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?
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.
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.)
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!
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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