Whether you’re scaling K2 or just negotiating Knightsbridge can Timex’s "wrist-top adventure instrument" keep you safely on track? We strapped ourselves in to find out.
The WS4 serves up an altimeter, barometer, compass and thermometer, it's waterproof to 50m, has 100 hour chronograph for serious timings, has a tough rubber casing, INDIGLO night light and all the daily/weekly alarms you could need. It also squeezes in time telling (digital and analogue) and date.
Impressive, but nothing terribly exciting; the likes of Garmin and Suunto (and Timex) have been knocking out adventure specific watches for years. What makes the WS4 stand out is the screen (WS = Widescreen) and the effortless functionality. For once you can navigate your way around all the functions with ease, even in zero visibility with huge great mittens on.
The 3.7cm wide screen is split into four sections; there’s a clear analogue dial (shows time at a glance and also compass direction), large bitmapped area that displays names, time, modes, graphs, while a smaller segments displays numbers, lap times, the date, barometric pressure, etc, depending on the menu. Finally a small graphic in the bottom left gives you the temperature and a current weather graphic.
Lots to take in on one display, but there’s an ocean of space between each graphic making it easy to decipher all the info at a glance.
Finding and using each feature is also a breeze. The chunky mode button gets you to the altimeter, barometer, etc, and once there the on-screen prompts guide you through each. For example to set-up the compass the top right display asks you to rotate the watch twice before pushing mode to calibrate.
It’s up to you if you’d find an altimeter/barometer/compass useful but rest assured each worked a treat. The altimeter was accurate (standing on a desk even registered) and the progression graph a great touch. You can set altitude alarms, useful for keeping on track and hitting goals and record how long you’re at a certain height – essential if the oxygen’s getting thin.
The compass did as it should and was spot on with accuracy while the barometer proved a handy tool. Ignore the sunny/rainy symbols, you can look out the window for that info, but the Hg pressure display and history graphs can really help predict the weather – watch the numbers drop and you know you’ve got bad weather on the way, essential if you’re half way up Ben Nevis or on Bond Street without a brolly.
We were disappointed by the temperature gauge. It was too influenced by the heat of this reviewer’s wrist to be totally accurate. We had to take it off to get a proper read out.
In darkness the silver INDIGLO button illuminates the display in easy-reading neon green for about 3 seconds. We found it worked superbly in dark conditions but at half light the original display was often clearer.
It’s also available in black, blue, yellow, orange, and white for the fashion conscious.
We’re impressed by the WS4 but the one thing holding this watch back from greatness is the exact thing that makes it so easy to use: it’s flippin’ enormous. Measuring 5.5cm wide it isn’t heavy but it swamps even the manliest wrist. Pull on your Gore-Tex, strap on the Timex and head for the hills, but don’t (and trust us here) wear it down the pub.
It’d be harsh to call the WS4 the ‘My First Adventure Watch’ because it’s a serious bit of kit full of useful, potentially life saving widgets, but the huge screen and idiot proof settings mean even a total novice can make the most of the information on display.
Timex have gone out on a limb with the WS4 design and for out-and-out usefulness they’ve done a great job. The four-zone display gives the wearer a huge amount of information without a lot of fiddly button pushes. Even when you do want to get geeky with graphs and altitude timers most are just one or two presses away.
Our only gripe – if you wear it with anything other than an all-weather survival suit you’ll look more like an electronically tagged teen than a rugged outdoor adventurer.