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Review: Gill Race Watch

Questionable battery but simplicity, usability, and decent looks for a reasonable price

Cat masts, Venture Sailing Club RIP.
Cat masts, Venture Sailing Club RIP.


Gill Race Watch

Simple, usable, decent looks, questionable battery life

Gill Race Watch

Pros: Reasonable price, simple to use, decent looks, solidly built, replaceable strap, the retailer shows some class.

Cons: Questionable battery life.

$99.95 from Binnacle

Regular price: $110.00

Shipping: $10.90, free for orders of $199 or more.

I’ve only started racing last year. But my race record is skyrocketing. My results, in order:

The trend is clear. I get better each time I race. My plan to stay on this agressive path to #1 is to watch Dennis Connor videos, skip dessert, and wear a Gill Race Watch.

The Gill Race Watch (model W013) is water resistant to 3 atmospheres (100 feet/30m), has a big display for my not-so-young eyes, is ruggedly built, comes in a few different colors, has a modest price, and is sufficiently attractive to wear on the race course and casually on shore. It comes with a 2-year warranty if you keep your receipt.

I ordered the gray model from Binnacle. Gill’s MSRP is $110, Binnacle charged me $99.95, free shipping.

Packaging is simple: box, watch, manual, foam chunk. The paper manual is in English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish.

Right out of the box, a protective plastic film on the face demands action.


“REMOVE BEFORE USE.” Curious emPHAsis. The other instruction has normal emphasis but is more important: “Sleep Mode helps preserve battery life. Press any key to activate.”

Wait, ”preserve battery life?” The battery on my mechanical analog watch lasts 3 years. A digital watch should run for longer than that. I guess this battery saving mode is useful for the off season. I guess. Or something. Weird.

As you would expect from the next Dennis Conner, I obediently follow these instructions.

Dead battery, no joy.

Wtf, man. Pressing any of the “keys” gives nothing. The battery’s already dead. I don’t have the correct precision screwdriver to open the case, so I bring my new, dead watch to a watch store. Turns out it takes a CR2032 button cell. Eighteen bucks later, I’m back in business.

I emailed Binnacle about the dead battery and they quickly responded with an $18 credit the next time I order. Keep it classy, Binnacle.

In hindsight, I should have bought a precision screwdriver and battery instead for the same price. I’ll keep you updated on the battery usage.

The watch body is plastic. Mine is gray with lime-green accents. The display has nice constrast for reading clearly. The back is stainless steel, attached with 8 tiny Phillips screws. The body has a solid feel, with no flexing.

Striking a pose

It has a replaceable wrist strap, unlike a lot of other racing watches. The included strap is a sturdy, thick, somewhat stretchy plastic. It’s comfortable, doesn’t chafe, and hasn’t irritated my skin when wet. The buckle is beefy stainless steel.

Back of the watch and its replaceable strap.

There are five buttons around the edge of the body. They are decently sized and have enough distance among them to press with thin gloves. Maybe they could be a little harder to actuate. Just taking the watch off my wrist often presses a button. Somewhat acknowledging this light touch, Gill added a lock function to ignore accidental presses when in timer mode.

Speaking of modes, the watch has three: real time, alarm, and timer.

Real time mode

Real time mode shows the time, in 12- or 24-hours. It also shows day of the week, day of the month, and month. You can toggle between month-day or day-month.

Friday, 5pm!

You can also toggle the hourly chime, button-beep, and adjust the display contrast. But I honestly can’t see any difference when changing the contrast.

A nice touch: You can set the time accurately because setting the time doesn’t stop the seconds from counting.

Alarm mode

Use the Alarm mode to set a single, daily alarm. Simple enough. Not much to say about it.

Timer mode

Timer mode, aka Dennis Conner mode.

Dennis Conner wishes he had timer mode.

The multipurpose Start/Lap/Sync button does the heavy lifting for using the timer.

Another nice touch: The S/L/S button has a distinct color from the others. On my watch it’s green instead of white.

The timer counts down to the start time. While counting down, it beeps distinctively to signal how close I am to the final starting gun. Knowing the sequence of these beeps lets me devote my eyes to crossing the start line. For example, in the last 10 seconds, it beeps once/second followed by a solid 3-second beep for the actual start time.

When it counts down to zero—start—it then counts up during the race. While counting up, you can track laps as well as the entire race.

The timer can count down in the classic 5-4-1 pattern. You can also set it to count from a preset 5, 3, or a custom number of minutes you choose. You can set the timer to repeat the countdown for staggered start times.

To synchronize with the chase boat I just press the S/L/S button when I hear a shot. Pressing S/L/S the first time starts the countdown. Pressing it again synchronizes. The timer gives me a choice between syncing down to the next minute or round to the nearest minute.

For example, my club uses the 5-4-1 pattern. So when I hear the 5-minute shot from the chase boat, I press the S/L/S button to start the countdown. I don’t have to worry about being quick on the trigger for the 5-minute shot. So at the 4-minute shot, I press the S/L/S button again, this time to make the watch adjust its time to the 4-minute mark. At this point I’m confident that I’m synchronized with the chase boat. If I’m still not sure, I can wait for the one minute mark to press S/L/S again.

At night, you can use the luminescent backlight. It works well, with its light-green background glow. The display keeps is decent contrast when the light is on.

Green backlight racing machine.

This is my first racing watch, so I don’t have much to compare it to. The potential hard battery usage is, frankly, weird in 2018. But otherwise, I recommend it for its reasonable price, simplicity, usability, and decent looks.

Do you have this watch? Have you won the America’s Cup with it yet? Do you have a better watch? Let me know

At your service

Humbly yours,

Supreme Purser