I had to say goodbye to an old friend last week — my old G-Shock GW500A-1V Tough Solar Wave Ceptor atomic watch by Casio. I’d worn it every day for over four years. It went with me swimming, survived my personal training with Yoda, endured Tony Horton and his myriad at-home-workouts, shrugged off being struck repeatedly by solid iron kettlebells, and even a trip to the woods of Virginia for some shotgun training.
However, all good things must come to an end. The internal battery, although recharged by the solar array on the face of the watch, eventually failed to hold a charge for more than three days at a time. I opened the watch to try to replace the battery, but did some, er, irreparable damage to the thin metal cage around the battery. Oh yeah, I also managed to dislodge the rubber waterproof gasket and lose it, probably to be ingested by my youngest dog Pearl.
So I was on the market for a replacement, but didn’t want the same watch. I wanted some of the same features, like the solar charging and atomic time keeping. I also wanted a countdown timer again, something I had on my crufty old Ironman watch but the G-Shock lacked. Although I eventually got used to the G-Shock’s humongous size, I wouldn’t mind having something smaller than a wall clock on my wrist. I turned to Casio to see what they had to offer, and what I could get for less than my old WVM120J.
The WVM120J-1 has a lot of the features I liked with my G-Shock. The aforementioned Wave Ceptor atomic timekeeping downloads the current time from Fort Collins in the United States. The WVM120J-1 improves on my old G-Shock by fetching the time from five systems throughout the world. In the event that I travel outside of the United States, my watch will automatically update itself to local time. Pretty boss.
The solar array on the face of the watch appears to be larger than the old G-Shock. This is nice, as I spend a fair amount of time indoors working on a computer. The Tough Solar technology can recharge the battery via sunlight or fluorescent light. Spending time out under the Daystar is not only good for helping you process vitamin B, it also recharges the Casio line of watches faster than indoor lighting.
One of the things I like about my new watch is that it is thinner and lighter than my G-Shock. Apparently I had the “bitch” line of G-Shocks that are smaller than the original, and slightly larger than the ladies line. However, with my little wrists it looked like I had a manhole cover on my wrist. The WVM120J-1 is a lot smaller than the G-Shock, and feel like a regular watch. Yeah, I got used to the heft of the G-Shock, but now that it’s gone I certainly don’t miss it.
The countdown timer is a function I really missed from the $20 Ironman watch I owned before my G-Shock. I grill a lot of my food, and I monitor my cooking time pretty religiously. The countdown timer helps me remember when to flip the burgers (once, only once!) or when my beercan chicken is through sitting in such a dignified way in my Weber. The only nitpick I have about the timer on this watch is that I have to set it by the whole minute. This may not seem like a big deal, but when I grill chicken breasts for nine minutes, I can’t split the different to 4:30 on the timer. I have to do 4:00 at first, and then change the watch to 5:00 for the second side.
As far as the interface goes, it’s easier to read than the G-Shock. The G-Shock had a lot of unnecessary shit going on, and the WVM120J-1 just has what you want to see: the time, date, battery level, if it’s receiving the atomic time, and what (if any) alarms you may have set. The numbers are bigger, which is better as I grow older, or when I need to sneak a peek at the time during a particularly boring “all hands” meeting at work.
The green backlighting is nice, although I have yet to figure out how the “Auto Electro-Luminescent” feature works. I think it’s supposed to work when you turn your arm at a certain angle, but damn if I haven’t pinpointed how to do it on command after four years of wearing the G-Shock.
The button to turn on the EL on the G-Shock was front and center. It was about the size of an infant’s head, and you really couldn’t miss it. The button to do so on the WVM is on the top right side of the watch. It’s not inconvenient, but not as convenient as the G-Shock.
Programming the watch and changing modes is easy. Again, with fewer capabilities, the WVM is easier to use on a day to day basis. There’s a fair amount of research in the usability field about feature bloat and how it negatively impacts how easy things are to use. Without multiple user-defined time zones to keep track of and several alarm settings, it was easier for Casio to keep the button paradigms similar from function to function. My G-Shock kept me guessing, with multiple button configurations based on multiple function options.
All in all, I’ve liked the WVM120J-1. It’s been just as durable as my G-Shock so far, and has been just what I needed out of a watch. I don’t like the bright silver plastic face, but I couldn’t seem to find an all black one online. Best of all, it’s $39.99 delivered via Amazon Prime, about a fourth of the price of my G-Shock’s retail price.
If you are looking for a functional solar-charging atomic time wristwatch that doesn’t have a thousand complicated, mostly useless features and weighs less than a boat anchor, check out the Casio WVM120J-1.