The name Casio, rendered in that never-changing font, has the ability to conjure a wide array of nostalgic feelings for people of a certain age. For me, it conjures up warm memories of a 1980s childhood filled with a bevy of calculator watches and F91s and SK-5 keyboards. I can still hear those dog and laser sounds, clear as day. For others of a more scholarly bent, it likely brings to mind the simple pocket calculator or those very intimidating graphing calculators that seemed to hold the power to control the world if you knew what all the crazy buttons did.
Whatever your particular flavour, Casio has held a permanent place in a lot of our hearts for a lot of our lives. No small feat from their humble beginnings as the inventor of a cigarette-holding ring in post-WWII Japan that allowed both hands to be kept free for work while continuing to smoke.
Casio released their first wristwatch, the perfectly named Casiotron, in 1974, the popularity of which surely played no small part in the impending Quartz Crisis. The G-SHOCK sub-brand would follow a little later, in 1983. The story of its inception is a well-known bit of watch folklore at this point, but it goes like this: Kikuo Ibe, the head of watch design at Casio, dropped a family heirloom mechanical watch and helplessly watched it shatter on the floor. Determined to prevent this heartbreak from happening to others, in 1981, he set out to create a watch that would stand up to the rigours of everyday life. And the rest is history. Two years and more than 200 prototypes later, in 1983, G-SHOCK was born and has been making tough watches, coveted by collectors and laymen alike, ever since.
The Frogman line was first introduced in 1993. These watches are easily identifiable by their asymmetric shape, designed to stay a bit back and out of the way of a diver’s wrist. The Frogman line was, and remains today, the only ISO 6425-compliant watch in the G-SHOCK line.
The last bit of sub-brand history you will need to know to fully get what we are talking about today is that of the MR-G line of G-SHOCK watches. First released in 1996, the MR-G line was intended to push G-SHOCK into the realm of luxury watches, using familiar designs re-imagined with premium materials and technologies. These watches were a success and are prized by collectors. To this day, the MR-G line is where you will find the latest and greatest in material sciences, metallurgy and technology under the G-SHOCK banner.
These histories all culminate with the watch we are discussing and diving with today: the most state-of-the-art scuba diving analogue watch to ever come out of the CASIO stables, the MR-G Frogman, or the MRG-BF1000R if you’re friend or family. We don’t delve into quartz watches too often here at MONOCHROME, so you know this one must be something special.
Titanium is the name of the game here, and the tough, lightweight, and corrosion-resistant material is used generously for the case, bezel, and caseback, and also smaller components such as the crown, buttons, and screws. All the titanium is treated with a deep-layer hardening process and a DLC coating to further increase its strength and abrasion resistance and give it that tough, stealthy look. Recreating the iconic asymmetric Frogman shape in a material as notoriously difficult to machine as titanium was no small task. Where the standard Frogmen outer cases are simply cast in resin using moulds, doing it in titanium requires splitting the case into multiple components. This also allows different parts of the case to be finished with different polishing techniques to create a lovely contrast between parts and give it that high-end MR-G appeal. Being made of more than 70 individual components gives the case a very angular, complex appearance. One especially nice touch is the titanium crown, which is fit so that the MR-G logo is always facing perfectly up when screwed down. Little things like this mean a whole lot to watch enthusiasts.
The watch comes on a rubber strap made of Dura Soft, which is a fluoro rubber material. It is very soft and supple and claims to be very resistant. I can’t find any specific technical information about the Dura Soft, but it certainly has the soft-yet-sturdy feel of high-end rubber straps I have experienced in other watches. The buckle hardware is titanium, of course, and features a quick-release system for fast strap changes.
The reverse side of the watch continues the MRG-BF1000R’s fine attention to detail, featuring a titanium, screw-lock caseback adorned with a press-fit sapphire crystal that has a “blue vapour deposition” with an engraving of the first-generation Frogman diving frog character, along with some technical data. Besides looking very cool, this also has a practical application: letting the time-setting radio signals in, which pure titanium would not allow. Back over on the front, a sturdy, slightly domed sapphire crystal protects the very data-heavy, intricate analogue dial. Multiple different finishings and textures are apparent on the dial and rehaut, continuing the high-end looks here. The dial itself has a very subtle sparkly texture that changes a bit from angle to angle for maximum visual interest. There are multiple asymmetric sub-dials: the one at 3 o’clock shows the day of the week, mode setting, or tidal information depending on the model. The sub-dial at around 7:30 shows a second time zone and has a sub-sub-dial to show AM or PM for that time zone. There is also a 24-hour day/night indicator for the main time zone right above this subdial.
The module running the show under the hood is the 5702. The power reserve is basically indefinite, being solar powered, and the timekeeping is kept perfectly in line with atomic clocks via radio reception, or it can be paired to a phone via the Casio watches app to achieve the same thing. For all the subterranean cave-dwellers in the audience, the module is rated to ±15 seconds per month when adjustment by time calibration signal or communication with a phone is not possible. If one of those things is not possible, you probably have bigger problems than your watch straying by 15 seconds a month, like an apocalypse of some sort or being buried alive. Being a modern-day Casio watch means there is no shortage of secondary features on offer here, including stopwatch, alarm, timer, dual-time, tide-graph and diving modes. While I didn’t have time to fully explore the tide graph feature, it could be quite useful for someone who does a good deal of tidal-sensitive diving in a particular spot. You just set your watch to that location and have easily available tide info right on your wrist. The diving features are pretty comprehensive, and we will dig into those in a bit.
The G-Shock Frogman On Wrist
On the wrist the G-Shock Frogman MRG-BF1000R is surprisingly comfortable given its dimensions: a substantial 56mm length × 49.7mm width × 18.6mm height. I’m not going to pretend that it fits under a shirt cuff, but it certainly doesn’t feel as chunky as those numbers would lead one to believe. This is probably mostly due to the large amount of titanium used, as well as the lightweight rubber strap. Wearing it around a maritime town and on a dive boat before taking it underwater, it certainly looks the part. All business, with a generous helping of class and style, if you take the time to look. It doesn’t really feel like wearing a standard G-SHOCK; it has a wrist presence that is all its own. Maybe more akin to wearing a Hublot or some other hyper-modern luxury watch. The speckled dial shimmers with changes in light, as do all the different bevels and edges of those 70+ parts. It is a beautiful watch to sit and take in.
The G-Shock Frogman Underwater
Now let’s get down to the diving features… because, after all, this is what this G-Shock Frogman MRG-BF1000R is all about! The 5702 module features a unique diving mode. A two-second hold on the mode button activates it, and the motors kick into action, moving both the hour and minute hands to the 12 o’clock position, effectively turning them into one large hand. At the same time, the sub-dial that is usually displaying a second time zone adjusts to become your local time display, so you don’t lose track of the time of day whilst diving. When you start the timer with a button press, that newly formed, single hand counts the minutes of dive time around the dial, making it very quick to see how long you have been submerged. It’s an interesting concept that works very well in practice. It alleviates any momentary confusion one might have with a standard diving watch, figuring out which of the two hands is for minutes and then checking it against the bezel.
Underwater the watch performs very well overall. It is comfortable and solid over a wetsuit and not too bulky but not too small. It is extremely legible and also has a bright LED light one button away in case things get too dark. The large buttons are easy to detect and operate, even with gloves on. Once you get back to the surface, a two-second hold of a button puts you in dive interval mode, which starts measuring your timing between dives; useful if you are going back underwater soon and need to do old-school deco calculations. In this mode, it counts hours and minutes up normally, but the second hand rotates counter-clockwise to indicate that you are in surface interval mode and not normal timekeeping mode. It might all sound a little confusing, and it definitely took reading the manual to get my head around, but it’s all fairly intuitive once you get the hang of it.
Pairing the watch with the Casio Watches smartphone app also keeps a log of your diving activities, up to 30 of them. It contains basic information such as dive time, start time, interval times and location, but not nearly as robust as a dedicated dive computer. It’s certainly handy data as a backup, though. More than you get from an old-timey mechanical dinosaur, that’s for sure.
All things considered, the Casio G-Shock Frogman MRG-BF1000R is a beautiful luxury diving watch. Its quartz functionality brings it a little bit closer to being a proper dive computer, and its craftsmanship and quality of materials let it stand up next to some of the fanciest watches out there. The Frogman has always been one of the most interesting and unique G-SHOCK collections, and giving it the MR-G treatment really turns things up to 11.
The Casio G-Shock Frogman MRG-BF1000R is priced at USD 5,000 and is now available from www.casio.com.