With its new Casio PRO TREK PRG-600 “outdoor” world-timer, the Japanese watchmaking giant delivers a stylish, surprisingly tastefully designed wristwatch. Primarilly targeting people who lead an active lifestyle and do need a time measuring device that would do a good job during a hiking expedition, it will also look great with a pair of blue jeans and a t-shirt in a safe coworking environment. Although inevitably having limitations of its own, the watch seems to give you a great combination of good build quality, reasonable price and an almost overwhelming list of functions that would make an owner of a Swiss made analog/digital timekeeper literally drool. The only thing that spoils the fun is the “cased in Thailand” insription on its machine-brushed back.
Looking at this timekeeper, I have an impression that, at some point, someone at Casio has probably realized that basically any modern wristwatch that costs more than fifty bucks is often regarded as primarily a luxury item. Most people want this item to look cool and, well, at least as expensive as a similarly priced smartphone. They want metal; they want nice textures; they want carefully chosen combinations of typefaces. In two words, they want ‘perceived quality’ of the product to at least match its recommended list price.
In this respect, the new member of their Protrek collection -the gorgeously masculine 2016 Casio PRO TREK PRG-600 family- looks quite convincing.
The stainless steel bezel of model PRG-600-1ER with its 29 time zones represented with engraved abbreviations of 29 respective cities features a very nice brushed surface and plays well with a similarly finished setting crown at 3 o’clock. The block-style hour markers perfectly match in color and overall “three-dimensional” feel the three Arabic numerals as well as the olive-colored, aviator-style hour and minute hands. Even the bright orange central second hand that serves as the main accent of the timepiece is supported with smaller elements of the dial of the same color.
Well, the rest of the case and the silicone band don’t make such a strong impression, but that seems to be the whole idea behind the timekeeper’s design: this relatively affordable watch is aimed at people who plan to actually use it as hiking (or any other physical activity) companion and would like it to stay more or less presentable for a long time and they want the parts of the wristwatch that are most prone to occasional dents and scratches to be crafted from something that is either not as easy to get a scratch or dent on or, at least, capable of concealing the damage from a reasonable distance.
All things considered, the choice of materials and textures looks quite inspiring: the watch is balanced, looks at least twice as expensive as the price that the Japanese watchmaker currently offers it at, and, even more important, has a good chance of looking almost mint for at least five years to come.
Case, Bezel & Strap
As I have ahem probably already noted (I am writing this review in Creative ADHD style flouncing between paragraphs and sub-sections as my impressions jump at me in a sort of random order,) the watch has a well-designed, carefully thought-over black resin case that houses a metal cage with their signature Triple Sensor Ver. 3 movement. While not particularly dressy, the rubberized plastic body adds an extra layer of shock protection for the electronic guts, and is difficult to scratch (although repairing the exterior finish once you finally put a dent to it may be next to impossible) making it a true ‘outdoor activity’ wristwatch for real enthusiasts.
The case is traditionally huge measuring more than 51 millimeters in length and width, but is also relatively slim at just over 13 millimeters top to bottom allowing for a more comfortable feel if you prefer to wear field jackets or shirts with relatively narrow cuffs.
The setting crown, which is protected by a pair of plastic crown guards, is a bit too short for my taste, but is also reassuringly large in diameter so operating it will never be a problem (yet you would still have to get your gloves off if there is a need to correct the timekeeper’s readings.) The four push-pieces, too, have a rather short travel, but their surface will provide good grip even for sweaty fingers.
The choice of silicone band, too, looks good. In a summer heat it will be a lot more comfortable on a wrist than a textile strap and, if anything goes wrong and you take a fall, the chance of an extensive damage to your wrist will be greatly reduced compared to a lot sturdier stainless steel bracelet: the plastic strap will simply snap without putting you limb in danger.
Beware though: Casio traditionally uses non-standard straps for their watches so finding a replacement that would fit the watch may be a problem.
Perhaps, the only thing that I don’t like here is the water resistance rating. While the guaranteed WR of 100 meters (10 BAR) is usually enough for most types of casual and sports watches, I think I would like this one to be more watertight. After all, where I live hiking trips are sometimes combined with mild rafting and I think I wouldn’t like my brand new watch to be ruined by water after a rafting attempt goes (hopefully) slightly wrong. But that’s, first of all, a personal opinion and, secondly, may be regarded as a sort of exotic use case scenario by many potential owners who simply want a multifunctional daily beater with ruggedized look.
Dial & Legibility
From the legibility perspective, the dial leaves somewhat dubious impression.
When it comes to the most basic functions of telling time, everything seems to be almost perfect: the three Arabic numerals are huge, as are the nine block-shaped hour markers. The hands are wide enough and feature a shade of olive color that looks quite contrast over the dark grey background of the dial. The LED backlighting, too, is bright enough to make the whole display easily readable at night.
On the other hand, when you start going deeper sifting through more advanced functions of the timekeeper, things start getting more complicated: if this is your first electronic “multi-tool” you will probably be royally overwhelmed trying to use it right out of the box. Still, that’s something to be expected when you get yourself a wristwatch that has a whole page of its manual devoted just to list all of its available functions.
Yes, like many other members of their Pro Trek family, the watch will actually force you to read the freaking manual before you are ready to use it to its full potential.
Still, I must admit that I am surprised how (relatively) clean the timepiece’s dial is. While Casio’s design team often finds itself unable to stop making the watch more and more ‘beautiful’ by adding a detail after painful detail and layer after unnecessary layer to the small dial opening, this member of Pro Trek collection looks remarkably clean. Well, some of the elements are still exaggerated and you may find the military style numerals totally superfluous in the context of a lifestyle watch, but the lack of chrome-plated plastics and faux guilloche motifs stamped on the dial leaves a very good impression making the watch look a lot more balanced and, well, to the point.
As for the LCD display, it, too, seems to be quite contrast: you will probably be able to read it even in twilight without the LED backlighting turned on. The deliberately blocky digits and letters are easy to understand, although the low resolution of the display gives the watch a somewhat archaic look.
Casio has been developing their Triple Sensor technology for more than two decades and three iterations, and, courtesy of a phenomenon currently known as Moore’s law, has managed to make the sensors installed in Ver. 3 (we have first seen it three years ago in their G-Shock Rangeman GW-9400 watch) about twenty times smaller, ten times less energy hungry and, what’s even more important, more accurate than the first batch that was brought to market back in 1993. The downsizing process not only allowed the Japanese brand to make their newer watches more elegant and lean, but also gave them an opportunity to equip the timekeepers with more functions and, as far as I understand, with larger and denser batteries.
Combine these technological advances with Casio’s well-known Tough Solar system (for this particular Casio PRO TREK PRG-600 collection it gives you approximately 25 months of battery life in power-saving mode,) and you get yourself a gorgeous “outdoor” timekeeper that, for all intents and purposes, will not need recharging or battery replacement throughout all of its expected lifetime. I mean, you will probably get tired of it and donate the piece to a charity long before the solar charger will go bust.
I have heard more times than once that the mechanisms that Casio uses for their battery-operated timekeepers are not particularly precise as they are (but still don’t quote me on that,) so the Japanese watchmaker actually had to equip the calibers with their signature “automatic hand adjustment system.” While a watch snob may raise an eyebrow here and some more practical persons may regard the system as just one more component that may fail first in the long run, I actually find it quite ingenuous and, if you excuse the expression, a part of the overall fun: after all, there is a number of not terribly precise quartz calibers that don’t have an auto-correction system at all.
The list of functions that this caliber offers is traditionally extremely long and, among other features, includes:
- World Time
- Countdown timer
- Whole five independent daily alarms, and
- Full auto-calendar
While many of these features are currently available even in the dumbest of mobile phones that are sold for 20 bucks apiece, the first three functions in the list above are unique to this sort of ‘activity’ watches and are really helpful if hiking is indeed your idea of an active lifestyle.
Of course, it would be nice to have Bluetooth connectivity here for more convenient activity tracking and, maybe, automatic time zone adjustment, but, let’s face it, the technology is still fairly rare and is usually reserved to a lot (well, at least twice) more expensive timekeepers.
Pricing & Availability
The Casio PRO TREK PRG-600 is already available on most international markets. Prices, as usual, deviate a great deal depending on which part of the world you happen to live in. In the United States, the watch is usually offered at around $320. In Europe, the volatility is a bit higher with a quick sweep through idealo.de giving a range of between €287 and €349.
The relatively low price of the timekeeper may have something to do with the “Cased in Thailand” inscription on its solid back, but I personally don’t see even a hint of problem here: given the high quality of the movement, its wide functionality, and, of course, the Japanese brand’s traditionally thorough choice of exterior parts, I think the price to be more than adequate. It may not be a ‘steal’, but it’s definitely not overpriced either if you plan to use the watch as it is supposed to be used.
WWR preliminary verdict
Build quality: 5/5
Value for money: 5/5
Casio PRO TREK PRG-600 (ref. PRG-600-1ER) solar-powered watch specification
Price: $320 (MSRP)
Power: Photovoltaic Cell
Movement: Tough Solar with Triple Sensor Ver. 3 technology, Made in Japan
Power reserve: About 25 months with the power-saving function ON after full charge
Movement decoration: None
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, barometer, altimeter, thermometer, world time (UTC,) stopwatch, countdown timer, alarm, full auto-calendar
Case material: Black rubberized plastic
Bezel material: Stainless steel, brushed
Crown material: Stainless steel
Case shape: Round
Bezel shape: Round
Case size: 51.60 mm x 51.50 mm
Case height: 13.40 mm
Lug width: No data
Weight: Approx. 78g
Dial: Black, with LCD screen and LED backlighting
Hour markers: Olive
Water resistance: 100 meters
Strap: Black “Dura Soft” silicone band
Case back: Solid, machine-brushed, etched