Disclosure: I am not a watch person. My wrists are on the dainty side, so I find bigger watches cumbersome. Growing up, I hated that my watchband tended to make my skin stink after a few wash and wears. Today, I carry a cell phone, which does more than an adequate job of providing the time.
After the jump, find out which tide tool I prefer and why...Considering Rip Curl's watch boast a titanium and stainless steel body, the rugged timepiece is relatively lightweight and fairly comfortable. It is rated to 200m -- not something I need when I'm surfing, but could come in handy should you take up recreational freediving or *knock wood* get dragged down by a shark and live to tell about it.
The face comes in black or white. I had black (pic above). I can't really be sure, but based on pictures, the white face seems preferable in terms of functionality. Between a noticeable screen glare, dark face, and short backing light (3-5 seconds), I found it somewhat difficult to quickly read, especially some of the smaller icons like the tide direction arrow. Auto-luminescence would remedy this (I've seen cheaper Casio's with that feature).
On the plus side, and more to the point, the display and settings are relatively easy to grok. The watch's Automatic Tide System (ATS) features 200 preset breaks (100 less than Quicksilver's Harvard). I was able to quickly toggle my way to Mavericks, which isn't where I surf, but it's close. To customize for a different beach, from there, you need to program in the average time offset for the desired break (a bummer if your paddling out at lesser-known spots and/or have no idea what that even means). I should add, however, that all the pre-programmed beaches are not listed in alphabetical order, but by region (at least in the case of the West Coast). This is great if, for instance, you're on surf trip, heading north from San Diego to Malibu to Steamers in Santa Cruz.
Since the watch retails for $350-400, I'd argue some of these minor annoyances are less than minor -- especially if you consider tideApp not only provides comparable data, but is 100% FREE.
Granted the watch has a moon phase function, but so does tideApp. OK, the watch has a compass (nifty). But so do a lot of smart phone apps. Right, but can you take a smart phone out into the surf? No, but once you're out in the surf, how necessary are any electronics?
IMHO, and again I'm neither a watch person nor a hardcore surfer, data is only useful in the run-up to actual surfing. Since it still takes me a boatload of energy not to wipeout or get swallowed up by the white wash, I don't want or need the distraction of knowing that high tide is coming in an hour or that I'm gonna be 30 minutes late to work.
My opinion could likely change when I've started shredding (or been fired). For now, I'd rather save the $400, invest half in a new iPhone, download the free tideApp, and use the rest of the money on other surf gear, like a board bag, more dexterous gloves, or a smaller, $55 waterproof Freestyle watch. No way it'll handle the beating the Rip Curl could, but I wouldn't expect it to.