From media and entertainment trends, to automotive and fashion design, throwbacks are big business. But with a few rare exceptions, GearJunkie tends to prefer advances in tech and capability as opposed to nostalgia-based cash grabs.
But, here’s the thing with the new Casio LF20W, the latest sub-$30 wristwatch from the global leader in affordable timepieces: Despite its intrinsically retro look, nowhere on the company’s website does the watch boast about anything besides its own performance merits.
Yet, all the hallmarks of classics such as the F-91W and Casio Royale are on display. The familiar LCD numerals, the four-button setup and backlight, and even the digital/analog clock in the upper left-hand corner — everything about this watch screams “vintage.” And I had plenty of time to listen, as this particular loaner has been on my wrist for nearly a month and a half.
But looks aren’t enough to vault the LF20W into the halls of Casio’s vaunted classics. First, I had to test its ability to stand up to pain.
In short: To call the Casio LF20W a “modern classic” is a bit of an understatement. With its strong feature set, excellent pricing, and an interface that’s as simple to learn as it is to read, it stands as the embodiment of everything that’s made this brand a world leader. The downsides are few, but familiar — limited (though serviceable) water resistance, and a band that’ll be too small for larger forearms. But depending on the size of your wrist and appetite for timeless design, the LF20W may be the best $30 you’ll ever spend on a watch.
- Case size 37.8 × 33.7 × 8.6 mm
- Case material Resin
- Crystal material Mineral
- Band material Bio-based resin
- Weight 23 g
- Water resistance Not listed
- Outstanding modern/retro design
- Impressive feature set
- Casio toughness
- Narrow lugs limit band swaps
- Unlisted water resistance
Casio LF20W Wristwatch Review
I’m not going to hold you in suspense here. The LF20W is an outstanding new design. If you’re a fan of the styling and read the above pros and cons, you won’t be disappointed with your purchase.
But, let’s explore what makes this more than a simple mishmash of elements from established lines.
The ingredients behind this watch’s success spread across its four different screens. First (and largest) is the analog/digital clock in the upper left. This is a feature that, while you might not initially think would be especially useful, I found myself checking frequently. Its hands are always set to the watch’s main time zone, providing a constant point of reference, whether you set the bottom screen to world time, stopwatch, countdown timer, etc.
The numerals in this lower space are clearly defined, and the date window above remains nicely sectioned off, yet central.
Arguably, the least useful screen is the constant 10-second pie chart in the upper right, though I did find myself using it as an easy way to mark the passage of small chunks of time.
Another neat fact: In most modes, there are usually three operations happening between these screens. It’s a neat bit of visual tech that showcases Casio’s grasp of design, technical skill, and user interaction.
Look, I’ve been known to do some bad things to watches, especially on the budget end. And in order to make sure the LF20W lives up to its predecessors, it was only fair that it received the same treatment.
Not only did the watch suffer the daily hazards of work, chores, hikes, and bike rides, but it also endured several of my more rigorous tests.
First, the watch spent an extended amount of time in the freezer, after which I ran it beneath water that was hot enough to scald. This tests the module’s ability to handle thermal shocks, and the LF20W came through without harm.
Then there was the drop test, measuring its resistance to repeated second-story falls. When the watch shrugged off these impacts, I strapped it to the business end of a trekking pole and strolled a few miles through the forest. Again, zero trouble apart from a few scratches on the mineral screen.
Lastly, it was time for a trip through the washing machine. A full session of suds and spin and a quick tumble in the dryer, and the LF20W came out not only unscathed but also clean of the trail mud to which I subjected it.
Shortlist of Shortfalls
This last bit of testing leads to one of three complaints about the LF20W — its lack of a listed water resistance.
“Wait,” you might say, “isn’t that what the little ‘WR’ logo stands for?” Indeed it is!
But Casio’s official website won’t put a number to it, which means it lands somewhere below 50 m. Technically (and my personal testing aside), this means the LF20W is only rated as “wearable while water is being splashed but not under any pressure.”
Next, I’m a little perplexed as to why Casio chose to include bio-based resin in the band, but not in the rest of the case. This is a fairly minor quibble, but if you’re going to go partway with the eco-friendly thing, why not go all the way?
And speaking of wrapping around an issue, the band itself poses a bit of a problem. Don’t get me wrong, the resin itself is comfortable, and I have no complaints as to its durability. But it’s actually fairly short, and I’m worried that folks with a large wrist size will find themselves squeezed beneath the last notch or two.
And take a look at the way the lugs join the body. Because of the narrowness of the joint, swapping in another band (like, a NATO, perhaps) will result in something that looks almost comically skinny.
Conclusion: Casio LF20W Review
Full disclosure: Before Casio agreed to send the LF20W my way for testing, I told them I’d likely keep this watch. I figured one of two things was going to happen — either it would fail in testing, or I’d fall in love with the design and decide to return them a check instead. And though the company refused to let me pay for the watch, I’m very glad the latter eventuality came to pass.
But, what about you? Is the LF20W worth $30 of your personal cash? Well, it was worth $30 of mine. And while I’m less than 2 months into the watch’s release, I’d argue that the LF20W is already one of the best budget-friendly offerings in the company’s lineup. It blends the globetrotting aesthetic of the Royale with the straightforward utility of the F91W and F108.
In closing, let me (ironically) make a callback. The Casio LF20W isn’t a throwback, or even a grab for nostalgia. It’s timeless, all on its own.