Thursday, 29 September 2016

Watch Geek 2: The Casio Years

When last we left, it was ~2008, the ring on the bezel of my Roots Steel had just fallen off, and I was in panic mode. I temporarily wore my Timex to get the rotating bezel, but had no stopwatch. Once again, I went searching for a watch that had:

  • a rotating bezel, preferably unidirectional for snorkelling;
  • 100 m waterproof for snorkelling;
  • a steel case, if possible;
  • a stopwatch function;
  • a dual display, analog and digital. Now, you can get multi-hand chronographs with stopwatches -- most are like that, actually -- but I've never been a fan. Stopwatches are best digital.
I was in Wal-Mart and saw my first of these:
The Casio AMW320D-9EV
It had everything I wanted for only $99. It came with a rubber strap, so I found a metal bracelet on line for it.

Aside: The bracelet came from a dealer in New York via eBay. I received it but couldn't for the life of me figure out how to attach it. I contacted the vendor, told him I couldn't make it fit, and he refunded my money. I offered to send it back, but he told me no. A friend looked at it and figured out the complicated attachment methodology in seconds. I re-contacted the vendor and told him to re-charge me, and he said no. So in the end, the vendor was awesome, and I got the $25 bracelet for free.

Casio #1 lasted 3 years, then lower left button, used to start/stop the stopwatch, started being difficult to use. Shades of my Timex. I went on line and bought a second, Casio #2, as a "better" back up.

I took Casio #2, 1 month old, to Maui. I went snorkelling -- something I had done 50 times with Casio #1 -- and it leaked the first day. I didn't want to take it in the water a second time, and had no other watch, so went to Wal-Mart and got an emergency replacement.
The $18 Special
And for $18, I got every feature except the steel case. The strap is miserable. The rotating bezel is very sticky. But I swam with it no problems.

I got home and sent Casio #2 in for warranty service. While it was gone, Casio #1's buttons officially gave up the ghost. So for a short while, I wore the $18 Special.

Rather than fix Casio #2, they sent me a new one, Casio #3. That's #3 pictured above.

The next year in Maui, I happened to be in Wal-Mart, and they still had the $18 Special. As a back up watch, it was pretty fine. So I bought a second, just in case.
I still use both of these. One is on Maui time, and I essentially only use it in Maui. The second is my "work watch" when I'm out doing trail work or other field activity where my watch could get damaged.

Casio #3 was my main watch for a while, and I bought a back-up new one on-line again (Karen's logic: if you like it and it fails, why not buy 2 and keep one as a back up?).
Casio #4 with it's factory rubber strap
Casio #4 became my main watch when it arrived, but as is often the case, the battery didn't last a long time. After 13 months (1 month past warranty expiry), I took Casio #4 in to get a new battery, as the watch was starting to lose time. The tech pulled the battery, put in a new one -- and the watch would not power up. Watch fully dead, repair cost >> the cost of the watch. Sigh.

I went back to Casio #3, until 6 months ago when it started acting up. The digital display and timer were fine, but the analog hands would "catch" and stop moving for minutes at a time. Suddenly I couldn't trust the analog hands at all. And it only happens when I'm wearing it; sitting in a drawer, the hands work fine. I thought it might be a low battery; I replaced it but it go no better. So Casio #3 effectively is dead.

Each of my Casios lasted 1-3 years before dying in some way. They still make it -- still for only $99 -- but I was reluctant to buy a 5th.

So suddenly, I was back to the $18 Special as my only functioning watch. Back to Wal-Mart as a stop gap, and I found this:
It really does have a digital display
Again, it ticks most boxes and was only $24 ($28 regular price, but on sale). It, however, has "issues".
  • The metal bracelet had no "fine adjustment; it was either too tight or too loose depending on how many links I took out.
  • The bracelet started off black anodized, but all the anodizing wore off (and probably gave me lead poisoning), turning my wrist green for 2 months. Ewwww.
  • In the photo, you can barely see the digital display, which is grey on black, so while it worked, it was a pain to use and I was constantly turning on the backlight.
It was only a stop gap, anyway. I considered getting a better band for my $18 Special, but the bands I found cost more than the watch. And neither was really what I was looking for.

Tons of searching led to my recent acquisition:
Invicta Intrinsic 12469
Hard to locate in Canada, I got it from a dealer in the US for $99 US plus shipping. When it arrived, the box had a sticker price of $1,250. Yeah, right. Invicta has a mixed reputation, making literally thousands of styles of watches. This one is from their Pro Diver series, and it has a Swiss movement from a company called Isaswiss.
  • It's waterproof to 200 m.
  • The rotating bezel is unidirectional;
  • You can turn off the digital display;
  • All three crowns are screw down, though I haven't figured out how to screw down the main crown yet. In fact, the watch didn't come with an owner's manual for it, but a generic manual for other Invicta watches; I had to go on-line to find it.
  • The other interesting feature is that the digital time display is set up only as a 2nd time zone display. Normally, I use the analog hands as the 2nd time zone and keep the digital on home time.
Since 1998, no watch I have owned (that cost more than $28) has lasted more than 3 years. So I bought a 5 year extended warranty for the Invicata. Lets see if it lasts.

The Invicta watch is controlled by the crown. Push it in past a detent and hold it, and the watch synchronizes the analog and digital displays to midnight. Let go, and they then return to their guess as to the time. Pull the crown out, and you can set the time.

About 20 days after I got the Invicta, on a road trip changing time zones I was trying to adjust the watch time, and the detent and spring system on the crown broke. Now, just tapping the crown put it into synchronize mode. It synchronized when I would bend my wrist up. Obviously time for warranty service. Except...

The phone numbers Invicta provides in the warranty book and on their website to contact them for service are both disconnected.  You can't properly register your warranty on-line if you don't live in the USA. The on-line warranty registration rquires a "warranty number" that isn't provided with the watch. The instructions for warranty service are to send the watch -- and a cheque or money order for $28 US -- to Florida, where they will assess it and contact you with a time estimate. The 'net is full of complaints from people who have been waiting 6 months or more for service, and when they have been able to phone in, being on hold for hours at a time.

I contacted the dealer I bought the watch from. He gave me a different number to call Invicta, but told me to wait until Wednesday of this week. Not sure why.

The extended warranty I bought only kicks in after the 1 yr warranty is over. Push comes to shove, I put my watch in a drawer and pull it out in a year.

Yeah. Right.

Because I was on a road trip, with no back up watch, I bought yet another watch from Wal-Mart: a $28 Casio.
At least it has a digital display
Just what I needed: another watch.

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