Gives a whole new meaning to "Terror Watch List"
September 28, 2008 9:42 AM   Subscribe

The Casio F91W is a cheap, common digital watch which, as described by Casio themselves, has a "tried and true style great for casual wear". It has a fairly unremarkable set of features: water resistance, a light, an alarm and a calendar. There is, however, one undocumented feature that makes this particular watch special – it can be used as evidence that you're a terrorist. More info at Wikipedia.
posted by HaloMan (43 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Astounding. Sometimes I feel like we're living in a dystopian science fiction piece. How can anyone actually believe that a Casio watch is evidence of terrorist affiliation?
posted by sonic meat machine at 10:12 AM on September 28, 2008

It's great to see logical fallacies at work in a real-world setting. It really brings the symbols to life.
posted by chorltonmeateater at 10:12 AM on September 28, 2008 [4 favorites]

Crap. I have a couple Casios - not this model - because they have that nifty atomic clock syncing. Which would be useful, I guess, if you needed split-second synchronization. Of course, there's the fact that everyone carries another network-synced time device in their pockets.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 10:14 AM on September 28, 2008

It's a brilliant terrorist test. Patriots would buy American.
posted by djgh at 10:18 AM on September 28, 2008

So all the cool hipster kids, they will be wearing these yeah?
posted by polyhedron at 10:30 AM on September 28, 2008

Watches are nothing but trouble, anyway...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 10:37 AM on September 28, 2008

I hear that 90% of people who are arrested for drunk driving have eaten carrots within the past 24 hours.
posted by Richard Daly at 10:39 AM on September 28, 2008 [2 favorites]

Do you know how many timepieces there are in the Soviet Union?
posted by pracowity at 10:39 AM on September 28, 2008 [2 favorites]

I wore one of those the entire time I was in the Navy. Seems like they could make the same argument for almost any piece of portable electronic gear (cellphone, laptop, GPS) that could be imagined to be used as a remote trigger. What a frighteningly stupid place we live in.
posted by doctor_negative at 10:43 AM on September 28, 2008

I take this kind of news as evidence for the sheer brilliance of the idea of America. The founding fathers were way beyond mere genius because the America they created has survived the Americans that populate it. That is some hardcore social engineering.
posted by srboisvert at 10:59 AM on September 28, 2008

Well, it might help you build a bomb, but you still won't be able to trade it for a night's stay in a cheap motel.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 11:21 AM on September 28, 2008 [2 favorites]

People still use watches?
posted by Memo at 11:27 AM on September 28, 2008

I've worn this watch for the last ten years. This could explain the coordinating orange jumpsuit and 4 x 3 cell.
posted by theCroft at 11:33 AM on September 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

People still use watches?

Not me! I haven't worn a watch for years -- like I always say, things don't start until I get there anyway...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 12:04 PM on September 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

And to think I was sporting terrorist gear through most of middle school. I just hope the DHS doesn't learn about the gummi bracelets or parachute pants!
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:19 PM on September 28, 2008

Heh. I have this exact model and love it. It's cheap, durable, has a fantastically loud alarm and is great for traveling in developing countries.

$12 at amazon!
posted by xthlc at 12:29 PM on September 28, 2008

Woot! I never wear a watch! Safe am I!
posted by Samizdata at 12:44 PM on September 28, 2008


can we lock this guy up?

on a serious note, though, the next time i fly i plan on donning the jallabyah and flashing the casio like it's big buck in swingtown time. some aviators and a barrio buster on my shoulder blasting 'rock the casbah' should totally camouflage me from tsa's right-pointing wall eye.

posted by artof.mulata at 1:01 PM on September 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

HaloMan is trying for another 5K-comment thread, and I approve.
posted by emelenjr at 1:10 PM on September 28, 2008

John le Carré has a fascinating article in the current New Yorker -- unfortunately not available online -- entitled The Madness of Spies. It posits that both individual spies and intelligence agencies in general are prone to a specialized form of collective insanity:
The superbug of espionage madness is not confined to individual cases. It flourishes in its collective form. It is a homegrown product of the industry as a whole. Is a cure at hand? I doubt it. The most down-to-earth citizens from the real world, appointed to oversee the spooks' activities, turn to clay in their hands. Faith in spies is mystical, fuelled by fantasy and halfway to religion. They're a protected species in our national psychology. Our banks and financial services may collapse, our economy may be going through the floor... the cost of fuel, energy, and water rising by the weel, but our spies are immune to all of it. Never mind how many times they trip over their cloaks and leave their daggers on the train to Tonbridge, the spies can do no wrong.
Trained to be constantly on the lookout for double-crosses, hidden evidence, and near-invisible patterns of conspiracy, spies and interrogators will begin to see them everywhere, whether they exist or not. Even in Casio watches.
posted by ook at 1:17 PM on September 28, 2008 [8 favorites]

this should have read thus: fta: Williams said. "You give me a half-hour in a supermarket and I can blow up your garage."

wtf? who knows... my apologies to the reading and literate world.
posted by artof.mulata at 1:31 PM on September 28, 2008

Williams said. "You give me a half-hour in a supermarket and I can blow up your garage."

For fuck's sake, why is this Williams walking around free? Why the hell isn't he in Diego Garcia with wires taped to his balls at this very moment, and which one of you fuckers dropped the ball on this whole Williams mess?
posted by Naberius at 2:10 PM on September 28, 2008

A friend of mine bought an entire box of the infamous F-91Ws after reading about them. He gave me one, and I rather like mine.

Oddly, he picked them up for about $8 a piece, but when in Cambodia he came across knock-offs for $6. Just goes to show the sad state of the country where they are forced to sell impostors of the world's cheapest wristwatch.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 2:28 PM on September 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

ooh, good thing I've cleverly disguised my casio in a deceptive layer of green nail polish. I hope they don't figure out that it also holds 30 phone numbers, or they'll be after all my friends too!
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 2:42 PM on September 28, 2008

I've been looking for a new watch, and that article read like a nice testimonial for Casio....I don't want digital, though, so I guess I don't get to be a terrorist.
posted by dilettante at 3:10 PM on September 28, 2008

Bringin' on more than two lighters? Give 'em Gitmo.
Pocket knife? Gitmo.
Timex digital watch? You better believe that's a Gitmo.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:35 PM on September 28, 2008

Oh crap - just ordered a Casio "geek" watch online last night - though, not this model.

This is not just profiling - this is "classist" profiling. Think about it for a sec - Casio keeps older models going not just for retro stylism hipsters - but because they are now incredibly profitable - all the R&D, tooling, etc are complete. Sell em to people outside of the North American/European market at a reasonably affordable price and make a crapload of profits.

Except - because they are ubiquitous in the wrong places (ie - not North America/Europe) they now become suspicious. I'm sure if the suspects had $150 Casio's that wouldn't be suspicious, right?

Or do they have a point? Are these watches like "gang colors" and popular because they have been used in terrorism?
posted by jkaczor at 4:24 PM on September 28, 2008

> Or do they have a point? Are these watches like "gang colors" and popular because they have been used in terrorism?

You got your logic backwards.

These watches are used in terrorism because they are popular. Same reason Timothy McVeigh used a Ryder rental truck: was it because it was the most popular american terrorist vehicle of choice? No. It was because it was what suited his needs and he could get.

And really, outside of bomb squads cleaning up after and terrorist cells who are making the bombs, I don't know many people who would actively associate the Casio with Al Qaeda.

Think about this: You want to use the most common, easiest to acquire parts, for anything you are making for a covert operation. Someone custom ordering a single Omega watch to a remote village in the Afghanistan hills is going to draw attention (or not, we probably send them by the crate to our war lord buddies in exchange for all those terrorists they have rounded up). You use the stuff you already have laying around. Or is already on your wrist.

This is what happens when an organization is given the green light to find justification after the fact for their actions, instead of following a proper judicial procedure. Smedleyman does a better summary of it in another thread.
posted by mrzarquon at 6:23 PM on September 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

I really hate this country. They've gone completely nuts. Canada here I come!
posted by mike3k at 7:18 PM on September 28, 2008

No, that can't be true mrzarquon. Everyone knows Ryder trucks are specifically designed to explode.
posted by graventy at 9:56 PM on September 28, 2008

A nice blog entry on the f91w and the watch has its own facebook group.
posted by mecran01 at 10:21 PM on September 28, 2008

"How can anyone actually believe that a Casio watch is evidence of terrorist affiliation?"

Because by not buying expensive watches, you're not contributing to the economy, hence you're helping the terrorists win!
posted by Effigy2000 at 10:54 PM on September 28, 2008

I bet if you checked, all those guys had shoes on, too. Know who else had shoes? (No, not him. Famous shoe bomber Richard Reed...)
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:30 PM on September 28, 2008

heh this used to be my favourite watch - bought em cheap every time i went to visit family in the middle east. Owned about 7 of them but they kept getting destroyed by water (rain, forgetting to take it off when swimming, etc.) And the strap mechanism was very low quality - that little piece kept breaking off.

A year or two ago I upgraded to the casion W-43 H model and have found it quite superior.
posted by spacediver at 11:44 PM on September 28, 2008

I really hate this country. They've gone completely nuts. Canada here I come!

Canada's going the same direction. It's not different enough up there anymore. To be safe, we now need to go further up.

Space elevator, maybe.
posted by rokusan at 2:06 AM on September 29, 2008

Oh for fuck's sake. How is the larger US population still putting up with this shit? For that matter, how is the world putting up with it. Can the rest of the world get together and liberate the fine people of the USA from this complete insanity.

If they are wearing the watch they obviously aren't using it in bomb building! Or what, is the argument that they bulk-buy them for bombs and the naughty terrorists swipe a few from the equipment store? Better hope their boss doesn't find out!
posted by sycophant at 2:15 AM on September 29, 2008

mrzarquon: "Think about this: You want to use the most common, easiest to acquire parts, for anything you are making for a covert operation."

Great point. I'd also like to add the following (disclaimer: I'm no bomb-builder, but I have a little experience in electronics and a Mythbusters-fan level of knowledge of explosives): you cannot make a bomb by shoving a watch into a lump of C4.

To trigger a bomb electronically a circuit has to be completed which allows electricity to flow from a battery to a blasting cap, which sets off the main explosive. A watch battery cannot supply sufficient voltage to set off a cap, so at least some very simply circuitry is required - a relay or a transistor which is triggered by the watch. And here's the rub: at this point you have a circuit that is build to take a simple, weak, electronic outside signal to trigger the explosion; any simple, weak signal you supply will do. You don't need a specific kind of watch to provide it. Anything that gives you a change in voltage will do, be it another type of watch, an electronic egg timer, an analog watch with two wires soldered to the hands, a computer that sets a parallel port pin to 1...

Of course focusing on a certain model would make things easier to explain - but as soon as you possess enough knowledge and materials to create a bomb with a Casio timer it would be trivial to change the design to include another watch or something completely different as a trigger.
posted by PontifexPrimus at 2:18 AM on September 29, 2008

I have about 3 of these. I always buy them when i see them cheap. My favourite watch for travelling. (ie its nto a worry if it breaks or you loose it.) but then i've always been a bit of socialist. so these days that probably means i'm a terrorist.
posted by mary8nne at 5:00 AM on September 29, 2008

I found to my surprise that I was wearing one of these watches, so I subjected myself to "enhanced interrogation" to see if I was a terrorist. Imagine my surprise when I confessed (to myself) my involvement in the planning and execution of a whole swath of terror attacks!

I am now in the process of sending myself to Guantanamo Bay.
posted by kcds at 9:02 AM on September 29, 2008

Boy am I going to laugh when it turns out this whole thing is just a viral ad by Timex:

See that guy with the Casio? Terrorist. Real men... patriotic men, wear the watch that can take a lickin' and keep on tickin'.

Because seriously, who could believe that we would be dumb enough to use something as ubiquitous as the world's cheapest watches as some kind of a terrorist identifier, that would be crazy, right?.. Right?!
posted by quin at 9:46 AM on September 29, 2008

Well, it's a good thing I switched my allegiance to Swatch last year.
posted by bettafish at 2:33 PM on September 29, 2008

The Le Carré article that ook mentioned (thanks) about espionage madness seems to be available on the Daily Telegraph site.

I not only wear an F-91W but once disassembled one to replace the battery (a CR2016). If I were paranoid I guess I'd start worrying about hand chemical residue tests to identify people who've opened an F-91W. but I don't think that's possible anyway. Instead, of course, they'll be using mass surveillance and network analysis to make different but equally bogus inferences.

As for the watch: the battery does last ages. I forget how long I had the first one before the battery needed replacing, definitely over 10 years, I think more like 15. The main problem is the rubber wrist straps which eventually go hard and curved, but that's okay if you have a cheap source of replacement casio watch straps (in my case a guy with a stall in the town market).

And as spacediver says above, the strap attachment points are fragile, little protrusions of the plastic casing. Soon after I replaced the battery on my long lived original I knocked it and the one of the little nubs broke. I considered trying to glue it back but it's just too small, so I finally bought a new one.
posted by Slogby at 4:32 PM on September 29, 2008

I've sworn by this model for years! Thanks for the post. The only problem is that the bands break pretty easily. The watch, however, just keeps chugging along. Wait--this makes me a terrorist??
posted by umbú at 12:53 PM on September 30, 2008

« Older Time zones   |   The path to 'victory' Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments