This is a review of the GW-A1000 an analogue G-Shock, from the recent aviator series.
Figure 1:GW-A1000 on the authors wrist (cc-by-sa)
Figure 2: (deep link) Casio stock photo of GW-A1000-A (copyright 2012 Casio Intl.)
I use the watch for a little less than a fortnight now. Previously I've had one of its predecessor models the GW-2000 for a couple of years.
The GW-A1000 is a purely analogue watch, timekeeping is regular G-Shock quartz. It has the typical accuracy of a quartz watch, mine appears to be less than two seconds fast, in a rather stable environment though, ie boxed. The watch synchronzies to the standard time signals of five countries 'Multiband 6' sometimes confusingly called 'atomic'.* While the signals are localy restricted, they cover roughly half of
the world population.
The movement is also of the so called 'tough movement' type, which Casio claims would greatly increase its resilience towards high G-Forces. Equally important the movement is self adjusting, useful in case the hands are missaligned.
There are various model versions available, but as mostly with G-Shock the differences are only cosmetic -- superficial and not worth to mention in a review.
Remarkable in this model are two aspects: Casio introduced their independently movinghour and minute hands and it is the first watch with their new 'smart crown'. I'm afraid it is alos quite noticeable that this is the first model with these features:
The independently moving hour hand is quite an important improvemnt that addresses one of the most important disadvantages in its predecessor the GW-2000, namely the tedium
of changing time zones. When doing so, the minute hand would unhurredly spin for up to six rotations. It also means stopwatch and timer functions can be moved to the large dial. Previously a combination of the second hand and use of the subdials provided these functions.
While this was realized in a rather satisfactory way in the old GW-2000, it was insufferable in the GW-3000 and GW-4000, where the minutes were shown on the 24 hour dial and the stop and timing functions were limited to 24 minutes.
The new crown provides an easier way to set timer and alarm, and when necessary the time as well. In principle it works quite well. In details it shows firstly it is a prototype feature and secondly a conceptual shortcomming. The crown is locked, in a way that appears to be similar to the operaion of a bayonet-lug. While it is easy to grip the crown from its sides and un-lock it when one holds the watch, this is awkward to do when wearing it. A more practical way to un-lock it is to push on its top and turn it through friction. The very finely lathed finish of the steel crown's surface is rather inconvenient when doing so.
The extended crown can be rotatet to fine adjust the active setting by twisting. This works rather well, even when only one side of the crown is accessible. Coarse adjustements are done by quickly twisting it three times in the forward direction. The hand continues its movement until stopped. Repeating the three quick twists speeds up this movement. Unfortunately this works only in the forward direction, reverse can only be done by turning the crown.
Combined with a conceptual shortcomming, the crown has only one extended position, this is very inconvenient when setting alarms. In order to change the time of the alarm by several hours, the minute hand has to rotate, in a similar way as in the old GW-2000 (fig. 3) and the hour hand follows, one hour for each turn of the minute hand. This makes it a slow process setting an alarm that is later than the previous one. However to set an alarm from say 13h to 11h one either has to manually turn back 120 minutes, or forward 22 hours.
An indication that the former issues are childing pains of the new interface are that they have been splendidly addressed in Casios newer GW-A1100 model. The crown has a surface structure milled on its top that provides more grip. It appears easier to turn, and the fast mode is available in both directions.
The conceptual problem remains however, it would be preferable if either one of the buttons would switch between operating the hour and the minute hand, or if the crown had two positions to do this. Such would also remedy the most important shortcomming of the countdown timer:
It only allows to set full minutes, i should very much like to set timers to the second (I should very much like to use it as a tea timer!).
Figure 3: (deep link) Casio product photo of a GW-2000B-1A (copyright 2009 Casio)
functions in detail
The first function, and the only that works flawlessly is the world time function. A single press on the mode button selects it. The second hand indicates the time-zone the minute and hour hand quickly move to their new positions, the second hand switches to time-keeping. Overall it works marvelously: it is fast enough and it is self explanatory.
Next on the dial is the stopwatch function. When selecting it, and it is not already running, all hands move to the 12 position. Starting it, the second hand shows the hundreths, the minute hand the seconds and the hour hand the minutes. I can't help to think, this is just Casio showing off what their movement can do. It is completely counterintuitive to assign different scales to the hand. It is also rather difficult to read the exact minute with the short hour hand. Lastly, the wonderful accuracy of the second hand is completely wasted on something that can't be manually timed better than perhap a quarter second. Muchmore, to use the second hand for hundreths, there are extra markings. These interfere with the regular 1/60 pattern of the minutes/seconds. At times this can be quite annoying when tryin to read the time exactly. And of course, this also prevents the stopwatch to measure times in excess of an hour.
It would have been much more sensible to measure seconds with the second hand. Either completely ignore fractions of a second, use the mode selector dial for it, or use a stepper motor for the second hand that allows it to stop between second marks, indicating half or even quarter
seconds. (Their marketing department could even sell this as sweeping second hand if they decided to do so.)
I've already mentioned the shortcommings of the countdown timer, I should like to add, that there appears no reason not to have a timer in excess of an hour. Yet Casio chose to. The hour hand stays stubbornly at '12'. The alarm sound appears to be consistently weak for all aviator G-Shocks. This one is not an exception.
There is also a thermometer function. It is quickly operated by a button press. Its display is a little awkward but useable. I'm not convinced however, its readings are accurate, even when the watch had an hour off wrist to reach environment temperature.
looks and visual ergonomics
The watch is rather large, as it also has very well visible markings, good luminescence, it is very ergonomic to read. Even in low light it is easy and quick to precisely read the time. The lume on the minute and hour hand must be considerably thicker, as its light persists much longer, than in the GW-2000. I suppose the new movement can drive larger
inertial momenta. Very unergonomic in my eyes is the lack of numbered hours. A 12 and a 9 or 3 would help greatly. I tend to confuse clockwise and counterclockwise, and it often takes a moment for me to realize if the hour points to 5 or to 7 (i look at the second hand). '12' and '6' markings are identical, in low light, it is difficult to tell, only based on vision, which side is up. Now this is also an issue it's succesor, the GW-A1100 addresses. It has certainly a much nicer face.
The huge face provides a very large surface for the solar cells, so I suppose it is not going to be difficult to keep it well charged.
Not a perfect watch, quite an improvement to the lemons GW-3000 and GW-4000. En par with the great GW-2000. The new technology in this watch is marvelous. It appears bigger on photos than on the wrist. It is comparably flat. It is still bloody huge. The GW-A1100 is clearly superior in ergonomics and function, it also looks quite a bit nicer in my eyes. Effectively it costs nearly twice as much at the moment.
If it wasn't that large, i should love it.
*Confusingly since it neither is an atomic watch, nor does it synchronize to atomic time, which differs by about half a minute from UTC (cf leap seconds, eg at wikipedia).