone of contention, though tacitly accepted whereas I won’t accept it at all. And this is a shame as I’ve discounted most combo Pro-Treks and the majority of G-Shocks for not only that issue but a few other basic reasons as well, such as lack of clarity either owing to dial clutter and/or poor night use, or for being too large. Two downsides it has to be said with many G-Shock case covers is that some models are too big for my wrist and the control buttons difficult both to find and operate amongst what I see as over-protective shrouds.
So, did I find anything that does suit me and meet my basic needs – and here I look at alternatives to Casio first.
Leaving the G-Shock style for a moment this Divers model from St Moritz – the Momentum Format 4 is actually a very good combo and though not military in any sense, it certainly features many of the required elements and does them very well.
Good broad luminous analog hands and numerals, an excellent clear pair of digital displays and a decent function set too, such as World Time, Chronograph and Alarms etc. It also has a very tough construction stainless satin finished case with screw down crown and 200m Water Resistance. For night use this combination of lume plus excellent digital back lighting is not far short of perfect and is well worthy of consideration in my view.
Another Brand to consider obviously is Timex and this model, which I’ve owned for some time now is the Timex Expedition T49967. It has a decent analog dial with luminous hour/minute hands and a digital display, shock proof resin case construction, 200m Water Resistance, non-reflective body and what I’d call a sensible function set of Chronograph, Time and Alarm, which is fine for most of us and in my opinion a really underrated model and at around £60+ mark is still currently great value.
As for night use, it uses the patented Timex “Indiglo” back light system. This is a light source behind the dial and everything is read in silhouette and within the digital display the black digital numerals intriguingly stand out light against a dark background, which is the opposite to what shows in daytime. It also has a standard strap fitting which I replaced with silicon deployment strap. I can confirm I’ve been very, very pleased with this Timex ever since I bought it as it’s a get and forget type of watch, good value and I’d recommend it to anyone.
There are some other models around that I’m also interested in, one of which has to be the new Tissot “Touch” Solar which could well be in a class of it’s own (watch out Casio – it’s ABC, neater, smaller, light and at night it’s brilliant). Not available till September though, so in the meantime I’ll feature another combo model, which I’ll review possibly in my next Post. And this is a Casio again and currently has to be one of my favorites. And with so many variants of G-Shock, Solar Tough and Pro-Trek it’s sometimes overlooked, though has an interesting function set – and at night it isn’t too shabby . . .
Watch this space . . .