The Best Watch Available Today Costs Just $20

The Best Watch Available Today Costs Just $20

Today we’re checking out a watch that I think is a genuine contender for the title “Best Watch of All Time,” in the Casio AE1200WH. We’ll be putting this claim to the test comparing it to some of the most impressive and popular watches in history to see how it comes out on top of them all.

Watch the Video Review

It’s easy to get fixated on the allure of mechanical watches, and for a long time I overlooked Casio, mistaking writing them off as kids watches. But the reality is that when it comes to budget watches Casio is rightly regarded the best brand you can possibly take a look at. I now find myself wearing these cheap plastic Casio watches more often than anything else in my collection. They’re kind of like the jeans and sweatshirts of the watch family.

Introducing “The Royale”

Today we’re checking out the Casio AE1200WH, also known as the “Royale”, which offers the best bang for your buck out of any watch that I’ve ever seen. Something that really fascinates me about horology is that watches with complications used to be only for rich people, and yet thanks to the advance of technology and companies like Casio you can get an incredibly rugged watch that is jam packed with features for next to nothing.

The Casio AE1200WH  has a 10 year battery life, an excellent led backlight, five alarms, world time, a countdown timer, a stopwatch and a perpetual calendar. On top of that its rugged and reliable, with a solid 100M of water resistance meaning it’ll not only be fine in the shower, but also a wide range of water sports activities. And because this is a watch from one of Japan’s most iconic brands, it has an effortless retro charm. The AE1200WH makes this incredible range of features accessible to anyone in the world who has $20 to spare, and because of that it makes its case for being the best watch ever made.

The Competition

1. The Ultimate Luxury Watch

Patek Philippe reference 5204r

If this watch is going to earn the title of greatest of all time it’s going to have to get through some stiff competition, starting with the Patek Philippe reference 5204r. This is one of Patek Philippe’s grand complication watches and features a mechanical movement that has a split-second chronograph, a perpetual calendar and a moon phase. This thing not only is it an incredible feat of engineering it’s a true work of art. But if you want to buy this watch the retail price is over three hundred thousand dollars.

Now part of that price is due to the fact that it’s made out of gold but a large part of that cost is for that mechanical movement. Before quartz watches were invented the only way to get features like this was to spend thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars. Don’t get me wrong to create a watch that has a perpetual calendar a moon phase and a split-second chronograph that’s run by little springs and gears that doesn’t require a battery or have a computer inside is an amazing feat of engineering and miniaturization. So how could this little $20 Casio AE1200WH possibly be better than the Patek Philippe?

Well actually it is objectively better in many very significant ways the Casio AE1200WH is more functional, beating the Patek Phillipe’s duplicating two of the Patek Philipe’s 3 complications, and then adding 5 alarms, a count down timer and a world timer. The Casio AE1200WH is far more durable, embarrassing the Patek Phillipe’s meager 30M of water resistance with it’s impressive 100M. The cheap resin case and quartz movement also mean that it’s going to be far more shock resistant than the fragile Patek. The Casio AE1200WH is also more accurate, more comfortable, easier to read and most importantly it’s fifteen thousand times cheaper than the Patek.

Before the quartz revolution it would have been completely unthinkable to get a watch like the Casio AE1200WH for such an insanely low price. This watch has made features that were previously the exclusive realm of high horology available to the masses.

2. The Smart Watch

Apple Watch

OK, I hear you say, if technology and functionality makes the Casio AE1200WH better than high horology time pieces of the past, doesn’t that mean that the smart watches of today are better than the Casio AE1200WH? It might have five or six useful complications, but the Apple watch has virtually unlimited “complications,” in the form of apps. And Apple is an iconic brand in its own right, known for their own excellent design. How can the Casio AE1200WH compete with that?

There are a few key areas where the Casio AE1200WH still beats the Apple watch, and make a strong case for it being a better watch. The first is in durability, something that the Casio excels in. The Apple watch on the other hand features a massive screen right across the top of it that is liable to get cracked or crushed. And while it’s nice that it has some a basic level of water resistance at 50 meters, the Casio AE1200WH has a far better 100 meter water resistance rating.

Price factors into this as well. If (or when) you break the Apple watch you’re out at least $400 whereas in the unlikely event that you find a way to damage Casio AE1200WH you’re only out $20.

The final nail in the coffin for the Apple Watch is when you compare the convenience of using the it to the Casio AE1200WH. Due to the limited battery life on the Apple Watch you’ll need to remember to charge it almost every day, a ritual that’s somehow a step back even from hand wound mechanical watches from 100 years ago. The Casio AE1200WH on the other hand features a 10 year battery life, meaning that you won’t have to think about making sure it has power until your 1st grade son is about to graduate high school.

3. The Previous G.O.A.T.

The Casio F-91W

OK, I hear you say, fine, cheap Casio’s can’t be beat. But doesn’t Casio have an even cheaper, more iconic watch in the Casio F-91W? The F-91W can be found for as cheap as $15, and the form factor of the Casio F-91w was arguably the watch that first brought digital watches to the masses. Without the F-91W, there would be no AE1200WH, so from standpoint of heritage the F-91W edges out AE1200H.

This is true but, I just don’t like the F-91W. It’s too small for most adult wrists, the backlight is absolutely terrible and it only has 30 meters of water resistance.  Sure it’s cheap, but for just a couple dollars more I can get a watch that fits my wrist better that has a better backlight, better water resistance and more features. For me the world time function on the AE1200WH seals the deal. Functionally the Casio AE1200WH does everything that the F91-W did and does it better while keeping the cost nearly the same and creating an even more distinct style. The low cost, high functionality and iconic look of the Casio AE1200WH in my opinion makes it the peak of Casio’s line of watches.

4. The Chinese Homage


OK, I hear you say, but what about Chinese watches? Aren’t Chinese homage watches matching the specs, duplicating the design and coming out at a fraction of the cost of the most popular watches today? Even the lowly $20 Casio AE1200WH hasn’t escaped the notice of Chinese homage brands, with Skimae offering a watch that looks nearly identical to the Casio AE1200WH but coming in at half the price.

So if you go for an homage of the Casio AE1200WH, can you really get the same features for less money? Well, no.  It may look like a less expensive Casio AE1200WH, but it doesn’t have close to the same features. The Skimei only has one alarm compared to Casio AE1200WH’s five. The Skimei does have dual time, but the Casio AE1200WH beats this with full 31 city world time function with a working map. The Casio AE1200WH also bests the Skimei in water resistance. Finally, while Skimei may make a decent watch for the money, at the end of the day it’s still just a copy of a far better watch. Casio has a much longer brand heritage and a reputation for durability and longevity that Skimei just can’t compete with. It’s just not worth saving $10 to get an inferior copy when the original is so affordable.


And that’s why I rank the Casio AE1200WH as the greatest watch of all time. Now, I’ll admit, some of this article has been a bit tongue in cheek. The Casio AE1200WH isn’t a perfect watch. I sometimes find myself getting lost in it’s multiple screens, and daylight savings time changes always present an annoying challenge. Heck, the Casio AE1200WH isn’t even my favorite cheap Casio digital, that distinction goes to the humble W-217H, a watch that I find myself wearing a lot more than the Casio AE1200WH.

But all that aside I think that the Casio AE1200WH still deserves to be considered the greatest watch of all time because no other watch makes such a great range of features available to such a large number of people. Thanks to the Casio AE1200WH everyone has access to an awesome, durable watch from one of the greatest watch brands in the world.

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