Directions

I had a real fixation a while ago about “compass” watches and I got myself quite a few at the time, though after my fad wore off, I got rid of most of them, except for a couple of favorites.  But it certainly got me thinking of just how many weird and wonderful “compass” creations are out there – and this time I feature analog only models and there are lots of ’em . . . . .

Columbia CA002001 Waypoint "Singletrak" Compass Watch

Columbia CA002001 Waypoint “Singletrak” Compass Watch

It’s also fair to say that most of them don’t have much to do with accuracy, except in the loosest sense that is, which is why the old schoolboy technique using an analog faced watch is probably as good as any for getting the basic direction.

Oulm Outdoor Sport Compass quartz @ $8.99

Oulm Outdoor Sport Compass quartz @ $8.99

Anyway here’s a selection of the weird and the wonderful – mostly in the lower price bracket (except for the Porsche!) – of course I like it!

I hasten to add that I do not vouch for any of the models featured here as I suspect the really cheap ones have all sorts of issues, but looks are something else.  I have even found some where the compass doesn’t do anything but “look” like a compass – Wow! – and I thought those days were long gone!Ashampoo_Snap_2015.05.21_17h54m06s_009_

And there’s something about the old schoolboy or often called “spy school” method of finding North and South on your average analog handed watch.  Some watches even call themselves “compass watches” because they have a movable bezel with the cardinal points and degrees marked around the perimeter.

Cheating perhaps - but so is the watch in this case - a lookalike Swiss Army from China.

Cheating perhaps – but so is the watch in this case – a lookalike Swiss Army from China.

A bit of a cheat perhaps, but if you know your sundial method, then these can be as “accurate” as some digital compass models I’ve seen and at considerably more expenditure.  I kid you not!

I particularly like the old method of using a small button liquid filled compass and have it attached to your watch strap – I mean what could be easier than that.  The beauty of that of course is that you can stick it on any watch you care to be wearing at the time – easy peasy!

Porsche Design - P'6520 in Titanium

Porsche Design – P6520 in Titanium

And this Porsche Design P’6520 Heritage Compass model is the modern and much more expensive take on the Chinese job in the previous image.  Separate compass yes, but a high quality liquid filled

Real "Mans" stuff this Retrowerk R002

Real “Mans” stuff this Retrowerk R002

full graduation one at that, semi built in and hidden away until required.  I like the watch, but not the price at around 5000 Euros!  Still you gate a Titanium cased, beautifully built piece of kit with a Sellita SW300 automatic movement, lots of definition and dial clarity and more James Bond than Bond himself!

Old favorite today Timex

Old favorite today Timex

The Retowerk features a disk rotor display coupled to an ETA 2824 Automatic Swiss movement, with 45mm diameter and a 200m Water Resistance, though the compass is a little low tech perched on the top.  Interesting concept though and the more I see it, the more I quite like it.

Smith & Bradley AR15

Smith & Bradley AR15

The Timex of course is a bit of an old favourite today, IF you can read it, which I always found to be the issue.  The clarity of the dial figuring always for me at least seemed to disappear into the background clutter and so much of the indices and so on were reflective.  However i understand the later models are improved, but the hands lining up as a pointer is certainly a classic idea compass-wise – as I say IF you can read ’em!

My last featured one on this is the  Kickstarter promotion job, which I featured once before – The Smith & Bradley AR15 which features digital displays and an analog compass set up.  Here in compass mode the Minute Hand points to true North and the Hour hand shows your current heading – which to my mind is a really useful compass function and perhaps actually practical!

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.

Personally though, at the moment at any rate, I’m sticking to my wonderful Tissot Solar Touch Compass (and everything else it seems), a model I’ve always wanted and bought myself as a present to me, some time ago.  It doesn’t disappoint and I’ve also just noticed that the weather is taking a turn for the BETTER!

Great – it looks like the golf course beckons – so I know which direction I going in within the next couple of hours!

What happened to Morgenwerk?

Perhaps the ultimate GPS watch, but which sadly to my knowledge yet to make a proper appearance.  The German made Morgenwerk Precision Mk1 – GPS watch.

Morgnwerk Precision Mk1.  GPS controlled watch

Morgnwerk Precision Mk1. GPS controlled watch

Understated full GPS function model with geographical co-ordinates, Compass, Altimeter etc. this is one VERY accurate watch.

No longer using what could well be described as old technology Radio Control, but instead feeding off a multitude of satellites, this model apparently will manage a staggering accuracy of under 1 second – per month!

Wherever you are in the world it will automatically display your Time Zone current time, day, date etc .  A travelers dream.

It’s under 14 mm depth, 44 mm diameter, Stainless Steel or Titanium cased, double anti-reflect coated Sapphire crystal, black dial with selectable discrete digital display.

Of real importance and a major breakthrough has to be the Battery life, which is specially enhanced with a reserve of up to 18 months, assisted by the use of a self correcting thermo-compensated quartz movement allowing variation adjustments and allowing amazing accuracy.

The actual GPS receiving system (between the lugs) is programmed to pick up 6 satellites and auto select the 3 with the strongest signals as the time source.  The synchronization and reception process takes anywhere from 8 to 90 seconds.

What I love is the fact that the watch is both understated and really easy to read and on wrist, seen to be just another “daily beater” albeit with great looks, but function wise does so much.  It appears to me that if the brief functional detail is true, it will out perform just about anything else on the market.

However the burning question is – where is it?

The first intimation of it was way back in 2012 and the latest information I have is that their web site is currently in the build stage.  One has to hope that once completed, the final watch details will be highlighted and models will be available for sale, especially as the price point quoted back in 2012 was from around $1100.  And that could be a real winner.

I hate to say the phrase “ultimate watch” – but it could well be – IF it hasn’t died a death along the way.  And that would be a real shame . . . as it could be my final “grail”.

Smart Vivoactive – brief look (2)

I suppose this model from Garmin really IS Smart – what with all the stuff it can do.

Garmin Vivoactive GPS Smart Watch

Garmin Vivoactive GPS Smart Watch

Will definitely suit the “wannabe” fitness freak, Golfer, Swimmer, Runner and Biker and general Health Nut (heart monitoring and all that).

It also tells you the Time, pairs with your Smart Phone for calls, texts and emails, takes widgets from the ConnectIQ store, has watch face options and has a 3 week battery life in Watch Activity mode (10 hours golf mode).

And it goes without saying this is a GPS enabled watch and it actually looks pretty good – and that’s praise indeed from me.

It’s the slimness that does it as it’s just 8 mm, easy on the wrist and I would suppose if you’re involved in any of the activities described, then this is the only watch you will ever need.   And I thought the Tom Tom Golfer watch was the business, but this is something else!   And I don’t really like “Smart” watches either – but . . . Wow!

In fact there’s so much in it I can’t even start to explain it all, except to say that it appears that Smart and GPS are here – perhaps to stay AND at a price that is actually affordable.  £199 ish from everywhere . . . . . .

I’ll direct you HERE for all the information you need – so get healthy and fit and  . . . . whatever.

Personally I’m going for a lie down!  (mmm wonder what my heart rate’s doin’ . . . .?)

Note – Whether anyone would need all the functions is of course highly debatable, but the miniaturization of the modules within such a small footprint case is pretty impressive.  So whilst I mentioned the Tom Tom Golfer Watch in the text, it is of course hardly comparable.  The Tom Tom is designed purely as a GPS Golfing function watch and as that it is ideal for the Golfer – and not all golfers are into the fitness – and I’m definitely one of them!

Smart Vector – brief look (1)

Another Smart watch but this time connects to the phone operating systems of Android, Windows, including iPhone.  Smart use of monochrome LCD displays means longer battery life at around 30 days – with charge point at rear.  Classic watch look in a decent steel case at a sensible size, conventional strap/bracelet fitting and with a good clear non touch screen face.  Operated by use of the conventional watch pushers – looks good too.  Does the smart basics and is more costs effective than many of the big mainstream boys – so this is good news.

Vector Luna Smart watch with classic dial layout

Vector Luna Smart watch with classic dial layout

Supposed to be available soon at around $349 or thereabouts and there’s also a square version, the “Meridian”.  I prefer the strap version on the Luna above and the fact you can change to a different color strap can really show the watch off to best advantage.

Definitely going in the right direction and good to see a non Apple product with such a sensible approach.  Hopefully this is only the start.

 

Casio Ana/Digi affordable

One thing Casio has certainly got going for them is their uncanny knack of making watches to suit everyone.  And if you’re not a great fan of their “G” shock stuff, then what I call their hybrid plastic/resin & stainless/metalized look models could be for you.  One thing is definite, they sport some great electronics, are easy to use, tough as any and make ideal “do everything” daily beaters.

Affordable value Casio World Time Chronograph

Affordable value Casio World Time Chronograph – the AQ-190W

I actually have a “hybrid” model already, the Casio Tough Solar WVA-470, but more of this later as here I want to major on the Casio AQ-190W model shown above which is my newest affordable Casio to date.  I like this for all sorts of reasons and not just the price, but for having none of the over muscular lumpiness and often less than easy to use pushbuttons of a “G” shock. This particular model is easy to use, easy pushers and easy intuitive functionality and reasonable dial clarity.  As I said this is all at a very affordable under £40 price tag – and function for function is pretty decent value.

It has a Citizen Navitimer familiarity about the dial set up with it’s separate digital displays, and it functions in similar manner.  The contrasting background layers, clear digits, contrast and clever use of tones makes this not too bad clarity wise, though the sub dial unfortunately is a little reflective – matte would have been so much better.

Features – Casio Module 5082

As expected with Casio the feature list is long and mostly useful in this particular model and for those who like chronographs, the 1/1000 sec stopwatch analog counter is a bit special.

  • Resin Glass / curved Spherical Glass
  • 100-meter water resistance
  • Case / bezel material: Resin / Stainless steel
  • Stainless Steel Band
  • One-touch 3-fold Clasp
  • LED light
    Selectable illumination duration, afterglow
  • World time
    29 time zones (48 cities + coordinated universal time), daylight saving on/off, Home city/World time city swapping
  • 1/1000-second stopwatch
    Measuring capacity: 99:59’59.999”
    Measuring modes: Elapsed time, lap time, split time
    Other: Speed (0~498 unit / hour), Selection distance input (0.0~99.9), Best lap indicator
  • Countdown timer
    Measuring unit: 1 second
    Input range: 1 minute to 24 hours (1-minute increments and 1-hour increments)
    Other: Auto-repeat
  • 5 daily alarms (with 1 snooze alarm)
  • Hourly time signal
  • Full auto-calendar (to year 2099)
  • 12/24-hour format
  • Regular timekeeping
    Analog: 2 hands (hour, minute (hand moves every 20 seconds)
    Digital: Hour, minute, second, pm, month, date, day
  • Accuracy:±30 seconds per month
  • Approx. battery life: 2 years on CR1220
  • Size of case: 50.1 × 45.4 × 13.7 mm
  • Total weight: 98 g

The amazingly bright orange/yellow back light is at 3 o’clock and being just above the 3 marker, it reflects right across the dial and manages to illuminate both the analog hands and the digital windows which is a surprise.  Certainly bright enough to read the time in the dark and maybe even to find your way to the bathroom at night! and certainly better than expected, especially compared to many other Casio models.   Note that the analog hands and markers are also luminous and pretty decent in their own right.

The World Time feature is about as good as it gets and again very Citizen like.  This makes it really easy to adjust, without continual reference to instructions unlike some, so is a practical watch for travel.
It’s easy to set the time or to select another Time Zone or indeed change from your current time to destination time.  As the digital and analog times are linked, you first select World Time and set the destination Zone you want, then “Swap” the digital time you’ve just set on to the hands – simply by pressing buttons A and B at the same time (that is the two upper buttons ) and the hands immediately move quickly round to the new digital setting.  Your previous analog time will now show on the digital screen.  On your return journey again select World Time, press both buttons A & B simultaneously again and job done – the times will revert once again.  Very simple in practice.

However whilst the functionality of this model is commendable, the quality of the band is let down by its rather sharp edges, which can cut into the wrist slightly and this is a real shame.
I say this as in another respect the bracelet is good, specifically in that the band fits to the watch case via a standard 18 mm spring-bar and is not a molded Casio only affair.

Because of that you would think that it could be changed for a standard 18 mm wide strap or bracelet.  Well it can but it’s not quite as easy as it sounds and in any case you really shouldn’t have to, and that’s the point.

The reason for my caution here is that whilst the spring-bar fitting is 18 mm, the actual width of the bracelet at case is around 24 mm, so an 18 mm strap will look much too small in proportion to the watch.  I managed to get round that by fitting a modified 24 mm silicon deployment strap, which wasn’t too difficult to do and it looks absolutely fine (when I get a photo of it, I’ll post it here).  The watch now has the comfort it should have had at the start!

However bracelet apart in terms of price, functions, features, intuitive ease of use, size, weight and style, this is a very good buy and it even manages a 100m Water Resistance as well – So it’s got quite a lot going for it.   A friend of mine has a rubber strap version of this model he picked up in India, where it seems to be very popular (Oh had I known!).

Ashampoo_Snap_2015.05.07_16h21m17s_001_

AQ-190W (left) and WVA-470 Waveceptor (right)

I’ve done a brief comparison of my two Casio hydrids, and if pushed I’d have to say “out of the box” the slightly more expensive WVA-470 Waveceptor is my preference.

My WVA-470 Waveceptor (Radio Control), Tough Solar, World Time with it’s 5053 module overall has more to it and has slightly better build quality including the bracelet (though is Casio fit only) and functionality is good.  For travel you basically have to set a new Home Time, but that said, it’s actually very easy to do – press button A (top left) to first see the transmitter selection, then toggle button C (lower left) to the City code – once selected press button A twice.  The hands will move to the new Home Time, so pretty fast and easy to manage.  It’s a deceptively simple and understated looking watch and it’s also very comfortable to wear and use.
Any downside – NONE

The AQ-190W model (module 5082) featured here doesn’t have Solar or Radio Control, but does have good functionality, especially regarding the World Time feature – and I like the fact you can instantly “swap” any digital Time Zone to the analog hand indication which is perfect for traveling.  Whether the 1/1000 sec chronograph is a good thing depends on personal preference. Personally I don’t need that accuracy.
Any downside – The sharp sided bracelet is really inexcusable from Casio and whilst a strap could used in place, this is hardly the point.  Also after wearing this model for a while I note the Gray color hour and minute hands, in certain light can disappear into the display background.  These would be much better White.  This is something that I didn’t expect, but noticeable after use for a bit and whilst not a sale breaker, being a stickler as I am for clarity it’s a little disappointing.

24 mm wide alternative Silicon deployment strap - fitted to 18 mm spring-bars.

24 mm wide alternative Silicon deployment strap – fitted to 18 mm spring-bars.

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As regards Analog/Digital models I was starting to think these were on the decline – but far from it.  Casio alone have literally dozens of variations on a theme, from the more expensive right down to the incredible under $20 models and each with varying degrees of functionality.  It’s a mark of their remarkable strength in depth that almost all of them are pretty good with just a different emphasis here and there as to the actual featured function.

Unlike their resin cased range, where Casio’s quality is probably unsurpassed, the composite build cased models are a different matter.  You really do have to carefully check build quality, as seen here with the AQ-190, whilst the watch/case etc is fine, the bracelet is not so fine.   And it varies with each model and perhaps influenced by where in the group a particular part of the hybrid make up was produced and/or assembled.   Some like the WVA-470 for example are about as good as you’ll get and yet model wise only marginally more expensive than the other.

A selection of Casio Ana/Digi's - AQF1000WD-9BV, AQ160WD-1BV, AE1000WD-1AVCF, AMW700V-1AV, W89HB-5AV, ERA201BK-1AV

A selection of Casio Ana/Digi’s –
AQF1000WD-9BV, AQ160WD-1BV, AE1000WD-1AVCF, AMW700V-1AV, W89HB-5AV, ERA201BK-1AV

There’s no question in my mind and fortunate for my wallet, that in general with Casio, I find the low to mid range priced models represent best value.  I invariably find the more expensive range such as Edifice and above in comparison do not.

The model featured in this Post and more so with it’s pal hybrid Waveceptor model represent good affordable value.

Also getting away from the grey resin only cased models, I like the look of the composite resin/steel case structure, which certainly reduces the overall price point and they are each a sensible size and whichever one you prefer in this Post, both have exceptional functionality.  And they are two of a wide selection from Casio that manage to get the balance just right, and yet I also note are rarely if ever advertised highly.  Casio’s marketing hype tends to be geared towards their more expensive models, which I suppose is par for the course.

But don’t be fooled.  Really good value Casio models are there, but usually just under the radar and you may have to actively seek them out.

But if you do, I can almost guarantee you won’t regret it.

NoteThe WVA-470 Waveceptor,AQ-190W was featured here in my “Watch of the Week” as it still represents a great value watch.  I also note there are quite a few variations of this watch (mine could be replaced by now) such as the WVA-105H, the WVA-M630D, the WVA-M640 to name but three . . . . so it appears it was and is still a winning combination and popular.

Smarter Pebble

One of the Smarties I find myself having “time” for is the old (did I say old?) Pebble watch.  It seems to have been around for ages and maybe because in “smart” terms it has, but it has also had the chance to be upgraded and refined in line with customer reaction.

Pebble Time and Pebble Steel - Smarter updates at last.

Pebble Time and Pebble Steel – Smarter updates at last.

In one of it’s latest guises the Pebble Time model seems on the face of it to be quite decent effort and outdoes Apple in my opinion.  It does what it does and seems to do it pretty well.
I particularly like the new display – using color E Ink technology, which makes perfect sense and stretches out the battery life accordingly to something like a week instead of a day, which has to be an improvement.
It also has a microphone, so you can send voice messages or take notes I suppose and the operating system has had something of a major makeover.  It uses the “timeline ” idea that lets you see events or notes in chronological order, via 3 side buttons – so a simple idea that makes a lot of sense.

There’s more to this voice microphone stuff than appears at first glance however – you can apparently answer an email immediately by voice or optionally translate that to text.  You can also send an audio file, which is great if you’re really busy or in the middle of a noisy crowded street for example.  It all sounds a bit more practical than some to me, being a bit of a Neanderthal, so personally it’s looking promising.
I also like the fact they’ve reduced the size of the watch – so important in my opinion – who wants a great square lump on the wrist?  It’s smaller and thinner than before at under 10 mm and the case is curved slightly to fit the wrist better.  The case is made of a combination of polycarbonate/steel and the glass is super tough “Gorilla glass, so no worries there and it’s water resistant too.
The Pebble Time has a silicon strap which is not molded into the case, but fitted sensibly to a standard bar fit with 22 mm width, so you can easily change it for any standard 22 mm watch strap – and for me Pebble are certainly going in the right direction and refining as they go, which I do like!

And did I mention the proposed price – well it’s around $179 and that’s about as far away from the Apple idea as you can get.  And I like that too . . . .  ;-)

Now whether the whole concept of Smart watches is right or wrong, they seem to be here to stay.  Albeit maybe not in their current form as this sort of technology has a way of directional change determined by public reception as much as anything.  Personally I think that the mainstream watch manufacturers will eventually offer “proper” watches with their inherently long battery lives of 5 + years and/or solar power maybe, but with the additional functions, such as Bluetooth and “Smart” features as modules that can be used as and when (and if) the wearer requires such connection.  Let’s face it nobody asked whether we the public actually wanted or needed a device that “talked” to our cell phone, which can be accessed within a couple of seconds anyway?

Talk about creating a market where it’s a moot point whether there even should be one in the first place – it’s a good trick if you can get away with it!

For me personally I’d be very happy with my normal watch + additional functions, that I can use or not, in preference to what, if I’m honest, I still don’t consider a watch at all, which includes most of the so called “smart” wearables on offer so far.  But as Pebble have shown here, the gap between the two disciplines appears to be narrowing – so as ever – Watch this Space.

Out & about Clip watch

Sometimes you see a concept in a watch that is a little different from the normal.  And even though this idea has been around for along time, this particular model strikes a chord with me I suppose as it has the small button compass, which is far easier to hold in your hand than on your wrist.

Dakota Clip Watch Model 37252

Dakota Clip Watch Model 37252

This is the Dakota Watch Men’s Green Angler 11 Ana-Digi Clip watch, which is quite a mouthful to say but actually quite a neat device.  The idea here is to “clip” this little item to your belt or pack or whatever is to hand when trekking or hill walking etc.

The watch itself is pretty decent and with a good set of features and a great “not on your wrist” size at 48 mm x 48 mm x 18 mm, which is just about ideal for what essentially is a hand held unit.  The speedy carabiner clip is a snap to use – easy off the waist band, hold in left hand horizontally (no twisting of the wrist) use the compass level bubble, take your heading and you’re away.  Probably every bit as good as any digital compass watch.
The movement is Japanese Quartz, no details and features Alarm, Date display, Digital display, Dual Time, and a three hand analog dial layout in black orange.  Mineral glass crystal and a Water Resistance of 30 m and the case in made from aluminum and stainless steel.

Note the hands are skeletal orange colored and the digital display is well defined in the background and overall looks pretty decent.  Four pushers and a Crown and I have to confess I rather like the overall layout as you can see a lot of information at a glance.
Analog Time plus seconds, the Day, Date and the Month plus the time digitally with am/pm indication and or Dual Time.  It also features a back light.

The small and separate liquid filled button compass is just below and affixed to the carabiner and there is also a key ring style ring at the side.

Knife and scissors carabiner style Dakota Watch

Knife and scissors carabiner style Dakota Watch

There are I understand around 5 other variants of this, one of which features a knife blade and scissors – see image inset, though the watch dial is not as good in my opinion and the clip is not the classic carabiner.

However this one is a good idea and a neat watch – I like it and the price even quoted here in the UK isn’t too bad at £56.00

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You can even go digital with this offering from National Geographic – The Altitech 3 Clip Watch

AltiTech 3 Clip Watch and Travel Tool

Altitech 3 Clip Watch and Travel Tool

You can apparently get your bearings with this Digital Compass, which also has an Altimeter, Chronograph and Alarms (3) and it even gives you Sunrise and Sunset times – Wow!  Must be a backpacker thing – me – I’m too old for all that, but I like it anyway!

Bedside Alarm too

Bedside Alarm too

Things like an 80-log memory for total ascent and descent – does this make sense to you folks?

However I particularly like the way it can sit up and be used as a clock, that is really neat.  It’s around the same price as the Dakota and as I’ve discovered there are literally dozens of these “clip” watches around – it’s amazing and maybe shows how out of touch I am these days – Ah well . . . .

Anyway interesting items and there seems to be no shortage of them, some good and some not so good.  These two I quite like as they show a couple of different approaches tech wise in a small way and at the end of the day – you takes your pick!