Well I’ve trawled long enough and I’ve decided on my pick for a Combo model for this month. And first thing to say is, it hasn’t been easy this time and in danger of revising my basic requirement list.
Basic requirements -
* It must be shock resistant and case tough *It must be Water Resistant to 100m+ * Readable in the dark and a non-shiny case (military style?) * Intuitive digital function set (without constant referral to instructions) * Uncluttered (dial or case).
A fairly simple set of basics, yet tricky to actually get and as a result I’ve had to discard a surprising number of models. Some looked good but in reality were less than satisfactory. Common issues are faint digital displays, cluttered dials, no use in the dark, reflective dial components, sub-dial mania + unnecessary dial data, bezel overkill, too many controls, less than ideal bracelet or strap fittings – to name just a few.
Many of the “faults” seem to be “fashion design” I have to say majoring on looks rather than function or practicality.
So after all the searching around for a suitable combo model I’ve decided this time on the Casio GA-1000-1AER Pro-Trek.
A bit bigger than I intended – the case may have a diameter of 45mm diameter but with the G-Shock molding including pushers is just a fraction over 52mm across. It is also 16mm thick, so sits very proud on the wrist but fortunately not heavy at 85gms, which is good considering this is a steel and resin case. But not for wearing (if you could that is) under a shirt cuff as it IS high and does not have a smooth top surface either.
Where this model scores is that it meets one of my most important criteria – it is really good in low light and in the dark. The analog solid filled hands have a bright green luminous coating with an excellent afterglow along with the minute dot markers, so reading the time is very easy – against a surprisingly dark dial background. There is also a Neon Illuminator light system which uses UV light to highlight the 12, 3, and 9 numerals in green plus the dot markers in a striking neon blue, at the same time highlighting the tip of the seconds hand in bright green. It’s really quite spectacular though as the analog hands luminous afterglow is so good I don’t really need it. The luminous quality of the analog hands lasts all night easily with little loss. Overall I am very pleased with it’s “in the dark” clarity.
Just a “quick glance” is required to read the time as the analog hands stand out clearly without the dial background intruding. Owing to clever accenting and emphasis of the hands, numerals and markers and muting of the dial background, it is a surprisingly good dial set up.
This model is an excellent “travelers” watch too, as not just content with having a 48 City & 31 Time Zones World Time function, from a practical aspect it has two neat features.
First, different time zones are as usual represented by City initials but often folks are confused as to where they refer to – fear not as once selected, the City is spelled fully by first scrolling and then finishing on the initials of the City. And Secondly it features a Home City swap function. By pressing two buttons instantly the analog hands will move to the time of the selected digital World Time City time zone. In other words your Home City and City to which you are traveling can be swapped from the Digital display to the main analog time display. This is very handy when approaching your next time zone destination on a plane.
Initial set up -
When you first get the watch often the Home City or City time Zone is set to Japan, but it’s very easy to set your own Home Time. You can tell if your Home City code is not your own (well the time will be wrong – yes?) by reading the lower display, which has a small indicator showing the time of the set Home City. For example if your Home City was London and 1oclock, the small curved indicator will have a tiny edge marker pointing to the same time.
So to set your own Home Time zone -
Once you are in the normal time display – press and hold button A (top left) until ADJ appears with SET flashing on the lower display, then use the top right (west) or bottom left (east) to scroll through the City Codes. Once you get to your City Code – press the lower left button (D) – this will show DST in the lower screen – you can toggle this ON and OFF using the lower right pusher (E) – when happy with that simply press the upper Left pusher (A) and that’s it. The analog hands will immediately move to your new time setting.
Another good point about this module is the ease of doing almost anything. The main Adjust selector pusher is top left (A) and in normal time mode pressing this and holding it will move into ADJ (adjust mode) – and will flash SET in the lower display, then pushing the lower left Mode button (D) repeatedly you can cycle through the various functions – and most on or off settings are toggled by use of (E) lower right pusher. It does become intuitive after a bit.
In the background of the dial, between 10 & 11 we have a selector indicator like a small aeroplane pointer, which basically is a current function reminder. It is again quite low key and does not distract from your reading of the dial.
The big surprise function of this model however is the inclusion of a Digital Compass, operated by a direct push of the large and well protected center left pusher. On selecting, the seconds hand becomes a NORTH pointer and upper digital display shows your general direction (for example ENE or East North East) of the 12 position on the dial and the lower display shows that heading in degrees. To cancel simply press the lower left (D) and you return to normal time. This model also features a bearing memory function using the lower display, but it’s a little too involved to explain in this Post.
Additionally there is a Stopwatch, Timer, 4 Alarms plus Snooze, Time Signal and a Thermometer, which you can optionally use or otherwise. This model features an Automatic Calendar. The illumination back light system can also be set to Auto coming on when the wrist is tilted towards the wearer, though I would not recommend this as this model is NOT solar but battery only, so not clever to constantly operate the light when not really needed.
So in summary – the basics of this model are just about right. Very tough + G-Shock case covering, 200m Water Resistance, easily readable in the dark, easy to use and a good dial set up. I also like the flexible and thinner than usual strap and the lug/strap fit, which allows smaller wrist fit plus it’s reasonably comfortable too despite being a large watch. The addition of a Digital Compass is an unexpected and welcome surprise, as I’ve always found these to be useful – and activated by it’s own dedicated pusher. I also like the shape and design of the analog parts and the compass seconds hand pointer is neat yet very effective. The fact that digital elements are not lit at night is an omission, but of no relevance to me, so I’m OK with it. But it IS a big and high watch so is a considerable lump on any wrist and that has to be a consideration for may buyers.
However next year I’m treating myself to perhaps the ultimate Combo model and it’s not Casio. In September the Tissot Expert Solar T-Touch will be available and it could well dent Casio sales. The night clarity is absolutely outstanding both analog AND digital and digitally it does most everything a Casio can do, having an ABC function set AND very much smaller dimensions. If it’s right for me and I am sure it will be, then my Casio collection is seriously in danger. My display boxes could be reduced from many to perhaps just one . . . . maybe . . . as I’ll have to revise my requirements again . . . to accommodate my 2015 wish list! Of course! ;-)
Battery details – 2 x SR927W
Battery life – approx 2 years average function use.
Low battery flashing alert – upper display.
Accuracy – +/- 15secs per month
Stopwatch – 1/100 sec up to 24hrs.
Timer – 1 sec to 60 minutes.
Note – this model is NOT solar and is NOT Radio Controlled.