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61882IR - Timex WS4 watch - R Caffin

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  • Roger Caffin
    Jan 6, 2010
    • 0 Attachment
      Hi Mark and all

      My thanks to all who helped me understand what 'water resistant' means ...
      (especially Coy).

      I still think the industry is pulling a swifty over the public, but my
      previous comments aimed just at Timex were mostly wrong. So herewith a
      modified version of the IR. I think it should go through the edit process
      again. (Sorry Mark!)

      Roger Caffin
      Test Report - Timex Expedition WS4 Watch
      Report Contents

      Initial Report

      Reviewer Details

      Product Information & Description

      First Impressions
      Field Report
      expected early March 2010

      Long Term Report
      expected early May 2010

      Initial Report 8-July-2009

      Reviewer Details
      Reviewer: Roger Caffin
      Age: 64
      Gender: M
      Weight: 63 kg (139 lb)
      Height: 167 cm (67")
      Email address: r dot [surname] at acm dot org
      Home: Sydney, Australia

      Backpacking Background

      I started bushwalking at 14 and took up rock climbing at University with the
      girl who became my wife and my permanent walking partner. Ski touring and
      canyoning followed. Winter and summer, we prefer long hard trips by
      ourselves: about a week in Australia, up to three months in Europe/UK. We
      prefer fast and light in unfrequented trackless country. We would be out
      walking, skiing or snowshoeing for at least three months a year. We have now
      moved to lightweight gear, much to our backs' relief. I designed and made
      much of our lightweight gear myself.

      I am also the maintainer of the Australian aus.bushwalking FAQ web site

      My watch says Morning Tea Time
      mountain hut, near Grindelwald, Switzerland

      Product Information

      Manufacturer: Timex (www.timex.com)
      Year of manufacture: 2009 (assumed)
      Country of manufacture: China
      Watch supplied: Black
      Strap supplied: Elastic
      Weights (measured) Watch: 63 g (1.80 oz)
      Strap: 25 g (0.80 oz)
      Neck cord: 9 g (0.32 oz)
      Dimensions Width: 53 mm (2.09")
      Length: 68 mm (2.68")
      Thickness (body): 17 mm (0.67")
      Height above deck: 28 mm 1.10")
      Water Resistance: Claimed 50 m, but see below for what this means
      MSRP: US$200
      Product Description

      This is a digital watch with the standard Barometer/Altimeter and Compass
      features, along with the common extra features such as dual time zones,
      chronometer, data logging, etc. (With the current state of the art in
      integrated circuits, these extra functions are excessively easy to add to a
      watch, whether they are needed or not.) It has the usual four control
      buttons plus an 'Indiglo' button for the back illumination. Where it starts
      to deviate from a 'standard' watch is the size of the unit, and I will
      return to this point shortly. The model number 'WS4' apparently means 'Wide
      Screen with 4 functions' - all true.

      The unit comes with a glossy (laminated) fold-out quick reference guide with
      brief instructions in English, French and Spanish, and a compact (and thick)
      instruction guide in the same languages. The latter fits into the box base
      on the watch stand. All the glossy fold-out guide covers is some esoteric
      features of the altimeter - mainly how to use the altitude alarm feature. It
      seems that whoever wrote the main manual forgot to mention these features -
      or they were added to the software after the manual was printed

      The Timex web site is rather confused when it comes to describing the strap.
      It variously describes the strap as 'Durable Resin Strap', 'Black Resin
      strap' and 'Buckle/Clasp Type: Buckle', and reading the other Test Reports
      for this watch will show that this is roughly correct. However, the unit I
      received has a strap made of heavy elastic some 30 mm (1.2") wide, held at
      one end with about 40 mm (1.8") of hook&loop fastening and at the other end
      by a moderately complex stainless steel adjustable buckle. This strap does
      not appear on the obvious WS4 web page, but delving deeper into the web site
      I found an FAQ page which said this: 'Comfortable and durable rubber strap
      or XL Elastic Fast Wrap to fit outside of performance gear'. Unfortunately
      it also said 'Unless you have the WS4 with an XL elastic strap (which can be
      removed completely), the strap on the WS4 was not designed to be removed and
      replaced. If your strap breaks, you can contact Timex Customer Service at
      800-448-4639 or custserv@...', so for the present I am stuck with an
      XL wrist strap which is unusable for ordinary walking.

      The web site shows the black version as having jungle green buttons. My unit
      has bright orange buttons. I suspect that the change in colour may be
      associated with the change in the wrist strap.

      'Water Resistant 50 m'
      In one place on the Timex web site the specifications claim 'Dependable
      water resistance to 50m' and in another place 'Water Resistant 50 M'. On the
      TimexExpedition web site (yes, there are two different Timex web sites)
      there is very little in the way of specifications for the WS4 that I could
      find, but there is an FAQ page with some interesting comments. My own
      feeling is that many people would not discover the TimexExpedition web site
      or the FAQ page for the WS4 when starting from the Timex web site.

      Anyhow, I was quite enthused when I first read (on the Timex web site) that
      the watch was water resistant to 50 m - it meant I could use it swimming
      rivers and abseiling wet canyons - things we often do on some trips.
      However, reading the FAQ page I discovered this:
      'We do not recommend swimming with your WS4. The WS4 is 50 meter water
      resistant, and the general rule of thumb for any watch is: 30 meter can be
      safely splashed; 50 meters is safe in a shower; 100 meters is safe in the
      pool; and 200 meters is safe for snorkeling or light diving.'

      My reaction to this discovery was fairly severe and I was ready to accuse
      the company of deceiving me. However, fellow BGT members pointed out that
      the term 'water resistant' is an industry term and is actually defined by an
      ISO Standard. (My thanks to these guys.) I don't have access to the text of
      the ISO standard, so I will quote Wikipedia instead.

      The international standard 'ISO 2281 Horology -- Water-resistant watches'
      defines the water resistance of watches. This standard was only designed for
      watches intended for ordinary daily use and are resistant to water during
      exercises such as swimming for a short period. They may be used under
      conditions where water pressure and temperature vary. However, whether they
      bear an additional indication of overpressure or not, they are not intended
      for submarine diving.
      The Wikipedia page goes on the explain that testing for 'water resistant' is
      done by immersing the watch to a depth of 10 cm (about 4 inches) for 1 hour.
      Where a depth is quoted, the watch is also tested once at that water
      pressure for 10 minutes.

      In addition, the ISO standard says that a watch rated as 'water resistant 50
      m' should be
      Suitable for swimming, white water rafting, no snorkeling water related
      work, and fishing. Wikipedia also says ISO 2281 compliant watches are
      designed for everyday life and must be water resistant during exercises such
      as swimming for a short period..
      As far as I can see, the ISO standards do not use the common term
      'waterproof' at all.

      So I am willing to accept that Timex are simply following 'industry
      standards' here, but ...
      * I think the industry as a whole is playing cutesy with the public here,
      as most casual buyers would not realise the difference between 'water
      resistant' and the more common word 'waterproof'.
      * I think Timex ought to make it very clear on the Timex web site exactly
      what the claim 'water resistant 50 m' means, as it does not mean what the
      average member of the public (eg me) might expect. In this regard, I note
      that it is quite hard to find the FAQ page from the Timex web site.
      * I am concerned that while the ISO Standard says such a watch should be
      suitable for swimming for a short period, the Timex FAQ suggests I should
      not take the watch swimming. Does this mean that Timex do not think the WS4
      meets the ISO standard? I don't know.
      First Impressions

      Did I mention that this thing is huge? The dimensions are in the table
      above, but it is not until I held the watch in my hand that I realised that
      plasma TV screens are not the only thing which come in an super-size
      category. Once again, I have to say that (in my opinion so far) the watch
      seems more designed for street machismo wearing than for real use when out
      bushwalking. I say this because a thing this size really would get in my way
      when fighting my way through thick scrub. But we will wait and see for the
      Field Report to see.

      There seem to be four small hex head bolts on the front of the watch. These
      are clearly visible in the lead photo. However, despite my best efforts,
      these don't seem to do anything and don't seem to rotate. One is left to
      wonder whether they are anything more than pseudo-macho ornamentation.

      The 'wide screen' display is certainly large. It has a small analog clock
      face at the top left hand corner which does double duty as the analog
      compass display, although the resolution is low. It has a dot matrix digital
      display at the top right hand corner: this is arguably the 'main' display,
      and very readable. In compass mode it is limited to displaying the cardinal
      points rather than degrees, which I found a little strange. At the bottom
      left hand corner there is a temperature display and a set of weather symbols
      of the usual format - clouds, sun, rain etc. In compass mode the actual
      bearing in degrees is shown here. At the bottom right hand corner there is a
      set of seven-segment number which are used for secondary displays such as
      Altitude in Time mode, date in Altitude mode and setting the altitude
      reference points. Great care must be taken when reading these numbers as
      they are very narrow and some characters are hard to interpret. In
      particular, the plus and minus signs in altitude reference mode are almost
      incomprehensible at first. One gets used to them after a while, but I did
      have one of my altitude references set to -188 m (rather than +188 m) for a

      Finally, at the bottom right hand corner on the metal surround there are
      four little black embossed logos. They do occupy space which could have been
      used by the LCD display. As far as I can see at this stage, they serve no
      useful or functional purpose. They seem to be just fancy trim.

      Wrist Strap
      I tried to adjust the elastic strap to fit my wrist, but this was not
      possible. Even at the tightest setting it slid up my arm. Then I found the
      bit in the FAQ about the strap being for use with 'performance clothing',
      but my 'performance clothing' is never that bulky. (Think single-layer
      Taslan or single-layer Lycra.) The strap just manages to hold at my wrist
      when I am wearing a wet-suit (albeit rather loosely), but I can't use the
      watch in the water as the '50 m water resistant' specification does not mean
      the watch can actually be used in water. With the strap fully extended I can
      get both wrists into the strap quite easily - see photo to the right. (No,
      this is not a bondage item!) 'XL' is certainly correct; 'usable' is less

      The unit came with a fairly robust neck loop which can replace the wrist
      strap. It is secured to the watch with a short bit of hook&loop fastening. I
      did notice that the stuff tended to peel open rather easily (a Chinese
      brand?), and how reliable the attachment might be in the field is definitely
      open to question.

      Set-Up and Manual
      I spent some time setting the watch up to my requirements - metric units,
      local altitude, etc. This required reading the small instruction manual. The
      first problem was that the font was so small I had to take all my glasses
      off before I could read it (I am short-sighted). However, the printing was
      of good quality. The second problem was that the instructions are not always
      easy to follow, and do seem to leave a few steps out in places.

      The instructions for setting Time and Date are on page 14 (and page 11) of
      the little manual. Technically the instructions are correct, but they are a
      bit confusing. Before reaching the actual time and date display the user
      must select 'Time1' or 'Time2' and press 'Mode'. This is not obvious at
      first, and I found it rather puzzling. Careful reading of the fine print
      shows that the manual does cover this, but the casual reader is likely to
      miss it.

      The instructions for setting the altitude to match the local environment
      (page 15) are even more confusing. On most watches the Start (Up, + or
      whatever) button increases the displayed number; on this watch it does do
      this but only for one digit at a time. It is necessary to advance from the
      hundreds to the tens and to the units (etc) by pressing the Mode button.
      Further, unless the STOP button is pressed at the end the whole process will
      be largely ignored. I got very confused here for a while. There is a note
      about this in the FAQ page at the web site.

      Calibrating the compass is essential before use, and this uses the 'normal'
      two rotations of the watch. After this the declination can be set. All this
      went very smoothly, but the result was not good. In the end it turned out
      that my steel filing cabinets were distorting the local magnetic field! I
      moved into a clear space and redid the calibration successfully. The manual
      does not explain anywhere that the resulting display is for 'True North',
      not 'Magnetic North'. This might confuse a novice. However, this does not
      cover the effect of tilting the watch, which has been found to cause major
      errors in other watches. This aspect will be covered in the Field Report.

      The alarm works: it beeps (at a high pitch) and flashes the blue display
      back-light a number of times. It is a pity I can barely hear the alarm,
      although my wife says she can. She says I have lost the high end of my
      hearing spectrum. That happens with age, but it does make the choice of a
      very high pitch questionable. However, given the size of the piezo disk
      inside the watch, the high pitch may be unavoidable.

      The manual contains several quotes from a well-known mountaineer, but such
      things are just common commercial testimonials for which the vendor pays the
      'name' money. In my experience such paid 'testimonials' mean absolutely
      nothing. Even Tiger Woods sells (or did sell) his name to all sorts of
      companies for testimonials.

      Field Report - expected early March 2010

      Long Term Report - expected early May 2010
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