A Classic but is it for me?

Well this is about as far as I go on my search around the Digital watch models, as the one I’ve found is said to be the the best of the best.  In fact I’m told this is THE modern Classic – the Casio G-Shock DW-5600E-1V model with the 3229 module.

Casio G-Shock DW5600E Module 3229

Casio G-Shock DW5600E-1V Module 3229

Arguably the best designed Digital Watch of it’s time, this particular design first appeared in 1996.  This DW5600E version is also about as simple as a G-Shock can be and inside has a set of “sensible” every day use functions and features.  Such as the commendable 200m water resistance, a multifunction Alarm, a Countdown Timer and a Stopwatch.  Note this one features Module 3229, which has the Auto-Calendar to 2099 (previously to 2039)

Other details are as follows –

The Countdown Timer can be set for any duration from one second up to 24 hours, in one-second increments; optional auto-repeat function.
The Stopwatch: 1/100th second, which measures net time, split time, and first – and second-place times; rolls over at 24 hours.
One Alarm but unusually in addition to the hour and minute, a month and/or date may optionally be set, so the alarm will only sound during the specified month or on the specified day of the month.  Actually a very useful reminder, if like me you forget the Dentist appointment.
There is also an Hourly Chime option.
Backlight is provided by the Illuminator, which is an Electroluminescent type, which shows blue/green to light the whole display at any time, though excels in low light situations or at night.
The Battery is a Lithium CR2016 and should last around 2 years in normal operation.
As a G-Shock it has the shock resistant design and in fact is intended to survive a 10-meter fall.  This DW5006E version has a Polymer composite-case and a flat steel back panel (4 screws) and is light weight in comparison with older models.  Because of the neat flat back, lower profile and relatively small dimensions, it also sits better on the wrist.
Water Resistance is an excellent 200m, so this model has no issues under water!

G-Shock - special strap means it can't sit upright.

G-Shock – special strap means it can’t sit upright. Note small smooth recessed pushers.

The DW5600 series has a classic shape with it’s square/rectangular 43.6mm wide case in tough black Polymer and matching flexible rubber strap.  Interestingly when you first strap it on, it suddenly dawns on you that it’s actually one tough watch, but amazingly comfortable.  It’s also rather compact for a Casio G-Shock – which HAS to be a good thing and it suits me VERY well!  In fact the case depth is a neat 12.6 mm, so it wears nice and flat on the wrist and slips easily under a shirt cuff.

So no Solar power, no World Time, no Compass, Altimeter, Thermometer or Barometer here – but a classic WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) kind of watch that is not only refreshing, but it’s also darned good.  A case of less is more, you could say.

Slim profile fits the smaller wrist.

Slim profile fits the smaller wrist.

A well protected mineral glass sits above a good contrast Casio digital display.  In normal or Timekeeping mode it shows the Time (Hours, Minutes & Seconds – in 12hr or 24hr format), the Date, Day and Month.  Note that the Date and Month are contained in a small outlined area of the display and when in Countdown Timer or Stopwatch modes, this area changes to and shows the current time – I think this is a really useful feature.  Not so clever for UK users is the fact that you can’t reverse the Date/Day format to Day/Date (we Brits like to know what Day it is first, rather than the Date – I mean who cares about the Date!).

The functions as with most digital watches are operated by the use of pushers or buttons on the sides of the case and here there are 4, two on the right and two on the left.  There is always a compromise with these as to protection, that is, to make sure they can be used easily and have protection from inadvertent use.  Usually this is done either with a recess in the case body and/or small shoulder lugs either side of the pusher.  In this model it’s achieved by the case shaping and on this model the top left SET pusher is virtually flush with the case and is really difficult to operate easily.
This is doubly tricky as it’s the most difficult pusher to reach for a left wrist wearer who is right handed.  Also as each of the pushers are really rather small I already find it tricky to “find” the night light for example (bottom right) especially in the dark and end up fumbling around with my (small) fingers searching for it.  The case has many hollows and bumps so one recess or bump feels much like any other.  Another point is the pushers are small, round and smooth and for me I would prefer some texture on the surface.
As a consequence setting or selecting the functions is not as easy as I would like.  Also if I was being picky the sequence of operation of the functions is not as intuitive, for example, as a Timex.  An example would be in the setting of the time, where the right pushers don’t act as up and down buttons when setting figures, but only the the upper pusher is used and it only increases numbers – you can’t dial down the numbers.

However these niggles aside I still like this model – mostly as it has very few gimmicks and it can be worn on large or small wrists and it’s comfortable.  The Display has good contrast and is large enough to read easily (when on the wrist) and it shows a lot of information in one glance.  It has Timers that can be set in various options AND you can read the current time when using these.  It has beep Alarms and and the dial can flash at the same time when these are activated.  It’s very tough but at the same time it’s a sensible size.

As folks tell me, it’s a G-Shock Classic sure enough and design wise I agree with some but not all of the hype and for me there are reservations – and of course the question always has to be –

Does it work for me? 

Now bearing in mind that I have just acquired a Timex T49854J, it may be interesting to have a quick comparison here and now and decide, from a practical point of view, which one I personally prefer.

Case/body style – Timex wins – conventional strap means ease of replacement AND it allows the watch to sit off the wrist on a bedside cabinet for example, upright on it’s lugs.  The pushers are larger and very much easier to use and whilst they don’t have physical protection I have not yet had an accidental push.  The night light is very easy to find as it’s the largest pusher on the right center of the case, where the crown would normally be.

Casio v Timex - a personal choice.

Casio v Timex – a personal choice.

Display – Timex wins – the display is much larger and easily readable from a distance and even easier when upright. (the Casio has to sit on it’s side, so this fact and owing to the slightly recessed face, at 6 feet I can’t read it).

Functions – Timex wins – They both sport a similar range of functions, Multifunction Alarms, Chronograph, Countdown Timer, Hour chime etc. though the Timex does have some additional functions and options.  But basically the Timex is easier to use and more intuitive.  Pushers are larger, textured surfaces, easier to use and the setting procedures are both quicker and simpler to manage.  Also the Timex has the option to set DAY/DATE format for the UK users whereas the Casio doesn’t.  Also the upper and lower right pushers can alter the digits up and down, so setting times etc. is much quicker.  In short the Timex function program wise, is in my opinion more user intuitive than Casio.

Alarms – Timex wins (for me) – Though this is personal and purely as this Timex has a Vibration Alarm option.  It can have vibration and/or beeps and as I can’t hear the beeps any more – a Vibration Alarm wins every time.  It’s also useful when the watch is off the wrist and on a bedside cabinet.  Sitting upright on the case lugs (which the Casio can’t do) when the Alarm sounds it also vibrates against the surface it’s on (just like a cellphone) and is easily audible even for me.  On the wrist of course it’s fine as the vibrations are easily felt.

Nightlight – Illuminator v Indiglo.  Not much to choose between them – I would guess the Timex is slightly brighter and it’s larger of course, but both are good.

Water Resistance – Casio wins – but the winning is moot – 200m against 100m – let’s face it both are very good.

The practical choice - Timex T49854J Expedition, Vibration, Chronograph.

The practical choice – Timex T49854J Expedition, Vibration, Chronograph.

So all in all as a personal preference it has to be the Timex basically as I have no issues with it at all.  And this is rare I can tell you!  It IS a little thicker though unlikely I’d wear either watch in a dress situation.  After all the Timex is advertised as an Expedition watch, so fair comment.
The Timex just manages to suit my average wrist and it is the easiest by far to use practically, be it Functions, Pushers, Display, Alarm and that conventional standard fitting strap wins every time.

So whilst it’s the Timex for me by a short head, I have to say I like them both and I consider them great buys.

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