Low cost digital track?

Still been looking at Compass watches and whilst I have NOT really been interested in all digital ones, preferring analogue/digital, this inexpensive Digital Timex just happened to cross my path by chance, as a friend appeared on my doorstep the other day with his new purchase.  I was very impressed and surprised with it’s relatively small and compact size and just had to have a closer look.

This is the Timex expedition T427619J Compass Chronograph and not one I’d seen before, though I understand it is available in the UK.

Timex Expedition T42761 Digital Compass Chronograph.

Timex Expedition T42761 Digital Compass Chronograph.

What attracts me is FIRST – A familiar Timex light colored digital display, similar though not identical to the previous posted model (T49854 ) that appears to show excellent contrast again – so I should be able to read it and SECOND – the fact that this model sports a Digital Compass.  Timex use a compass sensor from Precision Navigation inc. who are leaders in the provision of compact magnetometers with high reliability and accuracy and affordable cost.

On first glance it has the typical “outdoor” Timex looks and appears well specified without being silly.  Size wise it is very promising indeed – though as with all these “outdoor” watches the size has to consider the buttons set into the sides of the case – in this instance the total diameter is 45mm including buttons and with a neat depth of only 13.5mm, this is one of the smallest Digital Compass watches I’ve yet seen (analogue or digital).  It has a bi-directional click-able bezel with compass heading markings on it, a 22mm leather calfskin strap with buckle (but unfortunately a bespoke fitting), a 330ft Water Resistance or 10ATM specification (swimming pool is OK, but not scuba-diving), Acrylic Glass and a digital display showing Day/Date Month, Time and seconds.  It also has 3 Alarm functions each optionally can set for Daily, Week Days or Weekends, optional Hour Chime, 100-hour Chronograph, 3 x Time Zones, 24-hour Count down Timer and “occasion” reminder alarms.  It even has a Customizable mode set where you can “hide” unwanted modes.   This model, after all that, is not over-functioned as it omits a Thermometer, Altitude or Barometer – in other words this is not a (T)ABC watch – but a C watch.  Don’t you just love the abbreviations!

It also has a tiny “bubble” level above 12, a useful touch when calibrating any 2 axis Digital Compass.  The more horizontal during calibration, the less errors you build in.  Whist it’s not the needle variety this compass uses the little block/dots system in common with other Digital Compass models including Casio, Barigo, Techtrail, Highlander and Pyle, so should be interesting to see how this one performs.  However bear in mind these in-watch magnetic field sensors at this price range do have limitations and can be affected by many factors, so don’t expect pinpoint accuracy.

In Compass mode display shows heading in degrees, at the 12 position. North shown with the single dot marker

In Compass mode display shows heading in degrees, at the 12 position. North shown with the single dot marker

Note – my photograph above does not show too clearly the virtual dot compass markers – one denotes the North and the trio only just visible above the South marker on the bezel (they are actually very clear).

Talking of accuracy the compass of course should be calibrated before you first use it to get the best out of it.  As usual you should try this in your location and away from influencing factors (beside your car for example) and if doing this at home keep it away from the computer and so on.  Same system and procedure as used by most of these 2 x axis compass sensors, use the Mode button to bring up Compass, press any right hand button (except the centre one) hold the watch flat (here the little bubble/level comes into it’s own) and rotate the watch clockwise for 2 complete revolutions.  Note as the strap of this model has a stiff curve at the case end it really can’t be laid down flat on it’s back – I usually sit the watch on top of a spray can and rotate the can.  In the field however keep it flat as possible with a steady hand and you turning yourself around on the spot does it.  (if you’re on the medication I’m on this might cause you a problem!!!).

There is a dot indicator on the dial that goes clockwise around the dial – when turning (each revolution for at least 15 seconds) try and keep that dot pointing in the same direction during your turn – quite tricky I know but do just that and you’re OK.  Otherwise and I kid you not, the calibration will not be as accurate as it can be. When completed, press Done and the Declination option shows – and if you know it where you’re located, then set it with the right hand buttons, then press Done.  It doesn’t take decimal points so the nearest whole number will suffice.

On the wrist - very comfortable - looks larger than it is owing to the pre-curved strap.

Wrist wise very comfortable – looks larger courtesy of non standard case/strap fusion.

So what’s it like to wear?  Well as it’s only 45gms you hardly know it’s there and it’s compact enough not to snag on anything.  I find the leather strap both flexible and comfortable and the watch sits as well on the wrist as it can, bearing in mind the strap/case non standard fitting.  The display as said is clear and easy to read and the compass view shows the heading of the 12 position on the watch.  So if your pointing NNE, that’s what it shows along at the top of the dial with the bearing in degrees in larger numbers below.  I also found it has a slightly faster response to change than the Wenger, a slight turn in your direction and the heading change is noted and displayed immediately.  However the Wenger Nomad does have an LED heading display that you can see brilliantly in poor light as against the Timex typical LCD display which simply disappears.  Here I note Timex appears to infer that the Indiglo light if ON during Compass operation may compromise accuracy, so not the best for night use (unless you have a torch).  Note too that the compass only displays for 20 seconds at a time, but you can just press the upper or lower button and it reads again almost immediately.

But overall compass wise I really like it – it’s fast, responsive, clear to read and understand.  In fact I’m agreeably surprised.

Note – It may take some practice using the buttons, as they are so well recessed and protected, they’re quite awkward to press.  Though I’m getting used to that fact now and finding more success with it as I go along – but it’s easy for the button NOT to action, when you think it has.

Leather strap is nice quality & buckle sits flat.

Leather strap is nice quality & buckle sits flat.

All the other features and functions seem to work quite efficiently in the Timex style, though as with most of the Alarm based ones, I can’t hear the beep alarms (though my wife can, just fine!) and whilst that’s my problem, I do wish these were louder.  As usual each function and option in turn shows up with each press of the Mode button.  If you delay on any one however, the display reverts back to the basic Time display.

In conclusion I have to say and despite little niggles, the major one being the strap fitting (why not a simple lug fitting!),  I like this model and for me it manages the compass function surprisingly well

Addendum –

My last image shows the Wenger Nomad beside the Timex and whilst they appear similar size, the Timex is half the weight at 45 gms and is only 13.5mm depth, so a much neater fit wearing on the wrist.  As with most Digital displays it can show lots of information simultaneously and here the Timex shows the Time (hours, minutes and seconds) plus the Day, Date and Month.  The Wenger to keep the dial nice and clear have only the Time showing, though a press of the appropriate button and a bright LED digital Time, Date and so on, or of course Compass Bearings, will show in large numerals behind the hands (my previous post refers).

The Timex also has an extremely clear display to read and considerably better than a great number of similar looking displays on the market.

Comparison Wenger Nomad v Timex.  Wenger much heavier and deeper too,

Comparison Wenger v Timex – Wenger heavier and thicker.

Note – On the screwed stainless back it shows a 100m Water Resistance, the model number is a a small sticker and it also indicates by stamp the Battery type – which is a CR 1620.

I’ve mentioned the strap a few times and should qualify my comments.  Why digital watch manufacturers insist so many times, especially when resin cases are used, to fuse, add, meld and whatever else you call it, a totally bespoke strap fitting to that case is beyond me.  So often being almost part of the case it means the watch will not fit snug against the wrist, owing to the case/strap fitting.

In fact look at the image of the Wenger and the Timex to the right here and it shows the problem – the effective size between fixed lugs is 45mm for the Wenger but owing to that silly strap fitting it’s slightly more then 55mm for the Timex and it is actually a smaller watch!

And of course once the strap starts to wear and I find for whatever reason these always wear more than conventional straps, you have to purchase that “special fitting strap” from the watch manufacturer, often at inflated prices.  And that’s IF you can still source one especially as these models alter and change with every new appearance.

The last watch I reviewed from Timex was and should be the “norm” – it had  a Standard watch lug strap fitting.  If they’d simply used it’s case for this watch – problem solved!

Maybe I should start a campaign for Standard strap fitting/lugs on ALL watches.  Maybe a new feature coming up!

Update –

With the strap issue becoming an obsession I have to note that Timex have another model – the T49688 which has a standard lug and strap arrangement and also features a Digital Compass.

Digital Compass with standard strap (not confined to Timex)

Digital Compass with standard strap (not confined to Timex)

It is slightly different in operation in that there is no actual North indication on the watch dial.  Rather it reads in degrees the heading of the 12 position of the watch only.  The model featured here of course does that too but also it indicates with a digital block marker North and South which is immediately reassuring.  BUT it has that standard strap which is a plus in it’s favor so I might not discount it from my compass choice . . . 😉

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