Traveling 2015

A friend asked me on Friday (I’m asked this every year) seeing I’d just returned from Europe, what was my recommendation as a traveling watch.  One that you’d take with you on a trip to another country and why.  In the event not a hard question for me to answer.

My first word of advice is to leave the World Time Patek at home.  Cheaper is good and you don’t want a watch that’s too complicated  – you don’t want to refer to instructions all the time.

Do you want/need extra functions, Chrono, Stopwatch or Alarm?   What about changing times? because let’s be honest, a plain Day /Date analog watch is difficult to beat in practice, as you simply pull out the Crown, move the hands – job done.   If it’s digital, can you remember how to set it and if it has a Word Time function, is that easy to remember and set?  If it is – great, but if not, leave it at home.
Crossing rivers? beach combing or swimming? – remember if you’re on your own taking the watch OFF at poolside, could be an easy way to lose it.  So good Water Resistance is a must.

So for me – Ease of use, readability in the dark and good Water Resistance (swimming, bathing, showers, heavy rains, whatever).

Best travel watch

Best travel watch – does everything required – easily and well

First choice is the Citizen Eco-Drive A-T CB0020-09E, which is quartz analog, with Date window, a built in World Time Perpetual Calendar module and step motor hands hidden away inside the watch workings.  I love this watch as it’s understated and unobtrusive, yet packs serious functionality.  For time changing it’s the best there is – To change to a Destination Time Zone, simply pull out the Crown, turn to another City Time Zone.  The seconds hand instantly indicates that City on the dial index, push in the Crown and the analogue hands move around to the new time.   It could not be easier.
It’s also Water Resistant to 200m, has great luminous qualities, very accurate as its Radio Controlled and being Eco-Drive you can forget about batteries.

This has to be my favorite and 1st choice for travel.

My second choice is my “active” travel, third world, other places in the world watch.  In this case I always take the Timex Expedition T49976.

Best "active" travel watch - also best Military model

Best “active” travel watch – also for me it’s the best “Military” model

This is a Digital only model with Shock protection, Water Resistant to 100m.  It has the best night/dark viewing of any digital watch I know (see image), shows at a glance the Day, Date, Month, Hour, Minute, Second and AM/PM indication.  It has added functions such as Alarms (5), Stopwatch and Timer.  It’s also not too big.
And for travel destination times – it has Dual Time or one extra Time Zone which you can set either when on the way or pre-set before you go.  And it’s super simple to set.   Press and hold the Set button (upper left – says Set on it) the Time flashes, press the opposite button and it gives you the option to set the dual time.  Follow the on screen stuff and before you know it, it’s done.  This is one of the few models I know that actually shows what to do within the digital screen.  No instruction book required!

The watch is also as tough as old boots and the battery life is around 5 years – so no worries.  And by the way you can have almost any strap you like on this watch, from NATO, to Textile, to Leather, to Velcro fast wrap – take your pick.
The other important benefit, is the fact it only cost me around £40 new and I’ve got two, so depending where I’m going I sometimes take them both.

Probably the best all round practical travel watch I know.

However if you can’t be bothered with all this travel functionality stuff – I find that Divers models are a great travel watch, especially analog.  They’re inherently tough, have great Water Resistance and being heavily luminous are very easy to read day or night.  Rush job overseas? – chuck on my favorite Diver and off to the airport and for time changes, just move the hands . . . no brainer – it’s that easy. (I take my Apecks 200m).

But for bespoke “travel” models I pick out the Citizen and Timex above, as I’ve traveled with both of them for many years and being an inveterate traveler, from jungles to deserts, Arctic to Antarctic, hot to cold, and with the odd war zone chucked in, they certainly work for me and have never let me down.

Timex – better or worse?

Every so often I check out what the latest is at Timex and have they brought out actual new models or rehashes of older ones.  The ones I’ve spotted so far are not really what I wanted to see, because they are basically rehashes of older models and not only that, in my opinion they are not real improvements.
The first one I noticed is a “shock” model and is the Vibration Alarm T49984SU.

Timex T49950XL Vibration Alarm with bespoke strap.

Timex T49950XL Vibration Alarm with bespoke strap.

This is basically an update my older Expedition Vibration Alarm Chronograph – Model T49854J but with added “shock” protection.
However that added shock protection doesn’t do a great deal for me as the old model was already tough as old boots and function wise they’re very similar with 3 alarms, 3 time zones, chronograph, timer etc etc. and of course the vibration feature, which I have to say is excellent and surprisingly useful on my older model.

Older model T Vibration Alarm - Note standard strap & lugs.

Older model T49854J Vibration Alarm – Note standard strap & lugs.

The downside for me however, stops me even considering purchasing the new model, because even though it increases the Water Resistance from 100m to 200m, it is not as good when it comes to the strap/bracelet arrangement.  Once again and disappointingly, Timex have now built-in a bespoke strap arrangement.  They’ve narrowed the lugs from the older model, which prevents the use of any standard watch strap and yes you guessed it, you’ll have to buy another one from Timex when it breaks.  It might be possible to add a normal strap, but it would be a narrow one to fit the lugs and wouldn’t look so good.

So disappointing for me but very glad I got my older model when I did, because it has been excellent in every way.

As regards straps, I note their standard Expedition Base Shock models still have standard strap/lug arrangements, Dual time zones (two is ideal), 100m WR (no vibration) but much better value price wise.  Indeed I have one myself (Timex Expedition T49976) in camo and found nothing to better it from any Brand – see my review – HERE

Timex also have a shock World Timer model, the T49971SU which seems impressive with some 62 cities and 30 Time Zones represented and 100m Water resistance.

Timex T49971SU World Time with 62 cities

Timex T49971SU World Time with 62 cities

I Like the fact it has 3 quick set Time Zones so you can prepare the watch before travel as it were, which is useful in addition to the full World Time function.
The downside for me again is this business of the non standard strap/lug arrangement, narrowed lugs and a bespoke resin strap affair.  And whilst a nice watch and a good standard module function set which I expect from Timex, I sometimes have to question and this is not just about Timex, but with any World Time watch, if it’s really necessary.  In practical terms Dual or maybe 3 Time Zones to me makes far more sense and rather pointless carrying all the Time Zones of the world around with me.

When I went to Brazil via Madrid from the UK, the 3 Time Zones on my old model was perfect.  Before I left the UK, I simply keyed in the different times for London, Madrid and Brazil  as T1, T2 and T3 – job done.

I do like the fact that Timex introduced the concept of 3 settable Time Zones, as this seems to me to be a very practical World Time arrangement, though I wouldn’t be surprised if many Timex owners didn’t realize they had it.

Sorry if I’ve rambled a bit and perhaps got off the plot here, but that’s the thing with Timex.  They have so many models which appear so similar, confusion rules and you have really got to look very carefully at each model to be able to fit a particular model to your particular likes – and it’s tricky!

Indeed I thought – Ha! new models from Timex! – but after checking carefully, I have decided to stick with the ones I have – for now . . . .


Military look? (1)

Good question actually as the so called “military” watch is somewhere between a rainbow and the Holy Grail!  Such a maligned term and used as a descriptive on so many watch models that often the models referred to can make me laugh out loud, or make me cry . . . ( don’t you love mixed metaphors!).
But seriously what is it that we want from a so called “military” watch?  And that’s a problem from the outset – do you consider the actual current Military Specifications (US, UK, Sweden, France, Germany etc.) and bearing in mind they tend to differ.  Or perhaps instead you take the all purpose loose term of “Military style” as your guide.

Timex Expedition T49976 with easy to fit Zuludiver camouflage NATO

Timex Expedition T49976 with NATO.  Military look and difficult to beat.

Personally I take the latter, as so many of the legitimate “Military Spec” models actually don’t do it for me at all.  And that’s mainly because the only important criteria for me when considering a Mil Spec or “military” model is – will it do what I want it to do?  – is it reliable, really legible day and night, does it have a conventional strap fitting (if it breaks can I replace it easily), if battery powered – how easy to change, how tough is it in my circumstances, does it have the functions I want or need and is it easy and intuitive to use.

And the trouble with the above wish list, which incidentally for me is as good as I need, is that we all want something different because it IS very personal and our circumstances are very different as indeed are our requirements.  So a “military STYLE” model is obviously the way to go.

I already have a few and as you see not all would meet the true (but variable) Military Specs that are around.  But I’ve discounted that anyway in favor of what suits me and perhaps what I consider good enough to be called in my book “Military styled”  Or maybe we should forget the military description bit altogether and simply look out for a “suitable for me” watch . . . which fits my lifestyle and seems to make sense.

The very affordable Timex Expedition T49976 (which I have had for a while myself) with it’s neat black/green resin shock case is a pretty good example of a “military style” watch that on the face of it, is difficult to beat.  The supplied strap is resin/rubber camo with a non reflective buckle with standard lug fixing – hence the NATO strap fitted here – took about 3 minutes to change it over.  This model is digital only, has excellent day and night vision with one of the better incarnations of Timex’s Indiglo, has chrono, alarms, timers and so on and is very easy and intuitive to use.  I particularly like the Shock case which on the upper bezel above the glass is a softer compound than the main case, almost rubbery, so top protection is very good indeed.  The watch is also a sensible size even though shock protected at just 45mm diameter and if you include the slanted pushers barely 47mm.  Lug to lug is commendably short at 48mm, so this watch will fit the smaller wrist without looking like macho man.  14mm depth is also OK and the overall look of the watch is quite unobtrusive with no shiny bits at all.  100m Water Resistance and a CR2016 battery (available almost anywhere) completes the specification and to tell the truth I could stop this Post right now.  It’s about as good as it gets at a very affordable price of around £45 in the UK.  It works, it’s tough, easy to use, neat, any strap will do and has the no fumble top mount Indiglo pusher for the back light – no searching around with fingertips looking for it or even remembering which pusher it is (unlike many a Casio).

So this is my top tip.  For further info see my Post HERE.

So after mentioning Casio just a second ago, what can they offer?  I first looked at a similar “camo” military style model – the Casio GD120CM-5 – a digital only model, which came out earlier this year (2014) which has a similar function set plus World Time.  It is a T-Shock model.

Casio DG 120CM-5 Camo Digital only - but is BIG

Casio DG 120CM-5 Camo Digital only – but is BIG

This Casio also like the Timex has an excellent display with a good standard blue back light for night use and with positive digitals it’s good to see in the day also.  A tough case, dull finish, shock resistant, water resistant to 200m and plenty functions from chronograph to Alarms + World Time.   It is however considerably larger than the Timex at 51.2mm wide and lug to lug at 55mm and with an unfortunate hefty depth of 17.4mm, this is one big watch.  As a digital only military style model priced at $130 or £85 it’s a nice enough watch but certainly not as good value as the Timex (£45) which in my personal opinion is simply better.
So overall although it looks the part, in comparison to the Timex it’s overpriced, the strap for me in a problem and the large overall size is not ideal for me.  So no cigar!

My third pick was gong to be either the gents Nixon Unit SS or the ladies Nixon Unit 40 in black – the only difference being the gents is 44mm diameter and the ladies 40mm, the latter being perhaps the better fit for my small wrist.

The Nixon Unit 40 - Ladies model!

The Nixon Unit 40 – Ladies model!

But whilst it looks the part (even the smaller ladies one) and it’s features – are up there with Casio and Timex –

indestructible polycarbonate case, a positive or negative display segmented dial layout, hardened mineral crystal, good visibility day and night (back lit), 100m Water Resistant with screw case back and a standard silicon style strap with locking polycarbonate buckle.   Function wise it features Time and Calendar plus Seconds, 12/24hr selectable, Chronograph, Dual Time, Timer, Hourly Chime and Alarm and nicely sized at 40mm diameter.  And the Unit 40 option is under £90 – which is good value”. . . .

– and it looks great and so on – I have one reservation – and that is the legibility or clarity of those digits.  I’ve not seen this model “in the flesh” as it were, but looking at the odd review on You Tube, I’d say the clarity of the digits might very well depend on the angle it’s seen from – and that is no use to me.  So as often the case I would advise any prospective purchaser to check out “in your hand”.
I know the images here look great – BUT so often we’ve been fooled by those enhanced web images.  So CHECK IT before you buy.  And IF it’s OK, then there’s no doubt this could be a sweet watch – and if really like the image shown here – could easily be a winner.

And on the same subject – A friend of mine swears by Suunto brand models and whilst I’m not too familiar with them, I have seen them on occasion in the odd high Street store and had them in my hand and found their readability disappointing and for that reason I won’t include them here.

Anyway these are 3 possible “military style” models that might suit and first one, the Timex Expedition T49976 for me is the one to judge all others from.  Basically from Price to functions and to practicality and indeed “look” it could be difficult to find anything else that can match up – Mil Spec or not.

In my next Post I hope to check out some more “military” look or inspired models that I think might, just might fit my criteria – so as ever – Watch this Space.

September’s rotation

I often go through phases where I wear, in rotation, maybe three different watches over a one month period and on the 1st of the next month I select another three models and wear them, again in rotation.  Perhaps in daytime or night or perhaps depending on what I’m doing at any particular time.
This month (September 14) I have this trio and basically as of now and the next few weeks I’m doing all sorts of outdoor things,  so this selection reflects this.  It’s also an excuse to Post some pictures of some of my watches, which otherwise will just be between me and – well me . . . .

An outdoor selection from Casio and Timex.

An outdoor selection from Casio and Timex.

These three are coincidentally all digital, which is just the way it turned out and from left to right they are –

The Casio SE-1200WH is a neat, flat (just over 12mm) model with enough features on it to suit me.  For once the buckle resin strap is flexible and comfortable and the model functions are pretty standard Casio fare.  In saying that, this model has a 10 year battery life and World Time, plus a small digital dial at top left mimicking an analogue clock face with hours, minutes and seconds.  Back lit with a VERY simple and effective light it is ideal for night use.  I like the fact that the dial in normal view gives a lot of information – Time including seconds, the Day, the Month and the Date and it shows the world time/normal time selected on the little world map, just as a reminder of where you are!  It’s neat, it’s light weight and it has never put a foot or wrong in the years I’ve owned it and if I remember it was very inexpensive too.
Notethe strap shown has 2 x keepers not one as standard which I added some time ago as a personal preference.

The Casio PRW-3000T is next up and one of my very favorite models from this maker.  This one came direct from Japan as soon as it appeared, so impressed I was with it.  For me it is a true improvement of many of the ones preceding it as it has taken advantage of the smaller v3 Sensor set and actually reduced the watch size as a result.   So a full ABC watch at sensible dimensions and a joy to wear, plus being all Titanium (case and bracelet) is amazingly light weight and as  many of you know Ti is also incredibly comfortable to wear as it very quickly adapts to your temperature.  The bracelet is VERY high quality Ti and really well finished and the digital display could not be bettered in my opinion.  Terrific function set as you would expect from this model and the normal dial view is as shown.  The Day and Date (press top left pusher and it alternates to Month and Date) the time in h/m and seconds, am and pm indicator, the battery state at the foot, confirmation of the Radio signal (yes this is Radio Controlled AND Solar powered) .  A 2nd push of the top left pusher shows the Barometric trend.  So the top display area can show three different situations by selection – I like it as shown as at my age it’s nice to know what day it is!  The back light illuminates the entire face and one of the best I’ve seen, so absolutely ideal for night use again.
Barometric Pressure, a full 3d Digital Compass (using Barometric pressure) and Altimeter, plus the usual chronograph, Timer and Alarms etc make this a very comprehensive model indeed, great for outdoors and very unobtrusive too.

The Timex Expedition  T49976 Shock is a real all rounder with an ideal display showing the Day of the week, Date and Month and Time in h/m and seconds, am/pm indicator plus a seconds running dial.  Excellent Indiglo back light means it’s great at night and it’s easy to find, being the only pusher on the front of the case.  Incidentally the pushers are large and textured and perhaps the best I’ve used, bar none, even shrouded as they effectively are.  Super simple Mode and Adjust function changes as usual with Timex (superior in my opinion to Casio).  The Chronograph features over large digits which are a delight to read and there is Timer plus a good few Alarms and all in this is a MOST practical watch.  Water Resistant to 100m and battery powered.  Fitted here is a Zuludiver black IP stainless steel fittings Camouflage Nato strap, which suits it perfectly (no complaints re. the Timex standard strap though, this is just my preference here).  This Timex and the Casio SE-1200 are very similar in overall function and in practicality, which is why I like them I guess – not overdone and very affordable.

So this is my September trio and actually if I didn’t have collectors mania, I could manage fine with these and no others.  But a pretty neat bunch for starters as I hope to feature my “rotation Trio” each month as a new Post topic. and OK these guys were featured not that long ago, but these are really what was to hand, so there we are.

My camouflage choice

Ben searching for a while for a practical and suitable Camouflage model recently and majoring on two specific brands, Casio and Timex.  And I concentrated on these two as they are both into the Shock style of outdoor or military style watch and are of course competitors.  And this is my choice . . .

My choice - Timex Expedition T49976 (with NATO)

My choice – Timex Expedition T49976 (with NATO)

And why?

In searching their different models it has to be said that Casio generates most of the buyer’s interest, as they seem to bring out new models like tomorrow was in danger of not appearing.  And in contrast Timex on the other hand, have quietly gone about their business by introducing just a few variants here and there, usually with subtle and mostly cosmetic changes to their core function set.  Indeed this is perhaps and arguably testament to the fact the Timex base module features functions that satisfy most of us.  Changes are such that models and modules are simply and subtly altered just enough to add enough variety to attract more buyers, which it has to be said is the name of the game.

The Casio approach with so many product lines, such as G-Shock, Tough Solar, Pro-Trek, Master of G and others is quite the opposite.   Modules seem to change quickly and race neck and neck with new case designs and whilst the former is becoming smaller, the latter is very much larger.

Casio DG 120CM-5 Camo Digital only - but is BIG

Casio DG 120CM-5 Camo Digital only – but is BIG

The module function sets are really marching on, with new features, more sensitive sensors, smaller, lighter, more powerful and so on and all very commendable of course, and yet for me still let down by an almost equal and opposite reaction – of overly large case designs, with more knobbly bits than my Mother’s current cake.  The dimensions are at the very limits and beyond in my opinion, what with 17mm+ case depth on an already large diameter, what with the G-Shock case cover and over large controls, both of which making for a rather cumbersome wrist accessory.  Light weight they may be, but in my opinion now becoming intrusive.

So back to Timex and their softly, softy approach – subtle improvements perhaps the name of the game, and a definite priority on actual function and practicality.  Keeping the basics right with good solid features, Time, Date, Day, Month, Year, Alarm, Stopwatch, Timer, luminous hands if analog and back lit with their proprietary illumination system for night use.  Water Resistance to 100m+ and all neatly contained in a tough case with compact dimensions that almost anyone can wear with comfort.

Note the in-display help texts - appears once the SET button is pressed.

Note the in-display help texts – appears once the SET button is pressed.

Plus another point is how intuitive the Timex module is – additional help appears IN the display when the SET pusher is pressed – it is so simple to set and alter all the module parameters.

Definitely what I call “get and forget until you need it” wrist wear.  And in my opinion this is where they score against all the others, including Casio.  They’ve cleverly managed to get the balance just right between what you want in a practical sense with functions that you might well use every day.

As for my camouflage search – the one that jumped out of the page first was the Casio all digital Camouflage GD 120CM-5 . . . . and it looks great, with a basic function set (+ world time) but the sting in the tail – it’s huge!  There’s no other word for it and let’s be absolutely honest here – it is BIG.  At 55mm lug to lug x 52.2mm across and 17.4mm depth . . . . what can I say? and no matter how good it may purport to be, this is a problem and not just for me and dare I say in danger of being almost “impractical” . . . ?

From “practical” to “impractical” perhaps prefixed by an abbreviation of the word “immense”?

So a little disappointed I decided to check out Timex for their Camouflage model and this one, the Timex Expedition T49976 turned up . . . . and it looks great, with a basic function set (we’ve heard this before) but – and here’s the difference, there is no but!  Because size wise it’s just 48mm lug to lug x 44.8mm width x 15.4mm depth!

Timex Expedition T49976 in Camouflage and standard strap

Timex Expedition T49976 in Camouflage and standard strap

Timex Expedition T499676 with easy to fit Zuludiver camouflage NATO

Timex Expedition T49976 with easy to fit Zuludiver camouflage NATO

This is positively neat in today’s practical models.

And this seems to sum up the difference between the brands, indeed if you sit them down together in a row, it looks like adults and juniors!  Casio adult and Timex junior.

There's compact and there's big - Timex v Casio

There’s compact and there’s big – Timex v Casio (Casio shown is 52mm x 16mm)

There’s also the factor of cost versus wear-ability, as my Timex models are certainly cheaper and yet I wear them much more often than almost any of my Casios with one exception – the Casio 5600 which is and Casio won’t like me saying this, more Timex like!   This is really ironic, as this was a pioneer in Casio models, shock protected, neat appearance, great function set and I believe the smallest G-Shock model with compact (yes I said compact) dimensions at just 40mm x 12mm!

So what happened?  And I wonder where this is all leading – Casio seems to have bred an uncontrollable monster, with more tech, more functionality, resulting in bigger, bigger and even bigger.  And by comparison their Timex competitor (and not only Timex) are gliding along very nicely, with equally great looking models, combi and digital and with good practical functions – and here’s a positive but – but with sensible dimensions for everyone.

Further images –

One of the best Timex straps as standard, looks great.

One of the best Timex straps as standard, looks great.

Neat choice, watch and NATO

Neat choice, watch and NATO (my strap preference & easy to fit)

Indiglo back light - great for night or low light situations.

Indiglo back light – great for night or low light situations.

A point about NATO strap versus the standard Timex strap.  Whilst the Timex one is excellent and comfortable, for looks I personally prefer the NATO ( Zuludiver ).  It’s super simple to fit to the standard spring-bars (none of your molded strap/case affairs) and because it’s not held away from the case, as with the Timex one (it has short “hold off” stays under the strap) it means the watch fits the smaller wrist so much better.  A small point but one that I personally think is important.  The Timex with a lug to lug of just 48mm compared to the Casio of 55mm is pretty good anyway, but effectively even better with the NATO strap.

A point about the exterior case “Shock” protection on my camouflage Timex is where the case is the usual hard black resin, the entire bezel material is NOT the same material.  Whatever it’s made of, resin or rubber, it is much softer than the case material.  Indeed you can push your finger nail into it and it deforms like rubber then comes back.  It is very, very effective and as it’s raised slightly above the glass gives very good protection.

Note 1 – The Zuludiver NATO strap is one of the longer straps available at just over 30cms so will conversely fit the bigger wrist too – and it has one of the better camouflage patterns color wise that I’ve seen in a while.

Note 2The Timex Expedition T49976 has the following features

100m Water resistance
Digital Display with Day, Det, Month, Time in Hours, Minutes and seconds displayed at one glance plus am/pm indicator
Sub-dial with running 10 seconds duration
3 Alarms – Daily, Weekday and Weekend
Indiglo back light with optional night mode/any button ON/cancels after 8 hrs.
(this is the best Indiglo back light I’ve seen on any Timex to date)
CR2016 battery.