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Time marches on in the watch business

Wrist watches are one of the most popular gifts for Father's Day. With today's wide selection of new watches, it's easy to find one that will please the dad on your shopping list.

But, with so many models to choose from, it may be a little difficult to wade through all the choices. So, here's some help:

Timex recently introduced a new feature that promises to change the way we tell time in the dark. Called the Indiglo Nightlight, it replaces the usual green phosphorescent substance, which glows in the dark, with a bright blue-green light, which, at the press of a button, illuminates the entire watch face as opposed to just the hour points.

Timex officials are quick to point out that this is the first watch feature that has assisted in saving lives. It seems that after the World Trade Center bombing, an executive who was trapped in the building navigated a group down 40 flights of pitch-black stairs by the light of his Timex Indiglo. John Cameron Swayze would be proud!

The Indiglo feature is found on 15 models, both analog and digital, ranging in price from $35 to $48. For a dealer near you, call (800) FOR-TIMEX.

The dad with a lousy sense of direction might want Casio's Digital Compass watch. This model features a round LCD face which displays a large, easy-to-read compass.

This digital compass measures the current direction and displays it on the dial both with an LCD digital magnetic needle (pointing to the direction you are facing) and by spelling out the direction's abbreviation: N, S, E, W, SE, NNW _ you get the picture.

This unit also shows the month and day and includes a stopwatch, countdown alarm and, of course, the time of day.

Casio's Digital Compass sells for $130. For information on Casio products, call (800) 272-0272.

If Dad is one who may forget to periodically change his watch battery, he's a candidate for Seiko's new Kinetic Quartz.

Instead of using a battery, winding mechanism or self-winding system, the Kinetic Quartz utilizes an automatic power generator _ really! It's like a miniature electrical plant that manufactures its own power. The watch maintains the same level of accuracy as battery-powered units.

Normal daily movements of the wrist trigger the generator to create the electrical energy. It also stores excess generated power for up to three days of non-use.

To save power and notify the user that it may be time for a shake, the second hand moves in two-second intervals (as opposed to moving once per second) when the power reserve is low. The watch's face also features a power level indicator that tells how much power is left.

Seiko's Kinetic Quartz watches are available at Seiko dealers or by calling (800) 323-4366. They come in three styles ranging in price from $500 to $600.

One of the most desirable new features on a watch is a moon phase display. This allows the user to see the current phase of the moon at a glance. Although a great conversation piece, the problem with the moon phase feature is that it is usually found on expensive watches.

But there is one watch, Genesis' Xonix, which includes the moon phase at a reasonable price. Other features of this analog watch are month, day, date and a tide function that, when used in conjunction with the moon phase display, accurately shows both high and low tides. The watch is water-resistant to 300 feet.

The Xonix Tide/Moon Phase watch sells for $100. Call Service Merchandise at (800) 251-1212, item No. Y10CHGNW.

Have a question? Write the Gadget Guru at 95 White Bridge Road, Suite 503, Nashville, Tenn. 37205 (Fax number: 615-356-9596).