The Casio AE1200 is a watch that I have had my eye on for a little while, it is by no means an expensive watch and it has an excellent retro feel. The watch itself is popular not only for its price but for a more than passing resemblance to the Seiko G757 5020 Sports 100, now it is not an exact match but has the look and feel of this watch. So what is the appeal of the Sports 100, and why would watch enthusiasts want a similar watch? In one word, Bond. In 1983 the Sports 100 was the watch of choice for Roger Moore in the 13th James Bond movie Octopussy.
The Sports 100 is quite a rare watch to find in good condition and it commands a high price for a digital watch (often well above £800). So what is the Bond enthusiast watch collector to do when on a tight budget? In steps Casio with its retro styled AE1200, first released in 2012 it is widely available in a selection of styles and easily purchasable for under £30 (I picked up mine at Argos, it is currently at £19.99). The specific model in question for this review is the AE-1200WHD-1AVEF which comes with a stainless steel band.
Casio AE1200 – Summary
Case: Plastic resin, silver coated in parts
Case, Bezel & Crystal
The Casio AE1200 case is of a striking octagonal design, an almost square angular affair that feel straight out of the 80’s. It brings a functional almost utilitarian feel, that shouts its features straight from its face. At 45mm x 42mm it just about sits in the gents standard size watch bracket, but with is diminutive weight, just 50 grams, it sits light on the wrist (even with its stainless steel strap). Much of this is due to the mainly plastic resin design with the only real metal in the caseback and strap.
The case itself is presented in three layers, the top most layer is in a smooth black plastic resin, upon which the crystal sits, the second layer is a shiny silver coated plastic that travels down midway between the four pushers set at each side, and the final layer is a softer matte silver coated plastic that travels down and tucks under to meet the stainless steel caseback. The four pushers that are evenly distributed, two by two halfway down each side of the case sit proud, with beveled surrounds that sweep down and in from the sides, this has a pleasing aesthetic and makes them easy to find and operate. The lugs are drawn out and down from the second and third layers, they sweep downwards and are detailed with faux screw heads set either side of the “Illuminator” and “World Time” texts. The lug width starts at 18mm expanding to 24mm, should you wish to swap straps for an after-market one such as NATO, you may wish to purchase or modify such as strap to account for this expansion, an 18mm strap will work but it may look out of place.
A word about the case materials; coated plastics do have some drawbacks, mainly that over time the coating is likely to get chipped or potentially delaminate from the plastic underneath, although I have not had issue with this myself (and the watch is used as my gym beater) others have reported that the case is easier to mark that a comparative one made from metal (such as stainless) so this is worth considering. But as with all extremely affordable watches, this is a fair trade off against cost.
The crystal is of an acrylic or resin type, so hard wearing, cheep, but easy to scratch, not a major issue as this can be corrected with Brasso and a little elbow grease. It sits about 1mm proud of the top plastic layer and is flat, I have not encountered any lensing or distortion effects in general usage.
The case is rated to 10ATM, 100 meters (300 ft) water resistance which is good for swimming and snorkelling, you can’t take this watch diving but for most other water sports you should be fine, a more than admirable water resistance for a budget watch.
The caseback is made of stainless steel and is of a single piece construction, it is held in place by four screws and it unadorned with any elaborate decoration. In the centre of the caseback is the company logo, the model number, stainless steel text and the water resistance rating, all presented in plain small fonts.
Dial Hands & Movement
The Casio AE1200 has a purely digital dial whose presentation is via a liquid crystal display (LCD). To add a level of depth to a normally flat surface and to split the display into distinct different functions a black plastic overlay is employed. This overlay divides the face into the primary display, a world map with time zone, an alarm indicator and finally a digital version of an analogue watch face.
There is not a great deal to say about the digital watch face, the text and graphics are presented as black on white with the only colour coming from an amber back light that activates for 2 seconds when the top right pusher is pressed. The text is clear and easy to read both under back light and normal conditions, the world time indicator is a nice touch and it is fun if a little difficult to immediately see the indicated time zone. The “analogue” watch face does look good with its minimalist design and recessed black surround, I especially enjoy the racetrack second indicator constantly chasing round the outer track, disembodied from the other hands. From a practical standpoint the secondary time display stays set to your home zone even when you have adjusted the primary display to indicate a different location.
Powered by a Casio 3299 Module, with an accuracy of -/+30 seconds a month and has a 10 year battery life.
Contrary to the design materials of the rest of the watch the Casio AE1200 is presented on a stainless steel strap (AE-1200WHD-1AVEF has stainless steel other models vary). The strap is of a segmented link design held together with leaf springs so it is reactively simple to size without requiring specific tools. It has a single fold, dual pusher clasp which feels secure and unlikely to disengage of its own accord even when exercising or heavy lifting, the clasp is plain apart from the Casio name stamped into one end. Overall the strap is of a simple design but very functional and looks good, if anything it would have been nice if Casio has used the same stainless steel to manufacture the watch case, but again we cannot have everything at this price point.
In conclusion, have I been left shaken and not stirred or is there a spectre looming over this watch. Well puns aside this is a wonderfully functional fun and practical watch that has the added bonus of looking similar to a watch worn by the worlds most famous secret agent. Nobody (horologist or layman) is going to mistake this for a Seiko Sports 100 but it will hopefully put a smile on the face of the wearer and remind them of the watch from the film. It is unashamedly a throwback to the digital watch heyday of the 80’s (as are so many Casio watches) and is something that you can grab an wear without having to worry about, mine is almost exclusively used at the gym where at £19 I have no issues with it getting knocked or thrown around (no damage yet). For me the watch has performed admirably, it has kept good time, been fun to wear, easy to use and practical.
If you are after a cheep digital watch, with some 80’s style and you are a fan of Roger Moore then this is the watch for you, so hop in your white Lotus and go and pick one up right now.