Sunday, January 6, 2013

G-Shock #1: MRG-210

It’s the first article of the year. Normally I start pretty early with writing and actually I had all my 2012 articles finished half November last year, but this time it’s a last minute article. I easily could have chosen t post next week. There are 52 weeks in a year, so I can easily skip one week, but I want to be sure I make it to the end again this year. Probably, and hopefully, with the help of some friends.
I start this year with an old classic. It’s the 1997 MRG-210-7. One of the two square MR-G models, the other one is the MRG-110. Actually both models look pretty similar, but are in fact pretty different. The MRG-110 with the 1569 module has a simple Alarm, a Stopwatch and a Countdown Timer on board. The MRG-210 with the 1673 module, has a more sophisticated functions (for a 1997 wristwatch , that is).
The MRG-210 (left) and MRG-110 (right), both the square MR-G models.
A selection of my MR-G models of the first generation. From left to right: MRG-1000 "Tactician, MRG-210, MRG-110, MRG-121 and MRG-100.
Also the MRG-210 has a 5th button for the backlight. The MRG-110 has a 4-button control, like the DW-5600E. Personally I like the separate 5th Light Button. It is pretty well worked away under the display and blends pretty well in the metal design.
Except for the first three MRG-1 models, all first generation MR-G models were full metal, both the case as the bezel (the part that covers the case). The first MRG-1 model (1996) has a full titanium case, but the strap and the bezel are made of resin, which is a bit of a problem now, as replacement parts are hard, or not available anymore and a lot of bezels of the ones that have been worn are now victim of resin rot. A good reason to love the full metal MR-G’s of the first generation (the pre 2003 models).
While my personal preference of G-Shock are the more rounded models, like the DW-6900 and the Frogman, I have to confess my preference of the MR-G line is for the square models. The first generation MR-G models are relative small, but the square models have somehow a bit more bigger and tougher look. Of course the 4 screws which probably hold the front part of the bezel in place, add to this look too. As these models also come with a full metal bracelet, they feel pretty heavy too. While for a digital watch light weight is generally preferred, the MR-G models feel more like a high quality fortress. The extra weight here adds only extra on that feel of quality and toughness.
Although the MR-G is a full metal wristwatch, you will find a resin part at the back ot the watch. it is a kind of shock absorber. It is a separate part, which is hold to the watch by the back. I pretty much like the look of this back protector, although you normally don’t see this part, of course.
The display of the MRG-210 is split in an upper part and a lower part. Above the lower part ther is actually a small extra part for the function indicators, so you can see in which ode you are on. Most important for this watch is that the upper part is a full matrix display. Therefore it is suitable for texts.
The matrix display can display 97 different characters. Of these 97 characters, 51 are Katakana characters. This is the most simple Japanese character set, which makes it possible to write both Japanese as foreign words.
I couldn’t resist to input ショーズ (Sho-zu, my name in Katakana) as ID of the owner of the watch. The lower part of the display has two rows of digits. The upper row displays the year and date in the Timekeeping mode, the lower row, you could have guessed it easily, shows time.
When leaving the Time Keeping mode, you enter the “Contact Code Mode”. This is probably directly taken over from the first Codename model. It is normally called the Tele Memo mode, which is equivalent to a simple telephone book. It can store up to 20 names and telephone numbers, which are stored in alphabetical order. A name can be up to 8 characters, the telephone number can be maximal 12 numbers. Unfortunately the memory is shared with the ID function. Remember this is the time where the mobile phone was still upcoming and 1.44 Mb floppies were used to store memory, no era to compare with the smartphones of today with a phonebook, not only storing the multiple telephone numbers, but addresses, birthdays and many more per contact. I now can easily say it is a useless function, but back in the time it was pretty handy. Frankly I had input some important numbers into my first Raysmans too (2001 - 2002).
I mentioned it already before, the next mode is the ID mode, or Identification mode. I must hereby say that Japan is a very trustworthy country, but frankly, I won’t input my credit card number, verification number and passwords, etc in my wristwatch. You can store up to 20 ID sets in your shared memory. Again 8 characters and 12 numbers. Default the watch has already reserved space for your Passport, License (drivers license) and Credit Card.
The next mode is Vital Statistics. Here you can input your name, up to 20 characters. Also it can store your Blood Type, mine is 0-, and your Birth Date.
With the Vital Statistics we leave the somewhat exotic features on this watch and we find next a simply Daily Alarm. Hereby I would like to note that the Alarm sound on the classic MR-G models is pretty horrible. The pretty heavy metal case is very good in shock protection, but unfortunately, the heavy screwback also absorbs a lot of the volume of the piezo speaker. I already noticed that when I got my first MR-G, a Tactician, more than 10 yeas ago. I can’t recommend using the Alarms on these watches. In a quick comparison, the MRG-110 has a louder, though not loud, Alarm tone. They can hardly be herd. Luckily the MRG-210 has also a Flash Alarm, which means the backlight flashes up when the Alarm sounds.
A 24 hour Stopwatch completes the functions list of this MR-G. Unfortunately, the extra functions come with a price. There was no room left for a Count Down Timer function. With the very soft Alarm tone of this model, it is probably not a useful function too.
This watch has, like most MR-G models, a very nice deep cyan EL backlight. Normally not too fond of blue, but these backlight color is very nice.
I wanted to wear this watch for a few weeks, but the battery was about to die. It kept normal timekeeping, but when you press the light button, the digits faded out. This is the most common indication that the battery is running dead. According the on-line manual, the battery lasts approximately 2 years, but I removed an CR1616 Energizer battery, which must have came with the watch when I bought it. I received this watch March 2008, which meant the battery had run for almost 5 years. I know Casio is always on the safe side, but almost 2.5 times the expected lifespan is pretty good, I’ll guess. Of course I do not wear this watch daily, so the EL backlight and Alarm function (the most energy consuming actions on a battery driven watch) are hardly used.
In the G-Shock Collectors world “rare” is an often called in the wild. So many times, it lost it’s value. I think the classic MR-G models are not really rare, although they are of course not made in numbers as the cheap ones, based on the basic models, like the DW-5600 and DW-6900. As these watches were sold world wide, thousands must have flooded around and you can still find them from time to time on on-line auctions for a good price. As these watches had a retail price in Japan of ¥45000, they were not cheap. I think you best can compare those prices and availability back then with those of the current MT-G and Giez line. After 15 years the prices of the MR-G models have dropped drastically. Frankly I haven’t bought MR-G models above €125, except for a few (real) rare models. The last one I bought was a Japan only MRG-120L, was ¥8000 in a collectors shop in Machida, Japan. There are only a few MR-G collectors in the world, so that make these models not really wanted. In my opinion, the MRG-120 and MRG-121 models are the best looking classic MR-Gs, but from the digitals the MRG-210 wins for me close to the 120's and 121's. Still I know some people, who, like me, appreciate the looks and feel of these Stainless Steel and Titanium beauties.


Anonymous said...

wow great G-Shock

Matt said...

You didn't mention the great MRG-210T
Which is the not so heavy, titanium version that was full metal with no resin parts on the band. I have just pulled mine out of storage and trying to find a pin to join the band to the case. It's a well worn watch, but looks so rugged.
I'm told it's very similar to the MRG-200

Unknown said...

Out of all of the older full metal digital MR-G watches, I also find the MRG-210 to be one of the best looking (my favorite is the MRG-220). Something about the square design with slightly rounded sides and corners gives it a well crafted look.

The MRG-1 has about an average sounding alarm, almost as loud as the DW-5600E. But these all metal MR-G watches do have anemic alarms. I absolutely cannot stand this. CASIO successfully made a loud alarm for the DW-5700D (1545), with metal case. So it just baffles me as to why they didn't pay attention to this with the high end MR-G line. It's not like there was a piezo speaker lottery and loudness is very mixed -- complaints are consistent for certain models.

Anyway, I may still pick up one of these someday. Your gorgeous pictures really do this watch justice, Sjors. :-)