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Tool Review

REI's Quest watch makes time visible in the dark

Date: 6/12/04
Tackle type: Electronics
Manufacturer: REI
Reviewer: Zander

Total Score: 6.83

Introduction: REI is a one stop source for many outdoorsman, and while they no longer sell fishing tackle they do retail a lot of the gear necessary to reach those backcountry fishing holes. It is always easy to lose track of time when wetting your line, and the REI Quest watch is designed to help anglers stay up to date in a wide range of conditions.

REI Quest Watch Specifications

Watch Case material Stainless Steel
Band Material Polyurethane
Weight 2.6oz
Face Colors Available White, Silver, Black
Sizes Mid (1 inch face), Large (1.5 inch)
Water Resistance 100 Meters (330 Feet)
Fastener Stainless buckle
Date Yes (on Large Size)
Additional Features Luminous Hands, Night Vision™
MSRP $75.00

About REI: REI stands for Recreational Equipment, Inc. and was started by mountain climbers Lloyd and Mary Anderson in 1938. The original goal of the REI consumer cooperative was to purchase high quality ice axes and climbing equipment from Europe, as such gear was in short supply locally. As REI grew so did the variety of outdoor gear available to co-op members. Today REI boasts some of the largest and nicest stores, not to mention a easy to use e-tail site on the web. In addition, the REI staff is well trained, and typically ardent outdoorsman themselves, always willing to lend advice and personal experiences in a effort to help you make the right gear decision for your unique needs.

The face of the REI Quest Watch is easy to read but the date window is awfully small

The first time I saw the REI Quest was in one of the well lit local stores. I was to embark on yet another backpacking trip in search of alpine born trout when it occurred to me that my current watch was both extremely heavy and really was too expensive to risk damaging in the field. The Quest looked like a excellent alternative as the watch is designed to austere outdoor conditions, featured a Night Vision™ light to help tell time in the evening, was water resistant, and bore a price tag well under a hundred dollars. Needless to say within twenty minutes I was driving home sporting a new timepiece.

In typical TackleTour fashion the Quest soon found its way back into the lab where it was examined inside and out. It soon became apparent that the watch's original manufacturer was indeed Freestyle Watches, in fact it was strange to see the Freestyle logo still on the end of the polyurethane band. Freestyle was established in 1981 and actually the creation of a couple of surfers who sought to create a line of watches that could withstand the abusive conditions of the seaside.

The side of the watch bears a push down crown and a button to activate the
Night Vision™

Features: The Quest is a simple, easy to use timepiece, that features a stainless steel construction and large easy to read numbers and time markings. There are two sizes available, mid and large, and on both the face is easy to read. On the large size there is a date window at the 3:00 position, but the window is awfully small, and difficult to read, unless you bring the watch adjacent your eyes. The Quest is water resistant to a total depth of 330 feet or 100 meters. The watch is secured via a tough polyurethane band, which is waterproof, and designed to take plenty of abuse from abrasion. To top it all off the Quest features Night Vision™ which charges a small electro luminescent sheet on the watch face, making it viable to tell time even in total darkness.


Indented ridges on the back of the band are designed to allow the band to flex easier when strapped on


Operation:  The Quest is powered by a small battery, however since we have not had the opportunity to run the watch for over two months we can not yet determine longevity. During our field tests the watch kept perfectly accurate time, never losing even a minute. Setting the time and date is easy, and simply requires the rotation of the push down crown. There is also a ratcheting rotating bezel ring that marks ten minute increments. This ring however is hard to rotate normally, and when your hands are wet it is near impossible. The ring is also not very precise with about a 1.5 minute amount of give in the counterclockwise direction. Finally, to activate the Night Vision™ all you need to do is depress the button located above the crown. This button is a good size and is effortless to push down on. With a momentary push the light stays on for only no more then a split second, but it can also be held down for extended operation.


The Polyurethane band still bears the logo of the OEM (original equipment manufacturer), Freestyle Watches

Durability: The Quest is reasonably rugged, and continued to function after being submerged in water or repeatedly dropped from a height of six feet. The polyurethane band also can take much more of a beating than leather, cloth, or metal bands. Unfortunately the stainless steel casing and bezel are somewhat easy to scratch, but the damage is purely cosmetic, and doesn't interrupt the watch's normal operation. Swiss Army and Suunto watches are a good deal more durable, but then again they cost more than double what the Quest does. Overall the Quest's durability is adequate for most activities but not brilliant as far as outdoor timepieces go.


The watch lived up to its claims of water resistance, and after repeated dunks into the river to release fish there was no evidence of leakage whatsoever


Ergonomics: While keeping accurate time is the most important function of any watch, being comfortable is a close second. Unfortunately here is where the Quest comes up short. During two trips out to the backcountry none of our editors could get the watch to feel just right. Weighing only 2.6oz the watch should feel light and comfortable, instead it felt heavy as it flopped around. The main reason for the inability to fit the watch properly is the stiffness of the polyurethane band. Unlike competitor watches this band is not very flexible, and fails to conform to various wrist shapes. We had hoped that over time the band would soften up, but quite the opposite happened. In the cold mountain air the band only further stiffened. Because of the watch's design it is very challenging to find replacement bands, so your basically stuck with the stock band.


The Night Vision™ is the most useful  feature on the Quest, and allows outdoorsman an easy way to check the time even in total darkness

Applications: The REI Quest is a good watch to wear for light to medium outdoor activities, and for most anglers it will do the job. The ability to tell the time in the dark is a big plus for anglers that enjoy camping out by lakes fishing for channel cats, or backcountry anglers hiking back to camp. The watch offers water resistance so releasing fish or washing your hands in the river will not cause any negative effects to the watch. Perhaps most disappointing is the lack of ergonomics, making it hard to recommend this watch for daily wear.



REI Quest Watch Ratings (?/10)

Construction/Quality The watch is built with decent materials, and the overall construction is decent 8
Performance The watch does what it is supposed to do....tell time. It never lost a minute and was able to withstand water without any complications. The bezel is harder to rotate than it should be, and the tolerance on the bezel needs further refinement 7
Price This watch is not expensive, but not really cheap either when you consider offerings from Timex and Casio which offer the same type of accuracy with more protection 8
Features The nicest feature on this watch is the Night Vision which is truly useful 8
Design (Ergonomics) Big problems here with the band being too stiff. The watch doesn't conform well to the wrist causing it to flop around slightly, which is uncomfortable when hiking 4
Application The watch is good for day trips of light to medium outdoor activities, but not everyday use, unless the stiff band just happens to perfectly conform to your wrist 6

Total Score


Pluses and Minuses:

                 Plus                                    Minus

J Night Vision L Band too stiff
J Large face L Bezel needs refinement
J Water Resistant to 100 meters L Date window too small

L Not as durable as some competitor outdoor watches

Conclusion: REI carries some of the best products for the outdoor enthusiast, many of which are under their own brand name, unfortunately the Quest watch is not one of them. While attractive and easy to use the Quest has serious flaws when it comes to refinement and basic ergonomics. While the Quest does a respectable job keeping time and resisting the elements there are certainly areas where it necessitates further enhancement. If comfort and refinement are high up on your list of requirements then make sure to keep shopping as there are plenty of other choices available.

Until next time....Tight Lines!









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