May 10, 2010
by Ariel Adams
That is, while the watches are fantastically functional, they ooze a bit of “dork.” I am a proud owner of many a Pathfinder watches, and love the looks, feel, and utility they provide – but admit it isn’t a watch I’d bring along a wingman on a date. Better for activities, being outdoors, and wanting to survive the perils of nature. Social gatherings demand a bit more tact when it comes to your digital aura.
So the clever engineers at Casio devised the PAW-5000. I can’t say with absolute certainly that this is the first Pathfinder watch with analog hands, but it is the first that I am aware of. It has all the bell & whistles you expect in these watches, with the addition of analog hangs, and a Casio Tough Movement (Tough Mvt.). So what is a tough movement? It is a special quartz movement that helps keep the hands perfectly aligned after times of physical shock. I first wrote about it here, so click that link to learn more. Pretty much something you need to having with a rugged watch like this. One of the benefits of the movement is that hands are always perfectly aligned (that I have found), which is a big plus for a quartz watch in my book.
As you would expect, the movement is also solar (any light actually) powered (“Tough Solar”), and atomic clock radio controlled. Actually, being an analog watch might be of benefit to power generation. You can see that most of the dial is a photo-receptive solar panel – larger than the smaller ring used in the all digital screen models. Like other high-end pathfinder models, the watch can receive signals from your local atomic clock to sync to the correct time perfectly each day. This is actually one of the most complex functions in these phones, but you can set it to auto receive each night. I recommend looking through the instructions if you wish to fiddle with the “RC” (radio controlled) functions.
I have to admit that even though the watch dial is really busy on the PAW-5000 watch, it isn’t that tough to read – in fact, I would say it is easy to read. Casio is smart not to add clutter underneath where the hands travel (too much), which greatly assists with legibility. I personally find the hands easy to spot and they have a high contrast with the dial. So legibility is good! Casio took some inspiration from the popularity of the Tissot T-Touch family of watches. Not in the “touch” department, but in using the hands for some of the features. Thus, the orange seconds hand is used a lot in the various functions. It isn’t quite as slick as in the T-Touch watches, but the Casio is clearly much less expensive (and will probably last longer). As such, the seconds hand is used as the compass needle in the compass mode, to assist with the barometer reading, to see what timezone you are switching to in the world time function (see the abbreviated reference cities spelled out around the dial), and a few other things. Casio does a good job making you feel that the analog part of the watch plays nicely with the Pathfinder part of the watch.
For many of the functions you will need to rely on the smaller LCD screen. That will be your go to space for the chronograph, alarms, countdown timer, calendar, readings for the sensors, and other information. For years Casio has learned to skillfully use small LCD screens for such functions. While each is totally useful, I still recommend an all digital Pathfinder watch if you are going to be using these functions extensively. It just makes more sense when you have more LCD screen real estate. But if you are going to be mainly using the watch for time, with the occasional need for the other functions, then this is a solid choice.
Being a pathfinder watch, the piece will of course have the requisite “ABC” functions. This is the altimeter, barometer, and compass. This also includes the thermometer as part of the barometer function. Again, this are present and useful as expected, with reliance on the small screen, and some integration of the analog hands. The button layout on the watch is the same you are used to. With three on the right, one on the left, and two on the front of the watch. There is little to no learning curve if you are going to the PAW-5000 watch from any other Pathfinder model.
One area that Casio might need to work on a bit is the backlighting. The watch uses a bright LED. It is bright enough, but is placed in an odd location – right at the bottom of the watch. If you turn it on in the dark, it washes out the LCD screen a bit, making it hard to read. Plus, the light isn’t lit quite long enough for me. It takes me a little bit longer to read analog hands versus a digital readout. I understand that the LED draws on the battery a lot, but I end up having to turn it on a few time to read the time. These are relatively small issues actually, and don’t actually impede using the watch, they just make it take a bit longer in some instances.
Casio really upgraded the look of the Pathfinder watch here. The PAW-5ooo has a nice metal bezel (even in this resin model). There is also a model with a titanium bracelet available. Case is water resistant to 100 meters. The metal bezel looks really nice, and helps “de-plastic” the watch a bit. The resin strap also has metal plates on each side near the watch. At about 50mm wide, the watch is bit, but nothing larger than other Pathfinder watch – though it is a bit thicker than some of the ultra-thin models we have been seeing such as the Casio PAW-2000 that I reviewed here. Style is overall good, and I think we finally have a Pathfinder watch that can be worn to the office. It really has a cool technical look to it, but one that isn’t too nerdy 🙂 As always with this collection, the watch is very comfortable on the wrist (large or small), and is quite light. Casio has mastered the “I didn’t even realize it was on my wrist” feeling in even its largest watches. An evolution on the Pathfinder collection the PAW-5000 is not. Instead, it is a true analog/digital alternative to the rock-solid collection that for most people is the gold standard of multi sensor watches. Casio engineers prove that they can use their greatest technology to house a highly durable analog movement in a watch that is meant to keep you updated with information when you need it most. Also, it offers two pieces of functionality that Tissot T-Touch lovers have been begging for, for years. Those being solar power generation and atomic time keeping. Price for the Casio PAW-5000 watch starts at $450 (more for the metal bracelet version)