Is this brand new Casio the one to unseat the best-selling watch in the world? Is this brand new Casio the one to unseat the best-selling watch in the world?

Is this brand new Casio the one to unseat the best-selling watch in the world?

D.C. Hannay

Everyone’s got one, it seems. The ubiquitous little Casio F-91W, that is. First introduced in 1989, this most basic of black plastic digital watches can be had for as little as US$12, and it covers the basics so well, that it sells millions of units per year, eclipsing every non-smartwatch in the world by a wide margin. It features a daily alarm, calendar, backlight, 1/100 of a second chronograph, and a seven-year battery life. In other words, everything you need, and nothing you don’t.

It measures a mere 35.2 x 38.2 x 8.5mm, weighs literally next to nothing (21 grams, to be precise), and even has a nominal 30 metres of water resistance. The diminutive everyman watch now comes in a range of colours, including the newest ones in summery translucent pastels.

Even my tech-savvy daughter has one, an import model in her favourite shade of yellow. The F-91W was designer Ryusuke Moriai’s first project for Casio, and to say he got it right the first time is an understatement, to put it mildly. With its winning formula of cost to features, it’s hard to imagine anything else putting up those kinds of numbers. That is, until a quiet drop by Casio started burning its way up the charts.

Enter the new LF20W (a super-clean reimagining of the 1985 AE-20W Twin-Graph), which pinged my radar in an Insta post about a week ago. It’s got a similar profile (37.8 × 33.7 × 8.6 mm) and its lightweight construction (23g) keeps with the F-91W’s, but the retro-futuristic look seems to be grabbing fans’ attention with both hands.

Firstly, there’s the display: bigger, bolder, and with an analogue face above the digital readout. It’s a look that recalls the cult-favourite from the AE1200 series — the WHD-1A World Timer, aka the “Casio Royale” — but with a cleaner, less cluttered aesthetic. Like the Royale, the new LF20W from the LF20 series includes comprehensive world time functionality, with 31 time zones, in addition to the usual time, calendar, and chrono functions.


And when compared to the sprightly Twin-Graph, the new watch is much lighter on the face graphics than its vintage inspiration.

The Spartan appearance of the watch face coordinates with the overall vibe of the case as well, with a look that nods to classic German minimalist design, not unlike the classic Braun housewares sketched by Dieter Rams. The crisp, clean angles are attractively proportioned, and less dated than the ‘80s-tastic original AE-20W. It’s more mature, more elegant, and more refined (as far as a $30 resin watch can be such a thing).

Even the first batch of colourways are more adult, with variants in pale celadon green, deep burgundy, soft off-white, and muted grey joining the basic black.

Additionally, the watches come with matching straps in plant-based bio-resins made from renewable organic materials. It’s a small yet meaningful step in the right direction, considering how much resin is used throughout Casio’s vast model lineup.

And at a list of US$29.95, the LF20W isn’t far off from the F-91W’s US$22.95 price point, meaning that at typical online discounts, your cost could be in the same ballpark as the current best-seller’s. That is, if it were available. It seems scalpers have snapped up every last bit of initial stocks, creating a circus not unlike when the CasiOak was riding its initial hype wave. I’ve seen them listed online at 4x retail, negating the value proposition, but hey, FOMO. I’m guessing that once the initial buzz dies down and supply catches up with demand (Casio certainly knows how to scale), prices will hopefully settle to where they should be. Once that happens, it’s definitely within the realm of possibility that sales numbers will skyrocket. Will the LF20W approach the unit-moving juggernaut that is the F-91W? Only time will tell, but I wouldn’t bet against it.