Adult Thoughts on the Casio F-91W

Adult Thoughts on the Casio F-91W

I was born in the 80s and as I grew up so did the computer industry, the digital industry and more. As watches came out with new features I would desire the latest watch with the latest features, and when a newer watch would come out I would desire the newer, innovative watch. Eventually I lost interest in watches for a decade or two. I only recovered my interest in watches when I started scuba diving. That’s when diving watches became of interest.

As a child I owned simple Casio watches, at least one or two casio Databank watches, watches that had TV remotes that I used to prank teachers with and more. I also had watches with barometric pressure, weather, temperature and more. Usually I had to lose a watch before it was justified to get a new one so my list of owned watches was not short, but the list of actual watches was short.

The Suunto Vector re-awakened my desire for watches. This was a watch that I could use when climbing Via Ferrata. I then moved onto the Suunto D9 Diving watch before getting a Mares Icon HD. To be clear, the Mares icon HD is a dive computer that you wear for diving, not ordinary life. It’s huge. I also owned a Suunto Ambit 2, and then an Ambit 3, A Suunto Spartan Wrist HR Baro, and then an Apple Watch series 3, which broke when indoor climbing, an Apple Watch Series 4 that eventually became useless due to the battery being so old. That watch lasted for five years on my wrist before I swapped it for an Apple Watch SE 2.

If you’re wandering why the SE 2 rather than the more expensive watches the answer is simple. I don’t like Apple watches. I think they’re designed to get you addicted to the competitions and streaks, rather than to actual fitness training.

I also have a Garmin Instinc Solar which I think is a good watch, although because of various issues I was tempted to look elsewhere. The issue is that either the app or the watch would crash. More than once I lost workouts with this watch so I looked elsewhere but only because I began running. That’s where the 45s comes in. It’s the cheapest watch I could find for running. The GPS is mediocre on this watch and I think it’s sub-optimal.

Recently my interest in Casio watches was revived so I bought more than one. They’re cheap so you can afford to be curious, and at least one or two children have received watches that I chose not to keep. Even a step brother bought a Casio from me, so I replaced that one with the one I actually wanted to get when I saw that the price had gone down.

I really like the concept of Casio Watches. I like the idea that some have a battery life from 5-10 years, and that they can count steps, and use the phone to track walking routes and more. I also like that they send the data to Japan rather than the US for a change. Too many products are US based so it’s good to find European or Japanese brands.

That’s where the Casio F-91W watch comes in. At the time of writing this blog post it costs 19 CHF on Galaxus. In the age where digital watches all do the same thing, and feed the same apps, and expect us to get addicted to the quantified self the F-91w is refreshing. It gives you the time of day, an alarm clock, hourly signal, and the ability to change the time, date, month and that’s about it. It’s an absurdely simple digital watch but it does have one feature that really stands out. The display that gives you the time of day is really clear. Within milliseconds you know the date, day of the week and time.

And Finally

If you spend 20 CHF on a watch and it lasts on your writst for 7 years then the investment was a logical one. An Apple watch lasts 16hrs before needing a charge. At a time when innovation on watches is slowing down we can afford to change course, and return to simpler times.

Wearing A Casio GBA-900
|

Wearing A Casio GBA-900

For years I have worn Suunto, Garmin and Apple watches. During this time I have tracked hikes, climbing, scuba diving, snorkeling, swimming and more. Recently I felt the desire to wear a Casio watch as I used to do when I was a child.

Over the years these “watches” have given you live information about barometric pressure, altitude, depth, and other information but with time they gave you the chance to track what you were doing by GPS. After this they started to track your steps and your heart rate 24 hours a day, except for when you’re charging. It went from being a watch that you used for the time, and to track acvities. Now they track everything.

The only time they do not track you is when you’re charging the watches.

The advantage of a Casio watch is that you can wear it for years in a row, without ever taking it off, except for when you’re flying, before you need to replace the battery. You get to the end of the day and you don’t need to charge it.

Of course, you don’t need to wear it for three to five years in a row. You can take it off when you’re showering, sleeping or other. You can even take it off for a tan, if that’s what you desire.

What sets the GBA-900 apart from other Casio and smart watches is that it gives an analogue display, rather than a digital one. it gives the time with a digital display but it’s small and hidden behind the hour and minute hands at certain times of day.

The advantage of an analogue watch is that you know the time as fast as a digital watch, once you take some time to re-habituate yourself to reading a less precise time display. I say less precise because you need to re-learn the art of reading analogue time.

Tracking

It automatically counts the number of steps you take in a day and estimates the amount of energy you burned in a day. If you want to track a walk then it’s simple. You start the timer when you start your walk, and stop the time at the end of your walk. It then uses the time information and your phone’s location data to extrapolate the track of your walk. You can then get it to sync with the phone and keep track of your walks over time.

No False Inputs

I found that with the Xiaomi activity Band 7 and the active band eight I would get false manipulations with the touch screen. With the casio that’s impossible, due to it using button presses.

Playing

If you’re playful then, at night, you can charge the fluorescent paint on the hour and minute hands with a flashlight or your phone’s light. At night you can then check the time, by looking at the glowing hands, rather than pressing a button.

Beep Beep

Do you remember that 80s or 90s sound. The Beep beep that we would hear once an hour, every hour? This watch allows you to live with that signal notification. It could be useful, if you want to keep track of time, without constantly staring at your watch. “Beep beep”, time for lunch soon.

And Finally

The Apple watch nags you about washing your hands for long enough. Garmin and Apple nag you about being too static for too long. By using a Casio watch you escape the gamification that makes Apple and Garmin so annoying to use. It was fun, until you realise how unforgiving they are, streak wise, and until you realise that they’re designed to get you adddicted, rather than interested in your own progress. I like wearing a simpler device, especially while I walk more than I cycle, hike, or other.

Of Casio, Suunto, Garmin and Apple

Of Casio, Suunto, Garmin and Apple

These four brands create watches. Casio creates rugged watches with batteries that last for a decade or more, and pair with mobile phones to track walks and more. Suunto and Garmin have fitness/sports trackers that measure activities, whether sailing, climbing, running, walking, cycling, scuba diving or more. Apple in contrast creates fragile, mediocre watches that cost as much as mid to high range watches and yet their battery lasts for one day, if you’re lucky. I even heard that Apple watches with 4g last half a day between charges. Charging a watch twice a day is unacceptable.


The article that triggered this reaction says that the Apple Watch encourages people to spend more on smartwatches, as if this was a good thing. It isn’t. These are throwaway products. The type of people that would buy an apple watch plan to change it every two years.


If you pay 800 USD for a watch I’d expect to keep it for a decade or more, not two watch generations, two years.


I might have bought two or three devices recently and the one that I am happiest with is one of the cheapest options. The Garmin Forerunner 45s. For 100 CHF you have a GPS sports tracker that tracks your runs, walks, bike rides and more. The battery does last for three or four workouts before needing a charge but it gives you all the functionality you need, for a fraction of the price, and it’s small.


I don’t want the Apple Watch to be dominant, because I see it as a crap product, and I feel that such a product pulls down the rest of the market. I slid away from Suunto because of WearOS and I gravitate towards Garmin because it still has proprietary software for the moment. I don’t want a smart watch. I want a sports tracker. I also want it to be affordable.

The GBD-800 Continued

The GBD-800 Continued

The GBD-800 Continued is a step counting Casio with two serious flaws. The first of these flaws is that although the GPS from the phone can be used to map walks and other activities it has to be activated at the start of a walk and deactivated at the end of the walk. If you do not deactivate the GPS it will track the drive to and from the start of the walk, to the end of the walk. This isn’t ideal unless you’re on a multi-day hike.


The second flaw, and this is a real shame is that the watch does count every single step you take, and possibly more, but it doesn’t offload the data anywhere. It doesn’t connect to Google Fit, Apple Health or any other app. It will track your daily steps per day, and if you just want them on your watch and your phone then the watch is fine.



What frustrates me, after playing with the GBD-200 though, is that whereas the data from the GBD-200 is exported to G-Shock Move the G-shock connected app only allows you to export step information as an image with a map and a step count. There is no way to automatically get the data out of the app for use with other apps. With the GBD-200 and Move app you can transfer to Apple Health, Strava and Google fit.



I like the look and feel of this watch and I like to wear it but I still want my steps to be counted. For years now I have logged millions of steps so I don’t want to lose that data moving from device to device, unless that device sends the step number to another app. Out of pandemic I would not have any interest in step counts because I would be doing different activities with people, so I’d care about the activities, and people. As we’re in a pandemic I need different distractions. This is mine.


And Finally


When I bought the Garmin Instinct it cost 298 CHF. When I bought the Spartan it cost 473 CHF. The most expensive was the Apple watch Series 4 for 479 CHF. If Suunto had stuck to their own OS I would never have been curious about other brands and I would not flit from device to device once every two or three years. I would still be with a single brand. If we find a good cheap Casio alternative then we have a watch that lasts for years on a single battery, at a third to a quarter of the price. I see that as a win.

Casio GBD-800-1B – First Impressions

Casio GBD-800-1B – First Impressions

For 92 CHF you can buy the Casio GBD-800-1B from conrad via Galaxus and it will track you steps 24hrs a day and map your walks without you pressing a single button. This means that you can track your life, without thinking about it.


The problem with watches from the last five or so years is that they track steps, heart rate and more 24hrs a day, but need to be charged, and want to know what you’re doing. They invade your life. “Are you walking now”, “you should get up and walk for one minute”, “you should go to sleep.”


Feature Watch


Today I thought of a new term. Feature watches. We have smart watches and more. They try to get us addicted to their apps, and to tracking everything we do. Feature watches are the opposite. You put them on, and in theory you can wear them for three years before you remove them.


When I go for a run I will take the Garmin or the Apple watch, because they track heart rate and provide an idea of the fitness progression over time but the rest of the time I’d be happy with the Casio.


The advantage of a feature watch was demonstrated today. I put the watch on this morning and when I decided to go for a walk the phone’s GPS tracked my movements automatically. The watch tracked the number of steps I took. When the walk the watch synced the step data with the phone app. I had a map of the walk I did, automatically.


Initially I had been tempted by a higher spec casio, specifically the Casio Pro Trek PRT-B50. It has many of the same features minus thermometer, barometer, altimeter and compass but for 110 francs more and it is large. It is nice to have watches that fit under sleeves.


And Finally


Although this watch promotes itself as a step tracker it offers more than that, by allowing you to automatically track walks, hikes, runs and more, without having to press any buttons or pay attention to the walk. It starts when you start, and it ends when you end. I need to experiment with cycling and driving, to see how it reacts in those situations. I am still forming my opinion but so far it feels good.


Casio and Other Watches

Casio and Other Watches

If we wear a Suunto, Garmin, Apple watch or Fitbit the device wants us to wear it for sleep, for every step we take, every heart beat and more. At the end of the year we do get fitness summaries but related to what we ran, swam, cycled and possibly walked. That means that for 22 hours a day we are tracking our heart rate and more for nothing.


With fitness watches if we track walking and hiking there is a good chance that the end of year summary will ignore these activities. This means that we’re wearing an intrusive, compulsion forming device for nothing.


For some reason I have found my interest in casio watches re-awakened. I cheap models that woke my nostalgia, and then I looked at other models. I came across the GBD-200 before I came across the GBD-800 and I wished I had come across them in the reverse order. The GBD-800 is cheaper and it’s designed for different sport intensities. If you go for a quiet walk you can select one intensity and if you go for a run you can go for another intensity. It doesn’t track heart rate or anything, other than steps.


The GBD-200 is better suited to runners who don’t mind not tracking heart rate, and that don’t mind carrying the phone, for GPS location info.


I’d like to conclude by saying that the Casios I mention are around 40-150 CHF, whereas Garmin Instinct, Apple Watches and others start at 300 CHF and get up to 1000 or more francs. If you’re looking to play with gadgets then casios are nice because they are more affordable, and their batteries last for years rather than a day, with Apple, to a month with Garmin, Suunto etc.


I played with Casio in the 80s and 90s when all of their features were new, and now I am playing with them again because we’re in a pandemic, and we need a way to cope with the never-ending solitude of pandemic life. I also think these would be good gifts for nieces and nephews, as they gather a minimum of data about their users and they are hard to break.

Running Around in Loops
|

Running Around in Loops

Over the last week or two I decided to run and to swim. These are two sports that are easy to do if you have access either to a pool, or the right shoes. Swimming was in 14°c water for 17 and ten minutes. The first time my hands and feet were cold so I wore gloves. It’s a way of enjoying a different sport than usual. It’s a way of using different muscle groups too.


With walking and cycling you use your legs but the upper body doesn’t do much. By swimming my upper body has the opportunity to be kept in better shape.


Running is a very easy sport to do. You need shoes, and the motivation to go for a run. I often feel that I need to do bigger distances than I have the endurance to do. For two runs I went just one kilometre. After that, today, I went for 2.4km. This isn’t far, but it’s better than zero. I also want to preserve my knees. I stopped because I could feel pain in my knees begin.


The Casio Moves app displays run information in a similar way to Garmin. It shows the run with colours that represent heart rate and effort. Blue for easy, green for slightly harder, orange for another zone, and red for a bigger effort. I use the data imported from the Garmin instinct exported as a TCX file from Garmin to the Casio Moves web interface. It takes seconds, and doesn’t require a Casio watch. With Garmin, Apple and Suunto you do not have this option so it’s nice.


And finally, I will try to keep the habit of running at least one kilometre every day or two. It’s an easy habit to keep and it will keep me fitter. The advantage of running, rather than walking is that you cover the same distance in half the time. It makes the daily walk half as time consuming, once I increase my endurance.

Playing With the GW-B5600

Playing With the GW-B5600

Some watches can do a lot and others can do a little The Origin watch, model number GW-B5600 can charge itself with daylight and mark GPS coordinates within seconds, and that’s about it. I tested it while driving from Switzerland to Spain.



There are a few motorway stops that I was curious about so as I drove I could short press the bottom right button and it took the date, time, and GPS coordinates at that point so that I could review points on the map later on. A watch this as this is highly specialised and fits a narrow niche. Casio says “This is a good watch for pilots to mark which city they were in but I think differently.


This is a good watch for people to mark where they took a picture, or to mark a waypoint during a walk or some other event. Once you press the button the watch and phone do the rest. You can then provide the location with a memorable name.


The Origin world times, battery status and more screengrab
The Origin world times, battery status and more screengrab


Casio watches come with a battery life of between 2-10 years and the solar watch advertises that it has a battery life of 22 months so this could be shorter than many.


More info: The G-Heritage Story — Evolution Of The Casio G-Shock Origin


The watch gives home town time, world time, alarms, stopwatch and countdown timer. It has good backlight illumination and provides us with quick GPS location marking. It is limited in what it can do but that is the case with most low end Casio watches. Each one fills a different niche.


Solar Charging


Battery information and charge information is not that useful. We don’t know whether it is charging fast or slow, and what the battery charge percentage is. What I do know is that after walking with the watch exposed to the sun on a bag strap it indicates that it is either almost full or full, quickly.


Watches that don’t need to be charged every day, or every week are nice, because you can forget about them for months at a time. I think that this is the type of watch that I would strap to a bag. When I want to store location data I can just press the button and continue walking.


Use Case


If you know where you’re walking, or you’re exploring without the need for a GPS this is a cheaper alternative to a GPS like the Garmin Etrex 32x. When you get to a point of interest or a location that you want to add to a map you can get the coordinates, for later use. This is lighter, and less hassle.

|

Of Casio and Smart Watches

Over the last five and a half years I have tracked every walk that I have been on, and I have tracked about five and a half million steps per year. That’s a lot of steps and a lot of going around in clrcles. Going around in clrcles makes tracking walks with smart watches/gps watches less interesting. That’s probably why I have been distracted by Casio watches.


I haven’t been distracted by the 300-600 CHF watches. I’ve been distracted by the 30-50CHF ones. The simple watches that people of my age wore as children. These are simple, easy to use watches that have batteries that are meant to last for 10 years between battery changes. Compare that to one day for the Apple Watch and 30 days for Suunto and Garmin watches.


There is something cosier about a watch that doesn’t speak with the world, a watch that tells the time, has an alarm or five, one or two time zones, and that familiar beep beep, that is turned off, but could exist, should we want it back.


With this watch you get 10 years of battery life, an alarm clock and you know the time of day. It fits under your shirt sleeve with ease, and you can forget you’re wearing it until you need to know what time with it. For six CHF more you can get this one, with world time, and a timer. Timers are most useful when you’re cooking, to know when to do the next step.


The pandemic affects us in strange ways. I didn’t expect to rekindle my interest in simple casio watches but for some reason the pandemic has. For three years, over this pandemic I have walked in circles, and my interest in that data has waned, so simple watches have re-awoken simpler desires for simpler watches.


Don’t be mistaken though. These are simple, limited watches and I want them to do more, but conversely I like the idea of wearing a watch for as long as I want, without having to recharge it. It doesn’t nag me, unless I tell it to wake me up, or to tell me that 20 minutes have elapsed.