They’re baaaaack. The Armitron Retro Series Griffy follows hot on the heels of the Hamilton PSR, a recreation of the world’s first electronic digital watch. Never mind that the $13k (in today’s money) Pulsar’s rise and fall killed Hamilton America. Vinyl’s back, digital watches are really cheap and OFWG’s are suckers for retro. So, is digital watch nostalgia still what it used to be? Sherman, set the wayback machine to 1972 . . .
If you’re old enough to remember Led Zeppelin IV’s debut, you’ll remember watches that turned a blank face to the world until you pressed a button that sent voltage to a semiconductor diode, that made it glow, that revealed . . . the time! In numbers!
The genre got a whole lot of love; every kid and unelected President wanted a digital watch. I’d sit in the dark and push the button on my LED watch over and over to see the tiny magical digits glow intensely red for a few seconds and disappear.
In the daylight, the activated digits were barely visible, if at all. It didn’t matter. We learned to push the button while cupping our hand over the watch to create enough shade to see the time. How high tech is that?
I’m the operator of my pocket calculator
Fast forward 48 years and the Armitron Griffy comes in two colorways: silver and gold. The display is a glossy black when dormant, which gives the watch a dressy vibe. According to the chatter on the forums, the silver Griffy is the popular choice. Gold’s appeal is limited to men with an affinity for corduroy, thick gold chains and leisure suits, apparently.
Just like the COVID-era deluge of “modern” watches “inspired” by vintage pieces, the Armitron Retro Series Griffy assumes that bigger is better. Not the watch itself, thankfully. The display.
When I first saw the marketing photos, it was a real downer, man. The digits take up three quarters of the screen. Call me a purist, but the time should appear in small, sharply defined digit segments, like they did in the ’70s.
Armitron’s product photos also made the Griffy’s digits look a bit fuzzy. But for $26 with a coupon code – $4.25 in 1972 money – WTH.
The watch arrived five days after I ordered it, just in time for Christmas. The folded metal link bracelet jingled all the way. To call the bracelet cheap is an insult to cheap, and cheap isn’t easily insulted. (RF’s warned us never to buy an inexpensive watch on a metal bracelet, but putting a digital watch on a leather strap is like putting I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter! on a croissant.)
The Griffy’s case is finished with a combination of brushed and polished surfaces, which suit the retro watch aesthetic. Sizing is easy enough. A flip-lock thingy slides the buckle up and down the bracelet to fit all wrist sizes.
Once adjusted, the Armitron Retro Series Griffy is comfortable enough – unless you’re on the more hirsute end of the primate spectrum. As my G-SHOCK Skeleton review indicates, well, let’s just say I’m on the hunt for a new bracelet.
Let’s get digital, digital. I Wanna get digital . . .
The Armitron Retro Series Griffy’s digits are the same color as ye olde digital display of yore. Turns out my fuzzy-phobia was groundless. While the numbers are indeed surrounded by a halo glow, it doesn’t detract from the Griffy’s legibility. In fact, the XXL digits please my presbyopic eyes.
True to form, pushing the button at 3:00 lights up the current time for about five seconds – and then goes dark. Quickly pushing the button a second time – while the time is being displayed – brings up the month and day. Pushing the button a third time – again, before the display goes dark – activates the seconds count. A few seconds later, Elvis has left the building. (The four o’clock button sets the watch.)
Far out, man!
The Armitron Retro Series Griffy lacks the multiple functionality of my G-SHOCKs, and requires two hands to operate (technically, one hand and one wrist). But there’s something to be said for a simpler watch. Watch the hair!
While I appreciate the Griffy’s minimalism, I’m still holding out for bell-bottoms and mutton chops to make a comeback. You know. To complete the look.
Model: Armitron “Griffy”
Price paid: $26 (On sale for $33 + 20% off coupon code: Thanks) + $5 shipping. Currently listed at $55.
Case: Stainless steel.
Crystal: Not sure. I suspect acrylic. Mine already got a scratch (or came with it) before I wore it out and about.
Bracelet: Stainless steel (folded links) with sliding adjustable buckle.
Lume: Red LED display.
Dimensions: 34 x 40 x 10 mm.
Battery life: Unknown. Not specified on the website or in the manual. Guess: 2 years.
Accuracy: No idea, since the website does not say. Most quartz movements claim +/- 15 seconds per month.
Water resistance: 50 meters.
Functions: Hour, minute, seconds, date, month, year, and 12/24 hour format.
RATINGS (out of five stars):
Design * * * * *
This homage to the digital watches of the 70s is close to spot on.
Legibility * * * *
Excellent indoors and in the dark. Outside, not so much. Who cares? The large digits are a welcome relief to those old enough to remember the tiny digits of the original watches but would have a hard time reading them today.
Comfort * * *
The hair-pulling bracelet may be an issue for those who don’t manscape. Otherwise, it’s very comfortable.
Overall * * * *
A nostalgic trip back in time, suitable for casual or dressy attire. It’s also fun to explain to those too young to recognize the tech.
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Why did I not know this existed? I’m surprised to see a stainless case at that price. I’d expect that chromed plastic junk. I’m pretty sure RF strongly hates LED watches, so those that think this site has some groupthink are nuts.
I’m not a fan of the brand and historical footnote being printed on the dial. No shame in it, it just messes with the perfect blank slate, or black hole for those thinking it bad feng shui. Were it mine, I’d be experimenting with rubbing alcohol to remove the printing.
The LED watch I had also got washed out in direct sunlight, and photographs often had incomplete or inconsistent displays because (I think) the LED’s are constantly flickering at some high rate. The bracelet clasp looks to be of a type that relies on the mild flexing of a metal hook/latch on the cover, right? IME they get sloppy after a while and don’t stay closed. At which point attempts at corrective bending will be trial and error between too stiff and too loose.
And kudos to Armitron for not supersizing the case. The aesthetics of this type of thing is dicey enough without making them jumbo. It looks like there is a dot to indicate PM time, so no 24 hour display option?
OK… I’ll try to hit all your questions. 🙂
1. The Armitron logo and footnote are BENEATH the surface of the crystal. No dice on rubbing it off.
2. Taking a photo of the LED display in bright light is tricky. Outdoors, in bright sunlight, the automatic exposure cranks the shutter speed up and you get just a few segments (because of the flicker rate). In my light box “studio,” I had the same problem. So, I dimmed the light box lights and went to “Manual” on my camera. I was able to figure out that a shutter speed slower than 1/90 prevents the flickering problem.
3. Correct on the bracelet clasp. The bracelet pretty much sucks. But, good golly… I got the watch for $26!! LOL! On a nice bracelet, this watch will be as right as rain.
4. Yes… the dot indicates PM. But, yes… there is a 12 / 24 hour option in the settings.
Here’s what happens when I try to take a photo outside in the sun with my phone camera on automatic. Let’s see if the image link works
OK, Oscar… My phone camera has a lot of limitations in the manual setting… can only choose 1.5 or 2.4 for the F-stop. My real camera is at the office. So, out in the sun, the exposure is burned out. But, you can still see the LED display. To the eyes, in the sun, it’s actually visible… faint, but visible. In the shade, it’s no problem… quite legible to the eyes.
Great review, I have the Silver version. Surprisingly nice case and build quality and I agree the bracelet is a let down.
So, who can point me in the right direction to find a bracelet with 16-mm connectors but with end links that flare out to 20-mm like the original? If I get a standard 16-mm bracelet, the end links aren’t going to match up with the case and look funky.
That’s tricky. As you have several Casio’s, see if any of them are them are the right size/shape, even if the band is resin or whatever. Then seek out aftermarket stainless bracelets for that model. Whether that will result in better quality is iffy, of course. Cannibalizing a parts watch will at least get known quality.
I might be able to find a 20-mm metal bracelet and cut / grind the metal back 2-mm on each side.
I have the Griffy in gold. Found a Speidel gold strap the fits and matches well. Its a flex band. A real pain to install and even harder to soze but it matches very well and feels great. Found it on Amazon but might also have it on their site.
Speidel Men’s Stainless Steel Comfortable Stretch Watch Band, Gold or Silver Tone Replacement Strap, 18-24mm, Straight End with Extra Tapered End- No Clasp https://www.amazon.com/dp/B000PKVVB2/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_glc_fabc_hQIcGb96AKYN7
I remember the Speidel flex bands from when I was a kid. I remember them as terrible hair-pullers.
I remember Speidel the same way. I also remember when they were based in Rhode Island, employing over a thousand people. Gone.
Really well-written, fun read! This watch looks like a joy to wear. I’m looking forward to picking mine up once COVID is gone and I can get back to the U.S. where it awaits me. Thanks for the post!
Thanks for visiting the blog and taking time to comment, Henry! It’s a fun watch.
Well, this is my first visit to your blog! We are a group of volunteers and starting a new initiative in a community in the same niche. Your blog provided us valuable information to work on. You have done a marvelous job!
As far as the display I believe there are some sort of screen or membrane between the watch crystal and the LEDs themselves. I don’t know if this is to make the numerals bigger or not but it acts like a rear projection television. So the LEDs shine through the screen which I believe it what makes the numerals not quite as clear and a little fuzzy. I’d be interested to see how the look watch looksIf I didn’t have that screen between the crystal and LEDs like the original pulsars where you can see the circuitry. I wonder if they’ll ever make them that way I would love to see how it works.