June 18th, 2010 07:39 PM
Review - Casio Men's PAW1500T-7V Ultimate Pathfinder Solar Atomic Watch
Full write up with pics here - Casio Men's PAW1500T-7V Pathfinder Multi-Band Solar Atomic Ultimate Watch Review | The Christian Survival Guide
Casio PAW1500T-7V Pathfinder Watch Review
During my earlier years I adjusted to the idea that I needed a tough watch for field use. My drawers had a mix of Timex Expeditions, a Coleman or two, and your typical G-Shocks. These watches were not always fashionable and often times weren't everything I wanted - a timepiece, stopwatch, barometer, and compass, but they worked. When Casio first introduced the Pathfinder series that encompassed all I had needed in a watch (save that they were ugly as sin) I considered them heavily. However, they had one major flaw...battery drain.
Then a few years back Casio started producing G-Shocks with an embedded solar panel to constantly charge the battery. The concept of kinetic energy keeping a spring or battery charged has been used for quite some time, but the solar idea had never been refined enough for use in a tough watch. Then they went and one-uped themselves and put the system in a Pathfinder. Problem was, the things weren't cheap. Such is the thing dreams are made of and onto gear "wish list" it went.
Christmas last year I didn't have much in the way of a "normal" gift I wanted and explaining why I need a Berkey Light water filter usually brings about a, "okay, how about a Target gift card" kind of response. So as I contemplated my Christmas morning future I remembered to check my old gear wish list. A watch seemed pretty normal, regardless of the fact that it's solar powered and has about a bajillion functions and features seemingly only good for outdoor use, so I asked for it. Lucky me they took the hint and eventually I had a brand new Casio Ultimate Pathfinder with a titanium band. I was ecstatic!
First thoughts after unwrapping: The face is big! I guess it would have to be for all that info to show up clearly and then add a solar panel. Parts of the case were covered in plastic, not impressed - wish it was all metal. The whole package is lighter and slimmer than I'd thought it'd be. I had thought it'd stand pretty high on the wrist - it doesn't.
The watch looks great. Its not the nerd alert the original Pathfinders were. The titanium band and case, plus the black bezel give a great masculine but yet refined look. The display shows a lot of data - time/date, tides, moonphase, and barometer chart or day of week is the normal display along with powersaving icon, alarm on, misc stuff that doesn't take up much space. The face is big but isn't uncomfortable or extremely heavy, though Casio could probably streamline the thing by eliminating some full time displays and just having them cycle with the tools/modes.
The band needed adjustment to fit my wrist (as most watches do). I tried to take the pins out myself and was successful, too bad the same thing wasn't true for putting them back in! It uses the suction cup style pins that are tough to get back together without watchmaker tools. So I broke down and went to a jeweler who did it for free - same guy that made my wife's wedding ring - one more thumbs up for utilizing good, honest, American-owned small businesses. The fit we went to is snug, as I don't like a watch moving around AT ALL and the weight of this behemoth is sure to pull if the fit is loose.
Then it was necessary to set the atomic time. It wasn't difficult, the usual "pick a city" thing and adjust for DST if needed. The watch picks up the signal up to six times a day but once is about all you'd need to keep it +/- two seconds a day. Now please note that the watch does need good reception and about four full minutes to update. Casio recommends taking the watch off at night and placing it on a window, easy enough. The only real problem I've ever experienced with the atomic timekeeping was on my honeymoon in the Caribbean. It didn't receive anything. I'm sure I could've adjusted for a different radio signal but I didn't know how and using the world timekeeper function was easy enough.
Once on my wrist for a full test drive I started geeking out on the tools. The compass, altimeter, and barometer are all ridiculously easy to get to as they all have dedicated buttons on the right side of the case. Once you press any of the buttons for the tools and get the info you need, one press of the mode button (only one on left of case) will return the display to the "normal" time display. I found the tools to be more than adequate for rough field use. Of course they are not precision instruments, how could they be in such a small package? However, its better than you'll need for quick references in the bush or when mall crawling in the concrete jungle.
The one function I don't like is the automatic backlight. I just can't seem to figure out a quick way to get this thing to come on. It should be a quick turn of the wrist activates the backlight, but it doesn't. Not for me, atleast. I have to turn my wrist at just the right angle and hold it for about 1.5 seconds to get the thing to come on. If I don't do this perfectly I have to move my wrist and try again. Instead I just use the regular "light" button at the 5:30 position of the case because its quicker. Even in no light I can grip the watch and find the light button in under one second every time. I do wish they had made the light button bigger/easier.
Take these awesome features and then throw in the solar charging and power saver mode and its wrist candy. This watch will theoretically never need a new battery though contrary to popular belief, it does have one. Its just that the panels keep it charged, thus, limited drain. I use the power saver mode that puts the display in a sleep-like state after a period of time (about 60 mins) without movement or light exposure. The display will kick back on if you press a button, move the watch abruptly, or expose it to light. It usually takes about two seconds.
Good Lord does this watch have a lot going for it! After six months of wearing this watch I have to say its just about everything I ever wanted. Its rugged, reliable, and pretty much maintenance free with almost every tool I could need for quick orientation and situational reports. After all that its comfortable, too. Man, its hitting on all cylinders.
Well, this thing is great but in all fairness I do have some criticisms. The face is huge and it would be comfortable if smaller. I suppose you could take away some of the data displays to do this and relegate them to a button/tool mode. The backlight button should be bigger and easier to find and the auto backlight feature is too particular to rely on. Hopefully Casio will take note of such criticisms and make an even more streamlined and efficient field watch.
All in all its a great buy for under $250 shipped. For bushcrafting and prepping its a great survival watch as it's tough and adds no noticeable weight/space in your GHB or BOB but creates a layer of secondary tools including a compass and stop watch (for timing post-event procedures, heart rates for cpr/etc). The fact that it's solar powered and may never need a battery change in your lifetime is also a huge advantage as self-sufficiency also includes efficiency.
The only glaring issue - it should be dead or entirely unreliable after an EMP detonation.
Ratings (five being an absolute home run, one being a regrettable experience) -
Ease of use/learning curve: 3.75
Features/multiple uses: 4.75
Recommendation - Buy it if you're a watch guy that feels naked without one. Its a bit pricier than a regular G-Shock but well worth the price.
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