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A big problem with many quartz digital wristwatches


This is an ongoing problem... but only when the watch is expensive?

Above is the updated G-SHOCK M5610U. Compared to the older 5610, it has several improvements. Instead of the old EL night night, it now has LED. The date can now be displayed in either month-day or day-month. The time now displays in the upper right panel using nearly every mode. A few time zones were added, including Katmandu. All very nice.

So what's the problem?

LCD washout, as seen in the photo above. That hasn't changed. This wash I speak of is seen when viewing the panel at an angle (as one would do when wearing it on wrist) where all the segments "wash" together.

Some cheap digital watches have very obvious LCD washout, but this is also true for a ton of expensive models too. In fact, I've never seen a G-SHOCK digital with LCD panel that doesn't have washout when viewed at an angle. Where the M5610U is concerned, it's not ridiculously expensive (starts around $180), but not exactly cheap either.

Ironically, there are very cheap Casio digital LCD models that have almost no LCD washout problems at all. F-91W, F108H, W218H, W89HB and W735H? Barely any washout on any of those.

Why is LCD washout such a big deal?

An LCD panel with washout is annoying enough to make you stop wearing the watch, and that's why it's a big deal. Readability and legibility matter a lot.

With fashion watches, sure, I can understand legibility and readability not mattering all that much. For example, nobody buys a skeleton watch to read the time with, as that's just a fashion statement.

Most digital watches however are for function first. If you can't read the thing at an angle, that's not good.

This makes a good case for having a proper analog wristwatch

There's been a huge uptick in diver style watches since the 2010s. I find the Japanese brands really nail this well, such as the Orient Mako II and any Seiko Turtle model.

A proper automatic dive watch is ridiculously legible and can be read at any angle. True, you don't get a night light but you do get luminescent hands and markers.

Or, you can just get a Luminox watch that, while also legible, has tritium on the hands (glows in the dark, and the glow reportedly lasts for 20+ years). Those aren't stylish watches because they are designed as function-first, much like "tough" digital watches are supposed to be.

Personally, I prefer the lightweight cheap digitals. My watch of choice currently is the Casio W218H. Very light, big digits, great night light, no washout. It absolutely gets the job done and I can't complain about that.

I may however pick up a Luminox at some point. Orient and Seiko divers are great, but heavy. Luminox makes very legit tough watches, has quartz accuracy, is obviously very legible, and the tritium means I can always read the time in the dark. Again, not exactly stylish, but spot-on for maximum legibility and readability.


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