It’s tough being a watch company these days. The expensive ones still get bought as jewelry and for showing off, but for inexpensive ones many people have reverted back to a pocket watch: their mobile phone.
Quite a few travelers don’t use their phone overseas though. The roaming and data charges can bankrupt you if you’re not at a hotspot and the batteries drain so fast on the iPhone and some competitors that your vacation becomes a long series of outlet quests—assuming you have the right adapter.
So Timex keeps on ticking by cranking out great Expedition watches for travelers and outdoor adventurers. It doesn’t cut it to just tell you the time anymore though, even if it does light up at night with the Indiglo feature. (I especially love that on a dark airplane or in a movie theater.)
This E-tide Compass Temp watch is a great example. I reviewed another compass watch of theirs a couple years ago, but this one takes it up a notch with more features. The temperature part is more of a marketing ploy than something of real use, unfortunately. I’ve yet to find a watch that has a good thermometer and this one is no exception. On your wrist it’s hopeless because of body heat, but even sitting on a shelf it ran 10F degrees hot, which is typical.
The compass is a different story though. I found it quite accurate when testing in multiple locations. Not precision perfect if you’re trying to hike the Long Traverse in Newfoundland maybe, but close enough to keep you from getting lost in the woods or to figure out which direction you’re facing on a street in Bangkok.
The tides time part is what makes this watch special, taking it beyond double-duty gear status to something really multi-functional. Figuring out when high tide and low tide are doesn’t matter a lot for a whole lot of people, just like a depth meter on a diving watch doesn’t matter to a whole lot of people. But for those in a sailboat, kayak, or river boat on an ocean tributary, this info matters a lot. I once rode a boat into a village in the Darian Gap in Panama. If the guides timed it wrong on arrival and departure, we were sleeping in a hut that night instead of being back on our catamaran in a comfy bed. Other times I’ve been on kayaking trips where there was a two-hour window to get to an island. After that you would be slogging through mud. Plus there are some eroded beaches in resort areas that are lovely at low tide, but disappear to the seawall at another time of day.
There’s nothing particularly hi-tech about the tides readout on this watch. When the extra hand points to 12, it’s high tide. When it points to 6, it’s low tide. In between you can tell which direction the tide is heading. Naturally it will need to be adjusted as you change locations: high tide in even the same body of water will vary from one coast to another. Periodic adjustment is necessary if you’re on the move. I’ve been checking it against the water lapping against my desk though on a creek that leads to Tampa Bay and so far so good after four weeks.
I strongly prefer analog face watches over digital ones and I like how Timex has gotten a lot of features into a watch that looks very attractive. Unlike the Casio PAW2000 watch I reviewed before though, none of the buttons are marked. This makes it look sleeker, sure, but it also means digging out the instruction manual to remind yourself how to do the simplest tasks—-like changing that tide clock or using the compass.
This is a common problem with almost any one you use though, no matter the manufacturer. I actually choose which watch to use in my travels sometimes based on how much hassle it’s going to be when crossing multiple time zones. In that department anyway, this one is easy to adjust with the main crown button.
The Timex E-tide Compass Expedition Watch lists comes in a variety of face and strap styles. A variety of names too: sometimes it’s a mouthful like “Intelligent Quartz Compass Tide Temperature Watch.” It feels hefty and expensive and is water resistant to 100 meters. It lists for $170, but you can find it discounted at these links:
Tim Leffel is founder of the Practical Travel Gear blog, as well as the Cheapest Destinations blog and the narrative webzine Perceptive Travel. He is the author of The World's Cheapest Destinations (now in its 4th edition), Make Your Travel Dollars Worth a Fortune, and A Better Life for Half the Price.
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