The fascinating story of the Casio F-91W

Humble beginnings, simpler times, nostalgic memories and for some, sinister uses.

Casio’s legendary F-91W is one of the champions when it comes to nostalgic value. Releasing outside of Japan in 1991 at a very affordable price, these watches adorned the wrists of many a youngster (myself included) passing through some form of childhood and/or adolescence in the 1990s and beyond. What was once futuristic styling is now seen as retro-futuristic, but the appeal is still there.

And as a supremely cheap timepiece, the F-91W became a logical choice for all manner of pursuits:
A first watch for a young son/daughter.
A replaceable watch for those in trades (who didn’t want to buy a G-Shock just yet).
A cheap beater for weekend warriors going hiking, biking, motorcycling and so on.
A no fuss option for the utilitarian wanting a low cost option with long battery life.
A gateway drug into a spiral of watch collecting.

Many more uses have come and gone over the years, with the competition in the cheap watch category giving consumers a plethora of options to choose from. None ever quite conquered the F-91W, though. They still remain a fun piece to buy, own and wear.

Casio F-91W review

It turned out that Casio’s cheap utilitarian wonder also became useful in a way they didn’t plan for. Nor a way they would intend for.

At one point, the F-91W acquired a nickname of the ‘Taliban Special’. The reason is said to be that the watches were so cheap, sturdy and reliable, terrorist organisations handed them out to all recruits, additionally utilising them as bomb timers.

It’s said that for a long time, passing through an airport while wearing one of these watches increased the likelihood of a ‘random’ search tenfold. It’s also said that purchasing a quantity of these timepieces in bulk was a great way to land yourself on a federal watch list.

However, that’s not the experience most of us would have with the humble F-91W. For many of us it’s a sign of simpler times; memories of childhood or adolescence. No frills, no fuss, no worries.

I don’t remember what age I was when I had my first one of these, or even how I acquired it, let alone what happened to it. But I still carry a vague memory of having one, and that memory lives on, occupying a happy place in my usually jumbled mind.

Casio F-91W review

It’s no surprise then, that when I first began to develop an adult interest in watches a few years back, the first thing I did was to go and buy another F-91W. It was a familiar starting place to me, and a cheap one.

No worries about smashing it on things at work, or riding a motorcycle, or playing sports with it on. Replaceable, yet largely resilient; the only things that ever really go wrong with these are the lugs snapping.

And though I don’t wear my F-91W that often these days, usually preferencing my Omega, my Dan Henry 1962, or my Casio A500W if thinking digital, I still enjoy throwing on the humble beginnings every now and then.
And I’d never dream of getting rid of it.

Get yourself a brand new one on eBay for as low as $15.

Casio F-91W review
Casio F-91W review

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With content features ranging from appearances on popular menswear hubs (The Rake, StyleForum, Put This On) to French perfume newsletters and university course readings, Sam is a writer, designer and enthusiast in the fields of menswear and fragrance.

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