Niche models (1)

Niche models are what I call watches not in the mainstream and quite often offer specialist pieces for a specific market.

NauticFish Xtreme 2000m does what it says on the tin!

NauticFish Xtreme 2000m does what it says on the tin!

This one from Germany is typical – the NauticFish Xtreme 2000, which as you can guess is prett useful if Diving is your thing, as it has a whopping 2000m depth rating, which gives it some gravitas.  Movement wise it features a Sellita SW20A which is the alternative to the ETA 2823-2 series of Automatic Date movements and well regarded in it’s own right.

Solidly built with a Stainless Steel case some 45 mm diameter x 16mm thickness it’s liable to withstand most situations.  Screw down crown of course. It weighs 120 gms, has a Sapphire crystal and here shown with a rubber buckle strap.

Solid build from Germany with a Sellita SW20A Automatic movement.

Solid build from Germany with a Sellita SW20A Automatic movement.

White Superluminova luminous index and broad hands with a centre seconds hand against a black dial background ensures decent clarity, with a small Date window @3.

Nothing fancy here, just a great solid built for purpose model that’s maybe not so well known, but very good for all that.

Comes with a 2 year Guarantee and a Manual – so what else do you need?

Note – This is the first of a series featuring a few non mainstream models that caught my attention of the past year, which sadly don’t seem to get the air time perhaps they deserve.  Usually Independent producers or bespoke enthusiast models assembled and produced to fill a perceived gap in the market.

Some are very good indeed and others perhaps not so, though I try to pick ones that seem to me to be interesting and perhaps offer something different – but whatever, it does illustrate the wonderful diversity available today.

1996 A,B and C – re-posted

A classic from Casio – the ATC-1200 Altimeter, Barometer and Compass model with the QW1170 movement Module introduced in 1989, might be a little old, but still looks good and very high tech, but more importantly it’s still going strong today.  As with many older models such as this it’s wise to check the automatic calendar function, to ensure it remains correct today – this model is OK until 2029, so will probably see me out! (Month/Day cycle ratio pattern is repeated every 28 years – so could be corrected).

Casio 1170 ATC-1200 Triple Sensor model 1989/90 – a rare classic.

This however is one serious bit of Casio kit, incredibly well put together and beautifully fitted out with the almost science fiction style sensor housings and a very neat dial set up that manages to look just right.  Dimensions are good too at just 50 mm lug to lug, so fits smaller wrists, though the case (with the sensors) width is larger at about 56 mm – however, this lies along the wrist so not really an issue.  The watch case depth is the success though at under 15.5 mm, so the watch doesn’t feel big at all and in fact wears well on my average to small wrist.

ATC1200 on an average wrist - not bad for a triple sensor Casio

ATC1200 on an average wrist – a decent fit for a full blown Triple Sensor model.

The watch has a Casio flexible resin rubber buckle strap which fits with standard spring-bar fixings (I like) and measures maybe 19/20 mm, so easy to change to any kind of alternative strap should you so wish.

The standard view on the display shows on the top line – the Day of the week.  The main display lower part shows the Time (12hr or 24hr) Year, Month, Date and Seconds plus a mobile seconds track around the perimeter of the dial with black segment markers against a green background which looks rather good and very clear.

In addition to the digital compass (with 5 memory settings available), this model has Altimeter, Barometer and Thermometer sensors, 5 independent Alarms and Stopwatch with split times and 2 finish times settings.  It has a warning indicator for low battery and a magnetic fields abnormality indication plus a Sensor malfunction indicator. Not at all bad for 1989/90’s.

Great Casio Triple Sensor ATC1200 - before it's time!

Great Casio Triple Sensor ATC1200 – a watch well before it’s time!

2 batteries are used in this model which are the SR927W series and these have an approximate life of up to 18 months to 2 years depending on function use.  Note after replacing the batteries the display may remain blank, so it’s important to do a reset.  This will empty old memory/counter settings and this is quite simple to manage – touch the AC contact and the battery (+) side OR short out the two copper “spots” on the circuit board just below and the the left of the AC mark, with metallic tweezers or similar for around 2 seconds. The display should then fire up.

I attach images to illustrate –

Casio 1170 – back removed with module exposed showing 2 x SR927W batteries.

White plastic location shroud lifted away to show the AC mark on the top left of module frame.  See just above it and down on the circuit board, 2 x copper connector points.

Finally – Use metal tweezers for a couple of seconds to short out the copper terminations (or to case) – to reset module display.

Note An odd but useful tip with some of these older models is after a battery change when nothing seems to happen – push the “light” button and the display will often activate ON.  But note on these complication Casio models be aware that unless reset, the display whilst it’ll look right, odd results are very likely as the memories have not been cleared.

Water Resistance is 100m – assisted by the rubber seal (you can just make out it’s recess around the case body) under the flat metal plate which is held with 4 x screws.

In amongst the many functions of this watch is the neat facility to get back to the main page – whatever screen you’re in – simply press C button (lower left) for 2 or 3 seconds and the display will revert to the main Time screen.

A trio of Casio Sensor watches. Wow!

A trio of Casio Sensor watches. Wow!

The late 1980’s and early 2000’s was a great time for Casio innovation and there are in fact many “odd” function style models from this time.  Not only are they often well before their time and the pre-cursors for much of the technology you see today, but are viewed as quite rare collectors pieces.  And this is not so much due to their age, but owing to when they were produced, as at that time it was an amazing period of technological and miniaturization experimentation, the likes of which you will probably never see again.

Another function I like is the alternate calibration of the Compass.  So often these require fiddling around with rotations and button pressing at the same time, known as bi-directional calibration.  You can do this on this model if you like, but I prefer the Northerly calibration, which is simpler.
Set the watch on a level surface and face the watch bezel N towards your known NORTH (check this beforehand, at home with a real compass).  Hold down ‘A’ to clear the display to show –1–, then press ‘C’ ready to start.  N will appear in the upper display and then press ‘D’ to start calibrating.  After a short time OK appears and that’s it.

I love it and they don’t make ’em like this anymore – which is a real pity.  Awesome design and fun to wear.

Instructions – Casiopathfinder_1170_owners_manual

More old directions

Another Casio from the early 1990 period when they started production of a series of multi-function Digital Compass models.  This is the Japan made model CPW 220 which features their module QW1286.

Old Casio 220 Digital Compass

Old Casio CPW 220 Digital Compass

The operational procedures for this are exactly the same as for the module QW1030, though with transmission of the visual data modified somewhat for the highly unusual digital display.

Look carefully (lower image) and you will note the outer track is marked oddly with descending graduations from 36 (x10) to 0, which obviously is in degrees.  However I’ve never seen a degrees scale running clockwise from 360 to 0 as opposed to 0 to 360 in a digital compass watch and OK maybe it’s just me, but I haven’t quite worked it out yet.

Compass bearing for 12 position and note the North segment indicator.

Compass bearing for 12 position (NNW) and note North & cardinal points indicator.

Note this model was produced when the “glass” was possibly a rather soft acetate compound which was easily scratched (this has a few scratches), but it is still easily read and all functions are working perfectly – a testament to Casio’s early electronics and displays.

The case resins were also not quite the quality we take for granted today and the lettering has all but disappeared color wise, but the embossed figures are still quite readable.  The current seconds runs around the degree track and all segments are perfect and when using other functions the seconds markers don’t display, instead are changed for Compass, Navigation, Stopwatch, Timer and Alarms etc.

As usual with most Casio models the back light operates via the top right push button.  This is a dial side light however and just about adequate I’d say though is surprisingly bright.  It stays illuminated as long as the button is pushed.

Like most early digital compass models there is no facility for compass declination settings, so magnetic North it has to be and in that regard it’s still pretty accurate, if kept away from metallic influences of course.  The bezels in these older models always stiff even sometimes immovable as the case screws are invariably very tight and the clearances have long since dried up.  If you need to use the bezel care has to be taken in any disassembly.  The problem with these old softer resin cases are the screw holes – very easy to damage them and if you do cross thread them, well just let’s say re-dieing the thread is a bit of a pain!

Great fun though, these old Casio technical watches as at that time they were really stretching the boundaries of what they could put in a wrist watch.  An amazing array of different mobile displays and always a pleasure to see close up and always a discussion point if spotted on your wrist.  And I always wear them! at some time.

Next up is the 1996 Triple Sensor ATC1200 – another gem from Casio that really looks the business!

PXR-5 – Young at heart

British industrial designer Michael Young has relaunched the PXR-5  which if I recall correctly first appeared back in 2010.  I particularly like this model as whilst it cleverly espouses a fresh and modern ultra minimalist look, it manages to do so without that bland and featureless Scandinavian style, that always turns me off.

Michael Young BXR-5

Michael Young BXR-5 BR/NY – stainless/blue

The PXR-5 in contrast is a wonderfully understated design classic with a simple digital face and adjustable nylon Velcro strap.  It’s both today and casual fashion look rolled into one.  Basically and according to Michael Young himself he simply wanted it to tell the time, no more no less and also have the easy facility to change color to suit the occasion.  This very successfully manages by the use of a super simple velcro strap.  There are a couple or three little pushbuttons, the right side ones for changing the Time and the left side one for activating a back light.  The case, and there are optional finishes, is Water Resistant to 30 metres, so showers are no problem.

Designer simple - yet so neat and effective

Designer simple – yet so neat and effective

The version shown here is of the PXR-5 BR/NY with a silver brushed stainless steel face and navy blue strap.

Like all good designs, this is simple and yet incredibly effective and will suit the wearer in virtually any situation.  And why has it appeared again.  Well again according to Michael, the phone has never stopped ringing from folks wanting to know where they can get one – simple as that!

Case shown in this version is 316 stainless steel, with a polyester and Velcro Strap.  The digital LCD display has a Blue/Green EL.  The Case length is  45 mm lug to lug,  36 mm wide and just 8 mm depth.  The battery is a 1.55v  V391 or equivalent and it comes with a Manufacturer’s warranty of 24 months.

Silver grey version

Silver and gray version

I understand it is available HERE and is around £80 (UK pricing).

There are in fact 4 versions – the two shown here plus a gold colored model with brown Velcro strap and a Black model with black strap.  Prices are the same for any model and if interested, experience tells me the shelves will be cleared pretty quickly . . . . so  . . . .


Best twin sensor?

Casio Twin Sensor SGW-100B – 3V with textile strap & buckle

For those of us that don’t actually require the full ABC sensor set up there is the lesser option of a Twin Sensor model.  Some folks don’t really need to know the Barometric Pressure or the Altitude or the Temperature, though the latter seems to come regardless for some obscure reason.  You could of course, if money an issue, get yourself a cheap “does everything” ABC model such as the LAD Weather watch, but at £40 against the Casio Twin Sensor model at £50, once you factor in known quality and reliability issues, plus wild variations of good to bad reviews of the LAD, then I’d have to go with the Twin Sensor from Casio.  (incidentally the LAD Weather watch with such conflicting reviews says to me that Quality Control is left to the buyer and that I don’t like). 

So all that said and back to topic, the best value Twin Sensor model I’ve yet found with Compass and Thermometer is the Casio SGW-100B-3V and it’s not just best value, as not being G Shock and with fewer sensors, it is a much smaller and neater affair altogether.   It is also very, very easy to use.  I should also note this model is battery, not Solar as the triple sensor PRG270 I reviewed last week, but with 3+ years battery life, it’s hardly relevant.

Let’s say you’ve been wearing the watch for a month or so and you decide to use the Compass – the scenario being, you might have just popped up to street level from the subway/Tube in London for example and no clue what direction you’re facing – Well you’re in luck as this model is as easy as it gets, it’s also super clear to read the dial (unlike so may digital models) and one push of a button shows North and you’re on your way.

Neat to the wrist

Neat to the wrist and great quality construction

Physically the watch is just 47.8 mm diameter and only 13 mm case depth and importantly just 49.7 mm lug to lug, which means this model sits great on small wrists.  And weighing a mere 57 gms, it’s a wear and forget watch and a real contender for Daily Beater status.  And although it has just two sensors, it still has a good feature set, with a 24 hr Stopwatch, 59 min, 59.99 seconds Countdown Timer, a 29 zone 48 Cities World Time function, 5 Alarms and is Water Resistant to 200m.  The pushbuttons are not overly protected and neither do they need to be as they are sleek to the case, easily operated and located within the centre of the case edge, so don’t suffer from inadvertent operation either.

In short this watch is a gem and with it’s high contrast digital display, it is simply better than any other brand, bar none in the clarity stakes.  It also has a night light in the form of an upgraded EL (electro-luminescent) panel that highlights the digits in a glow for a second or two.

The digital compass aspect (why I have it) is good and simple to use.  I have also found it surprisingly accurate and against my Silva trekking compass it reads the same.  Pushbutton D (lower right) and the compass mode starts – sweeping a revolution graphic around the circumference of the dial and then indicating with an arrow – North.  The heading of the 12 o’clock position is indicated in degrees and Cardinals.  Nice to note that in compass mode, the time is still visible on the upper dial zone.  Compass Declination is catered for and can be easily set and also easily switched OFF if not required.

ABC or neat Twin Sensor

Neat Twin Sensor or ABC – note both are textile straps – so small wrists welcome!

It is also nice to see that Casio compass sensors are pretty accurate today.  For example if I activate my Triple Sensor ABC Casio PRG270B-3, my Tissot Solar Expert and this model together with my Silva Compass, they all point in the same direction.  I remember well when digital compass models first came out, different brands pointed in different directions and rarely stayed calibrated for long.

The Module in this model is the 3157 and it has a industry standard CR2025 battery, so is both efficient and practical.  Water Resistance is a good 200M or 660 feet, so if you swim, no problem. This model has the textile strap which is my preference and it’s of decent quality and much better than their older generation, with melt edged buckle holes and a steel buckle and as I’ve said before, the textile strap fits the smaller wrist much better (see images) as the strap can sit perpendicularly to the case.

Casio case quality

Casio precision case and dial quality – difficult to beat

The strap is approximately 24 mm at the case fixing and tapers to 18mm at the buckle.  A hybrid springbar fitting is used and a standard strap/band could be fitted with a bit of fiddling if preferred. (Note I’ve never had issues with Casio textile straps despite adverse comments from users – What on earth do these folks do to destroy both straps, bracelets, cases, crystals and goodness knows what else?  I have to wonder what their car or home looks like?

Finally this model is a testament to Casio  high quality watch production today, very well made, great resin technology case construction (I’ve not seen better) and in short, this model in my opinion is pretty special and with no negatives to report.  And at around £50 in the UK it also has to be a bargain.

If you don’t have one now, then I suggest you find one sooner rather than later, as these, certainly in the strap version, are becoming scarce.

So my picks for ABC and Twin Sensor are – the Casio SGW100B-3v Twin Sensor and the Casio PRG270B-3 ABC Triple Sensor and I think it doubtful either model will be bettered for some considerable time – if at all!

NoteWhilst Solar is fine for the Triple Sensor PRG270 being an ABC multi-function model, the lack of Solar on the Twin Sensor SGW100 is fine for me as the battery life is in excess of 3 years anyway.