It has been nearly a full year since the start of my column Actually Affordable, and before we get into a second year of highlighting standout budget-friendly timepieces, I want to slightly switch up the format. Rather than having each new edition tackle a different category of timepieces (divers, dress watches, chronographs, etc.), each article will instead be a deep dive dedicated to a single standout watch. So, why the change? Not only will this new format allow the most noteworthy affordable timepieces to be discussed, regardless of their style or the other watches that have previously been covered, but some complications and categories of watches are inherently rather expensive, and the “affordable” options out there aren’t really the ones that I would personally want to recommend. Therefore, to kick off this new format for Actually Affordable, we will be looking at the Casio MRW200H, which is one of the venerable classics when it comes to highly functional watches that can be purchased for a truly rock-bottom price.
While Casio might be best known for its ultra-rugged G-Shock line of timepieces, the Japanese brand’s standard entry-level collection is an absolute treasure trove of affordable watches that all cost less than dinner for two at a local fast-food restaurant. It is within this greater collection where you will find many of the bottom-dollar industry icons, such as the ubiquitous F-91W or the feature-packed AE1200WH World Timer that was covered in a previous edition of this column. Casio’s digital offerings at this price point are incredibly compelling, and proof of this is just how many people own the classic F-91W, which is arguably the single most common watch in the entire world. However, Casio also makes analog timepieces, and while the brand’s absolute least-expensive analog options retail for the exact same price as the F-91W, a premium of seven additional dollars unlocks access to Casio’s next tier of models, which is where you will find the fan-favorite MRW200H collection.
Crafted from black resin, the Casio MRW200H features a diver-style design with a highly legible display and a 60-minute rotating timing bezel. Given that Casio’s MRW200H series offers a fairly generous 100 meters of water resistance, it can easily withstand most aquatic activities (including recreational scuba diving), although it’s important to mention that the MRW200H isn’t actually a proper ISO-certified dive watch. Therefore, the bezel moves bi-directionally, the crown at 3 o’clock is the simple push/pull variety, and since the middle case is resin (aka plastic), the stainless steel caseback is secured by four small screws, rather than being threaded like on the full-stainless steel Casio MDV106 diver (also covered in a previous edition of this column), which costs more than twice the price of the humble MRW200H and its black resin case.
Due to the bottom-dollar price point of the Casio MRW200H, a number of concessions have been made when it comes to the materials used throughout its construction, and while the end result is still a highly rugged and functional design, there is absolutely nothing that feels especially premium or luxurious about the MRW200H series. For example, the flat crystal protecting the dial is a simple piece of acrylic (rather than mineral glass or sapphire), and while this makes it fairly prone to superficial scratches, its relatively thick structure combined with the additional protection provided by the bezel means that the Casio MRW200H will likely survive fairly serious drops and impacts, despite acquiring some minor scrapes and scuffs in the process.
Similarly, while the rotating timing bezel on the Casio MRW200H turns bidirectionally without any type of ratcheting action whatsoever, the plastic-on-plastic design guarantees an incredibly smooth motion, and the amount of tension offered by the bezel is surprisingly firm and satisfying. While some folks will inevitably wish that the MRW200H had a proper unidirectional bezel, a bidirectional bezel is actually more convenient for the vast majority of on-the-fly timing applications, and the solid amount of tension means that the bezel is unlikely to be knocked out of place by being bumped or brushed against a surface. Additionally, while none of the markings on the bezel are luminous, they still offer plenty of contrast, and the red inverted triangle at the zero marker helps to provide a clear indication of its positioning when referencing the elapsed time at a quick glance.
Like many Casio watches, the on-paper case dimensions of the Casio MRW200H series can be rather misleading. On Casio’s official website, the MRW200H watches measure 44.6mm-wide by 11.6mm-thick, with an overall lug-to-lug profile of 47.9mm. While the thickness and lug-to-lug dimensions are completely accurate, the on-paper “width” measurement includes the crown guards, and if you actually measure the case diameter itself, you are really looking at closer to 43mm. Furthermore, the middle case slightly slopes inward towards the top of the watch, and the actual outer diameter of the bezel only measures 41mm (excluding the small tabs that protrude from the cardinal points). On the wrist, the Casio MRW200H feels far closer to the size of its bezel, and due to primarily being made from lightweight resin, the entire watch (including its strap) weighs a total of just 39 grams.
While this particular model from the Casio MRW200H collection is officially known as the MRW200H-1BV, this same core design exists in a shockingly wide variety of different colorways and configurations. Alongside iterations of this exact model that swap out its white printing for various vibrant colors, you will also find other variations with different styles of hour markers and even some that have silver-painted cases and stainless steel bracelets. Options within the greater MRW200H collection range from vibrant to tactical, and a quick search for models from other markets will reveal an even wider selection of watches. That said, my personal favorite from the collection is the classic MRW200H-1BV, as it offers a straightforward utilitarian appearance and maximizes the functionality of its relatively simple design.
All of the watches from the Casio MRW200H collection follow a three-handed layout with both day and date displays located within a single aperture at 3 o’clock. With that in mind, the dial fitted to the Casio MRW200H-1BV features Arabic numeral hour markers, along with a secondary track of 24-hour markings for reading the time in either format. While other variations of the Casio MRW200H feature this same style of dial, the white-on-black colorway of the MRW200H-1BV offers the absolute maximum amount of contrast, and the Arabic numeral hour markers are also luminous on this particular variant, which is something that is missing from the versions with brightly colored dial markings. Similarly, the hands are painted white, which makes them appear slightly larger, and while the lume on the Casio MRW200H series is relatively pitiful across the entire collection, the simple fact that MRW200H-1BV also features luminous hour markers gives it the slight edge when it comes to low-light visibility.
At the heart of the Casio MRW200H collection is a simple three-handed quartz movement that runs on a single SR626SW power cell with a battery life of approximately three years. While Casio’s own internal number for this movement is Module No. 5125, this movement is actually the Miyota 2305, which is about as inauspicious as it gets when it comes to analog quartz calibers that offer a dual calendar display. That said, unless you happen to receive a defective example, these simple movements are actually quite accurate and reliable. On Casio’s official website, you will see the timekeeping specs of the MRW200H series listed as +/-20 seconds per month, although most examples will perform significantly better than their on-paper numbers, and you should reasonably expect only a handful of seconds of deviation on a monthly basis.
Fitted to the 18mm lugs of the Casio MRW200H-1BV is a black rubber strap, and while the strap itself is objectively serviceable, it is also the weakest feature of this particular watch. The two-piece strap offers a fairly traditional diver-style design, and it quickly flares out to 24mm in order to create a more integrated appearance with the case, before quickly tapering back down to 18mm where it connects to its black plastic pin buckle. The strap itself is reasonably long and flexible, although the rubber material is fairly thin, and the plastic buckle doesn’t exactly inspire the most confidence (despite being signed with the Casio logo). That said, an even less substantial version of this plastic buckle is fitted to the venerable F-91W, and few owners report failure with this particular point of its strap, so my plastic buckle prejudices are likely largely misplaced.
Although the Casio MRW200H series features standard 18mm lugs, the amount of clearance between the springbar and the case is relatively minimal, and some third-party straps may be too thick to properly fit. Additionally, due to the way that the included rubber strap flares out to meet the edges of the lugs, a standard 18mm wide strap will look slightly undersized when fitted to the case of the Casio MRW200H. While I wholeheartedly advocate playing around with different strap options to see if you can find yourself a winning configuration, my personal recommendation would be to just use the included rubber strap until it starts to wear out, and then replace it with a simple single-pass Perlon strap that will be more than thin enough to fit through the gap between the lugs.
Based on its features alone, the Casio MRW200H-1BV is well-worth its humble price, but an additional point of intrigue surrounding this particular model is that it is actually used by high-altitude NASA pilots. In a number of different photos of NASA’s WB-57 crew, you can spot the Casio MRW200H-1BV mounted to the wrists of their yellow flight suits. Due to the way that the suits inflate at 15,000 feet, NASA’s pilots don’t actually wear their MRW200H-1BV watches strapped around their wrists at all, but rather mounted to a blue rectangular patch that attaches via velcro to a section located on their wrist. While the Casio MRW200H-1BV is hardly as glamorous as an Omega Speedmaster, it is accurate, durable, and exponentially more affordable, making it an ideal candidate for a modern analog tool watch.
Realistically speaking, the Casio MRW200H is far from being the perfect watch, but where this model really excels is when it comes to its firmly humble price point. When purchased in its standard black resin configuration and on a rubber strap (such as the MRW200H-1BV featured here), Casio’s MRW200H series is accompanied by an official retail price of just $29.95 USD, which makes it only seven dollars more than the absolute least expensive watches that the brand produces. Additionally, you can often find the MRW200H series at a discount, and it’s not unreasonable to expect that you can add one of these watches to your collection for about twenty bucks. At this price, the Casio MRW200H is entirely free from any concerns surrounding factors such as maintenance and serviceability. A small screwdriver is all you need in order to open up its caseback, and when a battery change every few years finally fails to bring the watch back to life, you can always buy a completely new Casio MRW200H-1BV for less than the price of a few rounds of drinks at your local bar. For more information on the Casio MRW200H sports watch collection, please visit the brand’s website.