(Also see the addendum at the bottom for things I discovered after writing this review.)
I used to collect random, cheap watches, mainly off eBay. I have no idea why, I suppose it was just a hobby. I gave that up a while ago when I realised that for 95% of the time I wore just one watch: my trusty Omega Seamaster. It served me reliably for a good 20 years, needing only one clean and service for the duration.
Then, unaccountably, it just started to fail. It would stop, then go again but was completely unreliable as far as telling the time goes, which is a bit pointless for a watch.
I probably could have got it repaired and may still do that at some point but I decided it was time for a new ‘main watch’ anyway. Something different. The Omega was very much a ‘dress watch’ but as The Queen rarely invites me to garden parties these days I decided to be garish instead.
An internet search ensued. These are great fun to begin with but I find myself getting annoyed and indecisive in the end. But, in almost the complete opposite style of the Omega, I ended up buying a Casio G-Shock Mudmaster GWG 1000.
It comes in a nice box, inside of which there’s a nice a tin, inside of which is the watch itself. There’s a manual too, written in 15 million languages in a font that can only have been etched via an electron microscope. I'd hate to have to read it in an emergency. I'd probably be dead long before my eyes managed to focus on the first word.
I suggest downloading the PDF manual instead. The font on the PDF is barely legible to my 54 year old eyes but at least computers can zoom stuff.
It’s a watch with oodles of functions but the basic business of any watch is to tell the time and it does that really well. It has thick, white hour and minute hands, big numbers printed at 12, 3, 6, and 9 and strong white etches for the divisions between these numbers. The second hand’s a little obscure in poor light but I tend not to worry too much about seconds unless it’s a countdown to my next tub of Ben & Jerry’s.
It tells the time fine.
In the dark you just press the L button and a light shines seemingly from under the number 6 on the dial and you can see just fine. It also has a facility you can set up so that when you raise your arm from flat to 40 degrees in the dark, it’ll automatically light up the dial for you. I like this. The manual warns against switching this on if you’re a cyclist because you’d be dead within minutes, but I’m not a cyclist so I keep this 40 degree light on at all times.
These things do use energy or course and this a solar-powered watch. There’s lots of tedious stuff in the manual about the energy levels but give the watch plenty light — the sun is best but artificial light works too — and you should be okay. The outside world is a dangerous place into which I rarely venture but I’ve had no energy warnings from the watch yet. The light it gets from windows during the day seems to be enough to keep it charged. That said, it’s probably not a watch you want to cover with your sleeve too often.
A watch like this does not simply tell the time. It’s stuffed full of functions, most of which I’ll never use unless I’m stranded on a mountain and I try very hard to ensure that never happens.
The B button is where a lot of this stuff happens. The basic mode is called Timekeeping Mode and that’s where my watch will spend 99% of its time. But subsequent presses of the B button will cycle through the following functions:
- Data Recall Mode (you can save stuff and then look back at it) .
- Stopwatch Mode.
- Countdown Timer Mode (yeah, I can see me using that, although it’s not the same without Carol Vorderman).
- Alarm Mode.
- World Time Mode (I do use this actually. You can set a second time zone to switch to in an instant and I have a friend in Hong Kong with whom I Skype sometimes so it’s useful to know what time it is there).
- Receive Mode (the watch keeps time by being blipped radio signals from various stations around the world and this just gives you latest status of these transmissions).
Then when you press B again you’re back in Timekeeping Mode.
The C button will activate the digital compass. You point the 12 in the direction you’re looking and the second hand will point to the north. You can perform all sorts of nonsense here to correct magnetic north to true north but I dozed off at that point.
The A button will start taking altimeter readings and this can become a very complicated affair which I won’t explain here because I don’t really understand it.
For a while I didn't know what button D was for, wondering if it perhaps instructed Trident submarines to instigate nuclear launch, but it turns out it's mainly used for taking differential readings with things like altitude. It's geeky stuff I'm never going to use but Ranulph Fiennes would probably have hours of fun with it.
So what of this crown? Well this is apparently quite a new thing for the G-Shock watches and it provides a more efficient way to wheel through numbers — such as setting a timer, for example — than pressing buttons. I think this is a good idea. You just unscrew the crown and then it clicks out to become operational and, if I was setting a timer, I'd just wheel it forwards or backwards to set the countdown I wanted. That's far easier than using buttons to do it.
That’s as far as I’m going to go with all these functions because it’s beginning to sound more like a manual than a review. If you choose to buy this watch you can pick out the bits of the manual that interest you and read as much as you like. I read about the Timer, Stopwatch and World Time stuff because I thought I might use those at some point. If I ever plan a jaunt to the Amazon jungle or the Himalayas I’ll read up on the rest, although I think the chances of me making such a trip are slim. I rarely venture further than six miles from home.
It’s a big watch is this, although not heavy. The strap is very comfortable with plenty of holes in it to make sure you get a nice fit around your wrist.
It does have one glaring problem in my opinion. The digital display — where you’d get day and date in Timekeeping Mode and lots of other information in other modes — is virtually unreadable in some light conditions, even if you switch the light on. In other light conditions it’s fine but as I write this at 9PM at night I can’t read it at all. In daylight, particularly outside, it’s fine but it’s pointless in the dark and I think this is a massive oversight by Casio. I’m knocking a whole point off for that alone as it lets down an otherwise excellent watch.
It’ll be a tough watch. G-Shock are known for that and you’d probably need to use a diamond to scratch the thing. The Mudmaster is particularly known for it’s resilience to, well, mud, which will be reassuring when I next decide to crawl through a cow shed.
It's also waterproof to 200 metres. I'll never go that deep of course but I have been known to do a bit of snorkelling in my time, so it's nice to know I need not worry about the watch in those circumstances.
I can see adventurers loving this thing but it’s way more watch than I need. So why did I buy it? I wanted something completely different to my Omega and I just love a toy.
Addendum: 13 February 2019
I later found a problem with this watch: the alarm. I thought it wasn’t working at all but if you put it right up to to your ear in a very quiet room you can just about hear it. It is woeful and there’s little chance you’d hear it on your wrist and certainly not anywhere there’s some background noise. It definitely wouldn’t wake you up. I really have no idea what Casio are playing at here.
It’s no good to me with that sort of alarm, so I’ve sent it back for a refund. I’ll take another star off the rating for that. This still stands as a pretty good watch in all other respects but the vague digital display and imperceptible alarm are things I simply can’t live with and why should I on a £550 watch?
I shall look elsewhere for my new watch and avoid Casio.