Tuesday, December 25, 2012

My Kingdom for a Pocketwatch

Posted By on Tue, Dec 25, 2012 at 4:00 AM

Gear: Casio F108WHC Illuminator wristwatch sans straps

On my mountaineering trips, the following seems to take place every time: We get up at four, eat breakfast, and are underway by five. We throw on our rock shoes just as the sun crests the mountains east of us. Both of us feel fine without a rope at that point. Sometime later, that changes and we rope up. Alternating leads, we knock off pitches of moderate fifth class. When we hit fourth class, we again move unroped. A Grade III in the mountains, particularly with no leads harder than 5.8, has a lot of pitches. Sometime in the afternoon, we decide to check what time it is. From experience, we know it could be anytime from two to five. After a bit of a search, I find my watch and retrieve it from the bowels of my pack. It’s three. We’re going to get back to camp before dark. But, I want to have fun, so I put on the most disheartened look I can.

“What time is it?”

“It’s three, we’re good.” I say, breaking into a smile.

At least for skiing, climbing, and mushing, wristwatches either don’t work at all (climbing) or are a pain in the butt (skiing and mushing). The obvious answer is a pocket watch. So far, I haven’t found one I like.

The sport I partake in most regularly, mushing, has me wearing various layers of clothing that make checking a wristwatch rather onerous. Over several years, I’ve tried a number of alternatives. At first, digital travel clocks seemed ideal. They were a perfect size to fit into a parka’s pocket and they had nice loud alarms, something I wanted for distance racing. The problem they had was that at some point, jarring dislodged the AA or AAA battery that they ran on, and I lost the time. I looked online, but what few pocket watches I saw mimicked what I’d expect a 19th century British gentleman to have rather than something for a 21st century outdoorsman. I even tried a stopwatch. This had all the functionality I wanted, except the combination of easy action buttons and a jarring ride in my pocket meant that by the time I pulled it out, it was in never never land and the time of day remained a mystery.

What I finally settled on was buying one of the Casio $15 specials (F108WHC Illuminator) and cutting off the straps. With the straps gone, it lays flat in my parka’s or pants’ pockets. It has all the functionality I want, though the alarm is a hair weak and I’d rather have a slightly bigger display---actually a slightly bigger watch overall. It has disappeared a couple of times while on my counter. But, knock on watch, it seems to be shock proof. It’s a little bit of a compromise, but it does work. And, at $15, I’m not going to complain. I’d add that the button system is more functional for an outdoorsman than its predecessors---the button doing the light no longer does anything else when the watch is in a normal display mode.

To date, I’ve used this baby skiing and mushing and, the minor issues aside, have been delighted with it. And hopefully, I’ll do a couple of climbs with it this summer and maybe, just maybe, I’ll know what time it is throughout the day.

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