Gulfmaster or Rangeman?

A friend asked me the other day what I thought of the Gulfmaster Ocean G Shock  series of models from Casio, which appear to be the culmination of the “pack it all in” concept with both digital and analog (motorised) display and taken to it’s limits?

Casio Gulfmaster

Casio Gulfmaster

If you check out the many videos that are around, this is a watch absolutely stuffed with functions, is the latest thing and I should like it.  BUT when considered against the Casio Rangeman for example I’m of the opinion that maybe it’s just too much.  With the addition of analog function it’s almost overloaded and more importantly it’s twice the price.  Now don’t get me wrong here, I’m all in favour of more functions and I like the Gulfmaster but would I buy it?  and the answer I’m afraid, is no I wouldn’t.  There is also a point when you start adding analog and digital functionality where you have to be careful of over-complication and despite how clever Casio have been, I’m not sure if they’ve carried it off.

Compass mode - Hands become True North pointer.  The digital display indicates angle in degrees between the 12 o'clock and the True North pointer. Declination can be set in menu.

Compass mode – Hands become True North pointer. The digital display indicates angle in degrees between the 12 o’clock and the True North pointer. Declination can be set in menu.

Take the Tissot Solar Expert Pro for example – now that’s a feat of display engineering if ever there was – utterly simplistic analog appearance and yet with enormous ABC functionality.  Done with the most clever fusion of touchscreen, digital and analog micro-motor technology, it easily surpasses Casio in the complication v clarity stakes.

Casio Rangeman GW-9400CMJ-3ER

Casio Rangeman GW-9400CMJ-3ER (tougher than old boots!)

The Casio Rangeman on the other hand I like why?  Well first off I like owning it.  I like it because it manages the same functions (which are ideal for me) as my Protek ABC 270B, but in the G Shock classic tradition.  I like it because it’s all digital with no analog provision and looks actually quite plain, or unobtrusive perhaps is a better description.  Just another G Shock you may think, but it’s actually very much a wolf in sheep’s clothing.   The function (QW3410) set is actually very similar to the Gulfmaster, but with the omission of any analog clutter, is without Tidal information, but has the added bonus of a Sunrise/sunset function and a snooze Alarm (don’t know why that got missed on the Gulf).  The Rangeman is also in practice, smaller on the wrist, which is an important consideration when dealing with these multi-function models.  

Both models use the “Smart Access crown, rather than separate pushers as my Casio Pro Trek PRG270B-3, which is an improvement and as I say feature wise are very similar.  And with such large functionality it is pretty obvious all these models are going to be big (though that said, the advance in miniature technology is nothing short of amazing) – indeed they are all similar, but shape and band/case fit tends to dictate which wears smaller on the wrist and the Rangeman, surprisingly for a multi-function G Shock, though large is neater than expected.

None of the models are heavy though with the use of resin case technology.  One of my dreams however would be if Casio could reduce the sizes of these watches to around 45 mm x 45 mm and under 15 mm case depth, but I’m very doubtful that will ever happen as there is this compulsion to pack more in with every model . . . .

However function wise the Rangeman is very comprehensive and with basically 3 versions – the GW-9400CMJ-3ER shown here with Green case and Positive display – the GW-9400-1ER with Black case and Positive display and the GW-9400-3ER with Green case and Negative display.  I should say that my personal view is most Casio Negative displays are not in the same league as Positive ones.

The technical data for this Limited model is as follows –

Casio G-Shock Rangeman Men in Camouflage Wave Multiband 6 Watch GW-9400CMJ-3, GW9400CMJ

This latest addition to the Master of G Series designed has the camouflage pattern on the resin band.  Based on the previous RANGEMAN plus a carbon fiber insert on the band and with the Triple Sensor Version 3 (altitude, bearing, barometric pressure).  Part of the new New Master of G Series of models from Casio.


Mineral Glass
Shock Resistant
200-meter water resistance
Case / bezel material: Resin
Carbon fiber insert Resin Band
LED backlight (Super Illuminator)

Great illumination for dark use.

Great illumination for dark use.

Full auto LED light, selectable illumination duration, afterglow
Solar powered
Time calibration signal reception
Auto receive up to six* times a day (remaining auto receives canceled as soon as one is successful)
*5 times a day for the Chinese calibration signal
Manual receive
The latest signal reception results
Time Calibration Signals
Digital compass
Measures and displays direction as one of 16 points
Measuring range: 0 to 359°
Measuring unit: 1°
60 seconds continuous measurement
Graphic direction pointer
Bidirectional calibration
Magnetic declination correction
Bearing memory
Measuring range: –700 to 10,000 m (–2,300 to 32,800 ft.)
Measuring unit: 1 m (5 ft.)
Altitude Memory Function:
Auto Save Data: High altitude, low altitude, cumulative ascent, cumulative descent (1 value each)
Others: Relative altitude readings (–3,000 to 3,000 m)
Selectable measurement interval: 5 seconds or 2 minutes
*1 second for first 3 minutes only
*Changeover between meters (m) and feet (ft)
Display range: 260 to 1,100 hPa (7.65 to 32.45 inHg)
Display unit: 1 hPa (0.05 inHg)
Atmospheric pressure tendency graph (past 42 hours of readings)
Atmospheric pressure differential graphic
Barometric pressure tendency information alarm (beep and arrow indicate significant changes in pressure)
*Changeover between hPa and inHg
Display range: –10 to 60°C (14 to 140°F)
Display unit: 0.1°C (0.2°F)
*Changeover between Celsius (°C) and Fahrenheit (°F)
Manual data recording of up to 40 records (altitude, barometric pressure / temperature, bearing, time (Time Stamp))
World time
31 time zones (48 cities + coordinated universal time), city name display, daylight saving on/off
Sunrise, sunset time display
Sunrise time and sunset time for specific date, daylight pointers
1/100-second stopwatch
Measuring capacity: 999:59’59.9”
Measuring modes: Elapsed time, split time, 1st-2nd place times
Countdown timer
Measuring unit: 1 second
Countdown range: 24 hours
Countdown start time setting range: 1 minute to 24 hours (1-minute increments and 1-hour increments)
5 daily alarms (with 1 snooze alarm)
Hourly time signal
Battery level indicator
Power Saving (display goes blank to save power when the watch is left in the dark)
Full auto-calendar (to year 2099)
12/24-hour format
Button operation tone on/off
Regular timekeeping: Hour, minute, second, pm, month, date, day
Accuracy: ±15 seconds per month (with no signal calibration)
Approx battery operating time:
8 months on rechargeable battery (operation period with normal use without exposure to light after charge)
23 months on rechargeable battery (operation period when stored in total darkness with the power save function on after full charge)
Size of case: 55.2 × 53.5 × 18.2 mm
Total weight: 93 g

Not many downsides for this model, though I would liked to have seen a sort of 2nd Time Zone/Home Time SWAP feature, but I’m nit picking – changing to another World Time is easy enough so hardly an issue.
So in answer to my friend’s question – Yes I like the Gulfmaster but it’s not perhaps as tough as it could be with that unprotected glass, the analog hands feature whilst very good I don’t really need, the prominent text bezel seems over-large for purpose, Tidal and Moon stuff I don’t need and I just prefer the rugged tough look of the Rangeman, which is as well specified anyway.  Now that said, there is no doubt it is a superb watch and might well suit everyone so much that I’m the odd guy out, but it’s a personal thing and remember this was a question posed to me just the other day.  I have NOT seen the Gulfmaster in the flesh, so it’s a sort of remote opinion (which I never like doing) and who knows if I had it in my hand or on my wrist, my opinion might change and I might love it, though as I say fortunately I haven’t seen one close up – 😉

The Casio Rangeman GW-9400CMJ-3ER shown in conclusion is what I call a set and forget watch, looks like any other G Shock, which it isn’t and is probably the toughest watch produced, so I’ll stick with it until I see better.  Which could be a considerably long time . . . . What can I say . . . .

Note – this post not intended as a comparison between the two models shown, rather I was asked for my personal opinion which I gave “in Post” as it were. . . and as I was about to Post on the Rangeman, it seemed the ideal opportunity.

G-Shock deployment

Very often a bone of contention are the straps and bracelets used on G-Shock models and some are easier than others to change.  My old favorite the Casio DW5600-E is one such model and fortunately the PU strap/bracelet is one of the easier ones to manage.

New deployment strap fitted.

New deployment strap fitted.

The original strap is a buckle type and I’ve never really suited these divers style affairs as my wrist is relatively small and I much prefer the rubber deployment style – easier and quicker to get on and off and is flat on the wrist side, so always more comfortable.  OK you do have to cut them to fit, but of little consequence as they’re not expensive, easily obtainable and not tied to any particular watch model or type.

So what did I do to get my silicon deployment strap fitted?

First off, the DW5600E is a favorite for a few reasons.  One it is a neat size for a G-Shock as it’s 43.6mm across the center though the lug to lug is over 50mm and actually larger than it needs to be with the standard Casio strap fitted, owing to the under-strap molding that holds the strap out from the case.  This in fact is another reason for the strap change, but more of that later.

1) Remove the G-Shock case cover - using recessed side screws.

1) Remove the G-Shock case cover – using recessed side screws. (note 16mm spring bars)

So first thing is to get at the strap/case fitting and the spring bars (fortunately this model still uses the tried and tested spring bars between the lugs for the strap fixing).  For access it’s much easier therefore to remove the outer G-Shock resin over-case and this is easy by simply unscrewing the 4 screws on the side of the case (not the false indents on the top of the case).  These are recessed but easy to access.  Once removed simply hook your finger nail under one side of this case cover to clear the push buttons and the case cover is removed completely as shown.  Now we can get at the spring bars much more easily and remove the original strap.
Note that the spring bars/strap fittings are only 16mm but the case at the lugs is actually 25mm wide.

Now a standard 16mm strap whilst it would fit easily, would look silly being far too narrow on the watch, so I’m going to fit a 24mm wide silicon deployment strap, but cut down to 16mm at the ends.  And this is very easy to do with a Stanley knife or similar as you’re basically just cutting off the corners of the strap end.  Measuring my 16mm I cut perhaps 4mm back into the strap (any more you’ll get gaps showing where the strap meets the case) both side of the strap and fitted it to the case to see how it looked.

2) Cut corners off replacement deployment strap to 16mm and check fit to case.

2) Corners cut off replacement deployment strap to 16mm and check fit to case (with G-Shock case cover removed) and note cut strap parts on bench.

This was fine and I slipped on the spring bars with a bit of WD40 as they are quite chunky and the strap hole at the end is relatively narrow and fitted the strap with spring bars to the case.

I then replaced the G-Shock case cover which also covered the strap ends, so it looked really neat.  And here is where the dimension of the finished watch differ from the original.  The top to bottom or lug to lug measurement is now under 50mm and the strap can flex down to fit smaller wrist than before and look great.  It also has the benefit of allowing the watch to sit upright on a table as for this first image and not have to sit on it’s side.

New strap fitted - looks good.

New strap fitted – looks good.

As you see the 24mm wide deployment strap fits nicely to the case and looks as if it was made for it – which it was of course!

So that’s my favorite G-Shock re-strapped to suit me and it wasn’t difficult to manage at all – no conversion parts required and the total cost around £7 for the new deployment strap and around 20 minutes of my time with basic tools and a coffee after I checked the fit of the strap before refitting the G-Shock cover.

Strap now flexes direct from spring bars - fits small wrists. (note side recessed screws for G-Sock case cover removal).

Strap now flexes direct from spring bars – fits small wrists. (note side recessed screws for G-Shock case cover removal).

This watch will now fit smaller folks with a small wrist as the strap flexes around the actual spring bars and not held stiffly out from the case at right angles.  This is a bug bear I have with other models with molded bracelets and strap as you cannot lay the watch down on it’s lug ends, upright, but rather you have to lay them on their sides.  I can take this watch off my wrist, put it on the bedside cabinet upright and facing me and I can easily read the time.

Tools required - Bergeron spring bar tool, screwdriver, knife (Pliers not needed after all here).

Tools required – Bergeron spring bar tool, screwdriver, knife (Pliers not needed after all here).

As to other straps – you can very also easily fit a NATO strap and again make sure you get a 24mm wide one, then at the position of the spring bars, cut out small areas either side to fit the 16mm lug neatly.  Just a pair of scissors and a spring bar tool required and that’s it – job done.  The neat thing about the G-Shock case cover is that it extends slightly larger than the actual watch case, so hides any intolerance you may have done when fitting/cutting.  In fact I fitted a fast wrap strap to a friends G-Shock a few months ago (he’s one of those rugged types that climbs things and treks everywhere) and his friends have been really, really envious when they see his particular G-Shock combo.

It sometimes amazes me the odd conversions people do to change straps and yes often they can be tricky to manage and yet I’ve found that the simplest ways are invariably the best.  All too often a complicated solution can be looked at again and re-appraised in the light of simplicity.  Could I do this simpler way, a better way and more often than not – a cheaper way?

Might be one of the other reasons I like this particular Casio DW5600E.
It’s really quite basic function set is absolutely fine for me, Time, Day, Date, Month, Year and 12hr or 24hr selectable time display, an Alarm (daily, by date or monthly with auto repeat) function with selectable dial light flash.  It also sounds for a decent 20 seconds.  A Stopwatch and Countdown function.  I also like the fact that when using other functions, the Time is always indicated on the upper right portion of the dial – very useful.  It’s got a 200m Water resistance and it’s as tough as old boots!

And now it’s got the strap I like on it – what could be better?


New strap fitting - neat and the right size width at 25mm.

New strap fitting – neat and the right size width at 25mm.

New strap fitted - job done.

New strap fitted – job done

Deployment means flat on the wrist - for a neat fit.

Deployment means flat on the wrist – for a neat fit.


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.

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!