So, my month of self-imposed watch austerity is up. I’ve done it. No watch but the F has passed my wrist in the last 31 days. What have I achieved? Well, clearly absolutely nothing. This is first-world stuff. Wearing a £7 Casio is not deprivation in even the remotest sense. However, a glass of decent malt is clearly called for in celebration. Don’t mind if I do.
In the real world I may have achieved nowt, but I’ve learned a few things…
There’s an F-91 near you
First, these things are everywhere. I’d wager that, as you read this, you’re no more than 3 metres away from an F-91. Casio weren’t able to tell me how many they’ve precision-glued together since 1991, but it’s got to be a few million. They’re abandoned in office drawers, forgotten in bags, Blu-tacked to the dashboards of cars, on wrists and even (I saw it) on a string around someone’s neck.
Sitting in a local coffee shop, looking idly out of the window, I saw ten Fs in as many minutes. Is there a more ubiquitous watch? I doubt it. They’re just there, quietly getting on with the job with only an hourly ‘beep’ to remind you of their presence. And the fact you can’t work out how to turn it off.
The classless watch?
Sitting in a meeting last week with some of the board of a UK utility company, I spotted one under the cuff of one of the directors. He knew how to turn off the beep. On the same day, I picked up a parcel (yes, another watch) from the local Post Office. The postie behind the counter was wearing – you guessed it – an F-91 – on a battered and faded NATO. On that coffee shop visit I saw them on the wrists of super-trendy hipster types, the guy who emptied the street bins and the barista. It really is Everywatch.
They don’t give in – or give up
They’re near-as-dammit indestructible too. Who needs a G-Shock? I’ve worn mine on the Real Tennis court and it’s been belted with a heavy wooden racquet. It’s fine. It got dropped on the stone tile floor in the office. Not a mark. It’s survived the teeth-loosening, pneumatic-drill vibration of the flat-twin engine on my Ural 650 combo. Believe me, when someone hits the big red button there’ll be three things left: Nissan Micras, smiling, smug cockroaches and F-91s. And the F-91s will still be going ‘beep’ every hour.
Am I about to give up my collection, ditch the vintage and declare unending loyalty to my F? Well, no. But there is a rather freeing simplicity to an F-91. It does the job of telling the time, waking me up, timing my run all without fuss, bother or drama. In fact, it does it so simply and effectively that I’m going to open the wormcan and say it’s firmly A Classic.
The ultimate cheap classic?
I’ll stick my neck out here. In my view, it does the whole ‘form and function’ thing just as well as any other classic watch. It’s the best kind of classic too – a democratic one that pretty much anyone can afford and enjoy. No waiting lists, no buzz-to-enter heavy-carpeted boutiques, no sniffy watch salesmen. Just nip on line and your F will be beeping happily from a box on your doormat the next day.
And, if it gets trashed in the process of everyday life (unlikely as that is), you can just shrug and buy another with the change in your car’s ashtray. You can’t say that about a Nomos a Breitling or a Rolex.
So what started out as a bit of a joke has been great fun. It’s started conversations with new watchie friends, made me think and reminded me that a watch doesn’t have to cost the GDP of a small central European country to be engaging. But it certainly does say something for my affection for the F that it’s on my wrist as I write this. And it’ll be there, every so often, for a long time to come. I’ve come not just to admire, but like, the F-91 hugely. Beep.
By the way, in that parcel was a cal.1620 Omega LCD Speedmaster from 1977. Yup, they made digital Speedies. But that’s a whole other story…