While preparing for our family vacation, which included a morning at surf school, I realized I no longer had a rugged watch. I’d owned several over the years, including an Ironman that lasted from Basic Training through several overseas trips before finally succumbing to a broken strap and went missing somewhere in the desert. Surfing…salt water…surf watch? Freestyle is a company which has been making saltwater-friendly watches for many years, so I picked up one of their midrange models.
The($75-80 MSRP) has gigantic numbers for the main time, two time zones, two alarms, and the usual timer and stopwatch modes. What makes this relatively normal-looking watch stand out is the buzzer (hence the fairly blatant name). Where a typical digital watch beeps, the Buzz has the option of beeping or vibrating silently, or even both. Of course, the “silent” part is only true if you have it on your wrist when it goes off. Kat says she has been startled many times by the watch trying to vibrate itself off my desk, if I leave it at home when an alarm is scheduled.
If you’re not familiar with digital watches by now, you’re really unlikely to be reading a geek blog, so I’ll skip past the usual features noted above and discuss a few of the details that make the difference. First, the display is easily readable, even while kayaking down a river (tried it). The Buzz is rated to 100 meter water resistance; in the bizarro world of water resistance, that’s the minimum level for surfing. Unlike many watches, the Freestyle line all have water-safe pushers. This means you can actually use the buttons underwater. If you’re anything like me, though, you spend all your time surfing actually underwater, trying to avoid getting hit in the head by the surfboard. The vibrating alarm is powerful enough to be noticed even during strenuous activity, although I never sleep in a watch so I don’t know if it would wake you. While I picked up the silver version, there’s another one with a black case and the trendy photo-negative LCD (grey numbers on black background). The backlight is a typically bright and readable blue light, which illuminates the LCD rather than the background. This means the time glows, as contrasted with the older norm of a light shining behind the time.
There are few negatives about the Buzz, but they do exist. Many people like to use a countdown timer with a rebounding “count up” feature – that’s not available. The case is 46mm wide, which means it’s not for the dainty. It does keep The Boy from swiping my watch, so that may be a positive. The band, while nearly as durable as a track pad on a tank, is not easily replaced. The seamless look means you’re unlikely to find another band that would fit the watch as well, assuming the band it comes with ever breaks. Hey, it happened to the Ironman!
If you’re into surfing, sailboarding, or snorkeling, I highly recommend you check out the Freestyle line. The Buzz is a unique addition, and at around $50 street price, not too much of an investment.
Why you should jump: Easy to read display, strong vibration, durable and waterproof
What gives pause: Integrated band may be hard to replace, too large for some wrists