Customising The Casio AE1200 ‘Casio Royale’Written by Joshua Yap
Bespoke on a budget? You bet.
First, let’s address its unofficial Bond-esque moniker. Die-hard fans of the long-running movie franchise might recognise that the AE1200 has a passing resemblance to the Seiko G757 5020 Sports 100 that Roger Moore brandished in Octopussy. In truth, no one can definitively pin down who first christened the Casio Royale (a wordplay on another 007 movie, Casino Royale) as such, but the name stuck, thanks to its online cult following.
While the Seiko model has been discontinued and can command more than $3,000 on eBay (with original box, tag and papers), the Casio doppelganger is a current production model and costs a fraction of the OG - 1/100, to be exact. I got mine from a shop at an old-school mall in Bencoolen in Singapore. While the watch comes in a range of colour and strap options, I chose the one with a steel bracelet.
This turned out to be the dream watch I never had as a teenager. That said, the functions are still useful to the adult me, including four time zones, five alarms, stopwatch, and accuracy of -/+30 seconds a month. Switching between time zones is a breeze, while a world map highlights the corresponding countries and an LCD analogue counter displays the home time. A definite plus is the old-school amber LEDs that light up the dial.
If I were to nitpick, its resin case with a silver-coloured coating is a head-scratcher. Why didn’t Casio make it in the same material as its bracelet? Another bugbear: the clutter of text on the watch. Most obnoxious are the words ‘WORLD TIME’ and ‘ILLUMINATOR’ printed on the case that distract from an otherwise sleek metallic look.
THE MODIFICATION PROCESS
Thankfully, one can easily perform a host of aesthetic modifications to the AE1200, which partly explains its appeal to digital watch geeks. Through forum postings and YouTube videos, the ‘Casio Royale’ community readily offers guides and tutorials, from removing the offensive text to reversing the polarisation of the LCD.
My weapon of choice for stripping the text is a bottle of Goof Off Heavy Duty spot remover. Rubbing the solution onto the case with a cotton bud, the words came off slowly but surely without damaging the metallic coating.
Emboldened, I went on to work on the upper dial. All it took was a Phillips head screwdriver to remove the caseback and, with a little jiggle, the entire movement popped right off, giving me access to the upper dial. Again, Goof Off came in handy in my quest to remove the texts I considered extraneous, namely ‘5 ALARMS’ and ‘10 YEAR BATTERY’. But I wasn’t done just yet.
I decided then to further personalise my AE1200 by removing one of the stepladder bars on the upper left side of the dial. As pointed out by some users online, the bars tend to cast shadows on the digital display, leading them to obliterate the bars completely. Frankly, I wasn’t bothered by the shadows but was keen to remove the upper bar so it would look just that bit more similar to the Seiko Sports 100 original.
That was where I had to improvise. In the absence of a well-equipped toolbox, I used a nail clipper to snip off the upper bar, removed the burrs with a nail file, and finished with, you’ve guessed it, a nail buffer. The result, while by no means perfect, could perhaps pass off as professional to the uninformed; that is unless one were to scrutinise it through a loupe.
By now, you probably can tell that I am no handyman or, heaven forbid, a watchmaker. However, the relative ease I experienced in my virgin foray into watch modification is making me consider adopting it as a hobby. I am already looking for other possible affordable models to tinker with, and I have the humble Casio Royale to thank for this.
This story first appeared in the CROWN's Festive Issue 2018. GET YOUR DIGITAL EDITION HERE!
Though he wasn’t inducted into the world of watch journalism by choice, Joshua was hooked by mechanical horological wonders in no time. Although he personally favours modestly sized, no-nonsense timepieces, he sometimes misses the outrageous mind-bogglers of the pre-Credit Crunch years. As he dreams of owning a modern haute horlogerie watch one day, he’s currently content scouring the Internet for vintage value buys.