10 June 2008

Tide Watches, Part II

Over a month ago, I bought a new tide watch to replace the analog Rip Curl Pacific Tidemaster I've have for a few years. The pickings are slim for girls' tide watches, unfortunately, and I have very small wrists so guys' watches are just too big. The silver Tidemaster looks pretty, dressy enough for work, but it's always been hard to read, since the hands don't contrast enough with the mother-of-pearl face. And forget reading it at night; the luminescence wears off quickly, and only lights up the outer ring of dots, not the hands, which is useless. Worse, the tides are not all that accurate, only ballparkish, with the best correlation if I set the tide dial during the middle of a moon cycle (between new and full).So I decided to go digital, and Rip Curl still seemed to offer the best choices. The womens' Waikiki Tide (above right) is much more readable than the Tidemaster, which is a plus, but unfortunately the face is not all that small and it has a wide band, like they just molded a men's band from white plastic instead of black. Hello - it's a girl's watch, how about sizing it for girl's wrists? I must have misread the description because I thought I'd be able to set the tides to a certain location, but instead I have to program a future high tide and it just times it from that. So it's no more accurate than the analog. With all the computing power they can jam into an iPhone, I don't understand why they can't get more features into a watch. And make it smaller.

Well, it turns out they can, and Freestyle has, the Tide 3.0G (above left). In Part I, did say I'd never buy a Freestyle watch because I found their ad insulting, but after Chad from Freestyle left a comment, I decided not to hold their ad agency's poor wording against them. And I think that was a good decision. In a way it was fortunate that Rip Curl makes a defective product, because I ended up with a much better watch from Freestyle.

Here's what went wrong with the Rip Curl Waikiki Tide. The watch comes in white or light blue, neither of which got me excited, but I bought the white one. Within weeks of normal use, I noticed the exterior of the band was looking gray and dirty. I tried to clean it with various products but it still looked like crap, so I contacted Rip Curl to ask if there was something else I should try. The company responded with this:
"Unfortunately nothing can be done to restore the band back to its original color besides replacing the band. Its nothing that your [sic] doing wrong. The light color of the band causes it to get dirty alot easier than most bands."

I was surprised that they were seemingly admitting to a design defect, but it still left me stuck with a dirty-looking watch. And what - I'm supposed to send it in to Rip Curl once a month to have the custom band replaced? Against their protests, I'll return the watch to the online retailer who sold it to me, and try to get a credit from Visa.

I stopped by REI after work yesterday and picked up a black Freestyle Tide 3.0G. It's way better than the Rip Curl. First, it's preprogrammed with years of tide data for many beaches. Locally, the choices are Ocean Beach and Santa Cruz, with Mavericks thrown in just for the wow factor I suppose (since the number of women - or men for that matter - who need that information is slim indeed). You can downselect a bunch of favorites to easily switch between locations. And you can press a button to advance through upcoming and past tides too, which is very handy. Thus far my only complaint is that the plastic band is stiff and doesn't conform well to my tiny wrist.

My favorite feature, which is purely gimmicky, is on the Big Time display. Big Time increases the font size so the time fills 2/3 of the face, a plus when you need reading glasses like I do. The top 1/3 is left open for a shark fin that "swims" by at the start of every minute - to the right on even minutes, and to the left on odd ones. It's silly, but I know I'll be watching for it when I'm stuck in boring meetings.

The saga continues in Part III.


  1. Will this watch give me the tides for Tybee Island in Georgia? Can you set it for anyplace?

  2. Here's a list of beaches. Tybee's not one of them, but you can program an offset.