61882IR - Timex WS4 watch - R Caffin
- Jan 6, 2010Hi Mark and all
My thanks to all who helped me understand what 'water resistant' means ...
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!)
Test Report - Timex Expedition WS4 Watch
Product Information & Description
expected early March 2010
Long Term Report
expected early May 2010
Initial Report 8-July-2009
Reviewer: Roger Caffin
Weight: 63 kg (139 lb)
Height: 167 cm (67")
Email address: r dot [surname] at acm dot org
Home: Sydney, Australia
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
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
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.
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.
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
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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