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Original Issue


Certain things make you feel smart. Remembering a mother-in-law's birthday can do it. Remembering a boss' birthday can really do it. And, occasionally, even buying something can have that effect. Casio, Inc., the maker of the F-200 timepiece, better known as "the Runner's Watch," is probably missing a marketing coup by not extolling the mental benefits and heightened self-esteem that accrue from the purchase of their product.

For instance, you can impress your friends by showing them how the F-200 keeps time in hours, minutes and seconds; how it displays the month, day of month and day of the week; how it has an AM/PM indicator; how it shifts into a stopwatch that measures time in hundredths of seconds, with a lap-time feature that enables the jogger to do all kinds of tricky timing; and how it has a night-light. The F-200 is shock- and water-resistant, and its black plastic case makes it so light that now and then you must check to be certain the watch is still on your wrist. After the demonstration your friends will reply, "Yeah. But how much does it cost?"

The answer is $29.95. And that really makes you feel smart—paying so little for something that is both functional and fun. With this watch you can easily answer questions like how long it takes for the elevator to arrive or how long you've spent in a traffic jam. Studying an F-200 may replace foot-tapping as a sign of impatience.

Practically speaking, the featherweight watch is ideal for joggers. In October's New York City Marathon seemingly half the field was wearing one, because the F-200 has become to running chic what stripes on shoes were before everyone and his President began wearing them.

The watch does have a drawback for some. Its control panel, though consisting of only three buttons, is just slightly less complicated than that of an airliner's cockpit. Reading the instruction booklet helps, but patience is required because the booklet is printed in four different languages: English, German, French and Spanish. It's important to find the language of your choice, because even if you have the wisdom to buy an F-200, without the directions you might never be able to operate it to its full capacity. Recently a colleague of mine praised the watch but complained that his did not have a night-light. As it turned out, it did have that feature; he just hadn't figured out which button to push.

Now that made him feel dumb.