After quartz became more affordable and mass produced in the mid-1980s, Casio’s catalog of fun and funky watches exploded. Their functionality moved well beyond just the standard time, date, stopwatch and alarm features into more fun and oddly specific watches like the Fishing Time, the DW-402 Surfing Timer, the GS-20 Super Windsurfing watch that was more of a wrist-worn game than a watch, an IR blasting TV remote watch, and many more. The point I’m trying to make is that Casio didn’t just make watches, they made fun, quirky and collectible timepieces that were a snapshot of the 1980s and 90s where tech was just getting its footing into our everyday lives. Single function watches were present everywhere as almost a precursor to the smart watch of today. Fortunately, Casio still has a catalog of fun watches including several models that have been in production for the better part of the past 40 years. The best thing about them is that they’re still just as fun, and still just as cheap. While Casio’s model numbers aren’t the most fun (or easiest to follow), the watches more than make up for the convoluted naming system. Today, we’re taking a look at three modern Casios under $30 that I’ve added to my own personal collection. Let’s jump in.
Casio CA53WF-8B Calculator Watch
I’d be doing you guys wrong if I didn’t start out with the Casio Databank Calculator Watch. While you might not recognize the model number above, the watch is iconic in its own way. You can find this vintage icon on Marty McFly’s wrist in Back to the Future, a slightly different model on Dennis Nedry’s while he’s stealing dinosaur embryos in Jurassic Park, and busting out calculations to craft the finest blue methamphetamine (W&W does not condone drug use, but Breaking Bad is a great show) on Walter White’s wrist. The Casio CA53W has certainly rooted itself deeply in pop culture and it’s still useful in everyday life. Sure, we all have a calculator on our phone, but it’s not always handy to reach in your pocket.
What was once a functional piece of essential nerd gear has evolved into a fashionable and quirky digital watch. Measuring in at 43.2mm tall by 34.4mm wide, the rectangular case fits well on nearly any wrist. At only 8.4mm thin and a scant 25g including strap, the watch wears almost like nothing is even on your wrist. Operating the calculator features is a pretty straightforward affair, albeit a little tricky since the buttons are so small. Chances are you’re busting out some calculations on good old fashioned pen and paper, so making use of your pencil point takes some of the tiny button frustration away. The watch does feature a level of water resistance (I wouldn’t go swimming with it), a dual time display, a 1/100sec stopwatch with split time, and a daily alarm. You can switch between 12 and 24 hour time display and activate the hourly chime if you so desire. One thing that’s not present is a backlight, so maybe don’t go calculating into the dark. It’s a solid set of base specs, wrapped up into an iconic watch that you can still pick up today for under 30 bucks. It’s fun and functional. Available from Casio right here.
Casio AE1200WH-1A “World Timer” Multifunction Watch
The World Timer had a bit of a moment last year. After a thorough “Value Proposition” breakdown on Hodinkee, the watch was sold out on Casio’s website and prices skyrocketed (they went up a few bucks) at online retailers. All hype aside, the World Timer is one of the coolest watches you can snag for under $30. There’s a ton of functionality packed into a charming square body. You even get a map of the entire world in which you can scroll through each time zone and have an idea of roughly where it is. While the cultural impact isn’t nearly as strong as the calculator watch, the World Timer is one of the most function-packed watches you can pick up for the price.
The resin case measures in at a reasonable 39.5mm square with a pusher at each corner. Inside, the battery will run for 10 years without needing a change. No need to worry about splashes or swimming either, as the 100m water resistance has you covered on that front. My favorite thing about the World Timer is the display. In the top left, you have a small analog-style clock with running seconds that stays set to the main local time. In the top right, there’s a small map of the world that you can scroll through with the search button. As you press the button, the main display scrolls through all of the major cities in the world, which are highlighted on the map. Across the entire bottom of the screen is a generous time display that’s very easy to read at a glance. Additional functions include a world time mode, 5 programmable alarms, a countdown timer, stopwatch, and a charming yellowy-orange backlight that glows for a few seconds when activated. The stock Casio straps leave a lot to be desired, so I find myself with this one on a nato strap more often than not. It gives it a functional military vibe and is much more comfortable than the plasticky resin strap. Available here from Casio.
Casio WS1200H-3AVCF “Fishing Timer”
If there’s one thing that’s kept me sane through six months of quarantine, social distancing, wearing masks, and working from home, it’s been fishing. Fly fishing, specifically. I’m lucky enough to have a lake just a few minutes from home that makes for a quick lunch break fishing session. While browsing around the internet, I stumbled upon the Casio Fishing Gear. It’s a digital watch that allegedly lets you know when the best times to fish are by using moon phase data. Like the other two watches on the list, these sub-$20 Casios are a dangerous impulse buy. A few clicks later, and the watch was on its way to my house. How could I not get a watch that lets me know what time to fish!?
The Fishing Timer pulls from inspiration from GSHOCK’s design language. It’s housed in a chunky resin case that has a bunch of different textures, levels, and even some fake screws. It’s not the coolest looking watch out there, but your options are limited if you’re looking for one with a fish indicator on the dial. I opted for the dark green model that has orange text highlights throughout. Despite being a 45.3mm case, it’s very light and wears pretty well on my 6.75” wrist. The star of the show is the entire top half of the dial. This is taken up by the fishing indicator – it displays the likelihood of a good time to fish at a scale of 1 to 5. Instead of just a lame number, the digital screen fills up with small fish icons. When they’re really biting, the screen flashes “FISH” repeatedly. This thing really wants you to hit the water. One of the most fun parts about the watch is that you can scroll through individual days and search hour by hour to see when the fish will be biting. Then, you can set an alarm for that day and date, ensuring that you’re ready to go when the watch says so. There’s also a moon phase display on the main dial and a little bar that fills up every ten minutes. Admittedly, I couldn’t find anything about this in the manual, but I’m assuming it’s to know when to change up your fishing spot. If it’s been 10 minutes with no bites, it’s time to move on. Additionally, the watch features a stop watch, timer, 3 alarms, a dual time display, backlight, and a 10 year battery. Available from Casio here.
There you have it. 3 fun Casios, all under thirty bucks. For the price of a nice nato strap, you could add an entire new watch to your collection instead. Do you guys have a favorite affordable digital watch? Make sure to let us know what it is and why you like it in the comments below.