I don’t remember exactly what my first watch was, but I do know that at some point in time, I owned a Casio F-91W. More than one actually. The first one came when I was a kid and my parents realized they wouldn’t be taking too much risk putting a $20 watch on my wrist. And later, as a working professional in my mid-30’s, another F-91W came into my life because it still cost $20 and could take a beating. I didn’t work in anything intense, by the way, just museums. But the Casio was in many ways the perfect watch for what I was doing back then—managing a popular exhibition. Regardless of when I got a F-91W and in which circumstances I wore it, it’s a darn good piece of technological marvel that is more advanced than many Swiss luxury timepieces are even today.
In this article, we’ll take a brief look at the history of the F-91W and the specifications that make it so special still to this day.
Brief History of the F-91W
Casio is known for having brought many technological innovations to the world. From the first electronic calculator that most of you would be familiar with (if you were born until the 1980s) to the first electronic watches and eventually to the F-91W. Based in Japan, Casio created the very first fully electronic watch in November 1974, the Casiotron QW02. It was a true revolution in the world of horology and electronics, however it wasn’t as affordable as you might think it was—similar to how expensive the first quartz Seiko was. After all, the technology that went into creating the QW02 was rather unique and making such technology was expensive in the 1970s.
The following year, Casio released the X1 which added two important features: a stopwatch and a world timer function. Then in 1980, Casio released the F5 which was the first digital watch affordable for everyone. This was made possible thanks to the further development of technology and its simplification, and the mass production of electronic parts. The F5 is often regarded as the predecessor of the F-91W while the Casiotron QW02 its ancestor. Finally, in 1989, Casio’s chief designer—who is also the creator of the ultra popular G-Shock— Ryusuke Moriai, created the F-91W making it an immediate icon.
The Specifications Say It All
What made the F-91W so popular in 1989 is the same reason why it’s still popular in 2023: for $20 you get a robust watch that is comfortable to wear all day, everyday, and that packs a suite of precise and high-end technologies that would make any Swiss luxury brand blush. It keeps precise time (+/- 30s per month), it has a 1/100th of seconds stop-watch, a 30-minute chronograph, a calendar, an alarm function, 30 meters of water resistance, and a day/date display. All of this is operable by way of three small pushers, one of them is also used to operate the backlight which is yet another key feature that no mechanical watch comes with. (I know, they do have lume!)
The other reason the F-91W is popular are its dimensions. It measures 38.2mm wide, 35.2mm long, and 8.5mm thick. That’s a small package to wear, and combined to a weight of 21g, you can immediately see why I said it’s very comfortable to wear. The case and bracelet are made from a composite resin material that is shock proof, water and sweat resistant, and that resists scratches quite well. Being a digital watch and costing only $20, don’t expect to see a piece of sapphire crystal on there. Lastly, I would be remiss if I were not to mention the fact that the battery lasts 7 years, and anecdotally, even longer.
If you were born between the early 1990s and early 2000s, you probably owned a Casio F-91W or knew someone who did. You might also be wearing one today as an adult because you recognize its intrinsic exceptional value. Writing this article makes me want to go buy an F-91W at my local watch dealer, and I believe it’s such an iconic watch that I even gifted one to my nephew last year. He told me it’s cool. I found it endearing that he would say that given that kids in the 1990s already thought the F-91W was cool. I reckon it is the kind of watch that will be around forever. I believe this perhaps because I read somewhere that Casio still makes 3 million of these each year!
Featured image: www.gearpatrol.com