The tricky question of adequacy

On Wednesday, A lapse of journalistic integrity on the part of a prestigious broadsheet newspaper led to a Tweet from the esteemed @TimDavies_UK:

Yeah, that’s right. The humble Casio F-91W. Quoth the Wiki: “Introduced in 1989, it is popular for its simplicity, reliability, and unpretentious clean design. As a result, it is still in production with the same design.” As an affordable timepiece, it’s pretty much beyond reproach, but as an object of desire, in a world obsessed with image, it barely registers a needle twitch on most people’s wantometer.

Let’s be honest, this endorsement from Mr. Davies and, if he’s right, the massed ranks of the RAF’s crack aviators seems pretty substantial. I’ll add my own seal of approval, too;  I’ve had a black Casio square on my wrist pretty much uninterruptedly for nigh-on 30 years. It’s cheap, unerringly accurate, classless and ought really be all the watch anybody ever needed.

Except it isn’t. Far from it.

We’re a fickle, wretched society. We get all turned on by miraculously complex yet entirely unnecessary mechanical movements. Cogs, gears and – in some cases – pulleys that are almost atomically tiny and precise. We love them and appreciate them for the delicateness of their assembly and the passion of their conception. And, of course, we dig their image and prestige. We’d all love a Breitling, a Breguet or a Patek Phillipe (even if we say we wouldn’t), but, if we knew what was good for us, nobody would need anything more than an F-91W on our forearm.

I got to asking myself, what is the F-91W of cars?

Let’s see if, between us, we can reach some kind of consensus. How much car do we truly need? Has the optimum amount of automobile ever been offered? Is it still available today? And, most importantly, would – or could – we really be content with it?

About RoadworkUK

RoadworkUK is the online persona of Gianni Hirsch, a tall, awkward gentleman with a home office full of gently decomposing paper and a garage full of worthless scrap metal. He lives in the village of Moistly, which is a safe distance from London and is surrounded by enough water and scenery to be interesting. In another life, he has designed, sold, worked on and written about cars in exchange for small quantities of money.

40 Comments

  1. You can get them cheap with a ton of miles on them and they just don’t die. The eight generations especially in the 97-2000 guise are hard to kill.

    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/08/2001_Toyota_Corolla_S_in_silver_front.jpg

  2. You can get them cheap with a ton of miles on them and they just don’t die. The eight generations especially in the 97-2000 guise are hard to kill.

    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/08/2001_Toyota_Corolla_S_in_silver_front.jpg

    1. The Oxfordstan certainly has longevity on its side, but I’m not sure it fits the Casio ‘dependable’ brief. 244 is a far closer fit, with the added bonus of a decidedly old-money image.

      1. Fair point, the Ambassador is “the other reliable”, kind of like a Lada Nova/Riva: It might not be trouble-free, but it can be fixed with a hammer, spit, and some tape just about everywhere you might want to go. The Casio is reliable, proper.

    2. I would agree on the Volvo 200 Series, except that I genuinely like them. I’m trying to think of something that would be functionally adequate, but not desirable. That 245 is cool as hell.

    1. Most generations of Corolla are all the car anyone needs – the 10th generation’s only common defect was the digital odometer couldn’t tick over 299,999 units of distance, an issue many of them actually encountered. Adequately sized, cheap to run, and completely lacking in pretension.

  3. The Ford Econoline (RIP) and the Chevy Express fit the bill, in production for ages, widely used and mostly fit for the purpose.
    Relating back to the watch topic, adequate and inexpensive is often the right answer. A $30 Jansport daypack with a lifetime warranty is a better choice for schoolbooks than a $150 Gregory and similarly $40 Carharts are a better investment than $200 Fjallravens for most jobs.

  4. I have a 2000 Jetta TDI. It fits the “all that I need, nothing I don’t” bill nicely for me. Though there are a few weeks out of the year that it wont make it up my street because of snow. Then again maybe if I’d just put snow tires on it, it might work fine.

    1. Picture a reaction completely devoid of surprise. Except, I figured you might just reference a front-yard sun dial beside your front walk.

        1. When I had a land line it could tell you the time via a talking clock number, however that service was shut down a few months ago in Australia, even though it was still getting 2 million calls per annum. Wikipedia tells me a couple of US states still have it.

        2. When I had a land line it could tell you the time via a talking clock number, however that service was shut down a few months ago in Australia, even though it was still getting 2 million calls per annum. Wikipedia tells me a couple of US states still have it.

    1. And, I just now noticed that smalleyxb122 said the same thing two hours earlier, but my picture-book ADHD brain didn’t spot the comment.

      +1, smalleyxb122!

  5. Hey I’ve got a watch from that family, doesn’t have the same face on its silver body, but definetly has the same non-movement as the buttons do the same things.

  6. I’d expect a G-Shock or what Mr. Davies says in a combat scenario, not a precious, sensitive mechanical contraption that even has something called “complications”…

    I saw a Rolex ad recently, using the CERN as a backdrop for a watch they call “shielded” against magnetism. As if a PhD student (those do the work down there) would spend 9kUSD for a watch that doesn’t make sense at work because a) it would scrape the detector when working in/on it, b) no-one is allowed inside the tunnels when the crazy fields happen, and c) there are no specs wrt. actual flux resistance, so you don’t know what the alleged shielding is actually good for.

    The ETA2893-2 is a time-zone-indicating movement that has a lot of good features (hacking, hand-wind, chrono-specs), so that Breitling is something like a Toyota engine in a brand-priced device, with a dollop of “limited edition”. This makes the Breitling a…. Lexus Corolla?

    So what car is a somewhat nostalgic, formerly up-to-date but still perfectly fine and cheap car? The G-Class doesn’t work, it’s too expensive, as are Morgan’s products. The Jimny was updated recently, is the Lada Niva still in production? Mitsubishi Minicabs?

  7. Ford Falcons were everywhere (in the USA mainly, but also Australia and Argentina) back in the 1960s because they met the needs of so many people. Cheap to buy, roomy, comfortable, reliable, inexpensive to run and maintain. I remember family gatherings where there would be 4 or 5 of these parked in the driveway and in front of our house. And they just ran and ran…

  8. I’d expect a G-Shock or what Mr. Davies says in a combat scenario, not a precious, sensitive mechanical contraption that even has something called “complications”…

    I saw a Rolex ad recently, using the CERN as a backdrop for a watch they call “shielded” against magnetism. As if a PhD student (those do the work down there) would spend 9kUSD for a watch that doesn’t make sense at work because a) it would scrape the detector when working in/on it, b) no-one is allowed inside the tunnels when the crazy fields happen, and c) there are no specs wrt. actual flux resistance, so you don’t know what the alleged shielding is actually good for.

    The ETA2893-2 is a time-zone-indicating movement that has a lot of good features (hacking, hand-wind, chrono-specs), so that Breitling is something like a Toyota engine in a brand-priced device, with a dollop of “limited edition”. This makes the Breitling a…. Lexus Corolla Beige Edition?

    So what car is a somewhat nostalgic, formerly up-to-date but still perfectly fine and cheap car? The G-Class doesn’t work, it’s too expensive, as are Morgan’s products. The Jimny was updated recently, is the Lada Niva still in production? Mitsubishi Minicabs?
    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/4/49/Mitsubishi_Minicab_009.JPG/220px-Mitsubishi_Minicab_009.JPG

  9. There can be no direct analog of the Casio in the car world because watches don’t need to meet safety and emissions regulations. Even long running models have usually had substantial revisions over the years, even to meet 3rd world standards (e.g. the Ambassador swithced to Isuzu engines), but in terms of “no-more car than you need”, not so much an individual car, but an entire class is the embodiement – Kei cars.

    You can have sports cars and serious off roaders, you can have vehicles that can carry up to six adults, or some bicycles, or a domestic appliance, which is more than a lot of supposedly functional cars can do. Do you really need anything more than a 660cc turbo and 3.4×1.48 metres of road space?

    Like the Casio, they are well engineered, functional, reliable and require no real sacrifice, unlike some 40/50 year old designs that have managed to just about hang on.

    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/b/b2/Daihatsu_Hijet-Cargo_Cruse_S331V.JPG/2880px-Daihatsu_Hijet-Cargo_Cruse_S331V.JPG

  10. The Casio weighs almost nothing at all, which I am thinking might be a factor to consider when G-forces start to rise.

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