After ten years of reliable service, my Timex Expedition watch was finally starting to show its age. To be honest, it was not just the watch that was showing a bit of wear and tear, my eyesight not being what it once was, I was having trouble making out what appeared to be the ever shrinking digital numbers on the watch face, particularly in bright sunlight.
Even at night, and with the backlight turned on, I was having a hell of a time seeing the numbers.
Funny how big and bright those numbers were just a few years ago.
I did a quick search for outdoors or sport type watches, and quickly realized I had my work cut out for me in trying to find a replacement that would do the job for me both practically, and from an ophthalmologic standpoint.
The selection was mind boggling, and prices ranged anywhere from $20 to one made by Zenith, called the Defy Xtreme Tourbillon, that cost twice as much as my first house.
Among its many features, the Tourbillon promises to continue ticking away at depths of 3,300 feet, and for a mere $143,500 it’s clearly a terrific bargain, considering the MSRP is $205,000. I guess if you can afford this watch you can afford to buy your own submarine, which is where the 3,300-foot operating range could come in handy.
Many had more dials than the cockpit instrument array of a 747; while others had so many buttons sticking out of each side they bore a striking resemblance to one of those big, round sea mines. Some claimed to make you run, ride your bike or climb mountains faster, and then there were those that could help you navigate around the world, predict the weather, and tell you how high above sea level you are while displaying both tide schedules and moon phases.
I missed the one that had the built in espresso maker, but I’m sure its out their somewhere.
Hey, I just wanted a basic watch I could see clearly in bright sunlight, and when it got dark, be able to tell the time without having to remember which of the twenty buttons I had to push to turn on the backlight, or expose it to a light source for an hour or more to charge the luminescent paint on the numbers and hands.
After three months of looking at what seemed to be every watch ever made, I finally decided on a Luminox, Series II, Navy SEALs Dive Watch. This Swiss made watch has a large face that is easy to read by day, and the hands and hour markers have tiny micro light gas capsules inserted into them that are charged with Tritium gas, making them very easy to see on even the darkest nights – no batteries or charging with an external light source required.
So what exactly is Tritium you may ask?
Well, Tritium is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen. This versatile isotope is used in both hydrogen bombs – yes, really - and self-powered lighting, called betalighting. It’s currently used in firearm night sites, exit signs and watches, to name just a few of its commercial applications.
Not surprisingly it’s rather hard to come by, so it isn’t exactly cheap, selling for around $30,000US a gram.
And not to worry, apparently it’s perfectly safe. I can attest to the fact that my wrist does not glow in the dark after having removed the watch.
My Luminox has proven to be a great watch, but greatness comes at a price. They start at around $250, and depending on the model, can range into the thousands. While very durable, you may want to think twice about dropping that kind of coin on a watch, particularly if your going to be subjecting it to any serious abuse on a regular basis.
So I went looking for something less expensive that I would be more comfortable using on a day-to-day basis, particularly when hauling equipment and gear in and out of our camp, doing some construction work, or otherwise using it in situations where it was likely to get constantly banged around.
As luck would have it I came across a brand of watch called TRUGLO.
Like Luminox, TRUGLO is a Swiss company that makes a range of watches at various price points, and every model features easy to read faces, and Tritium illumination.
My most pleasant surprise was their Switchback model, which for the money, may be the best value out there for a basic, no frills outdoors or sport type watch – assuming you can live without the espresso making feature or don’t own a submarine.
This watch, which is actually made in Switzerland - not China like just about everything else on the market today – has the following features:
- Multi jeweled Swiss quartz movement.
- A light, strong, carbon reinforced polymer case.
- Is water resistant to 50 m.
- Shows the date.
- A large, easy to read face.
- Multi- colored Tritium gas illumination, and
- A NATO style tactical-grade woven wristband.
At first the wristband proved to be something of a challenge, but it didn’t take long to figure out. One of the advantages of this type of band is that it can be adjusted to fit wide range of sizes. For example, when bundled up in cold and/or wet weather, rather than having to peel back several layers of clothing to see what time it is, this band gives you the option of wearing the watch on the outside of your sleeve.
With all of these features I’m willing to bet you think this watch is going to cost at least $200, if not more – well think again.
While it lists for $190US on the TRUGLO website, a Switchback could be found for as little as $74US! *
I bought mine on eBay, and with shipping the total came to just over $80US. Prices do vary significantly, so it really does pay to shop around. Because most ship from the US, pay close attention to the shipping charges. While mine shipped for just under $6US, one dealer was going to charge almost $50US.
So if you’re in the market for a basic outdoors or sport type watch that is well priced, strong, durable, does not weigh a ton, is readable under virtually any light conditions, and by the way keeps excellent time, look no further than the TRUGLO Switchback.
For more information on TRUGLO watches, check out their website at:
It would appear as though TRUGLO is no longer in the watch business, although they apparently continue to make hunting optics and the like. That said there may still be a few of these watches left on either eBay or through Amazon.
In the event you cannot find any, I would recommend that you take a look at what Luminox has to offer at : www.luminox.com
* Best price found at the time of publishing.
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