The Humble Casio F-91W — Telling The Story Of My First Watch
Do you remember your first watch? Most of us probably have some hazy memories from our early years that we can’t quite decipher. Personally, I remember a very small (likely under 30mm) Mickey Mouse watch on a blue leather strap. There’s also a picture in which a five-or-six-year-old me is wearing something on an orange strap on my right wrist. The picture is accompanied by the feeling that it was a cheap toy, rather than anything used to actually tell the time. But the only tangible memory, the only one I can empirically back up with a watch that is still around and ticking, is that of my Casio F-91W.
I’m sure many of you have similar stories. For a lot of people, the “first watch” is something that exists as a blurry memory. However, some of us are still lucky enough to own, if not the very first, one of the first watches we ever had. Just last year, a number of our editors briefly shared the story of their first watch. And though they were all cool and special pieces, it was RJ’s and Rob’s first watches that really resonated with me. RJ’s Casio W-14 and Rob’s F-94W both reminded me of my own cheap little resin digital watch. So today, I will be sharing the full story of how I came to own, lose, find, and restore my very first watch!
My Casio F-91W — the origin story
If you’ve followed our recent Casio coverage closely, you’ll have most likely seen our Casio Collectors video. In this video, I briefly told the story of how I came to own my Casio F-91W. It must have been sometime in the late ‘90s. I was about seven or eight years old and still attending primary school in Madrid. This is where one of my best friends at the time, who shares my name, wore his own black resin Casio. I’m not sure if it was also an F-91W, but seeing it on his wrist, I thought it was the coolest thing. He showed me how he could set an alarm, the flickering numerals in the stopwatch setting, and the green glowing backlight. One thing was clear to me — I had to have one. It was probably a matter of months that I spent coveting a Casio watch of my own.
I distinctly remember stopping at the big display of an electronics store called Bazar Chandra (which is still there to this day). The old-school storefront featured an overwhelming number of gadgets, neatly arranged into a display. Next to each one was a hand-written price on a piece of card. Anything from beard trimmers, to alarm clocks, to kitchen gadgets… you name it! Everything was crammed into the display. Alongside those rather uninteresting objects (at least to a seven-year-old kid) were several rows of watches. They included several models from Casio, and namely, the F-91W. Every time we walked past with my parents, I’d press my face to the glass and express my desire for the watch. A few months later, when my birthday came around at the end of a cold and rainy January, I unwrapped my very own F-91W. I still remember the excitement more than 20 years later.
A quick pit stop and a lesson learned
It should come as no surprise that during those first few weeks, the watch did not come off my wrist. I tested its water resistance every day in the shower. I held down the backlight button for minutes at a time under the covers at night. The F-91W was a true object of fascination. Now, not only did my best friend have one, but I did as well. It was like being part of a special club — a club which my brother also joined with an F-91W of his very own. Growing up with a brother only a couple of years younger meant that we often had the same of two things. And whereas often the color would indicate who the owner was, in the case of this Casio watch it was not possible. However, my parents cleverly solved this, scratching initials onto the back of each watch.
Now, in all the excitement, these watches were put through their paces. In fact, it did not take long until one day I woke up to find the display distinctly free of numbers. My incessant backlight button pressing had killed the battery in a matter of weeks. I can’t say I hadn’t been warned either. But luckily, after a battery change from my friendly neighborhood watchmaker, my F-91W was back on the wrist. And though the urge was strong, I learned to only use the backlight sparingly and when necessary. That battery went on to last the better part of a decade.
A complicated relationship
Something you should know about me is that I was never someone who could stand to wear anything other than the clothes on my back. I’ve never been a fan of hats (other than the occasional beanie when temperatures dip below zero), and I was never one who could stand to wear a ring, necklace, or bracelet for more than a few hours at a time. This is something that has improved significantly now, as wearing a watch is something I do every day. But back then I remember that, though I loved wearing the watch, I felt more comfortable without it on my wrist. This eventually lead me to put it away in a drawer. This is where my Casio F-91W would spend the next 10-15 years.
I distinctly remember seeing it in that drawer in my parents’ house before losing track of it. It was only in 2020, during a visit from my parents when they brought me a few boxes full of my old things, that I found my long-lost F-91W. This was also the first time I looked at the watch with the eyes of a watch enthusiast. I was so excited to have it back, like meeting an old friend after years of not seeing each other. It was a little worse for wear though. The resin strap had all but turned to dust, and the battery was long dead. I knew it was mine, thanks to the unmistakable “N” for Nacho etched onto the case back. I knew exactly what I had to do next — bring the watch back to life.
Some of you may already be aware of this. But it is worth mentioning that the cost of a new strap and battery for one of these Casio F-91W watches often exceeds that of a new watch. They are almost made to be completely disposable. But this was never going to be the case with this particular watch. After a little bit of research, I ordered a replacement battery and strap, which didn’t take long to arrive. The strap change was easy enough, but I decided to replace the unidirectionally removable metal bars with actual spring bars to make future strap changes much easier. Upon installing the new battery I found that the LCD display remained blank.
This is a rather common issue that can affect these digital watches. When left unused for a prolonged period of time, the battery drains completely. If replaced with a new one shortly after it dies, the module retains some power and starts back up without any issues. However, when it remains powerless for a long time, it can sometimes require a bit of a kick-start. I found a YouTube tutorial that explains how to perform this rather simple task. All it requires is a small piece of copper wire or some tweezers and a fresh battery. You have to make contact between the two points in the module. This will then reset the watch, and if it’s not broken, the LCD will come back to life.
The Casio F-91W today
A question you might be asking is, “Do you still wear the watch today?” To be perfectly honest, the answer is, “No, not really.” Though it has made its way onto my wrist on occasion since I got it back up and running, it still is not one that will be getting any extensive wear. For this, I blame my G-Shock DW-5600E. Whereas the F-91W feels small, light, and almost flimsy, the DW-5600E is chunky, a bit heavier, and feels more like a grown-up watch. After getting used to the weight of mechanical watches, it is not easy to go back to something like the F-91W. That said, I’m still so happy that I have it, more so due to sentimental reasons than anything else.
It’s a watch that someday I might end up buying for my own kids someday. How cool would it be for them to wear their own F-91W as I wear my own? And should they not be interested in watches, at least I’ll have this memento to look back on the days where a €12 watch was the coolest thing I could imagine having on my wrist. When a sickly green backlight was the coolest feature of one of my watches. And a way to think back to a time when this was the only piece of technology I carried with me. A simpler time, without smartphones, without Apple watches. A time when the summers seemed to last forever, and everything was a little bit more special. A time that this watch will always take me back to.
There it is — the story of my first watch. How I came to lust after it, get it, lose it, and eventually rediscover and restore it! It’s a tale over 20 years in the making and one that makes this particular example of a ubiquitous watch very special to me. And who knows? Maybe after writing this article, which served as a way of gathering and assessing my thoughts and feelings about the watch, I will gain some newfound appreciation for it. In my experience, such is often the case. I know I’ll be wearing it today for sure!
How about you? What was your very first watch? Do you still have it? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments below.
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