Current State of Calculator Watches

Some might list calculator watches right up there with pocket protectors and calculator holsters as past geek-chic and well into retro-tacky territory. I can’t speak to that, not being known for my fashion sense. However, I can and do disagree with those that question the utility of calculator watches.

Having worn a calculator watch for some time now, my experience has been very positive. Although I initially had some trouble pushing the tiny buttons, accuracy has improved to the point where I don’t think I make any more typos on it than I would on a normal-sized calculator. I estimate that I average about 1-2 uses per day. Typically it’s for some little thing at work (figuring clock ratios, calculating bits in flop arrays, etc.) Since it’s normally simple arithmetic, the time between wanting a calculation and knowing the answer is usually about 5 seconds.

Using it has become second-nature – it’s integrated into my normal design/planning process. I realize I need a calculation, I do it on my watch, I get back to work. With a normal calculator I would have wasted time digging around on my desk (assuming I was even at my desk and not in a meeting). With my cellphone I would have wasted time reaching into my pocket, reading my tweets and text messages, then finally opening the calculator app.

While it obviously wouldn’t be useful for higher math, I typically use PC software for that sort of thing anyway. So if you’re looking for something to help with day-to-day arithmetic, one of the calculator watches below might be for you. Although in the past there have been many manufacturers, Casio is now the undisputed king of calculator watches at every price point.

CA53W-1 ($25)


CA53W-1The CA53W-1 is the classic calculator watch. Features include an 8-digit calculator, water resistance, dual time, single alarm, stopwatch, calendar, and 5-year battery life.

This is the calculator watch that I currently own, and I love it. It’s classic, chic, and cheap. The best part is the incredibly slim profile (only 7mm thick!). Having said that, the most significant downside is the lack of back-light.

If you’re not into the retro/nerd look, the LDF40-1 is available for $5 more in blue and orange with an almost identical feature set, but these are 4mm thicker and look kind of chintzy to me.

DBC30-1 ($70)

DBC30-1The DBC30-1 is the cheapest of Casio’s Databank line to actually include the Databank feature, allowing you to store names and phone numbers (not all that useful). Total feature list includes 30-page Databank, 8-digit calculator, backlight, 5 multi-function alarms, stopwatch, calendar, and 2-year battery life.

To me, the big feature here is the backlight, although I wouldn’t mind the additional alarms. Although it is 2.5mm thicker than the CA53W-1, that’s still pretty thin.

CMD40B-1T ($80)

CMD40B-1TThis one is just goofy from a practical standpoint. It’s basically an $80 CA53W-1 minus the waterproofing and with a worse (15-month) battery life… plus a universal television remote control. I guess you might could use this if you’re always losing your remote control in the couch cushions? Or maybe to control the TVs in bars and waiting rooms?

Personally, if I’ve got $80 I’m spending it on the…

DBC310-1 ($80)

DBC310-1This is the mid-level Databank watch. Full feature list is 300-page Databank, EEPROM memory protection, 8-digit calculator, backlight, world time, single alarm, countdown timer, stopwatch, calendar, and 2-year battery life.

The big features here are world time (24 time zones, daylight savings on/off) and the countdown timer. If you use the Databank (seems useless to me) you will benefit from the additional storage space and EEPROM backup in case of dead battery.

EDB610D-8C ($90)

EDB610D-8CThis is the high-end Databank watch with calculator. Full feature list is E-Data memory (for email addresses), 300-Page Databank, 8-digit calculator, backlight, world time, 4 multi-function alarms & 1 multi-function alarm with snooze, countdown timer, stopwatch, calendar, and 2-year battery life.

This watch has it all. It’s basically the DBC310-1 plus two new features.  The E-Data memory lets you store up to 50 email addresses (seems about as useless as Databank to me). More important is that the 5 alarms are back, and this time one of them has snooze.

And that’s basically it. Although there are plenty of watches (such as the EF527D-1AV) which fall into the broad category of calculator watch due to the inclusion of a rotary slide rule or similar device, I can’t imagine myself using one of those for day-to-day calculations.

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