Casio Duro MDV-106 review and ideas.
With the Duro (meaning hard in Italian and Spanish), Casio has the opportunity of achieving something truly special, and they’re so very close it’s baffling they failed the goal—which of course we don’t know what it really was, aside from selling units.
So, listen up, Casio, I’m going to tell you my opinion on this great wristwatch and how could you achieve immortal greatness and eternal glory with your next iteration.
Some previous Marlin (the Duro’s fan mascot name: every legendary diver has a fan given mascot name, this one cheats somewhat, because there’s the marlin up front) was this monstrosity:
Which is, let’s face it, quite cheesy, with its huge illuminator button—even worse than the Seamaster manual He valve—the knobby-like-a-tractor bezel edge, and 4 lines of text. It’s very clearly a Casio, and that’s not bad per se, but if you’re making a diver to compete with all the divers out there (and I’m not talking ISO 6425: the Marlin is not a proper diver, it’s a desktop diver, a fashion diver… Type Diver as in the great Japanese tradition of naming things), you need to ditch a bit the funny funky childish look.
Which is also what you’d expect from Casio, endless iterations on the same subject with the goal of appealing to everyone and land a sell. But somewhere along their road I asume they had a designer, who must be elevated in range and position—he should be given rum and treasure—for he had a vision and they managed this watch:
If you know anything about diver watches, you’ll immediately notice this is no mere Casio Cheap Diver, you’ll notice this is a Submariner homage, which in turn is a Fifty Fathoms—as worn by Jacques Cousteau—copy!
The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms is the archetypal Diver’s watch, the very first one, but the look was popularized by Tudor and Rolex (in the 1950s!!!) and it has been so successful people relate it with “diver watch” with just a side glance, every brand out there has their interpretation on the Submariner (even Ferragamo ffs! /facepalm), and cemented Divers as a pillar of horology (Divers, Chronographs, Field, Dress and Fashion being the main branches into which watches divide).
You’ll notice the rotating bezel, hashed to 15 and every 10, the 12 o’clock lume pip, the big legible hands and function check (lume pip to know your watch is still ticking in the dark) in the seconds hand.
Casio’s version is incredibly well done for less than 40USD and this is why we have to forgive them everything wrong with the Duro, but them being who they are, I’m sure they will do better, so here are the things I’ll improve if I were Casio:
Things to improve for the Duro to become a Japanese legend:
Improve finishing, just a bit.
Is a bit hard to capture it but this is enough for you to get the idea: the lugs have 3 visible faces, a polished side one, a polished inclined small one (between red arrows) and a brushed horizontal one. The small polished ones are different in width, left one being wider. And this is not a small mistake, I’m amazed no one has mentioned in their reviews: this is very noticeable once you know. It’s a result for the need to accommodate the crown guards, and I think this is a very easy mistake to fix, Casio needs just adjust and improve the CNC or whatever method they use and make them more symmetrical. Of course you can let it go because the watch costs less than 40USD. But there’s an important improving opportunity.
I’m going to obviate the price thing for the remainder. It’s clear if they improved all the points I’m making, then it would cost 5 times more… but one can dream.
Apparently (I haven’t opened mine), Casio uses a cheap Miyota for this, and it shows: hour hand is almost always off: when the minute hand reaches 12, the hour hand is either a few minutes behind or a few minutes ahead, it’s seldom spot on. The second hand also doesn’t hit all the marks all the time: on my 12 marker it lands perfectly half the time, and almost perfectly half the time—it’s a thing to live with with most quartz movements in whichever price range. When I bought mine, this problem was so blatant—even considering the price!—I had to return it and ask for another one, which came better, but still imperfect. Even when setting the time you can tell this is a very cheap movement, the crown stem feels wobbly, the hands jump all around the dial. This is expected but to Casio I say this:
You have one of the greatest traditions as far as modern watch brands go, you continuously produce high tech, top of the line movements, digital and analogs (your G-Shocks and ProTreks are unmatched by whatever Swiss brand you care to name). Your innovation, research and development, and technology creation are the best in the field—and other fields!
By now you must understand your legions of loyal fans expect you to make an accurate (as in the hands hit the marks), tough, reliable, and inexpensive quartz movement yourselves, and not to rely on cheap Miyotas.
I’m not asking for a mechanical movement—you’re Casio, not Seiko—just a decent, accurate quartz. This is expected of you.
Several design issues.
- The watch is a monster. It’s huge, it needs to be around 40mm bezel outter diameter, 45mm lug to lug to be perfect. Wearability is an issue, you’re always taking care of not hitting it against everything, a zulu strap is unusable because the watch ends up skyscrapper-high. It took me about three weeks to get somewhat accustomed to it, which is ridiculous.
- Date is very hard to read because its minuscule size, so much it’s almost unusable.
- The crown is very small, this is a tool watch, it needs a bigger crown. Also, it looks silly.
- Underside of lugs is not evenly finished: on mine one of the lug edges is almost razor sharp; another one I use to fillet my steaks. A better sanding-finishing work needs to be done.
- Lume is definitely a sad laugh. Pictures may show otherwise (because cameras are much more sensitive than your eyes), but the lume is practically non-existant. Yes it flares right after the sun hits it and looks quite bright, yes it lasts the whole night, but unusable: you need complete darkness.
- The coin edge could be better, just take a look at the beautiful edge on the Seiko Submariner (SKX031) pictured below to get an idea of how to do a proper and beautiful coin edge. While you’re at it, look how well balanced that Seiko looks: that’s because it’s smaller and the crown is bigger. It would be the perfect diver but for a missing 12 o’clock lume pip and the usual Seiko issue: missaligned chapter ring / bezel.
- Change the name! With Seiko, fans name the watches because the official way is preposterous, and with this one the obvious naming is the Casio Marlin, because you know, it has a marlin printed on the dial and engraved on the back. So ditch the Duro moniker which is hideous.
- Remove all the text. Ditch the “WR 200M” legend below the marlin. Be classy, not like Rolex and its dial text-walls. We know you Casio also love printing everything the watch can do on the dial, but this is pretending to pass as a classy diver.
- Of course, the movement. Why we have to put up with a cheap Miyota instead of a proper Casio Tough Solar is beyond me.
Design issues that are OK.
The previous are the issues that need to get fixed in order for the Duro to become a legend on it’s own, Casio can start something as special as the SKX007s. There are other issues that their fixing would increase the price several times, so they can stay as they are and I’m just going to mention them for the sake of it.
- Alu bezel insert. Well, duh! A ceramic one is out of the question—also, to me a ceramic bezel doesn’t look good on a tool watch, too flashy, too girly. The lume at 12 obviously needs to be upgraded as mentioned.
- Mineral glass crystal. Casio’s mineral glass is particularly soft and you can be sure it will get a scracth or two in the first minutes of use, but a sapphire one would increase the price too much. Not even Seiko uses sapphire in their entry level diver’s.
- Clickety-clackety could be better, it feels spongy and has a lot of play when rotating (but stays firmly in place when left alone). Grip is poor because the edge is too soft and the notches are too close to one another, this is an issue that’s solved with a better coin edge as mentioned. 120 clicks are perfect, don’t listen to the absurd Citizen 60 clicks crowd.
- Buckle says “stainless steel China” which is annoying, I have a couple of replacement bracelets for G-Shock that read “Casio Japan”.
- Dial is warped? On the applied indices and under hard light, you can see the dial is not perfectly finished, it appears warped around the indices, but it’s really not a big deal and improving it would increase pricing too much. At least the warping doesn’t look like a mistake and it’s evenly distributed across the indices. The sunburst is passable.
So, there you have it Casio. You could end up with a legend of a watch with the next Casio Marlin! Oh, and here’s a couple extra ideas to finish convincing you, like improving the line-up:
- Casio Duro Marlin – This one, a three-hander 40-42mm improved beauty. As is in blackish sunburst; add pearl sunburst and Caribbean blue sunburst.
- Casio Duro Sailfish – Four-hander GMT. Dark ocean blue dial with red GMT hand.
- Casio Duro Swordfish – Six-hander chronograph. Inverted panda (black dial with white chrono sub-dials), red chrono hands. Keep diver’s bezel, add tachy scale in minute ring / rehaut.
How about it, eh, Casio? I’m I a genius or what?
My personal opinion.
I’m quite happy with the watch, I’ve been in the hunt for a proper diver since after I got my TAG Heuer Formula 1 more than 10 years ago (which is not a diver), and found the Marlin (we fans are not calling it Duro anymore, just so you know) by mere chance on a YouTube review, previously I was considering a Seiko SKX or Sea Monster, or a new micro brand like a Zelos / Axios or a resuscitated brand like a Zodiac or even an Oris 65, but this Casio does it. You really can’t believe they managed to produce such a watch at such a price.
It checks all:
- Lume pip at 12 and almost decentish lume.
- Unidirectional rotating diver’s bezel.
- 3mm width crystal.
- Screw caseback.
- Screw down crown.
- 200 bar WR.
- Date window.
And then some:
- Faceted hands.
- Applied indices! And they are gorgeous!
- Polished / brushed surfaces.
- Engraved caseback with logo.
- Ultra cool logo!
Also, of course, I’ve always loved Casio. They’ve been part of my life since I was a little kid and received my first Casio Calculator; my Riseman Dragon is always with me while exercising and on vacation.
I read I’m late, I even tried to send this by all Casio contact forms I found, but the second next iteration of this watch could be something truly special.
I realize this won’t happen. Casio aimed to a market zone that really haven’t got a diver watch, if you wanted one you had to put up with a more expensive entry-level price, so why would they lose that market when they have no competition there?
And it’s significant: if they fixed all the things I listed, the Marlin would suddenly cost 5 times more. I’m sure most won’t look any further…
But some’ll do. I just ordered a Citizen Excalibur to replace my Marlin because precisely it’s good, but not good enough. It offers way more than any other diver for the price, yes, but it’s still not what’s expected of a diver (yes yes, ISO certification costs money on top of what you’ll expend making the watch, and perhaps it’s not fair to compare it with an ISO diver, but if you look and act like a diver…)
So, all in all, unbeatable for the price, if you like divers, you’ll ve very happy with the Marlin.
It’s the lume (and the size), I can live with everything else, but not with the terrible lume, that’s the raison d’être of a diver, that’s why I’m changing it for the Excalibur.