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Reviews > Electronic Devices > Watches > Timex WS4 Watch > Test Report by Will Dalen Rice

TIMEX WS4 EXPEDITION WATCH
TEST SERIES BY Will Dalen Rice
LONG-TERM REPORT

INITIAL REPORT - November 23, 2009
FIELD REPORT - February 16, 2010
LONG TERM REPORT - May 11, 2010

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Will Rice
EMAIL: will.dalen at gmail.com
AGE: 29
LOCATION: Charlotte, North Carolina, USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 7" (1.70 m)
WEIGHT: 150 lb (68.00 kg)

I began backpacking at the age of 13 when I first went to summer camp (1993). In 1999, I started working with a college tripping organization in outdoor trip logistics (in gear preparation), and then as a leader. My most frequented hiking locations are in the Carolina Appalachians and the Smoky Mountains during the cold early spring and the summer. I stopped being a trip leader in 2004, and now I average about 4 backpacking trips and 4 day hikes per year. I carry between 25 and 35 lbs (11.3-15.8 kg) on multi-day trips.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Timex
Year of Manufacture: 2009
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.timex.com
MSRP: US$ 200.00
Measured Weight: 3.5 oz (100 g)
Color: White/ Black Trim (available in Black, Yellow, White, Blue, Orange, Black/Orange)
Battery: CR2430
Water Resistant: 50 m
Adjustable Strap with 12 settings
5 buttons
Illuminiation: INDIGLO backlight for face (by Timex)


IMAGE 1
Size Visual


IMAGE 2
Strap


IMAGE 3
Face


IMAGE 4
Indiglo

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

Initial Impressions: This watch is big! I couldn't stop thinking about its size. It also has a really nice display and very large numbering for everything. I was also overwhelmed by the features it has and am super excited about using every aspect of the watch.

Materials: Even with its large size, the material it is made of is still super-light, so the watch is not heavy. It has a fairly thick strap that feels solid and I don't fear it will break. I also am not worried about any part of the watch falling apart. The buttons are all proportional to the size of the watch and therefore easily located and pressed. This watch seems tough enough for any abuse I might expose it to.

Features: The screen is easy to see. Scrolling through all of the modes is kind of lengthy, but I am getting used to the order. Setting the watch follows the traditional Timex methods (see below), so that is simple. Calibrating the watch is a little more complicated and required some reading of the manual, but now is easy to remember and do.

Timex Setting Structure: "Mode" scrolls between options, pressing "set" (once and then a small wait or press twice) causes variable to blink, and then there is a + and - button for adjusting variable and "mode" again scrolls through the variables. Pressing set again exits setting mode.

READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

The instructions are well laid out and easy to read in multiple languages. The manual is real small, so it is very portable. Calibration of the watch required some tinkering with the manual. Also, there will be some other features I have to check the manual for as I discover and try to use them.

TRYING IT OUT

I took the watch into the field with me for my research project. I was excited about the altimeter function. It has 3 digits, so I was hoping to get + or - a couple feet with the watch, but it appears to take a swing of 10 or more feet (3 meters) to register a change in altitude. The second feature I used was the compass. It is very sensitive and has cardinal directions down to the most detailed level (ex: SSE) in addition to a compass bearing. I am excited to use this during orienteering and see if it works better or worse than a regular compass. The last feature I have enjoyed is the weather icons. I am interested to see if this watch can accurately predict rain.

I did attempt to use the watch while jogging. With extra sweating from running and its size and the back and forth motion of the arm, I did not enjoy wearing this as a jogger's watch. It isn't designed for that purpose, so that could be why it doesn't work well in that capacity.
The INDIGLO is bright enough to take a picture of it.

SUMMARY

This watch is super cool. It is fairly comfortable, light, stylish, sturdy, and has oodles of features.

Likes:
- sturdy
- stylish

Dislikes:
- altimeter/ barometer calibrating


FIELD REPORT

FIELD CONDITIONS and PERFORMANCE

IMAGE 2
On Top of Kings Mountain


I.
Date: 12/28/2009
Location: Kings Mountain, NC
Weather: sunny, windy (10-15 mph, 16- 24 kph), 50 F (10 C)
Activity: Hiking to top of mountain (1000 ft/ 300 m elevation gain), 3.4 miles (5.5 km) roundtrip

Performance:
I have grown to like using the chronometer and then using the "review" mode to see elevation gains and losses. Although the graphical mode doesn't really tell a whole lot (there are no labels on the axis), I enjoy looking at the graph. It also seems like if there is not a lot of total elevation change and the time period is long, then the graph is sort of flat.
I was expecting to be able to monitor temperature with this watch. However, when I am wearing it, the temperature is significantly off due to my body temperature. I would much prefer a strap that allowed the watch to be away from my body. I have considered wearing the watch on a belt loop or attaching it to my pack, but I am afraid of it coming off and becoming lost.
On the way down the mountain I held the watch in my hand to get a true temperature reading. It took about 30 minutes for the temperature to lower from around 70 F (20 C) to the actual temperature of 50 F (10 C)

IMAGE 1
Snowboarding


II.
Date: 1/1/2010-1/3/2010
Location: Gatlinburg, TN
Weather: Overcast to sunny, windy (10-15 mph, 16- 24 kph), 30-40 F (-1-4.4)
Activity: Snowboarding (1500-2500 ft/ 457-762 m)

Performance:
I was hoping to wear the watch outside of my base layer (but under my jacket sleeve) in order to get a more accurate temperature reading. However, the watch face is very large, so pulling back my outer sleeve was not possible. The watch kept getting caught, even after taking off my gloves and using my hands. So, my other plan was to maybe wear the watch outside my jacket, but the strap was not long enough.
The weather prediction icons were off when I was on this trip, so I had to recalibrate. It appears as though the weather needs to be recalibrated every other week. It also seems like it over predicts rain (more often than it actually rains), and it under predicts sunny days.

III.
Date: 1/9/2010
Location: Latta Plantation, Charlotte, NC
Weather: Cold and sunny, 15-40 F (0 to -10 C), windy (10 mph, 13 kph), 48% humidity
Activity: Orienteering (off-trail running for 3 hours, hiking for 1.5)

Performance:
Whenever I am going outdoors and I know I will be changing elevation, I get excited about using the chronograph and review features to see my maximum altitude and gains and losses. I am a big data junky, so these features of the watch really appeal to me.
For orienteering, I was excited to use the compass function. The compass works well and seemed to be accurate. I like the bearing degree number indicator as well, so I can compare a degree heading with my friend's compass. What I don't like though is that the compass goes blank after a short amount of time of non-use and then after a little more non-use the watch goes back to the time mode. This makes it less than ideal for orienteering or any activity that requires a constant monitoring of direction.
I am further frustrated by the temperature function. What am I supposed to do if I am not carrying a pack or clothing that my watch can be attached to but I want to be able to get an accurate temperature reading? It seems the best technique is to hold it by the strap in my hand (which is no different from carrying a thermometer).

IV.
Date: 2/6/2010
Location: Reedy Creek Park, Charlotte, NC
Weather: Cold and cloudy, 33-45 F (1-7 C), 80-100% humidity
Activity: Orienteering (off-trail running for 3-4 hours)

Performance:
This was another orienteering experience with more of the same observations recorded after I had forgotten what I thought about using the watch last time I orienteered. See below for notes:
- annoying to pull sleeve over wrist, annoying to uncover watch
- love to track progress using chrono. and review modes
- compass works well, but hard to shoot exact bearings, hate that it goes off and changes mode if you don't use it often

V.
Other Notes on Features

Double Time-Zone Feature
Similar to the Iron Man series of watched that Timex makes, this watch has dual time zone settings. This means that you can set a time in two different place that you might often travel between, and then just by holding the Start/Split button, you can change between the two settings.

Temperature and INDIGLO
At night, the watch mostly sits next to my bed. This lets me wake up and push the INDIGLO button to see what time it is and what temperature it is. The glowing display is very visible at night for clear reading and yet it doesn't hurt my unadjusted eyes. I like the display size.

Function Display
Below the date/pressure/altitude display on the main screen, there are icons telling you when certain features are running (stopwatch, countdown timer, alarm). This is a pretty sutbtle feature but is usefull if you're timing a hike or something and you have forgotten that your stopwatch is running. When you look at the time, you see pixel indicators meaning that the features are in use.

Temperature Accuracy
I like that the temperature doesn't have to be calibrated or adjusted. At first I was wary and wondered if that meant that it might be incorrect. However, I have tested against some other watches that tell temperature and against known conditions (hot tub, freezing weather) and have found that it appears to be accurate.

Altimeter
I like this feature, especially since it works in airplanes. I know it's not really in the scope of testing for outdoor use, but I really enjoyed using the watch to see the rise and descent of the airplane I took over the holidays. It also was nice to be in an airplane where I could get a reading from the pilot to calibrate the watch. Other than that, I have found it annoying to find reference altitudes in my daily life that I can recalibrate the watch to. The manual says to recalibrate often.

Timer
The timer feature allows for a countdown and alarm for any given time setting less than 24 hours. This feature worked well for me when I was orienteering and trying to set a pace between markers. Also, the timer can be set so that it automatically starts over when it reaches zero. Plus, it records how many time it has reset itself so that if you're running or hiking a loop you don't have to remember how many counted down units you have done.

Alarm
The watches alarm is loud enough to wake me up in quiet conditions when it is next to my head. The INDIGLO also flashes, which makes it easier to find in the dark. The alarm is able to be set on a recurring basis for Daily, Weekend, Weekday, or any specific day's use.

DURABILITY

The watch has done a remarkable job of staying together. It does have one small little nick in the face. Considering what it has gone through (spent a lot of time with me doing thesis work in streams) I feel it has held up well.

SUMMARY

All in all, the watch seems to be holding up well, is easy to operate, and does a good job at providing easily visible data to the user.

Likes
- easily visible
- like the color and appearance
- gives me tons of data
- buttons easy to push

Dislikes
- size sometimes gets in the way (interferes with clothing)
- temperature indicator not correct when wearing
- compass doesn't stay on for constant use orienteering


LONG-TERM REPORT

LOCATIONS and PERFORMANCE

I.
Date: 3/7-3/13/2010
Location: Mexico City, Mexico
Activity: Light Hiking, Construction
Weather: Ultra-sunny, 75-95 F (24-35 C)
Performance:
The feature I use the most on this watch is definitely the altimeter. The method I have come to use for most accurately calibrating it is to ask airline pilots what the altitude is as I get off of airplanes. Arriving in Mexico City, I discovered that I was already starting at an elevation that was far beyond anything normal to the east coast of the U.S. Then, we went up into the mountains and I got to watch the altimeter climb.
Second to the altimeter is the temperature readout. With cool nights and hot days, I enjoyed seeing the temperature swings noticeable on the watch. I also like that at any given time, I can have the thermometer or the altimeter reading right on the main screen and I don't have to press any buttons.
While working construction, I placed the watch on a ledge nearby. This gave me more accurate readings for temperature. Also, I like the bright white appearance of the watch, which makes it stand out easy and makes it harder for me to leave it behind when I am gathering my stuff to leave the location.

II.
Date: 3/19-3/20
Location: Mountains-to-Sea Trail, Marion, North Carolina
Weather: Sunny and clear (Cold overnight, 40 F/ 5 C, Warm day, 80 F/ 27 C)
Activity: Backpacking (5 miles/ 8 km, out and back)
Performance:
We got to the trail head late, so there was some night hiking. This allowed me to test the ability to view the watch in the darkness. The lighting for the screen is quite bright and I had no trouble seeing any of the numbers. I also got the chance to hang the watch in my tent. Even at arm's length away, I could easily read all the numbers and see the weather prediction in lit-up mode at night.
The thermometer helped me to confirm my suspicion that it was cold as heck outside.

III.
Date: 3/27/2010
Location: South Mountain, North Carolina
Weather: Sunny, 60 F (15 C)
Activity: Stream Research (wading), hiking (4 miles/ 6 km roundtrip)
Performance:
This trip was a field excursion for one of my college classes. I was able to use the altimeter function to double-check the altitude gain estimate from the foot of the creek we were studying up the mountain-side to the base of a waterfall. The graphical depiction I had from using the chrono feature to track my elevation gain and loss is always fun to look at. It confirmed that I had indeed gone up a very steep gradient trail (which was actually stairs at many points), and then come back down it.
I didn't believe the weather prediction that it would be 60 degrees F (15 C) all day. My watch confirmed that it was indeed no warmer. I wore the watch through a belt-loop to get better temperature readings. I was worried that it might fall off, but it didn't. It is nice to be able to have the temperature feature, so now I know exactly what I need to wear to be comfortable when my watch says 60 F.

IMAGE 1
Attached to belt loop


IV.
Date: 4/1-4/4/2010
Location: Emerald Isle, North Carolina
Weather: Sunny, breezy
Activity: Walking on beach, in and around coastal marsh
Performance:
In areas of very small elevation change, the watch does not read the change. Also, I discovered at the beach, in a more humid/ dusty environment, that the strap seems to hold a lot of dirt and grit between it and my skin. This could have something to do with the pattern of the molded plastic. This is also possibly why I have had trouble getting the strap as clean as it was when I got it. There is a thin layer of what appears to be permanent filth on the watch band, on the outside and inside.

IMAGE 3
Uncleanable


V.
Date: 4/10-4/11
Location: Congaree Swamp, South Carolina
Weather: warm (80 F/27 C), sunny days, clear cool (50 F/10 C) nights
Activity: Off-trail hiking through swamps and wetland stream-type land (6-8 miles/10-13 km)
Performance:
I wore the watch for more field work with my college classes. I have gotten used to the size. It works well at night and is easy to keep track of when camping. I didn't get to do any orienteering during the LTR phase of this test, but could have used the compass in the swamp.
As I wandered away from my group, the thought occurred to me to take a bearing so I could get back. I wasn't planning on going far though. Next thing I knew, I was lost in the swamp, having no idea where I had left my group. I'll never go off into the woods by myself now without taking a compass heading with my watch.

DURABILITY

All in all, the watch held up well.

It suffered one scratch on the face, some scuffs on the band, and a general accumulation of dirt I cannot remove. Otherwise, the watch is completely intact with all buttons working and no compromise to the casing of the instrument.

IMAGE 2
Scratch on face


IMAGE 4
Weathered Band

SUMMARY

This watch is a great piece of gear if you like information, as it provides ample feedback about your outdoor conditions.

Likes:
- Compass feature existing on watch
- Temperature indicator
- Weather predictor
- Chronometer and data tracking ability
- appearance (white color scheme goes well)

Dislikes
- Compass feature turns off to save battery
- inaccuracy of thermometer while wearing
- Strap not big enough to fit over outer layer of clothing

CONTINUED USE

I will continue to take this watch whenever I go into the backcountry.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

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