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Oakley D1 Sport Watch.
By Tom Demerly.
Read this first about our reviews

I love watches. I also love technology. And, I love good design. It is rare to see a marriage of all three.

There is a point in space and time where experience, innovation, tradition and newness merge into something called perfection. You don't see it very often. When you do, it is something worth celebrating.

Oakley has arrived at this point, in no uncertain terms, with the D1 Sport Watch.

I review lots of products and have been a product reviewer for 19 years. I can only remember one or two other occasions I have needed to call on such superlatives.

Bottom line: The Oakley D1 Sport Watch is as close to perfect as I have ever seen a product in its category.

I've worn lots of sport watches: Timex (many versions of their fine Ironman watch and their Expedition watches), Casio and Casio G-Shock, Freestyle, Nike, Animal, Polar and others. Most of them have their strong points and a group of trade-offs to go with them.

First off, whoever designed the Oakley D1 spent a lot of time wearing and using other watches. The D1 seems to incorporate the best aspects of all of them, with a few new simple, elegant refinements.

The D1 is a large sized, sport chronograph with an LCD display available in five colors with two display colors. The display is either black data against a light silver field, or silver data on a black field. You can actually adjust the contrast level of the display. I fiddled with mine and wound up turning up the contrast just a bit. The watch I tested for 90 days, in training and travelling and in 5 triathlons is the blue and silver D1 with the black numerals on silver display. You can read it in bright sunlight from any angle and the electroluminescent night-light is easy to read in low light. You press a button to actuate the light.

The D1 has five modes with several functions per mode. The modes are time, chrono (stopwatch), data timer and alarm. I'm not impressed with watches that have a long list of pointless functions I'll never understand or learn. I need the functions I'll use all the time and no more.

The time zone in the D1 is simple and brilliant. Top line is time; bottom line is day date. Simple. Hit the main select button and you go to time zone "2", another time zone you can program in. I make a lot of calls throughout the day to California. My D1 is set with time zone 1 on Michigan time, and time zone 2 on California time. Are the guys at Kestrel in their office yet? Hit the select button and it tells you. Hit the select button again and it gives you the two time zones simultaneously, time zone 1 on the top line, zone 2 on the bottom line. This is the best display for flying from Detroit to L.A. and seeing both your times zones to be sure you can make your connection out of L.A. or wherever. Aside from being a sport watch, this is a great watch to travel with.

The heart of the D1, and perhaps the best reason to own it, is the chronograph (stopwatch) function. I'm so picky about stopwatches for running and swimming; I never found one I really liked until the D1.

Specifically, I like the display and the way the lap button works: when you hit the start button the top and bottom display begins running simultaneously. Once you hit the large lap button again the top display shows your lap time and the bottom display shows the total running time. Why is this a big deal? Let me tell you:

You're out running. You hit the first mile marker and touch your lap button. The lap display tells you your did your first mile in 7:30. Now the lap display starts running from 0:00 and you see your progress through your next mile. Why is this a big deal? If you know you're running about a 7:30 pace you can tell how far you are from the next mile marker by looking at your watch. At 03:45 you know you're half way to the next mile marker. Now, hit the next mile marker and touch the lap button again: 7:52. Uh oh, you're slowing down. It tells you only the information you need to know right on the large display. On my bike in a triathlon, it is actually easier to read my D1 than my Cateye cyclocomputer. A small display on the top of the screen tells you what lap you're on.

To view the data from each run, go to the next mode, "data" and page back and forth through your lap times. It also displays your best lap time and total.

Something that bothers me about sport watches is the difficulty figuring the damn things out. The D1 was simple to understand and I could get through the instruction manual quickly. It was even fairly interesting. Some of it is admittedly baloney (why to the have the definition for "point cloud mapping" in there?) but that is the extraneous, entertaining crap in the glossary. If you have used the Timex Ironman 100 Lap watch, this watch will seem pretty familiar with some key refinements.

I use the three different timers for various things, but I do use them. If I am doing a set of 100s at the pool, I use the timer I set to "2:00/REPEAT". The timer runs to two minutes, sounds an alarm and starts over. Perfect for intervals on land or sea.

The alarm is pretty straightforward and woke me up early enough so I wasn't late for my wave start at Mrs. T's. There are three alarms so I set one at 4:45, 4:47 and 4:50. I hate over sleeping.

The functions of the watch are streamlined, easy to understand and elegant. It gives you the information you need at a fast glance with no confusion, and information is well formatted and easy to recover. Everything you need, nothing you don't.

About the nuts and bolts of the watch: The case is made of aramid filament reinforced composite. This is more than fancy plastic. This is the Bakelite of the next millennium. I've beaten the hell out of this watch. It can take it. After three months in the bike shop, swimming, in and out of pools, miscellaneous bumps, dings and scratches the watch looks new. Nothing is scratch proof, but my watch has been through a lot and has no scratches at all. I've also dropped it a few times. Another thing I like about the D1 is the button arrangement. I have never had my watch accidentally stopped or lap button accidentally pressed while banging into other swimmers in a crowded swim start.

The shape of the watch is perfection as well, a beautiful, flowing, ergonomic design. There are no gimmicks here, just beautiful, flowing, elegant and functional curves. It is a simple shape that rest easily on your arm while your wrist moves through its natural range of motion. Bend your wrist all the way in any direction and you'll find out how comfortable it is. I have a small wrist for a guy and the watch is a very minor amount large for me, but not too much. A smaller version, the D5, is intended for people who want a smaller watch.

The case of the watch rides on a "chassis" of Oakley's unique "unobtanium" polymer. This is a weird evolution of rubber and plastic, on of those weird materials you see in "Wired" magazine. The stuff is soft and pliable, but doesn't stretch. It gets tacky when wet so the watch stays put on your wrist. This is the same stuff Oakley uses on their earstems and nose pieces of their performance eyewear such as the M Frame Pro. The buckle is stainless steel. I take the watch off at night and there are no signs of the band beginning to split at the holes for the buckle.

At the beginning of the review I said this watch is as close to perfection as a product can get. That means I do have a few suggestions: First, they need some new colors already. There was a small production run of "gun metal" watches not made available to the public. Hopefully that color will be available soon. Some really hot colors, such as bright red with yellow accents, would be fun. The "hours" display in the stopwatch is really small and a bit tough to read, but most people don't do events that take hours. Chances are, in an Ironman distance race unfolding over 9-15 hours you have a good idea of what hour you're in anyway. If you don't, the information is on the watch, you just have to look for it.
I really liked the ability turn on the night light on some Timex watches by "flicking" your wrist. That must be a Timex patent, because the Oakley watch doesn't do it and it seems like a great idea. That's a short list of minor, nearly non-existent criticisms. Basically, the thing is near perfect.

Many times when you review a product you have to be delicate. Frankly the product may suck, but you can never come out and say that- the manufacturer puts up such a fuss you have to pull the review anyway. It's nice to be able to not mince words in a review. This watch is close to perfect. It is better than any other sport watch I've tried, and I've tried a lot of them. If you buy a D1, you'll really like it.

 

© Tom Demerly, Bikesport Inc.
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