My olive green plastic Timex Camper died circa November 2018, leaving a void for a cheap little featherweight watch to handle abuse with abandon. Spoiler alert: a Casio MW59 became my go-to EDC. The journey to this new watch began because . .
Timex had discontinued the diminutive “army watch” and the larger successor version left me cold. The amount of time I obsessed over replacing a sub-$30 watch with an under $20 watch was admittedly quite insane, or at least irrational. It was emotional; I bond with items that have lasted me a while. The replacement was expected to last just as long, and satisfy just as well.
How About a Swatch?
Unlike Luke Ibis, I never had a Swatch during the 80’s craze. I remember other school children’s brightly colored mix & match personalization. The type of urbane smart ass that I then aspired to be (think Kurt Loder) thought of subverting their Playskool aesthetic by choosing the plain black Swatch with the plain white dial.
This was so slyly rebellious. You want to sell me a fun unique watch for play? Nope, I’ll take mine dour and use it as a serious standard-issue business item.
It was not to be. Not then and not now. First, a Swatch costs more than I want to pay (over $50!) and they’re just as irreparable as the Timex. The proprietary way the Swatch case interlocks with the band like a multi-barrel hinge irks me.
To replace my happy Camper I wanted a watch I could fit with a NATO band, any NATO band (I resent having to buy a manufacturer’s replacement). Additionally, that battery hump on the back of the Swatch doesn’t look too comfortable. This was all moot. Swatch doesn’t make a small plain black and white watch.
Casio Analog Seems Interesting Often
I ran across something on the interwebs about Pope Francis’ cheapo black plastic watch. Some thought it a Swatch (and I tended to agree based on non-dial imagery). The general consensus: it was a Casio MQ24-7B costing around $11.
This had appeal. I didn’t care for those score lines on the band. Maybe they add flexibility, but they ruin the clean looks. But there was a very similar black and white Casio with a more presentable resin band (having a recessed blood groove/ character line to keep it from looking like a flat jello mold). Plus it had a date function!
My Timex Easy Reader made me a fan of this lowest of complications, so much so that I wrote a piece in defense of the “ugly” date window. For a few bucks more I would lose the “Pope watch” bragging rights but gain a date window. Both case diameter and thickness increased a millimeter to allow this.
Ms. Klosoff suggested the black dial Casio MW59-1BVDF instead, as it looked more “different.” To me it looked cheaper and less serious as a monolithic colorless piece of plastic. Or more casual, if you prefer. Regardless, it appealed to my reverse snobbery.
I Pony Up the $16.39
A month later, I stopped dithering and pulled the trigger. Unlike other watches I’ve reviewed so far, this one was ordered online, not just picked from the shelf of a big box store.
When it arrived, I was surprised to see that the printing on the dial was actually silver tone. (It looked white to in the photos.) Initially, I was mildly disappointed – the Casio looked a tad fancier than I wanted. But the hands were silver too, so it made sense. I got over it.
Coming off a slimmer 34mm x 8mm piece, it took a while to adapt to the 35mm case diameter and 10mm thickness, I know I’m in a very slim and unfashionable minority, but I believe small is beautiful. The Casio MW59-1BVDF was just a bit bigger than its predecessor and I noticed.
The little Camper had a rounded case top and equally short lugs. The spring bars are level with the bottom of the case back. The Casio is blockier in cross section, lacking smooth transitions. It lacks that wrist-hugging shape; it’s more suited to laying flat on a table.
Otherwise, the MW59 is much like the Casio F91-W in that it’s unobtrusively light. The “new” watch’s resin band is thin and flexible, offering just enough friction to keep that little bit of weight from sliding. Farago was impressed by the 65g weight of the Formex Essence Leggera. The MW59 weighs a mere 23g.
Casio molded its all-caps name into the black plastic buckle. I’m not a huge fan of redundant branding – especially when the same feature appears on the single resin keeper. Flipping the MW59-1BVDF around so the plain back shows solves this, but the molded textured name faintly chafes the wrist.
That keeper didn’t exactly stay kept. There is no internal bump to tab into the buckle prong slots. I tried gluing it in place, but that only worked for a week or two.
Did I mention that Ronnie Schreiber and I share a dainty 6.5″ (165mm) wrist size? So there’s about an inch and a half (38mm) of band past the buckle for me. Ultimately, I found a right-sized black o-ring to serve as the second keeper that stopped the end from coming loose.
Stylistically, there’s not much to say, good or bad. Four seemingly purposeless little indents at the 3,6, 9& 12 positions on the not-bezel catch your eye, then fade from notice. The date window commits two crimes: the contrasting white numeral and slim silver printed frame. But it’s discreetly small, which is nice if you have good eyesight, less convenient otherwise.
If you look really closely, the second hand is white, unlike the other hands. I have no idea why. It isn’t luminous. Nor are the hour or minute hands, or anything at all. Nighttime legibility doesn’t exist; nothing reflects enough to collect the slightest bit of light.
The crystal acrylic readily collects hairline scratches, most of which can be taken out with a few minutes of rubbing with toothpaste or metal polish.
Anti-reflective coatings do not exist in this price range. You get to relive grade school by using the watch face as a signal mirror to shine in people’s eyes. However the wearer sometimes gets the glare too.
I apologize for the way that every photo looks like the watch is covered in dust. The camera reveals the Casio MW59-1BVDF to be a filth magnet.
The quartz Casio doesn’t tick as loudly as the Timex Camper. I have no Timegrapher; I eyeballed accuracy at about a second a day – in line with Casio’s +/-20 seconds per month promise. Having subjected the 50ATM rating to nothing beyond normal hand washing, it’s survived a year and a half without issue.
Since buying it, Casio discontinued this exact color scheme. For some reason there are two nearly identical white dials with Arabic numerals available, as well as numberless indices in black on white, or gold on black (for that cut rate John Player Special look).
I’ve grown quite fond of the Casio MW59’s effortless ability be basic and unassuming but not dowdy. It’s light on the wrist, light on the wallet, and light on attitude. The analog plastic fantastic Casio is just . . . there. Which, for me, is just right.
Model: Casio MW59-1BVDF
Price: $16.39 on Amazon at time of purchase, currently unavailable except for other color/dial schemes at $19.99
Case diameter: 35mm
Case thickness: 10mm
Case lug width: 16mm
Lug to lug: 40mm
Weight: 23 grams
Water resistance: 50m
Accuracy: +/-20 seconds/month
Case metal: Resin
Movement: Casio 2784
Manufacturer’s limited warranty: 1 year
RATINGS (out of five stars):
Design * * *
Minimalist, simple and monochromatic without rubbing it in your face.
Legibility * * *
Reasonable with clear numbers despite small case size. Not without glare and becomes a black hole in the dark.
Comfort * * * *
Small and light, it disappears, but the resin feels like a Hefty bag when the mercury rises.
Overall * * * *
C’mon man! Casio is the king of the under $20 market. It does the job without offending – but clocks out when the sun goes down.