Everyone Needs at Least One classic Watch, Right?

Perhaps it is a bit like cursing in a church when discussing digital watches on a site devoted primarily to discount luxury replica watches, but I am certain that everyone should own at least one. Why? Firstly, as a reference watch that you can use to set all your other timepieces; secondly, because the digital watch does have its own place in horological history.

Being a child of the 1980s, I grew up with a black plastic Casio as my first wristwatch. In 1985, when I was eight years old, I received it – after asking for one for a long time – from my parents during a holiday in the U.K. I still have that watch, and it still works. It was the era of home computers, bad taste in clothing, and digital watches. The biggest advantage for me was that it had beeping alarms with which me and my friends could annoy our teachers.

Fast-forward to the late 1990s, when I got more interested in luxury watches. It amazed me that even some of the big brands that focused on luxury mechanical watches also had digital watches in their collections. The Breitling Aerospace and Omega Speedmaster Professional X-33 were odd watches, in my opinion, and I never paid them much attention — until I started to find out what makes these particular digital watches different from a $100 Casio G-Shock.

Besides the cases, bracelets, and other parts of these watches having a grade of finishing a few notches higher than that the black plastic Casio watches, their electronic movements are also different. These (often) thermo-compensated movements are made with the same care and eye for detail as mechanical movements, but the focus is on functionality and durability. They are tried & tested during all stages of development and some have functions developed with the help and input of pilots and astronauts. These watches can withstand shocks of over 3500 Gs, have extremely loud alarms, and large readouts (necessary because noisy planes and their dark cockpits are not the ideal circumstances in which to use a traditional watch).

Some of the functionality in these watches is also especially developed for professional use, such as mission timers, countdowns, logbooks, multiple timers, and programmable calendars. Of course, if you don’t need all that, and just need a digital watch that is radio-controlled in order to set your precious mechanical watches, you can always settle for a cheaper model.

For this week’s Fratello Friday, I pick five digital watches that are among my favorites.

1. Casio G-Shock GW5600BC

In 1983, when Casio introduced the first G-Shock, I immediately wanted one. However, I was a little boy and these top quality replica watches, especially for that time, were huge. I didn’t buy one until 2003, 20 years after the introduction, a 20th anniversary edition that came in a nice wooden box and actually had a metal case with a rubber/plastic shell. This GW5600BC has the same design as that first “Project Tough” Casio G-Shock in the 1980s, but with a multi-band (radio controlled) movement. It’s ideal to use for setting your other watches and you can wear it during all sorts of activities without worrying about scratches, dings, bumps, cracks, et cetra. Worst case scenario, you just replace it with a newer, funkier model. If you want to learn more about G-Shocks, and the best tips on collecting them, read our interview with a true G-Shock guru here.

Casio G-Shock GW5600BC

2. Breitling Emergency II

Although the Breitling Aerospace was the one that got me interested in these digital watches, the Emergency has one of the coolest features on any watch watch ever. Introduced in 1995, it was the first watch with a transmitter that used an air distress frequency. The Breitling Emergency II takes it even further, using satellites to notify search-and-rescue teams about your whereabouts. It has an easy-to-use system: just turn the crown that reads “Antenna” and two wires will come out as the watch’s signal is activated. An indicator is located in an hour marker at 12 o’clock that will start to blink. Now, you can sit back and relax while choppers begin searching for you.

Breitling Emergency II

3. Omega Speedmaster Z-33

I already mentioned the Omega Speedmaster Pro X-33 in the introduction, but my pick would actually be the newer (2012) Speedmaster Z-33. In 2011, I was told by Omega that a new model would be launched that would have the look of its famous 1960s/1970s Flightmaster watch, but with digital readouts. In 2012, Omega presented the Z-33 (nicknamed “Spacemaster”). At first I thought it was the successor of the X-33 in a different case, but this was an incorrect assumption. The Z-33 is developed for pilots, where the X-33 was developed for NASA astronauts. In terms of functionality, this means that it has a number of features specially designed for aircraft pilots. One of the functions is a flight logbook to record 10 flights. Also, the watch has a UTC plus two time zones, either in 12-hours or 24-hours; a loud alarm; a chronograph; and a countdown timer. We featured this watch on my blog, Fratellowatches.com, here.

Omega Speedmaster Z-33

4. Tissot T-Touch Expert

In 1999, Tissot introduced the first T-Touch model. That first T-Touch swiss luxury replica watch had six functions that could be activated by touching the crystal. Tissot further developed this technology and now offers a range of  T-Touch models with different functions and appliances. The T-Touch Expert model has 15 different functions, accessible by touching the tactile sapphire crystal. With a 43.6-mm diameter, it is certainly not for everyone — or perhaps just not for every occasion — but it is certainly useful for outdoor activities. You need to be able to access the watch quickly and without too much hassle, so the size seems appropriate. The T-Touch Expert has an impressive lineup of functions, including compass, altitude difference meter, altimeter, countdown timer, and, of course, chronograph.

Tissot T-Touch Expert

5. Any Smartwatch

Whether it is a Sony, Apple, Samsung, Pebble or Google watch – time will tell – my fifth choice would be a smartwatch.  As soon as these watches are widely available on the market so I can choose between different brands and models, I will certainly try one (mostly out of curiosity). Although you will still need your smartphone or a WiFi signal to be connected so you can fully use the capabilities of a smartwatch, I do see uses for some of these tag heuer replica watches — whether it is simply telling time, notifying you about new e-mails, Tweets, and Facebook messages, or displaying the weather forecast.  I am still a bit skeptical, though, since it seems that all these functions are available on my iPhone, which has a larger screen and is something I can grab out of my pocket almost as fast as I could roll up my sleeve to actively ‘operate’ a Smartwatch. In any case, I would love to see cooperation between Swatch (or another watch brand) and a technology brand like Samsung, Apple, Sony or fill-in-the-blank, which could make these smartwatches look less like something from “Star Trek” and more like something that appeals to us watch freaks.