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Sometimes it’s the little things that keep us excited. A fresh cup of coffee in the café across the street. A late evening walk in the park. And, of course, choosing not to wear your Apple Watch or activity tracker in favor of a $15 Casio F91W classic watch instead.
Yes, your read that right. I review some of the best gear for a living, and that includes the best running watches and best smartwatches (I recently finished reviewing the Garmin Approach S62 and Apple Watch Series 8 with spectacular results), and yet the wearable that has given me a thrill this month is a retro digital watch that costs under 20 bucks. I’m talking about the Casio F-91W (also known as Casio F91W-1), and it happens to be the most popular digital watch.
This Casio was first introduced in 1989, but surprisingly, this chronograph watch is still in production, it’s the best-selling watch on Amazon, and it has practicably remained unchanged since its inception. It weighs just 2.1g and measures 37.5mm at its widest point, making it a slender watch that you barely feel on your wrist. Granted it doesn’t have the smart features to sync with your smartphone or activity tracker, but it still stands in complete defiance of all modern trends and is still the most popular wearable in the world.
About the Casio F91W
From American presidents to terrorists (more on that below), over the decades since its release, the Casio F91W has become a watch worn by many.
To date, Casio still produces around three million of these watches every year, demonstrating how relevant, timeless, and downright useful this watch truly is. not to mention the cheap price.
For the watch fanatics, it is also a watch that’s worthy of including in your collection, even if it is far from a Rolex or Patek Phillipe in terms of value, design, or prestige.
Before we can dive into the famous people who’ve been seen wearing this watch, let’s look at what you get for your $15, and what makes this F91W-1 such a big deal.
With this classic from Casio, you’re certainly getting a lot of bang for your buck, and it comes with more features than you will probably use. It’s a simple watch without complicated internals and fancy materials, but as they say, the devil is in the details:
- Resin case & band with buckle closure
- Acrylic glass
- 50m/165ft Splash water resistance
- Built-in microlight (side illumination)
- Stopwatch function – 1/100 sec. – 1 hour (Elapsed time, split time & final time)
- Automatic calendar (set once and forget)
- Audible daily alarm
- 12- or 24-hour time
- Battery life: 7 years
- Width: 33mm
- Weight: 21g / 0.75oz
From the specs, you can see it’s a lightweight and straightforward watch. Although not designed to take along when diving or in heavy industry, we’ve seen many people use these watches for decades in various places. More importantly, its functions mean you can forget your smartphone and still survive the jungle!
Design and Features
The Casio F-91W has three buttons and a surprisingly clever amount of functionality for its price, size, and simple appeal. It takes about five seconds to learn how to use the stopwatch feature that itself offers a couple of different options – some people have made a game out of trying to stop the counter as close to zero as possible, which is never easy since this watch measures down to 1/100th of a second. You can toggle between 12- and 24-hour displays, set alarms, and many other features, but nothing extraordinary.
Casio promises an accuracy of +/- 30 seconds per month, which means about +/- one-second accuracy per day, which even your luxury mechanical watch can’t beat.
The movement is notoriously accurate. So accurate that it’s been infamously used in bomb-making, to the point where US intelligence agents declared it to be ‘the sign of al-Qaeda’ in training material issued to staff at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in 2011. The Casio F-91W has featured on both sides of the War on Terror: Barack Obama was pictured wearing one in his pre-Senate days.
Across the bottom of the watch’s face is an emblazoned “WR” logo flanked by “Water Resist.” For the record, this is equivalent to the 30m (3ATM/100ft) water-resistance standard many watches use to indicate that it is not intended for swimming, showering, and other water activities. Again, you can’t pound it with a hammer.
Used reasonably daily, however, and with a battery change every seven to ten years, a Casio F-91W watch can be expected to last a long time. It’s even easy to change the 18mm strap, just in case the wear out.
Casio F-91W colors available
Casio offers the F91W in various colors and you’ll find a myriad of models available online. Of course, the rarer it is, the more you’re likely to pay. However, given this watch rarely crosses 20 bucks, I would not be too worried about the same.
In general, the actual dial and strap stay the same, it is just the color of the watch case and buttons that vary. Well, if you are keen on detail, you will also see that some of the text is also colored to match the case, especially the WR which was originally red (and would not work well on some colors). So, that’s worth taking into consideration.
The most popular version is the variant in black plastic with blue highlights known as the Casio F91W-1, but other F-series versions feature different colors and case materials like silver and gold.
These are notably small watches for today’s standards – measuring 37.5mm by 33.5mm by 8.5mm and weighing only 85g, according to Wikipedia — and not every watch model out there has its own Wikipedia entry, further speaking to the F-91W’s specialness. This is an extremely comfortable watch to wear that simply and unobtrusively does its job well.
If you appreciate its value, the Casio F-91W has some easter eggs that make it even more special.
- Hold down the button on the lower right side for three seconds, and the LCD screen will read “CASIO” in place of the normal display, an original way to authenticate the watch against counterfeits.
- Pressing all 3 buttons at the same time, you can see all the digits appear simultaneously.
Casio F91W – Who has worn it
One of the most famous people to have worn the F-91W back in the 90s was Obama. He can be seen wearing it in a couple of images from his own Obama Diary page:
Other sightings of the Casio F-91W include:
Jared Leto wears a Casio F-91W watch in the 2022 movie Morbius
Ryan Reynolds is wearing a Casio F-91W watch in Free Guy (2021)
The Casio F91W is a fantastic wearable when thinking of taking a digital detox or a short break from your devices, and in my opinion, it’s well worth spending $15 on a bit of famously reliable retro wristwear that allows you to do just that.
This wristwatch means different things to different people – to some of us, it takes away the boredom of online outrage culture, and rekindles memories from the 90s, riding your bike over the arcade, even if you never owned one back then.
On the other hand, it makes your daily schedule simpler: buy it, stick it in a drawer, and pull it out when you’re sick to the back teeth of being connected to the digital world, and just yearn for a simpler time. Grab one and wear it while you’re doing DIY, painting the garage, mowing your lawn, or doing work on a construction site.
If ever it gets a knock against a wall or a splatter of paint on the face, it’s better it happens to the Casio F-91W than your expensive Apple Watch Ultra, although its slim profile makes it unobtrusive and unlikely to get in the way.
Overall, the Casio F91W is excellent value for us all. It doesn’t come with a tough pedigree as Casio’s G-Shock, but in terms of affordability, style, and cool factor, the Casio F91W packs a punch for reputation and is instantly recognized as a classic Casio. It’s our Editors’ Choice for classic watches.
The Casio F91W is excellent value for us all. It doesn’t come with a tough pedigree as Casio’s G-Shock, but in terms of affordability, style, and cool factor, the Casio F91W packs a punch for reputation and is instantly recognized as a classic Casio.
- Very cheap
- Surprisingly accurate
- Comfortable, conforming band
- Delightfully slim
- Not a G-Shock
- Low water rating
Last update on 2023-09-27 at 20:03 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API