A large part of the reason I appreciate the golden era of the mechanical wristwatch is because the timepieces created during these years were intended to be legitimate tools, with each one built for a different specific purpose. There is something undeniably fascinating about a watch being specifically created for some niche professional application, such as aeronautical navigation or cave exploring, and even when the watches themselves ultimately aren’t all that successful at accomplishing their intended tasks, they still offer a ton of horological intrigue for collectors, simply as bizarre and sometimes whimsical items that represent what one brand felt was a legitimate horological need. Smartwatches have made traditional tool watches less necessary than ever before, yet the number of modern timepieces that embrace this tool watch ethos is proof of how the concept of a purpose-built timepiece has captured the imagination of collectors around the world.
However, aside from smartwatches and connected devices, the vast majority of the tool watches manufactured today are essentially just modern versions of the same type of timepieces that were available more than half a century ago. Yes, materials and manufacturing techniques have evolved, but the underlying concepts behind the watches have not. For example, most modern dive watches still consist of a simple three-handed movement inside a waterproof case with a rotating bezel, and that core concept hasn’t changed since the very first dive watches were launched in the early 1950s. That said, Casio is one brand that still produces what I would consider to be thoroughly modern, purpose-built watches, and rather than merely incorporating contemporary materials and improved specifications, Casio’s tool watches feature electronic internals that enable them to offer advanced and unusual functions that simply aren’t possible with a traditional mechanical wristwatch.
Like other types of tool watches, even when we don’t actually require their purpose-built functionality, these Casio models are still fascinating horological objects because they represent the Japanese brand’s unique approach to a situation-specific task. Throughout the years, there has been a surprising assortment of Casio models that address a shockingly diverse range of applications, and within the brand’s archives, you will find models that allow you to do everything from change the channel on your television to measure the power and speed of your punches. While Casio no longer produces many of its more obscure purpose-built models, one series that continues to endure is the brand’s fishing timer lineup, and the Casio Fishing Gear WS1200H is a budget-friendly sports watch that aims to tell you the best times to fish throughout the day.
The Casio Fishing Gear WS1200H series is available in three different colorways, although all of them feature the same fundamental construction and materials with resin cases, acrylic crystals, rubber straps, and screw-on stainless steel casebacks that help support their 100 meters of water resistance. Among the trio, the WS1200H-3AV (featured here) is my favorite, and it features a case and strap made from olive green resin, along with black accents and a black-colored bezel. Meanwhile, the WS1200H-2AV is the blue version, and the WS1200H-1AV is arguably the most traditional, with black resin components and a silver-colored bezel. Given that the watches are primarily made from rubber and plastic, the Casio Fishing Gear WS1200H models don’t exactly exude a sense of premium quality, although they are ultimately quite durable and also rather lightweight at only 42 grams, including their rubber straps.
As for their dimensions, the Casio Fishing Gear WS1200H watches measure 46.6mm in diameter at their widest point, or approximately 42mm if you exclude the various protrusions, such as the buttons and the two guards that sit between them on either side. The overall height of the models comes in at 13.5mm thick, while their lug-to-lug profile is 48.6mm, but because the straps form an integrated appearance with the case, the lug-to-lug profile of the Fishing Gear WS1200H models feels quite a bit smaller than a traditional watch case with similar measurements. Meanwhile, the rubber straps connect to the case with 18mm lugs, although they immediately flare outward to 24mm in order to meet the outer edges of the case, before tapering back down to 19mm where they connect to their black resin double-tang buckles. This style of buckle frequently appears on some of the more burly G-Shock models, so it’s likely that Casio included it on the humble Fishing Gear WS1200H series to offer additional durability in the event the strap gets snagged while wrangling a sizable catch.
Like most of the brand’s digital models, operating the Casio Fishing Gear WS1200H watch is achieved by pressing the four buttons located on the side of the case, while the display is divided into sections by a textured plastic frame that sits on top of the LCD screen. The lower half of the display is dedicated to standard features, such as the time and date, along with the various other pieces of information that appear when using alternate modes, such as the stopwatch, alarm, or countdown timer. Directly above the primary screen on the far right-hand side of the display is a small circular moonphase, while the thin horizontal section next to it serves as a minute counter that fills up and resets once every ten minutes. Meanwhile, the entire upper portion of the display on the Fishing Gear WS1200H watches is dedicated to a green-tinted graph, which looks somewhat like a radar screen with little fish shapes that signify the number of fish you might expect to find at that time of day.
Although the Casio Fishing Gear WS1200H watches do include an electronic backlight that can be activated by pressing the button located on the upper right-hand side of the case, the backlight isn’t the electroluminescent style that you will find on higher-end models like those from the brand’s G-Shock range, where the entire screen lights up whenever it is activated. Instead, the Fishing Gear WS1200H models have a simple orange LED backlight that asymmetrically illuminates the screen from the left-hand side of the display. Even still, the black-on-gray positive LCD screen offers plenty of contrast and legibility, and the model’s signature fish-tracker radar display provides the watches with a fun and unique appearance that initially looks rather tactical until you notice the little fish shapes that periodically appear within it.
Powering the Casio Fishing Gear WS1200H series is the brand’s Module 3485 digital quartz movement, which runs on a single CR2025 power cell and offers a generous battery life of approximately 10 years. As with other Casio models, the Fishing Gear WS1200H offers all of the usual multi-function digital sports watch features such as a stopwatch, countdown timer, three programmable alarms, automatic calendar, and backlight. Additionally, Module 3485 offers a world timer with dual-time modes, a moon phase indicator (with moon age data), and the model’s signature fishing time feature. As a standard multi-function sports watch, the Casio Fishing Gear WS1200H performs similar to other models from the collection, although when it comes to actually being able to tell if there are any fish in the area, the limitations of this budget-friendly timepiece become immediately apparent.
The Casio Fishing Gear WS1200H series uses the time, date, and moon data to determine an approximate score for how suitable it will be to go fishing at various points throughout the day, and it conveys this figure with a one-to-five scale that is represented by the number of fish that appear on the little green radar screen. However, because the Fishing Gear WS1200H models are limited by the fairly small amount of data available to them, they aren’t able to account for any of the most significant factors that actually influence the number of fish in the area such as the location, weather, water temperature, oxygen levels, currents, rainfall, biodiversity, or wind. What this means is that you may find yourself right in front of a lake that is overflowing with fish and the radar screen will appear blank, while you could be walking through a shopping mall that is miles away from any body of water, and the Fishing Gear WS1200H will light up and tell you that it is time to grab your rod and tackle box.
On the two occasions that I have actually worn the Casio Fishing Gear WS1200H while fishing, it was entirely unhelpful when it came to assisting me with a catch; however, this ultimately only makes me more fond of this quirky and unusual tool watch. If we are being completely honest with ourselves, many of the most famous tool watches from history would be downright comical to use in modern real-world situations — imagine an airline pilot holding their watch inches away from their face as they frantically rotate its slide-rule bezel, or your anesthesiologist counting out your heart rate with their pulsometer bezel before administering a potentially lethal cocktail of sedatives prior to surgery. Even something as common and universally accepted as a tachymeter bezel is ultimately rather useless during real-world applications because the speed of the object will need to be constant if you plan on achieving any type of accuracy with your measurement.
People wear watches with slide-rule bezels or tachymeter scales because they remind them of the worlds of aviation or automotive racing, and fishing enthusiasts can get a similar type of enjoyment from the Casio Fishing Gear WS1200H, even if they never actually use its fish-finder features. For someone like myself, who occasionally goes fishing but is first and foremost a watch nerd, I personally get a ton of enjoyment out of the bizarre novelty of a timepiece that is supposed to measure fish activity, and the fact that it isn’t even all that great at performing this task strangely only adds to my enjoyment. There is something borderline hilarious about walking through a parking lot in the middle of the desert, checking your watch, and being told by the Fishing Gear WS1200H that it is a perfect time to go fishing. Similarly, explaining the concept of Casio’s fishing timer watches to fellow watch enthusiasts is amusing, as both the concept and its shortcomings often result in some truly entertaining conversations.
Realistically speaking, the limitations of the Casio Fishing Gear WS1200H ultimately make its fish-finder function somewhat of a gimmick, although it is undeniably a rather entertaining one, and it’s important to remember that this feature was originally conceived to be a useful and practical tool for fishermen. With an official retail price of $29.95 USD, the Casio Fishing Gear WS1200H series is the definition of affordable, and you can often find them for even less with a little bit of online searching. In the same way that analog dive watches are no longer the most practical tools for scuba diving applications, the Casio Fishing Gear WS1200H models may not be the best option when it comes to actually finding fish. However, just like dive watches, the Fishing Gear WS1200H series can still connect their owners to a specific activity that is important to their lives, and from a horological perspective, it is interesting to see a brand produce a thoroughly modern purpose-built tool watch. Despite their functional shortcomings, those who appreciate the concept of a purpose-built timepiece will likely find some level of amusement with Casio’s Fishing Gear models, and you will have a hard time finding a more purpose-built tool watch at a lower price anywhere else within the industry. For more information on the Casio Fishing Gear WS1200H series, please visit the brand’s website.