The Casio MDV106-1A dive watch is well known among both diver’s and budget-oriented watch collectors. In this review of the MDV106-1A I’ll show exactly why it’s so well known.
Commonly available for only $40 from online retailers such as Amazon, the MDV106-1A stands out in that it features 200m water resistance unlike many other ‘diver-style’ watches at this price level.
Besides the better than average specifications, the Casio MDV106-1A also just looks damn good, and with a cursory glance you might mistake it for a much higher end watch.
The Casio MDV106-1A is my top pick for a quartz-powered, affordable dive watch available for less than $100.
Casio MDV106-1A Specifications
- Japanese quartz movement
- SR626 battery with 3-year battery life
- Unidirectional diver’s bezel
- 200 meter (660 feet) water resistance
- Screw-down crown and screw-lock caseback
- Mineral crystal
- Stainless steel case
- 44mm diameter
- 48mm lug to lug
- 12mm height
- 92g case weight
Casio Computer Company, founded in 1946, is a Tokyo based multinational electronics manufacturing company. They were among the first electronics companies to manufacture quartz watches, both analog and digital models. In 1957 they released the world’s first entirely electric compact calculator.
Developing watches with a variety of interesting sensors is Casio’s specialty, including watches that display different time zones, atmospheric pressure, temperatures, water depth, and GPS. Their expertise has made watches such as the G-Shock extremely popular among outdoor enthusiasts.
You can find all different kinds of styles from Casio, from basic analog, analog mixed with digital displays, and fully digital watches with 100 different functions. The MDV106-1A is fully in the basic, simple analog side of their range, and is targeted at SCUBA diver’s, snorkelers, swimmers, and boaters that are only interested in a straight-forward easy to read timepiece that has a timing bezel.
The MDV106-1A is the most popular watch in Casio’s MDV line of diver’s, and it’s the most traditional, minimalistic version. Watches in the MDV3XX line, such as the MDV300D-1AV come with chronometer functions and slightly more colorful styling.
Below I’ve included a selection of the different styles, all of which should have as good or better quality than the watch I’m reviewing here. So if the MDV106 is too minimal for your tastes, be sure to check these out!
The Casio MDV106-1A Review
Ok, enough preamble, let’s get into the detailed review of this lovely watch that I’ve got sitting in front of me right now!
Case and Caseback
The stainless steel case of the Casio MDV106-1A is highly angular, with a number of nearly 90 degree corners around the lugs and crown. The lugs are relatively short and curve downward drastically over their short distance.
With its large 44mm case diameter, having such short and curved lugs helps the MDV106 still fit nicely on even smaller wrists. My wrists are only about 6.75″ around, and while the MDV106 sits large and proud on my wrist, the lugs don’t overhang and it feels nice and comfortable to wear.
The sides of the case have been polished to a nice mirror finish, and the tops of the lugs and bottom of the case have a more brushed, less reflective finish. I’ve looked closely all over the case, and I haven’t been able to find any machining marks left behind by the manufacturing process.
The fit and finish is very high, and from what I’ve read from other reviews I didn’t just get lucky with this piece. Casio has extremely high quality control, and getting any sort of flawed watch is very rare.
Looking at the screw-lock caseback you can see one of the big differences between a cheap Casio and something like an Omega Seamaster. Omega prides themselves on small details, such as having the caseback screw into a perfectly aligned position with the rest of the case, and even patented a mechanism for achieving this. The caseback on my piece here sits quite cockeyed and ‘upside-down’ to the rest of the case, with the text sloping up.
Sitting top center of the caseback is an engraved marlin, which Casio uses to signify that this watch has 200 meters of water resistance. Casio makes many ‘diver style’ watches that only come with a rating of 100m WR, and you won’t see the marlin emblem anywhere on them.
Besides the marlin, we get other engraved text. Along the top of the caseback is ‘WATER RESISTANT 20BAR’ in a nice arc. On the leftward side arcs ‘STAINLESS STEEL’, and on the right is the serial number enclosed in a curved box, with the model name ‘MDV-106’ beside it.
I find it interesting that on the watch they print the model name as MDV-106, while in all the literature online they leave the dash out, using MDV106-1A instead.
Center bottom is engraved ‘CASIO JAPAN MOV’T CASED IN CHINA DY’. I’m not sure what the DY signifies, possible the factory in which it was cased?
Overall the case looks very nice, especially when you take into account the price this watch is available at. Decorated engravings on the caseback are somewhat rare in cheaper watches, and Casio pulls it off very nicely here.
The small screw-down crown on the MDV106 has a notched edge providing a decent grip, and a very highly polished, mirror-like finish on the end of it. It’s enclosed between two crown guards on the case, offering some protection.
As you can see in this picture, half of the crown extends below the guards. This does make it easier to get your fingers on it, but minimizes the protection offered by the guards.
The MDV106’s crown is probably my least favorite part of the watch. It looks undersized compared to the size of the case, and just feels cheap and fiddly when unscrewing and adjusting it. I get the distinct impression that if I’m not really careful while setting the watch I could break the crown right off.
On the positive side, with its extremely accurate quartz movement, you’ll be adjusting the time much less than on an automatic mechanical. The only time I’ve needed to unscrew the crown since I first set the watch is to advance the date at the end of a month with less than 31 days.
I didn’t manage to get any useful pictures of the crystal on the MDV106, but it’s a fairly basic flat mineral crystal. The top of it stands just slightly above the height of the surrounding bezel, and the edge looks to be very slightly bezeled.
Mineral crystals are more prone to scratches than sapphire, but quite a bit tougher than acrylic crystals (though it’s easy to polish acrylic, unlike mineral and sapphire).
I haven’t managed to put any scratches in mine yet, even though I’ve been wearing it off and on for a couple months now, and been pretty careless with it.
Overall, the crystal is nothing fancy, but completely adequate for it’s use here.
The Casio MDV106-1A features a pretty standard unidirectional diver’s timing bezel. The black insert is marked in white with numerals every 10 minutes, with the 5 minute positions indicated by thin, not quite rectangular bars. The first 15 minutes of the bezel is marked every minute with smaller bars, similar to a Rolex Submariner.
The notched edge provides a good grip even with wet and/or gloved hands. It’s stiff enough not to turn accidentally, but not too stiff for easy use. When turned the 120-click bezel provides a satisfying and somewhat click action. It’s a little sloppy compared to some higher end diver’s but not so bad that it jiggles back and forth when not being turned.
The zero marker features a large luminous pip, the only luminous marking found on the bezel. This is usually enough to get a good idea of the elapsed time in the dark, but I do prefer a bit more luminosity on my bezels, every 10 minutes would be ideal.
There is a LOT of confusion among internet commenters and watch reviewers about the original purpose of the diver’s bezel and the reason it only turns one way. As a diver, hopefully I can clear this up a bit. The timing bezel doesn’t have anything to do with monitoring air supply while diving, which is commonly stated.
The purpose is to monitor the time of dive in order to prevent decompression illness (the bends). As a diver breathes compressed air, her blood and tissues absorb excess nitrogen. Too long at depth can cause the body to contain too much nitrogen, and as you ascend back to the surface this excess nitrogen will form too many bubbles in the blood to be removed through the lungs. The bubbles accumulate in various places throughout the body, and symptoms vary depending on where they get stuck.
The reason the bezel only turns one direction is so that if it gets bumped and turned it will only turn in the way that is more conservative, showing longer time spent at depth than in reality. Turning the other way is extremely dangerous, causing the diver to believe they’ve spent less time diving than they actually have.
Analog dive watches have been largely superseded by digital dive computers, which use complex algorithms to calculate the nitrogen load, and update a display showing the safe remaining time allowed at each depth. Many divers still enjoy using traditional dive watches, either for historical reasons or as a backup to the dive computer.
Isn’t that just a gorgeous, minimalistic dial?
I’m a pretty big fan of the pure black, white, and chrome of the dial. The dial features the brand name high center, the marlin logo and WR 200M low center, a date window on the right, and “JAPAN MOV’T” in very small text at the 6 o’clock.
It’s difficult to see in pictures, but the black dial actually reflects a starburst pattern when viewed at an angle, which provides a lovely accent to the otherwise plain dial.
The applied lumed markers are edged in chrome, and stand just above the black of the dial. The attention to detail here is very good for a watch in this price range, with the markers aligned perfectly with the dashes on the chapter ring.
The minute and hour hands are a sword and arrow, both filled with lume and lined in chrome. The seconds hand is a long arrow, with a small amount of lume in the arrow head. It’s colored red on the outward half, and otherwise pure black.
All three hands feature rather large counter-balances, with the minute and hour hands done in chrome and the counter-balance on the second hand done in black.
The seconds hand jumps forward each second with a slight rebound, which is pretty common on quartz watches. What’s not common in a watch in this price range is that it actually ticks lined up with the seconds markers arranged around the chapter ring. It seems like a small thing, but shows a higher level of quality and detail than other watches available for ~$40.
The date window features black numerals printed on a white background. The cutout is contained within a white box.
The date window on the MDV106 is not particularly impressive, with the font being misaligned and the cutout featuring a rough edge on its right side. It’s also small and may be difficult to read for older owners.
I couldn’t find too many details about the Japanese made quartz movement in the MDV106-1A. It’s rated to be accurate +-30s/month, and mine does better than that, only gaining about 5 seconds a month. The SR626 battery should last approximately 3 years, and is easily replaceable by your local jeweler, dive shop, or yourself with the proper tools. I’d recommend having your local dive shop pressure test the watch for water tightness if you replace the battery yourself.
The Casio MDV106-1A comes with a pretty standard ‘resin’ band. It’s decently comfortable, and I’m actually a bigger fan of the softer band found on this Casio than the stiffer rubber band that came with my Seiko SKX007.
However, it doesn’t look that great and is not fun to wear in the summer heat with sweaty arms. I’ve had a simple 22mm black NATO strap on it for most of my wrist time. While plain, it fits the simple style of the watch. People looking to spice up the look of the watch could get away with more colorful straps, and I think even something like a bright orange NATO would look great.
For those that want to dress up the watch a little bit more, Ritche makes an aftermarket stainless bracelet for the MDV106. It goes for only about $10, and has great reviews. I’m considering buying it and doing a review, like I did for the Strapcode bracelet on my SKX007.
Use While Diving
The Casio MDV106-1A is a big watch, and features a large, simple, easy to read dial. The bezel is easy to turn with gloves on.
The Casio MDV106-1A is a no frills tool diver that you can’t go wrong with. My only concern wearing it while diving would be if the cheap crown didn’t get screwed back down correctly the last time the time or date was set.
If you’re in need of an inexpensive (I won’t use the word cheap to describe it) diver style analog watch, you simply won’t go wrong with the Casio MDV106-1A. Whether you’re swimming, snorkeling, boating, diving, or just want a watch that can handle some sweat and abuse, you’ll be hard pressed to find something better equipped and better looking for $40. I think the MDV106 will be staying in my collection for the foreseeable future.
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