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Review: TokyoFlash S-Mode Oberon LED Watch

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Unlike John Biggs or Flavor Flav, I am no timepiece purist. In fact, most watch lovers might consider me a heretic; in an age where every TV, DVD player, camera, and cellphone totes a clock, I’ve come to consider watches less of a tool, and more of an accessory. Hell, I once wore a watch with a dead battery for over a month.

As such, I’ve always been interested in TokyoFlash watches. With their varyingly complex designs of spiraling LEDs, they put the focus on the aesthetics aspect of a watch without sacrificing the time-telling functionality. Sure, it may take you a day or two to get used to each design – but each watch does the job, and looks damned good doing it.

As my first venture into the TokyoFlash collection, I opted for the S-Mode Oberon (¥16,900, or roughly $167 USD). I’ve been wearing it around town for about a week. What do I think? Read on to find out.

Initial impressions:

At 150 grams, the watch is right where I like it, weight-wise. It doesn’t feel light or cheap to the touch, nor does it feel clunky on my wrist.

The band’s default size could fit an ogre, coming it at about twice the size I needed. Though the pin-type links looked almost identical to the Fossil watches they had behind the case, the first store I took it to for a fitting looked at it like it was from the farthest reaches of space. Perhaps I shouldn’t have told them it was from Japan – I think they expected it to turn into a giant robot if they touched it the wrong way. The next store had no problem making the adjustment.

The face is quite susceptible to fingerprints which, seeing it’s glossy black, is pretty much unavoidable.

Reading it:

Because of its unique design, reading this watch requires a bit of practice. Pushing the top button once lights up the time (pushing it twice brings up the date). The outer circle is the hours – one light for each hour, 1 through 12. The inner most ring is minutes by groups of 10 – 1 dot means 10, 2 dots means 20, all the way up to 5 dots for 50. The middle ring is the single minute counter – 1 through 9. 3:26 would be 3 dots on the outside, 2 dots on inner most ring, and 6 dots on the middle ring. In the image on right, the time would be 5:19.

If it sounds complex, it’s only because its somewhat tough to put into words – after about two minutes with the watch, determining the time before the LEDs switched back off was no problem. After 2 days, it was as at-a-glance as the methods I’ve grown up using.

Reactions:

Unsure of the metric usually applied to watch reviews, I decided the best way to rate the watch would be to see what other people thought of it. Here are some of the reactions I’ve got so far:

  • Girlfriend, immediately after unboxing the watch: “Oooooh. Shiny.”
  • Friend, after seeing it light up the first time: “What the hell?”
  • Other friend, seeing the watch for the first time, sans time display: “*knocks on watch* Is it voice activated or something?”
  • Guy who adjusted the band: “So… how much weed did you have to smoke before you could read that?” (Yep – he seriously said that. You don’t know how odd it was to hear that in a fairly upscale jewelry shop.)

I showed it to a good number of people, and the reaction was fairly consistent: surprise or curiosity, followed by compliments. I’d take that as a good sign.

What I like:

  • It’s a very, very sharp looking watch. I could wear out to a day on the beach, or to a dinner party.
  • Comfortable weight, with a secure band
  • It’s unique, without being awkward or unwieldy. It definitely gets a reaction out of people.

What I don’t:

  • No way to force the time display to stay on.
  • There has been at least one occasion where pressing the time display button didn’t seem to do anything. If I pressed it a second time, it worked fine.

The Verdict:

While my watch collection could be dwarfed quite easily by that of some folks around these parts, I’ve got enough of’em to get me through a week or two without repeating. That said, the Oberon now sits amongst my favorites. It’s sharp, it’s unique, and it certainly turns heads. If you’re in the market for a sub-$200 watch and are looking for something that is as much a conversation starter as it is a timepiece, the S-Mode Oberon is a solid bet.

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