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Review of the Multi-band Casio Pathfinder PAW1200

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Casio PAW1200-3V

I’ve been waiting for this watch for a while now, so it’s a real pleasure to finally have the opportunity to review it. The Casio Pathfinder PAW1200 is what I’ve referred to several times as the ultimate Pathfinder, perhaps the ultimate Casio, and certainly one of the most advanced digital timepieces in the world.

What makes the Casio Pathfinder PAW1200 series special is the fact that it brings so many features together into one watch. I’ll get into plenty of detail on each individual feature shortly, but most notably, the PAW1200 series is the first to bring together the triple-sensor functionality of the Pathfinder line (compass, barometer, and thermometer), atomic time calibration, and solar power. I have several solar-powered watches, several atomic watches, and a few triple-sensor watches by various manufacturers, but the PAW1200 is the only watch that I know of with all of these features. And as if that isn’t enough, the PAW1200 series is what Casio calls a multi-band atomic watch, which means it will calibrated with almost every atomic clock in the world (details below).

Ok, now for a feature breakdown:

  • Multi-band atomic timekeeping. The PAW1200 series will pick up time calibration signals transmitted from Mainflingen (Germany), Rugby (England), Fort Collins (Colorado), Fukushima (Japan), and Fukuoka (also Japan). The radius of the time signals are large enough that all of North America, Japan, and Eastern Europe are well covered. The watch knows the frequency to listen on (and what time zone you’re in) by your selected home city. It will attempt to calibrate up to six times each day starting a midnight, and again every hour until it succeeds. I have had the PAW1200 for about two weeks now, and it has successfully calibrated on my wrist every night on its first attempt from my home in San Francisco. You can also force the watch to calibrate with a manual receive function, however I’ve found that it rarely receives a strong enough signal during the day to calibrate successfully. You can check the last signal reception results in receive mode which will indicate the date and exact time of the last successful calibration. Casio watches are accurate to about ± 15 seconds per month without atomic calibration, so with calibration, your watch should never be more than a fraction of a second off.
  • Solar powered. The batteries in the PAW1200 series are recharged by a solar cell just below the crystal around the parameter of the watch. Fully charged, and with the power-saving function enabled, the battery will power the watch for about five months with no light. Although all the Casio manuals I’ve seen for solar watches are full of warnings about keeping your watch exposed to light and not letting it hide under your sleeve too long, all the solar watches I have seem to gather light very efficiently, and are almost always fully charge. The PAW1200 is no exception despite all its additional functionality.
  • Digital compass. The PAW1200 series has a built-in digital compass which will indicate magnetic north (or geographic north, if you adjust the calibration for your magnetic declination), the direction the 12 o’clock position of the watch is facing, and the angle between the 12 o’clock position and magnetic north measured in degrees. The bearing is displayed graphically using six blue lines on a separate LCD floating above the watch’s primary LCD. All measurements continue to be updated for 20 seconds after the first measurement is displayed at which point the last measurement remains visible.
  • Barometer. The PAW1200 series can measure the barometric pressure, and display it in both hectoPascals (millibars) and inches of mercury for us yanks. The range is between 260 hPa and 1100 hPa (7.65 inHg to 32.45 inHg). While in barometer mode, the PAW1200 series also displays a barometric pressure graph which charts the pressure over the last 30 hours (measurements are taken at the top of each even-numbered hour). Positive slopes (going up from left to right) generally indicate improving weather while negative slopes (going down from left to right) generally indicate deteriorating weather. While in barometric mode, the secondary LCD is used as a pressure differential pointer which indicates the relative difference between the current barometric reading, and the previous reading.
  • Thermometer. The barometric pressure and the temperature are displayed together on the PAW1200 series. While in barometer mode, the temperature is displayed below the barometric pressure, and can be configured to use either Celsius or Fahrenheit. The range is -10° C to 60° C, or 14° F to 140° F.
  • Altimeter. There are two ways in which PAW1200 series can measure your altitude. First, it can use the watch’s barometric reading to estimate your altitude based on preprogrammed values stored in the watch. The other technique is to allow you to specify a reference altitude. For instance, if you want to measure the height of a hill, you can set the reference altitude to 0 at the bottom, climb the hill, then take another reading at the top to tell you how high the hill is. Setting a reference altitude is generally a more accurate way to measure your altitude because it automatically takes current barometric conditions into consideration which can easily throw the first method off. In other words, with the second method, the watch is measuring the change in barometric pressure rather than trying to map a given barometric pressure to a preprogrammed altitude. The range of the watch’s altimeter is -700 to 10,000 meters, or -2,300 to 32,800 feet (both meters and feet are supported). While in altimeter mode, the watch will measure your altitude every 5 seconds for the first three minutes, then every two minutes after that. Like barometer mode, the altimeter also has an altitude differential pointer which graphically indicates the difference between the current altitude, and the last altitude measurement taken.
  • Altitude data storage. Not only does the PAW1200 series measure your altitude, but it will also let you save records of your ascents and descents. The watch stores three types of altitude records: periodic records (up to 40), a current session record, and a historical record. The breadth of altitude recording capabilities is too great to get into in detail here, but believe me when I say that they are extensive. In addition to 40 periodic records, the watch also records the month, day, and time of the session, your high altitude, low altitude, total ascent, total descent, and your relative altitude change. (Note that the operation guide dedicates three full pages of very small print to this watch’s altimeter function.) Keep in mind that because an airplane’s cabin is pressurized, a barometric altimeter can’t tell your altitude while flying (unless you’re in a bi-plane).
  • Altitude alarm. We’re not done with altitude yet. The PAW1200 series doesn’t just measure your altitude and allow you to record your altitude in three different ways, but it also allows you to set an altitude alarm which, when the watch is in altitude mode, will sound during both an ascent and a descent when the specified altitude is reached.
  • World time. No digital watch is complete without a world time function — especially a watch that can pick up time signals all over the world. The PAW1200 series has the standard Casio world time functionality, which means it’s pretty good. It allows you to choose from 30 cities by name (actually abbreviation), and lets you toggle between daylight saving and standard time with a single button.
  • Stopwatch. Pretty standard stopwatch. The resolution is 1/100th of a second, the maximum time is 9 hours, 59 minutes, and 59 seconds, and it supports one split time (for two finishes).
  • Countdown timer. Another digital watch feature I insist on is the countdown timer. Countdown timers are great for cooking frozen pizzas, counting down to the end of eBay auctions, and measuring your kids’ timeouts. The countdown timers on the PAW1200 maxes out at 60 minutes, and has an auto-repeat function which will automatically restart the timer up to 10 times. The countdown timer also has a progress beeper which, when activated, will cause the watch to beep at various intervals as time expires in order to provide a little extra drama.
  • Five daily alarms. The alarms on the PAW1200 series are pretty straightforward. There are five of them, and an hourly time signal. If I could add one feature to this watch, it would probably be at least one programmable alarm, which is an alarm that allows you to set the date in addition to the time. It’s usually easier for me to set an alarm on my watch than pull out my phone and set a future event on my calendar. Casios don’t typically have programmable alarms (they are more common in Suuntos and Tissots), but as Casio starts to run out of new features to add to their watches, maybe they’ll get around to it. The PAW1200 also does not have the snooze alarm (which continues to sound every five minutes until explicitly deactivated) that several other Casios have these days which is ok with me since whenever I try to use one, I just find it too annoying and end up deactivating it for good.
  • Electro-luminescent lighting. The PAW1200 series has a nice and bright illumination function which is pretty standard on digital watches these days. It also has another feature which I’ve come to love on Casios: the Auto Light Switch. To activate the Auto Light Switch, hold down the illumination button for three seconds (until the watch beeps), then whenever you tilt the watch face toward you at a 40° angle or greater, the watch will automatically illuminate. And it’s even smart enough to only do it when the ambient light level is low enough that you actually need it. Brilliant (no pun intended). It’s especially useful on the PAW1200 line since the illumination button is smaller than on most G-Shock models in order to make room for an additional button (the PAW1200 series needs no fewer than six buttons to manage all its features). You can even toggle the illumination duration between 1.5 and 2.5 seconds.
  • Water-resistant to 10 ATM, 100 meters, or about 330 feet.

The PAW1200 series consists of three different models: the black PAW1200-1V, the green PAW1200-3V, and the silver and titanium PAW1200T-7V. MSRP is $300, $300, and $380, respectively. I test drove the green model which I didn’t think I’d like the color of, however it has really grown on me, and I think has actually become my favorite of the three.

The Casio Pathfinder PAW100-3V has definitely become a favorite among my many Casios. I love all the features, naturally, but there’s more to love about this watch than just what it can do for you. Although it’s not exactly a subtle timepiece, I think Casio did an excellent job on the design. It sits very comfortably on my wrist, and does not feel nearly as large as it is. All the buttons are well placed, big, easily accessible, and provide just the right amount of feedback. The sensors in the watch, which are located on the top left-hand side of the case, are inconspicuous, and reasonably well contained. The contour of the watch works both for my skinny wrist, and on some larger wrists I strapped it to for ergonomic testing. The resin strap is thick and sturdy, but soft and malleable, and it uses this new double pin system which I love the look of (two pins are used in the buckle rather than one). And finally, I just can’t believe that Casio actually squeezed all this functionality into a single watch, all powered by the sun.

The entire PAW1200 line will be available later this month from Casio’s site, and from select retailers like JC Penney.

Additional resources:

By Christian Cantrell

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