Thursday, April 2, 2009

Back to Dive Watches - the Tissot Sea-Touch

OK, back from a brief hiatus to my search for the perfect dive watch.  This week, instead of going back into the history books, I thought I'd profile a "brand new" watch from Tissot.  The pictures are from the Tissot ads, rather than of an actual watch, but I didn't think you'd mind.

The Tissot T-touch line has been around for a while now (probably about 10 years).  They're Tissot's version of the ABC watch (altimeter, barometer, compass), with a slick little twist - the watch crystal is a "touch screen".  The typical t-touch has an altimeter, a barometer, a
 thermometer, a digital compass, an alarm, and a chronograph mode.  To select which mode you want, you activate the screen by pushing a button (the touch screen isn't always on - that would cause lots of false activations), then pointing to the section of the screen labelled with the function you want.  For example, if you wanted to use the thermometer
 function, you'd push a button, then press on the crystal at about the 10:00 mark.  The temperature function would show up on the lcd screen at the bottom of the watch.

I've always liked these watches, but never really saw the need for one.  First, I don't need an altimeter.  I've never needed one.  Second, I don't need a barometer.  Wouldn't know how to use it. Third, the thermometer function is near useless on just about every ABC watch, since the temperature sensor is (invariably) close to your skin.  So you always get false readings that are somewhere between the ambient temperature and 37 degrees celcius.  I admit a compass would be cool, but not really necessary - when am I ever going to need a compass and not need a GPS?  I can usually guestimate direction based on the time and the direction of the sun.

I've also never bought one because, although I like techy watches, and I love ana-digi watches, I never really liked the style of these.  To me, the non-rotating bezel, with it's direction indicators, seemed a bit over-done.  And although I like ana-digi movements, there's something about the
 location, or the size, or something, about the LCD screen on these watches that kind of turns me off.  It's really cool to press the screen, watch the hands twirl around, and tell people where North is, but that really wasn't enough for me to buy this watch.

The only one I ever considered was the Silen-T, which is Tissot's "silent" alarm watch.  Very cool features, that I would probably use a lot.  Involving being able to tell the time without looking at the face, and a silent alarm.  I still think this is a great looking watch with amazing features, and will probably buy one at some point...  But I'll leave that watch for another day.

Well, just recently, Tissot added a new watch to their T-touch line, that's made me consider these watches again.  And it's a dive watch.  It probably won't win "best dive watch ever", but it's a pretty cool watch, so I thought I'd talk about it today.

The names of Tissot watches always put a smile on my face.  There was the T-touch (T for Tissot).  The Silen-T (the touch screen watch with a silent alarm.  Now the Sea-Touch, which is kind of a cute play on T-touch.  The Sea-Touch uses the t-touch technology, but instead of being an ABC watch, it's got a bunch of features useful for diving.  It still has the compass (the coolest, and marginally most useful of the ABC features), and a thermometer, but instead of an altimeter or a barometer, it has a dive computer.  The dive computer automatically activates once you dive, and records your depth every 15 seconds.  Once you hit sea level again for more than 5 minutes, the dive computer stops, and the information gets transferred to the dive log.  Very cool feature - now you've got a record of your diving times and depths.  You can quickly access your maximum depth, your dive duration, and a bunch of other features.

You know, with this kind of information available, it would have been nice to incorporate other features, such as an alarm when you hit a pre-set time or depth, but I guess I'm asking for too much.

The Sea-Touch has another nice dive feature that is absent far too often from dive watches - the buttons work under water.  OK, the tactile touch screen is deactivated, but the normal buttons work.  The watch is water resistant to 200 m, which is quite respectable and sufficient. 

Aesthetically, the watch looks much nicer than the other t-touches, mostly because of the classic "dive" elements.  It has a proper bezel.  That rotates.  That indicates something useful.  I'm not sure what happens after 30, though - suddenly the numbers jump to 75.  Maybe the numbers are used in conjunction with the hands to indicate depth, but that would be stupid, given that the bezel rotates.  And I'm not sure why the minute increments end at 30, but the orange part of the dial goes to 50.  I guess I'd have to say that the first half of this bezel (up to 30) is useful, and the rest is just weird.  

Oops - that last paragraph was my bad - it helps to read the manual!  When in dive mode, the elapsed time shows on the LCD, and the depth in meters (or feet, depending on the bezel chosen) is indicated with the minute hand.  The hour hand indicates dive speed!!!  (in minutes per minute or feet per minute) so you can easily calculate decompression!!!  This using the white segment of the dial.   So I've changed my mind - the bezel is quite cool.  The only problem I have with it now is that it looks like it rotates (it's even got little ridges to make it easier to rotate with gloves on).  Given how the bezel works, and what it indicates, it probably shouldn't rotate.  

I do love the look of this watch a lot more than the other t-touches, but compared to a traditional dive watch?  I'm not so sure.  I like the use of orange, both in the orange watch and the more conservative black watch that has orange accents.  The face is a traditional black, but the hands are a little less legible than most dive watch hands.  I'm not sure if orange on black is the most legible combination.  The LCD is backlit, which is nice, but only for the information that's on the LCD - it doesn't help read the time.

Over all, I do like this watch.  It's in the consideration set.  But I'm not certain it's the one dive watch to rule them all.

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