As much as I like digitals, I also appreciate analogue watches and I particularly like the aviator line by G-Shock. It offers almost everything I'd want out of a tough analogue watch. I have a GW-3000BB and its non-atomic counterpart the G-1200B. I passed on the GW-4000 because I didn’t think it brought much improvement to the GW-3000, only a different form factor. When news about the GW-A1000 began surfacing I set my heart on getting the RAF. I liked its quintessentially aviator looks with the classic uncluttered white on black dial.
I managed to get mine from the Casio concept store at Covent Garden in London, courtesy of a friend who was there. It was £500 on the price tag. The UK version is sold with the "AER" code suffix while the Japanese uses "AJR". However, it should be noted that the code suffix does not appear on the case back, only the packaging. The code etched on the case back is simply "GW-A1000RAF" and I am pretty sure it is the same for both Japan and UK purchased watches.
There were a couple of guys on the forum asking for a review and I'm having a day off… So this is my personal impression of it.
General Looks and Dial
The GW-A1000RAF is a handsome watch in matt smokey-grey. I was actually hoping that the grey would be a lighter shade but I can live with this.
The dial is very three dimensional with chunky raised indices and accents. The sub-dial markings are slightly greyed out so as not to be any distraction. You can definitely tell the time at a glance with this G-Shock - it is highly legible. The crystal is slightly domed.
This watch somehow exudes an air of no nonsense about it. There is no bling, yet it maintains an impressive presence. I also like the blackened the buckle, crown, pushers, as well as the two screws by the crown. I only wish all the screws were black.
Strap and comfort
One thing that did strike me was how supple and comfortable the strap is. I would say it might just be one of the most comfortable G-Shock straps out there. The strap is thinner than most G-Shocks and it is resin (as far as I can tell) only the keeper is carbon fibre. The RAF wings on the keeper is a nice touch.
As for size, I would say it wears as large as my GW-9300GB Mudman. The watch isn’t exactly small but if I can pull it off with a 6.5" wrist, I think most will manage just fine.
Features and Functions
This watch has been touted to have a set of features tailored to the demanding needs of the pilot. At least that's what we can paraphrase from a Casio PR spew. Presumably, something must set this apart from other G-Shocks and its sibling aviators. Here is what it offers:
One thing that makes the RAF stand out from the others is the supposedly one touch Zulu time button (or UTC to us civvies). On the RAF, this button is marked with a red symbol. I am not sure if this is a symbol for "Zulu" or something else and it would be great if someone can explain.
Getting Zulu time displayed actually requires two button pushes. You first have to push the mode button to get the watch into world time mode before pushing down the so called "Zulu" button for 3 seconds to set the watch in motion to display Zulu time. So far I haven’t figured out its practical usefulness yet as a regular civilian.
Unlike the GW3000/4000, this watch does not have a simultaneous display of a second time zone. To view the second time zone on the GW-A1000, you have to press the mode button once. Not too difficult. The second time zone can be swapped with the home city.
A unique feature of this watch is the crown. Similar crowns are used for the Edifice and it is nice to see it implemented in the G-Shock line. Casio claims the electronic crown's operation is intuitive and I am inclined to agree.
Like the crown of an analogue watch, you have to unlock and pull it out to operate. On the GW-A1000 you press down and turn the crown to align to the unlock marker (dot mark). The spring loaded crown will pop out but has to be pulled out another step before it is ready to be rotated. Depending on the mode selected, rotating this crown makes easy work of setting the time, the timer, the alarm or selecting an alternative time zone. To return the crown to a locked position, you simply push it back down all the way, and rotate it to align to the lock marker (line mark). A gentle pull will confirm the crown is indeed locked in place. I must admit that returning the crown to the locked position isn’t as easy as it sounds. It is a bit fiddly to press and turn at the same time with the crown guard in the way.
Some will be happy to hear that the crown functions bi-directionally (as far as I can tell from playing with it so far). Those of us who have other G-Shocks will know that it can be tedious to cycle through settings in one direction only. Thankfully we don’t have to do things like that very often. Nevertheless, the crown is much quicker to operate and I can see how it can be useful for pilots, especially when hopping through time zones. I must say I do really like the electronic crown's function.
Flyback, Stopwatch and Timer
Another useful feature of the GW-A1000 is the flyback function. On mechanical watches, a flyback function is found only on specialised chronographs and it is regarded as a "complication" (umm… read a more expensive fancy extra). Anyway, the function of a flyback is to instantly restart timing at one touch of a button.
On conventional stop watches or mechanical chronographs you have to press once to start, once more to stop, again to reset, then again to restart. With flyback, a press of the button sends the seconds hand flying back to the start position wherefrom it restarts timing. This feature can actually be quite practical when trying to time something.
The stopwatch on the GW-A1000 times in 1/20 of a second up to 120 minutes. IMHO this is still too short. While it isn't as pathetic as the 23.99" of other G-Shock analogue aviators, it is nowhere near Casio's flagship analogue Edifice (EQW-A1110) that is capable of doing 59'59.99". So it's not a technology issue but more likely Casio simply choosing not to go the whole nine yards on the stopwatch for analogue G-Shock aviators. While I do like the Flyback function, I still feel short-changed by the stopwatch.
I am pleased however that Casio has included a countdown timer with this aviator. Again, setting the desired duration is easy with the electronic crown.
I should also note here that the GW-A1000 has one alarm only.
The GW-A1000 apparently owes the Electronic Crown and its Flyback ability to the Smart Access feature implemented in its module. Smart Access is Casio's proprietary system for analogue movements. On conventional analogue movements, the hands are inter-dependent to each other. With Smart Access, they are set up independently allowing for fast functionality.
In practical use, if say we wanted to set the watch to a different time zone, we won’t have to wait for the minute hand to cycle multiple times past 12 to move the hour hand a few hours. With Smart Access both hands will independently orientate itself to the correct position. It will automatically re-orientate along the quickest path and you may see the hour and minute hands moving simultaneously in opposite directions.
Nifty… I do prefer this to my older and slower GW-3000.
For pilots who need to know what the cockpit temperature is, the GW-A1000 is equipped with a thermometer. Reading the temperature is however a little strange using the watch hands. If it says 2:15 in thermometer mode for example, it corresponds to 23 °C. It is able to measure between -10 to 60°C (or 14 to 140°F) .
The GW-A1000 can be set to read in Fahrenheit according to the manual but I am used to Celsius so I'm keeping it as it is. In any case, I think that would be a little "wrong" given that only +/- °C is indicated on the bezel. There are no markings for Fahrenheit.
The GW-A1000 features Tough Movement, Solar and Atomic time keeping. It also boasts "Triple G Resist" which as far as I can tell means it has been tested to stand up to impact, gravity (acceleration and centrifugal) as well as vibration forces. Casio claims to have incorporated something they call "Alpha Gel" that acts as a cushion for the module.
The GW-A1000 does not have an EL light but uses lume like conventional analogue watches. The lume is functional and is good enough to last through the night after a regular day's exposure to light. Mine did. Lume colour is green (I wish it were blue).
If you like analogue watches and G-Shocks, I would say that the GW-A1000 is probably going to make you very happy. It is arguably the best aviator by function and probably by looks also (though that can be subjective).
The RAF is costly for what it is but then again, I guess we are paying a premium for limited edition owner status. I just liked the looks of it best. Someone who prefers the look of the regular model is probably the luckier one to get away with having to spend a lot less.
My RAF is going to get a lot of wrist-time and I doubt it will be my last GW-A1000. I hope Casio will continue to produce this in multiple variations.
Just two more wrist shots...