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Modern vs. modern retro vs. mechanical watches


Going all-modern sucks. Going all-retro sucks too. But what about modern retro?

A Casio watch really shows what this is all about.

My watch, a Casio MWD100H, is an example of modern retro. The electronic digital quartz watch with LCD panel is 50-year-old tech (the Seiko O6LC from 1973 more or less laid out the foundation for LCD panel quartz watches), but my Casio has more features, a hybrid steel/resin case, 100m of water resistance, a night light and a 10-year battery. It's very affordable, uses old tech but has modern improvements (the battery life and water resistance are the biggies there), functions properly and can handle life (as in take a knock and still keep working).

Any watch you can buy new for a reasonable price that uses proven and reliable old technology you can actually use is good.

Here's a funny thing that mechanical automatic watches (like these Seikos) and all smartwatches share:

Very few of them can hold a charge for over a week.

One week is 168 hours. If you fully charge a smartwatch or fully charge an automatic mechanical watch, neither will make it a full week before needing to be recharged...

...unless you're willing to pay huge money.

A really good power reserve figure for mechanical automatic watches is 80 hours. An example of that is Tissot Powermatic 80. Not all that expensive, but hang on..

A supremely good power reserve for an automatic is 5 days, as in 120 hours. An example of that is the Oris Aquis Date Calibre 400. When I say 5 days, I'm not kidding. Oris prints that right on the dial just to get the point across. Oris yet again comes into the fray offering a 10 day power reserve with the Oris Big Crown ProPilot x Calibre 115. And wow is that thing expensive.

Are there mechanical watches that can hold a charge for longer? Yes. And you can't afford any of them.

Now let's go modern.

In smartwatch territory, the best of the best, the Apple Watch Ultra 2, has a battery life of...

...72 hours - and only in "low power" mode. In regular mode, 36 hours is the best it can do. I'm quoting Apple's specifications directly there, by the way. Feel free to fact check me on that one.

To be fair however, there is the Garmin Fenix Solar smartwatch. It supposedly can hold a charge up to 87 days with solar enabled BUT... that's only when battery saver mode is enabled. If you have everything enabled on that watch, as in all satellites and music, it goes all the way down to 7 hours. And that's quoting Garmin's specs directly for the Fenix 7S Pro Solar Edition.

And then...

...there's the Casio F-91W for under 20 bucks that holds a charge for oh, about 7 years.

And heck, you can even go more retro with the Casio F-84W! I'm pretty sure that one has the same battery life, just with mid-1980s styling to it. And yes, you can buy it new, or at least you still can at the time I write this.

Here is why modern retro is the best watch you can use

Let's say I take the Casio MWD100H off my wrist and put it in a box for a month. After that month is up, I can go get the watch out of the box, put it on my wrist and off I go. I don't have to set anything. I don't even have to press a button. I know that at worst, the time will only be off by 30 seconds. An accuracy of +/- 30 seconds a month is normal for all Casio digital quartz watches.

Same scenario with a smartwatch: Unless it's something like a Garmin Fenix with a really, really good battery saver mode, the watch won't work at all once I take out of of the box after a month has passed and will need charging first before use.

Same scenario with a mechanical automatic watch: Not ticking. I have to shake it back and forth for a minute to give it some charge, set the time, set the date, then off I go.

Incidentally, this is why the best mechanical watches are time-only, such as some Hamilton field watches. Messing around with setting a date on a mechanical watch is annoying when all you want to do is put the watch on, give it some charge, set the time and go.

In the end, the cheap digital quartz, that modern retro watch, is the best thing you could use because of what you DON'T have to do just to use it.

I think the only thing better is a Casio solar atomic digital which sets itself. Cheap versions of that are Waveceptor models, and expensive ones are G-SHOCK solar atomic.

And if you're a fancy pants, see G-SHOCK G-STEEL solar atomic. That will set you back a few hundred, but still, it's solar and sets itself.

I'm liking the MWD100H I have right now, but I might pick up a Waveceptor at some point.

Published 2023 Oct 19

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