You have to hand it to Casio, they make some fine watches. Not just expensive ones either. There are plenty of real bargains to be had that are easy on the wallet, but still packed with features. One such gem is the Casio AQW-100. This is a really interesting sports watch incorporating both digital and analogue timekeeping.
I was drawn to this watch because it has tide and moon data, not for any other reason (well, in all honesty the price played a part). I’d call this an impulse purchase in as much as I hadn’t really delved into the spec beforehand so there were some surprises in store once I opened the box!
The AQW-100 is commonly available with either a black resin strap or a good quality stainless steel bracelet. If you search online you maybe be confused with the suffix codes. Rest assured they are all the same watch, the codes are merely attributed to differentiate regions where the watch is sold. For example, the resin band version is sold in Europe as the AQW-100-1AVEF, but in the USA its marketed as AQW-100-1AV (Forester Active Dial) and in Japan as AQW-100-1AJF. The stainless steel bracelet variant adds a “D” to the equation (i.e. AQW-100D-1AV/EF).
The AQW-100B-3AV is a relatively rare version that can be found on ebay now and again. This model has a green resin case, gold chapter ring and dial accents and comes equipped with a green fabric two piece (nylon) band and is often referred to as Sports Gear or Out Gear. Its a very attractive watch – a sort of Protrek mini-me!
The Casio AQW-101 shares the casing (well, virtually, its not identical), but has a different module (5056) specifically designed for fishing.
I purchased the resin band version as it was more affordable at the time (cheapskate!). That said the OEM stainless steel bracelet can be picked up from numerous Casio replacement part stores online (Part Code: 10300672). This increases the overall weight of the watch to 105g as opposed 54g for the resin model. The stainless steel bracelet is way more durable, but it is all down to personal choice and budget.
The Module Number of the AQW-100 is “5028” and I’d definitely recommend downloading the manual prior to purchase (see link at end of review) as the tide data input is not intuitive. I’m no digi-noob, my first ever LCD watch was bought in 1979 – a really basic black plastic Texas Instruments “thing” – but even I had to refer to the manual a few times. More on that later.
The watch is presented in a black cardboard box and safely nestled inside foam with tags attached. Removing the watch and in the hand it is a really decent looking piece. The domed crystal is mineral, not acrylic, and slightly magnifies the watch hands when viewed at certain angles (side mainly). When viewed face up you’d be mistaken for thinking this watch is solid stainless steel, but the case is resin and superficially enhanced with a stainless steel bezel, for looks and added protection. There are 4 cross head screws that give the impression they are holding the steel faceplate in place, but they are purely cosmetic and don’t do anything. I’d suggest the bezel is bonded to the case with glue. Obviously with that in mind, you’ll appreciate that the bezel doesn’t rotate.
Four compass cardinal directions are stamped into the steel bezel plus four ordinal directions in the resin case. And while this isn’t an ABC watch we all know how to use an analogue watch to ascertain North don’t we?!
Firstly, hold the watch in a horizontal position with the time set to local (not DST).
Northern Hemisphere: Point the hour hand in the direction of the sun. Then Bisect (divide in half) the angle between the hour hand and the twelve o’clock mark to get the north-south line. North will be the direction further from the sun.
Southern Hemisphere: Point the twelve o’clock position in the direction of the sun. Bisect the angle between the hour hand and the twelve o’clock mark to get the north-south line. North will be the direction closer to the sun, south the other way.
There are 4 grey rectangular operation buttons and each has deeply cross cut hatching grips so wet fingers won’t slip off easily. These are protected by plastic protrusions on the side of the case. The individual operations of each button (top left ADJUST, top right LIGHT, bottom left MODE and bottom right SEARCH) are printed just below the chapter ring for reference.
The hour and minute hands (semi skeleton to aid viewing of LCD aspects) are coated with something Casio call neo-display (guessing that is neo-brite) as are the hour markers on the face. This gives adequate lume though the hands are always brighter. By way of a bonus this watch also has “Illumintor” afterglow technology so by pressing the LIGHT button the entire face illuminates (no surprise there), affording excellent low light/night capability. Illumination can be set to either 1.5 or 3 seconds. Again, an excellent feature for the price.
The case back cover is stainless steel and stamped with details such as Module Number, Model and WR rating. Four cross head screws secure the cover in place. This watch is cased in China (to keep costs down), but the movement is made in Japan.
Surprisingly, the watch is 200M Water Resistant (20Bar) as opposed 100M which is slightly more common for “Sports” watches. Of course this is not a certified Diver’s 200M, but is suitable for snorkelling and general water sports.
The OEM resin band isn’t the most comfortable and looks and feels a bit cheap to be honest, but then again, I’m not a big fan of resin as a rule. This watch doesn’t feature standard watch lugs so replacement strap options are limited.
I have worn this watch on a 18mm NATO, but 18mm is a bit too narrow compared to the head size (46mm) and frankly it looks odd! An 18mm NATO will fit without cutting (the spring bar width is indeed 18mm). The buckle is plastic and as always the keeper moves around all the time, argh!
The surprises I talked about earlier made themselves apparent when I started setting up the watch.
Firstly, the countdown timer. This is a 24 hour type (between 1 minute and 23 hours 59 minutes) with auto-repeat. I love this. For example, set the timer to 10 minutes and when the countdown finishes an alarm seconds for 10 seconds and then automatically starts another 10 minute countdown until manually stopped. This is ideal for repetitive exercise (reps).
Next the multifunctional alarms. There are 3 alarms plus an hourly time signal. One alarm is a Snooze (SNZ) which is a huge bonus. Even some of Casio’s higher end watches lack a snooze feature. There are options to set a daily alarm, a date alarm, a monthly alarm and an alarm for every day of a particular month – how cool is that? Check out that manual!
And finally while this watch doesn’t have designated world time zones it does have a Dual Time, which in my opinion is just as good in practice.
The LCD is attractively split between two displays. The upper portion displays the tide/moon plus date in timekeeping mode and serves as menu headers in other modes. The lower section displays the time, second time zone, alarm settings, stopwatch etc.
In addition to these, general functions include 12/24hr timekeeping, DST, calendar (day, month, date), tide/moon phase and a 24hr chronograph with split timing. all accessible via the MODE button – scroll through each function in order. Incidentally, analogue time setting is accomplished via the Hand Setting (HS) screen. Because this watch doesn’t have a conventional crown time is set is via button presses and synced with the digital seconds automatically.
The complex set-up routine revolves around the initial tide data. Because this module uses Lunitidal Interval (the time lag from the moon passing overhead, to the next high or low tide) it is important that your home data is entered correctly.
Obviously, it is impossible for Casio to include every location and Lunitidal Interval for the planet’s tidal variances in the memory allocation of a mere watch so a little bit of online research is needed to obtain all the necessary information. The user manual has a list of major cities including Longitude and Lunitidal Interval times worldwide. For casual use this may suffice, but for more accurate tide times (for where you live), you’ll need to search online (I suggest “lunitidal interval+YOUR home city” as a good place to start). Once complete its easy to set and fairly accurate (based on my location/experience) all things considered.
What you need:
- UTC Differential (+/- UTC or Local/DST). e.g. London is +0.0 UTC, +1.0 DST
- Home or current location Longitude (rounded to nearest 1°)
- E or W of Longitude e.g. London 0°E
- Lunitidal Interval (INT) hours and minutes. e.g. London 1:10
Enter this data into the watch (via timekeeping settings mode) and the information will be displayed in a 6 segment tide graph, with tidal information (either rising tide, high tide, falling tide, low tide, rising tide). The current tide is displayed by the dark segment and this segment doesn’t flash like the Gulfman or Protrek PRW-2500 tide graphs do.
In timekeeping, press MODE once and a dedicated Tide/Moon menu enables scrolling between hours/days/dates/years to glean future or past moon ages/tide heights. Very useful. Unfortunately, only one location can be stored so if you are into surfing and travel around a lot trying to catch that elusive perfect curl, best keep a diary of locations so that they can be entered on arrival.
Moon phase data (4 segment) is automatically configured according to day/month/date/year.
Tidal data is only displayed in timekeeping and tide/moon phase modes, whereas moon phase is always visible regardless of function.
One thing that should never be underestimated is the analogue hands – the ability to view the current time while retaining full functionality of alarm, stopwatch and tide/moon options. That may sound a bit obvious, and thus fairly trivial, but its very practical. Incidentally, in both the timer and dual time functions the time is shown digitally too. Of course, every now and again the hands obscure parts of the LCD – can’t have everything I suppose!
Summing up, I’d have to say the AQW-100 represents extremely good value for money – looks impressive on the wrist and has lots of useful functionality. Barring the strap, I propose the AQW-100 to be one of the best non solar/atomic models Casio currently sells (just imagine if had Tough Solar power – that’d be awesome – as it stands the twin battery life is 3 years).
Of course, tide watches aren’t for everyone, but if you in the market for one, and don’t want to spend a small fortune on say a Frogman, then there are some great deals to be had on ebay and Amazon right now!
What are you waiting for?!
An electro-luminescent panel causes the entire face to glow for easy reading.
A luminous coating provides long-term illumination in the dark after only a short exposure to light.
Moon data display
The phase of the moon is shown on the display based on your current latitude and longitude.
Tide graph display
Tidal movements are displayed graphically based on your current latitude and longitude, and the lunitidal interval.
Second time zone
A second location time can be set and called up. Ideal if you frequently make overseas calls.
Stopwatch function – 1/100 sec. – 24 hours
Elapsed time, split time and final time are measured with 1/100-sec accuracy. The watch can measure times of up to 24 hours.
Timer – 1/1 min. – 24 hours (with automatic repeat)
For fans of precision: the countdown timers help you to remember specific or recurring events by giving off an audible signal at a preset time. They then count back automatically from the preset time. The time can be set to the nearest minute and up to 24 hours in advance. Ideal for people who need to take medicines every day or those who do interval training.
3 multi alarms
This model has 3 independent multifunctional alarms. This watch will remind you of any appointment you need to keep. In total, there are four possible types of alarm: 1. Daily alarm, sounds at the same time each day, 2. Date alarm, e.g. to help you remember birthdays, 3. Monthly alarm, sounds on the same day at the same time each month, 4. Alarm for every day of a particular month.
Each time you stop the alarm, it sounds again after a few minutes.
Button tones on/off
The button tones for using the mode button can be turned off. This means that the watch no longer beeps when switching from one function to another. Preset alarm or countdown timers remain active when the button tones are deactivated.
Once set, the automatic calendar always displays the correct date.
Times can be displayed in either a 12-hour or 24-hour format.
The surface of the watch glass is domed. This offers a high level of stability and resistance against pressure.
Stainless steel resin case
Synthetic resin is the ideal material for wrist straps thanks to its extremely durable and flexible properties.
3 Years – 1 Battery
The battery supplies the watch with sufficient energy for approx. three years.
Water resistance classification (20 bar)
Perfect for free diving without scuba gear: the watch is water resistant to 20 bar / 200 metres. The metres value does not relate to a diving depth but to the air pressure used in the course of the water resistance test. (ISO 22810)
+/- 30 sec seconds per month
Type of battery
SR927W x 2
approx. 48,20mm x 46,00mm x 14,50mm (H x W x D)
approx. 54,00 g