Monday, August 12, 2013

Watch Review - Ultra-Affordable Analog: How a $20 Casio MTP-1183A Took On a $2000 Grand Seiko SBGX065 - and Won

(It's the one on the right.)

It's been a few weeks since the Casio MTP-1183A arrived at my doorstep, and I've had sufficient occasion to put it through its proper paces.  From the onset, my goal in acquiring it was unfair:  it was to vie against a quartz Grand Seiko, the previous occupant of the "blue dial" slot in my watch box, a watch selling for literally 100 times its price.  Understandably, this was a contest it would not - and could not - win on raw specifications alone.  It gains or loses up to 15 seconds a month; the Grand Seiko, 10 seconds a year.

The dial is nicely legible, and the blue sunburst tone, while not as deep or reflective as the one on the Grand Seiko, is still impressive given the watch's bare-bones price.  Even more impressive is how well the second hand lines up with the indices - a sticking point that other quartz offerings listed at more than 20 times its price have failed to get right.  (In my watch history, the offender was a $500 Hamilton Ventura, though several comparably priced $20-$30 Timex Weekenders also suffered from a similar letdown.)  The simple hands can be a bit harder to read in certain conditions than the larger and more painstakingly finished ones on the GS, but even the GS hands suffer in low-light situations given their lack of lume, which is more of an aesthetic choice than a deficit of design.

At 38mm in diameter, it is marginally bigger than the GS at 37mm, though the smaller dial size makes the MTP-1183A seems comparatively smaller on the wrist (and somewhat better proportioned on mine).  Lug guards protect the shallow crown and contribute to a slightly more sporty profile, though the MTP-1183A classic enough to fill in as a dress watch if paired with a quality 20mm leather strap.  This, in fact, is where the Casio trumps the GS:  its 20mm lug width allows for far more strap options than the GS's painfully hard-to-find 19mm.  If you're a strap fanatic, the Casio offers far more flexibility.

The folded metal bracelet is serviceable, but nothing to write home about, and easily trumped in comfort and finish by virtually any solid end link bracelet on the market.  I've replaced it with a 20mm Oyster bracelet from Tungchoy Watch.

I bought the Casio on a lark to see how it would compare to the top-of-the-line quartz GS.  It ended up doing so well as a value proposition that it has deposed the GS from its place as the quartz backup in my watch box.

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