How the legendary Casio F-91W won my heart...
A good friend of mine, and serious watch enthusiast, is the Professor of Film at Brisbane University and he will soon begin lecturing on Blade Runner 2049. Over the last few weeks, we have been discussing the film in detail to help formulate his lectures. During this analysis we found a picture of the movie’s star, Ryan Gosling, wearing an inexpensive retro Casio digital watch.
Mr Gosling is a known and respected Hollywood watch enthusiast, so minimal research confirmed that he regularly wears a metal Casio, ref: A159W. These diminutive models are very on-trend at the moment and as one delves deeper into their world you cannot help but unearth huge amounts of information regarding the original, iconic, 1980s forerunner: the F-91W.
More than 40 years ago, when Douglas Adams famously quoted that “digital watches were a pretty neat idea,” most of us began our love of watches with a basic LCD Casio. I certainly did as a 1980s teenager, and it remained the case for my son in 1992. Tough G-Shocks were specialist tools, so most of us were content with mid-priced 50-metre or 100-metre water-resistant units, which had useful features such as a stopwatch and alarm. Thoughts of owning an everyday watch with GPS, a barometer or communication capability were science fiction.
In 1989, Casio set out to shake up the lucrative entry level end of the digital market by creating a legible, durable, and accurate, cheap watch for the masses that was capable of meeting all daily needs.
The outcome of this exercise was the F-91W, designed by a young Ryusuke Moriai in his first foray for Casio. Ryusuke-San has since gone on to become Casio’s chief designer, and is responsible for creating many famous watches including the DW-6400, the DBC family and the G-Shock Rangeman. Today his focus is on Casio’s high-end MR-G range.
The final F-91W was designed around a new long-life round battery, with the case measuring 37mm x 33mm x 8.5 mm and weighing 21 grams. The shell was made of black plastic, with a stainless-steel case back and push buttons. The strap was resin.
The watch featured a 1⁄100 second stopwatch with a count up to 59:59.99 minutes. The function was capable of split time, and as standard there was an hourly chime and daily alarm. Illumination was provided by a weak green LED light, which had minimal drain on the battery. The Module 593 was powered by a single CR2016 cell.
The exterior was emblazoned with purposeful red WR letters on the front flanked by the words "Water Resist”. This technical statement was quite accurate, as the F-91W never boasted to be anything other than resistant to splashes and rain.
It is testimony to the effectiveness of the product and longevity of the design that these specifications have not changed today and the annual production of F-91Ws is still a staggering three million units. More expensive – but still highly affordable – variants with 50m water resistance, metal bracelets, and primary colours have been released over the years. However the definitive model in the range will always be the original F-91W.
And last week the temptation proved too great. I have just bought my very first F-91W. It was brand new and still under £10. When it arrived in a small, padded bag with a Casio swing tag I could not have been happier.
First impressions are that the watch is small, but it offers fine legibility: primarily as the screen fills most of the case so the LCD numbers stand out impressively. It is so light that within minutes you forget you have it on and the ultra slim design allows it to slip under all clothing. The lens is acrylic as opposed to glass – which saves weight and cost – but this will scratch easily. However, I see this as part of the charm. Even after a week of use I can see small hairline marks which just make the watch look used and loved.
There are sadly lots of fakes on the market (why on earth, we ask?) Although I was certain my new purchase was genuine, I followed Casio’s instructions and held in the lower right button for three seconds. True to their promise the display reverted from the time to the word CASIO spelled out in the LCD.
I have worn the watch most days for the last week and have thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Maybe I am reliving my youth again, but it’s wonderfully refreshing to wear a model so simple and effective which bonds much of the watch community in shared affection. It’s a world away from my normal Superlative Chronometer fare, but in every measurable way the F-91W is a fabulous watch and I would happily argue that no serious watch collection is complete without one. It could possibly be the only Casio you will ever need!