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You know what they say about love at first sight? Well, sometimes second sight comes with the benefit of experience, once absence has worked its magic on the heart. (Re)Enter the Casio MDV106-1A “Duro,” a $44, stainless steel dive watch running on batteries and quartz. I owned and sold one of these 20bar bargains about six months ago, before purchasing a second one for the purpose of this review
With many of the watches here on BladeReviews featuring price tags of at least three digits, the Duro’s sub-$50 cost may cause readers to overlook its incredible value and capability. This was certainly the case with me, when it left my collection after I got my hands on the Citizen Promaster Diver. But, now that I’ve handled a few higher-end pieces, the humble Casio shines all the brighter.
Enough backstory – Let’s get to the figures and review. I should note that these measurements are an amalgamation of generally-agreed-upon figures, since my tools are still packed away from my recent move. Here you go:
- Case Width: 44mm
- Case Thickness: 12mm
- Lug to Lug: 48mm
- Depth Rating: 20Bar (200m)
- Weight: 3.2oz on the rubber strap
- Movement: Casio Quartz Movement (Module 2784)
- Lug Width: 22mm
As you can see from the dimensions and comparison shots, the Duro is a rather large watch. It’s about as big as my medium-sized wrist can support without appearing to make a fashion statement. The stock rubber bracelet keeps this ticking chunk of stainless secured, and the single keeper and metal buckle operate without issue. More on the bracelet later, but it’s a solid functional design.
Here’s something to note, if you’re thinking about swapping out the stock strap: While most websites list the lug width at 20mm, I’ve found this to be closer to 22mm. So, if you’re eyeing up a NATO, be sure to buy accordingly.
Overall, the Duro wears pretty darn well. It was on my wrist for all but one day on my recent cross-country move, as well as the week of packing beforehand. Despite its size, at no point did it become a nuisance. Quite the opposite, in fact. There were many times, whether packing, driving, or moving in, when the weight of the watch on my wrist served as a welcome bit of reassurance. This sentiment held through four states worth of hotel gyms, showers, and pools.
Try as I might, I haven’t been able to dig up the exact specs for the Duro’s movement. I’m not alone in this, either – Folks like TGV from The Urban Gentry Youtube channel and other far more qualified reviewers have encountered a similar barricade. The general consensus seems to be that Casio employs one of their stock quartz movements, shown on the case back and manual as module number 2784. This crystal-controlled setup is powered by a three-year SR626SW battery, with an accuracy rating of +/-20 seconds per month.
Now, before you get too bent out of shape over that third of a minute, let me state that both of the Duros I’ve owned have come nowhere near that figure. At most, they’ve gained between one and two seconds per week. Accuracy here is on par with the Citizen and INOX, and significantly better than the mechanicals in my collection.
The Duro’s most striking feature is its second hand. Unlike many quartz pieces in this price range (I’m looking at you, Timex), its red-tipped ticker hits each of the indices with laser precision. There’s no waggle, stutter, or hesitation in its arc, which isn’t something I can say for my $250 INOX. This is excellent, and it’s been the case on both of my Duros.
Then there’s the date window. It’s nothing fancy, but visibility is decent and the changeover is solid. Setting is accomplished by pulling the crown to the first position and spinning counter-clockwise to advance the day.
Speaking of setting, I do have a minor nitpick here. Full disclosure – I’m a little obsessive-compulsive when it comes to my minute hand lining up with the markers. When the seconds hit zero, I want that long hand to be pointing dead-on at the desired minute. On some cheaper watches (or, again, the INOX), the minute hand has a tendency to jump a fraction of a millimeter when pressing the crown back into place. This creates a maddening misalignment, causing me to repeat the setting process over and over until everything lines up exactly. The Duro, unfortunately, suffers from a minor case of this hand-hopping. If you’re not a crazy person like me, this won’t be a big deal.
Case and Crown
If Casio is going to hit me with a “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” on their movement, then I may as well take a long, hard look at the curtain. The case housing the Duro’s internals is made of stainless steel, with a mix of brushed and polished surfaces. And while it may be rather large, it does play host to some nice details. Take the case back, for instance. Casio has clearly etched all of the relevant data (Reference number, water resistance, etc.) into the steel, with the welcome addition of their classic marlin logo. This prominent fish only appears on Casios with a rating of 20Bar or higher. It’s a pretty cool bit of badging for a timepiece costing less than $50.
The crown, like the case back, is of the screw-down variety. There are two nicely chamfered guards surrounding it, with enough slope and rounded edges to keep them from digging into the wrist. The crown itself is unbranded, with enough of a polished finish to reflect my face like a funhouse mirror. It screws into place relatively easily, though not as smoothly as my higher-priced divers. There is a bit of wiggle in its unwound state, but nothing substantial enough to cause concern.
Dial, Bezel, and Crystal
Speaking of wiggle, let’s talk about the Duro’s bezel. You’d expect a cheap diver to come with some play in its timekeeping ring, right? Well, that’s not the case here. The Duro’s 120-click, unidirectional bezel is rock solid, with a prominently lumed pip at the zero position. The canted coin edge is quite grippy, so long as your hands aren’t soaking wet.
Within the bezel lies the crystal, composed of hardened mineral glass. Not a favorite material among watch lovers, but I think Casio deserves some credit here. At $44, they could have cheapened out and gone with some form of plastic. The Duro’s large mineral crystal is perfectly serviceable for a basic beater watch, and mine picked up only a single scratch after several weeks’ worth of moving-related work.
Let’s gaze beneath the crystal, to the real appeal of the Duro. Each of its indices are applied, and the polished hands are distinct and well-wrought. This combination makes this an eminently readable watch from almost any angle, a trait that proved truly valuable on my long-haul trip. The branding is subtle and well done, with another marlin to match the one on the case back. The dial itself is something of a flat black, though there’s a bit of a sunburst if viewed from the proper angle. This deceptively simple combination lends a real pop to the hands and indices, along with the bright red of the second hand.
The most common complaint associate with the Duro lies in its lume. Here’s a comparison shot, with the $150 Citizen Promaster on the right, and the $250 Victorinox INOX on the left:
While it looks okay here, I can tell you from experience that this nigh-universal gripe is warranted. The lume begins fading almost immediately and will be all but invisible within a few minutes. The lone exception comes in the outdoors, on nights far away from the streetlight glow. You’ll be able to read it in the darkness of your tent, but it won’t be an easy affair.
So, the strap – Many of the big-name reviewers I’ve come across aren’t a fan of the rubber. And I’ll be honest: I didn’t give it much of a chance on the first Duro I owned. I had a BluShark NATO shipped to me as part of the package, and that’s the way I wore it. But, since the second watch arrived, I’ve worn it almost exclusively on the stock strap. Maybe if I’d done this the first time, I wouldn’t have needed to buy the watch twice.
Let me elaborate a bit here. The stock rubber isn’t great. I’ve heard Nick Shabazz describe it with words to the effect of “baby’s first watch.” And, with the higher-end stuff he generally reviews, he’s probably not too far off base. But, for whatever reason, this basic rubber bracelet just works for me. It’s comfortable, secure, easily adjustable, and (most importantly) low-profile.
Because the Duro is already a rather large watch, the addition of even a trimmed-down NATO makes it tower over the bones of my wrist. This becomes immediately inconvenient for a watch doing beater duty. It’ll snag, smack, and otherwise scratch against every tree, desktop, and doorknob in your path. Or, at least, that’s what happened to me. While the basic rubber didn’t keep the bezel from becoming close with bookshelves and moving boxes, the effect was greatly reduced from its nylon counterpart.
Casio MDV106-1A “Duro” Review – Final Thoughts
Look – This is a great watch. I’d go so far as to say that it’s the best under-$50 timepiece I’ve tested, and one of the three best under $100 (the Casio WVA-M640 and Citizen BM-8180 being the others). And on top of its aesthetic and functional merits, it’s also one of the most accessible divers on the market. Next time you’re at your local Walmart, make a quick stop at the jewelry counter. There, next to the cubic zirconia earrings and cheap wedding rings, you’ll probably find a Casio Duro.
Still, I’d recommend purchasing the watch online, as in-store prices always hover a bit higher than those in cyberspace. Whether you’re looking for a beater watch for yourself, or maybe a gift for someone who’s thinking about getting into timepieces, this is a splendid, budget-friendly choice. Take it from me, the guy who was dumb enough to sell his first one – This is a watch you’ll enjoy having in your collection.
- Black Stainless Steel case and Resin Band
- Black Dial with date window at 3 O'clock
- Luminous markers and hour hands; sweep second hand
- Anti-reverse bezel
- Water-resistant to 200 M (660 feet)