The Watch That Shook the World: Casio's Unintended Shadow

An exploration into how Casio's F-91W, a watch celebrated for its affordability and reliability, inadvertently became a tool in the hands of terrorists, altering its global perception.

The Watch That Shook the World: Casio's Unintended Shadow

Friday February 02, 2024,

3 min Read

In the realm of timekeeping, the Casio F-91W digital watch is an icon of simplicity and reliability. Launched in the early 1990s, this unassuming piece has gained a reputation for its durability, affordability, and basic yet practical features. However, its widespread popularity and accessibility have led to an unexpected and dark association – its frequent use by terrorists, particularly those involved in bomb-making.

The Innocuous Design

The Casio F-91W is far from a luxury timepiece. It boasts a simple digital display, a daily alarm, an hourly time signal, and a 1/100 second stopwatch. Its design is minimalistic, with a small rectangular screen and a black resin band. It’s water-resistant, not waterproof, and it operates on a basic CR2016 lithium battery which can last up to seven years. Retailing for less than $20, it’s the epitome of a budget watch, accessible to anyone, anywhere.

The Unfortunate Association

The watch’s association with terrorism began to surface in the early 2000s. Reports indicated that it was being used as a timing device in improvised explosive devices (IEDs). The simplicity of the watch, coupled with its availability and low cost, made it a go-to choice for individuals crafting homemade bombs. Disturbingly, its presence on the wrists of detainees at Guantanamo Bay further cemented its reputation. It was reported that approximately one-third of the detainees captured in Afghanistan and held in Guantanamo were wearing a Casio F-91W or a similar model at the time of their arrest.

The Global Impact

This association has had far-reaching consequences. Individuals spotted wearing the watch have been subjected to additional scrutiny at security checkpoints, and possession of the watch has been cited in legal proceedings as a contributing factor to suspicion or guilt. The brand itself, Casio, has been put in an uncomfortable position, its product inadvertently linked to heinous acts despite its intention for everyday, peaceful use.

The Manufacturer's Stance

Casio has publicly addressed this association, stating that the company “abhors the use of its products for nefarious purposes.” However, there is little the company can do to control or limit the use of its products after they are sold. The F-91W, due to its affordability and availability, continues to be sold in large numbers across the globe.

The story of the Casio F-91W is a poignant example of how everyday objects can acquire unexpected and unwelcome meanings. It underscores the reality that the intentions of a product's design can vastly differ from its eventual use. While for millions, the F-91W is just a reliable, affordable watch, its dark association with terrorism is a reminder of the complex, interconnected world we live in, where meanings and interpretations can shift dramatically in unforeseen ways.