Combo nights (1)

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.

Casio120CM-5 Camo Digital only

Casio 120CM-5 Camo Digital only

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.

St Moritz Momentum Format 4 Combo Divers model

St Moritz Momentum Format 4 Combo Divers model

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.P1020511

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 . . .

The Powerhouse Format

Since my trawl around for G-Shock alternatives I’ve found a few unfamiliar watches that have impressed me greatly.  And not because of the alternative concept, but just because these are different and maybe even special.  As wrist statements they’re good as they are built solid and look great – and not usually guilty of being a “macho” type, I try not to swagger when wearing any one of them!

I’ll feature just one and I was so impressed I bought the company – eh?  . . .well not quite, but I did buy one of their best models – the (St Moritz) Momentum Format 4  – I call it the powerhouse!  For those in the know some apt descriptions come to mind – such as the T90, the Type 90 (Kyu-maru), AMX-56 Leclerc, the T57, the Soviet IS-3, the Landkreuzer P. 1000 Ratte and finally the Challenger 2.

OK maybe I’m a bit over the top here – and for those not in the know, these are all main battle tanks of various Countries.  But you get my drift – the Format 4 is a VERY solid piece of work! and built like one.

St Moritz Momentum Format 4 - a classic tough watch

St Moritz designed Momentum Format 4 – a classic tough watch

Made of high grade matte Titanium this watch certainly has presence, with it’s uni-directional wide deep figured bezel with luminous dot @0, plus a very definite 60 click function, large well figured screw down crown and shaped pushers.  Surprisingly the dimensions are just 43mm x 14.2mm and the whole ensemble weighs only 90gms.  The rubber strap as always with these Diver orientated models has the usual “wave” construction silicon/rubber, which as I’ve said before might be ideal for added grip over a neoprene wet suit, but against your wrist can be somewhat aggressive.  I’m resolving that issue later this week when a deployment silicon 22mm strap I’m waiting for arrives. (note – my Apeks Diver 200 model has similar “waves, but which are flat on the under side – very sensible).

Orange Monster, Format 4 and the Pulsar Race - every one a powerhouse!

Orange Monster, Format 4 and the Pulsar Race – every one a powerhouse!

The size comparison above shows the territory we’re in and it shows well here.  Actually three watch are types shown – The Monster is “analogue”, the Pulsar is “digital” and the Format (and why I picked it as one of my alternatives to the G-Shocks) is “Analogue/Digital” AND has a very comprehensive digital function set.

On first looks the dial has a very black background (called a blackout dial) within which there are two digital display windows.   There are numerals at 12, 3, 6 and 9 with indices in between.   An Hour and Minute hand plus a centre Seconds hand in orange plus a white coated end.   The luminous aspect of each of these elements is provided by Super-Luminova coatings and according to Momentum, guarantees up to 8 hours legibility in low light and darkness.   The heat tempered mineral glass is very scratch resistant and the analogue movement is Swiss quartz with LC digital display.

Digital matrix displays show well - Note the Format4 can be programmed out.

Format 4 Digital matrix displays show well – and can be programmed OFF.

The digital function of this model is very comprehensive, featuring Local Time mode, World Time mode (59 cities + my city), Alarm mode (5 + scheduled), Timer mode and Chronograph mode (10 laps + memory).   An auto and manual Power Save setting is also incorporated where you can turn OFF the digital display at a preset time or immediately with any key reinstatement.  The dial has an EL back light which illuminates the matrix digits on my one for 4 seconds (not 3 as instructions) which is ideal and excellent in use.
The watch has a battery life (CR2025 Lithium I believe)) of approximately 2 years and the Water Resistance is 20ATM or 200m.

Great dial, clear, uncluttered and excellent digital display

Great dial, clear, uncluttered and excellent digital display

Note – some of the descriptions I’ve seen for this watch are inaccurate in some details.  Possibly as the previous version has been  substantially upgraded by the introduction of the Format 4 and their sales info not updated to reflect the changes.  The improved Water Resistance rating for example from 100m to 200m and the much improved digital display, which is excellent.

Exposure to dull daylight via window, then shown in low light curtained room

Exposure to dull daylight via window, then shown in low light curtained room

Shown with digital back light lit, just after the previous image.

Shown with digital back light lit, just after the previous image.

The above images taken after the watch was exposed to the window (natural light on a dull day), then into a darkened room with curtains drawn.   The second image taken with difficulty (I needed three hands) as the EL back light is only on for a few seconds, so a case of press the pusher then try and compose the picture and take the photograph.  Not that easy!   So forgive my shaky hand, but it gives some impression.   The digital EL back light in total darkness is excellent and as above, can show any of the digital functions including as here, the Day, the Date and the Time.   Analogue display night vision with Super-luminova is OK, though not quite as good as my Citizen, Seiko or Apeks 200.  Whilst it doesn’t appear to take such a bright initial charge as the former, it is still readable in the dark after a good 8 hours – I tried it last night and it’s fine. (to be picky reading analogue time would be easier if the hands were full length solid infill).

So overall I’m really pleased with this model as it manages everything I could possibly need or want from an ana-digi watch.  In addition it’s built like the proverbial brick outhouse, but conversely is really lightweight and also a good size.   Anyway on this watch, which I’m sure is a keeper, the only change will be to the strap (can’t snorkel these day, so a wetsuit and I will never meet) and I hope to have a suitable one soon, that’s a bit kinder to my old wrist . . .

A great watch at an affordable price and considering the functions and performance – great value.

UPDATE –
As said when I started this Post, I felt the strap had to be changed and here is the straight forward alternative.   A silicon deployment style that fits great and pulls the watch in nice and close to the wrist with perfect comfort.  No Diver’s “waves” to contend with  – and it makes all the difference.  Funny how it is reminiscent of my old Nivada Grenchen Depthmaster (I wore this back in 1961-73) – see images below.

Format 4 with my preferred silicon deployment strap.

Format 4 with my preferred silicon deployment strap.

Nivada Grenchen Depthmaster - 1000ft

Nivada Grenchen Depthmaster – 1000ft (courtesy of watchuseek)

Not quite in the same league and many differences of course – but it just has that old Nivada look.  The above image is similar to my old one, which like an idiot I sold on some years ago to a collector, which I wasn’t at the time, but having given up diving and so on I was unlikely to don a wetsuit again anyway.  Oh how I wished I’d kept it now!
However – back to the new strap images of the Format 4 – much better and neater without the Divers style strap and much, much more comfortable.

New silicon strap fits watch flat to wrist.

New silicon strap fits watch flat to wrist. Makes the watch seem smaller.

New silicon deployment strap fits perfectly

New silicon deployment strap fits perfectly

Formatnewstrap03

And finally the back of the watch showing the screw back fitting with the 20ATM mark and which also illustrates the very neat silicon deployment strap fitting (straight) which is such an improvement in my opinion.

Format 4 screw back (note 20ATM)

Format 4 screw back (note 20ATM)

An interesting point about the replacement strap – it makes the watch actually look smaller on the wrist (as noted on one of the images above).  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – never judge a watch by it’s supplied strap – is it OK for you?  And if it isn’t – check out the alternatives – you might just find that perfect combination.

I did.

G-Shock not for you?

The title poses the question:  What if you don’t like the G-Shock style?  What else is there?

It depends, apart from a fashion thing, on just what you want from a watch.

G-Shock Stealth

G-Shock Stealth

If it’s just toughness (perceived or otherwise), then it’s relatively simple especially as in reality the question is – How “tough” does a modern watch actually have to be – honestly.    And let’s face it, most good watches are intrinsically pretty tough to start with and “on your wrist” they are very much part of you – so whatever happens to your watch, may well happen to you!

My own view is that whatever model I pick, tough or otherwise it has to have certain basic Watch requirements.

1) – I have to be able to read the time – easily – and that’s day or night (a basic requirement in my book).
2) – 100m Water Resistance minimum – OK that’s not silly.
3) – Not too large – PLEASE!  Too large and too thick, it starts to take on comic proportions!
4) – Battery quartz is fine – It doesn’t have to be Solar, World Time, have Multiple Alarms or Chronograph – though “some” functions can be useful.
5) – It doesn’t have to survive a 10m drop to concrete – it really doesn’t (definitely the forté of Casio)

And are functions essential? –

  • Chronograph/Stopwatch – when did I last use a chronograph/stopwatch?  Answer: Can’t remember it was so long ago!
  • World Timer settings – I can manage that on any cheap analogue model in 5 seconds (without referring to the instructional booklet – IF I can find it).
  • Solar (Eco-Drive etc) – Battery is fine with me, with a cell change every 2 to 5 years. (Kinetic is another option).

So in reality (and that’s the point here) it shouldn’t be too difficult to find a relatively “tough” watch model that can meet sensible requirements.

Knowing I was writing this today I asked a friend (this morning actually) what functions had he actually used on his G-Shock DW5600 (I have one of these myself) in the last month?   And his answer didn’t come as much of a surprise – “None” he said, “except the time, day and date plus the back light”.  And that really does say it all . . . . . and had I asked myself the same question, the answer would have been identical!

However, G-Shocks usually come with a large function set, whether used, useful or otherwise and a major reason for their attraction.  However as to the hard knobbly looks, overly protected pushers, and surprisingly not too intuitive settings/controls and arguable legibility, are often NOT as one would like – hence the reason I like to look for alternatives.  Incidentally Casio do make the odd model that whilst not as obvious in shock protection terms does have that facility and without the “macho” look (I’ll perhaps consider them at a later date).

So what’s out there?

I was advised Luminox are a good alternative, but after checking them out I thought them a little overpriced for what they offer.  Mechanical prices for average quartz – not an option for me.

In fact my 6 year old Uzi Protector (looks like Luminox) costs around £175 today and it’s managed all those few years without any issues of any kind and still going strong.

Uzi Protector - Swiss Quartz and 200WR

Uzi Protector – Swiss Quartz and 200WR

200m Water Resistance, analogue H,M & seconds, plus Date, Tritium light source, battery Swiss quartz and a tough blighter it is too.  40mm x 14mm dimensionally with webbing strap.  No fancy functions, but a very good performer that meets my basic requirements and is pretty tough I’d say.

So that’s one option, so then I looked for a model that was both tough and had a comparable function set and this one came to mind.  The Momentum Format 4 – which is smaller than it looks and also in Titanium.  Some would immediately comment that Ti will scratch and it won’t last etc etc.  Well I have to differ on that as I have 7 Titanium watches and they look as good now as when I bought them many years ago.

Momentum Format 4 Titanium

Momentum Format 4 Titanium divers strap

The Format 4 actually has an impressive function set – both analogue and Digital displays.  Analogue Hours, Minutes and Second hands and Digital two Digital displays which can show a whole range of indications – such as – World time (59 cities plus user defined), 5 Alarms plus a schedule Alarm, Date, Day, Month, a Chronograph and Stopwatch 23, 59,59 with multi-laps, Timers.  In addition the digital displays can be switched OFF facilitating power savings with or without auto on feature and the watch has Super-luminova analogue hands and indices, plus a 3 second duration EL back light, so no problems in the dark, even if not using the digital features.  The watch has a Mineral anti-glare crystal, uni-rotating bezel (useful), a 200m Water Resistance (20ATM), with large screw down crown and back and takes a standard 22mm strap or bracelet and is powered by a Swiss quartz movement.  And the 2 year Guarantee is extendable to 6 years.

And whilst I said it looked big and it does, it only measures 43mm x 14.5mm and in Titanium weighs just 90 grams and it looks pretty tough to me.  Now I’d say this is a decent alternative to the G-Shock style and OK the watch face may not have much protection, but personally I’ve never had a shattered watch glass on any watch I’ve owned in my lifetime, so not a priority for me.

What I do see is a very fast legible take up analogue face, plus a secondary digital display and function set that meets and surpasses anything I’m ever likely to need or even want to use.  So I’m happy with this choice.   There are of course others out there, perhaps obscured to some extent I suppose, by the hype that “G”, “Shock” and “Tough” descriptions engender, but they are there – you just have to look.

Note – The Momentum 4 is also reasonably affordable and highly competitive in comparison to many of the G-Shock variants, especially considering the function set.  Currently it sells for around £180 in the UK, which is pretty good for a Titanium cased Ana-Digi Diver Grade 4 Water resistant model.  In fact I liked it so much I ordered one myself which will join my other Divers models, though this particular model I’ll have to consider my first real G-Shock alternative.

However – and there’s always one of those – IF you can’t get your head round the fact that it’s not that easy to inadvertently smash or crack your watch glass – and it really isn’t – you do have another option.  And this model from Citizen might just solve your concern.

Citizen

Citizen Royal Marines Commando Eco-Drive

This is the Royal Marines Commando Titanium from Citizen which whilst it doesn’t have a great function set, it does the “tough” basics very well – in fact just what I needed when I was in my action days!

The one piece IP plated Titanium case is 42mm x 13mm, with an ultra thick 2.5mm sapphire glass, which is just about bomb proof I would have thought.  Eco-Drive Citizen movement with the basic analogue functions of Hour, Minute, Seconds and a date window @3.  Plus good luminous numerals/indices and hands means decent night use.  Good crown protection and with a tough Kevlar strap and a commendable 300m Water Resistance all point to a seriously “tough” watch.  It comes with the Citizen 5 year warranty.  Price should be no more than £300 here in the UK.

So there you have it, after a few minutes crawl around the net and already I’ve come up with a couple of decent contenders.

And I have to admit (and the reason for this post) personally I was becoming a little bored by the whole G-Shock and “tough” watch concept, especially as the prices seem to be rising with each new model.  And with few “new” features in the latest models, with the exception of a more extreme case, an extreme name and a larger SIZE, it’s little surprise that I decided it’s time to look elsewhere.

And very glad I did too, as there are certainly alternatives out there – you just have to get past the “G’s, “Toughs”and “Expeditions”, to find them.
And what of the two I’ve found here?  Well I like them both and whilst I hear the concerns about watch glass breaking, I really have no experience of that ever happening to me.  The odd scratch maybe, but nothing serious.  So on that basis considering the impressive function set and the price, the Ana-Digi Format 4 is maybe the one I’d pick.  Mind you the Citizen is one seriously smart and tough piece of work – a bit like the guys it was named after perhaps . . . . .

But there will be others around, you can be sure of that, so have a trawl – you might just be surprised.

But – and here’s a “but” to contend with!   The Casio G-Shock for all it’s macho looks IS a seriously tough watch, though whether you actually need one is another matter entirely and just to illustrate the point I show youthe “drop test” video from Casio.  And you have to admit – it IS very impressive!