The Casio WVQ-620DBE-1AVER (catchy, isn’t it?) might have otherwise faded into obscurity as “just another quartz chrono” if it wasn’t for one man – Bear Grylls. Bear famously swapped out of his Bremont and Breitling for this innocuous little affordable. No doubt significant sponsorship dollars changed hands, but is it possible that the ‘Bear Grylls Casio’ is actually worthy of the moniker?
I don’t own this watch, but I had the opportunity to play with it for a couple of days when I bought one for my sister’s boyfriend, who is a big Bear fan. With a couple of exceptions, overall I found this to be a surprisingly complete and desirable package.
The Bear Grylls Casio (BGC) is a stainless steel cased solar powered quartz analog-digital chrono, fitted with a stainless steel bracelet. The case measures approximately 43-44 mm from 3 to 9 o’clock, 14 mm thick, and 48 mm from lug to lug. Water resistance is rated at100 m.
The dial, in addition to 3 primary hands (hours, seconds, minutes) features 3 subdials and a small digital display. Subdial functions are as follows:
The function of the digital display varies depending on the mode selected. There is no crown mechanism, and all watch functions are selected and operated using 3 pushers (at 2, 8,and 10 o’clock).
- 12 o’clock: chronograph 1/20second display (for first minute of timing)
- 6 o’clock: 24 hour display
- 9 o’clock: chronograph minute display(up to 60 minutes)
The functions and features of the BGC include:
- Radio controlled atomic timekeeping (Anthorn and Mainflingen transmitters)
- Chronograph (to 59 minutes, 59.99 seconds)
- Ability to display a 2nd timezone
- LED illumination (including automatic operation)
- Low battery level indication
The BGC case mostly comprises a combination of brushed and polished surfaces. The exception is the bezel, which has undergone a gloss balck treatment with a tachymeter scale printed in white. The caseback is secured using four screws. A gently domed mineral crystal protects the dial.
Overall, fit and finish of the case is superb. The finish of the bezel, in particular, is extremely rich, deep and glossy, and the tachymeter scale printing is perfect. The margins separating brushed and polished surfaces are not as crisp as a Sumo, but are quite good nonetheless, as is the quality of the brushing and polishing themselves.
The pushers are set into tubes, which are then set into the case. There is a small gap between the tubes and the case, and this detracts slightly from the impression of solidity and fine tolerances. Inserting the pushers directly into the case would create an impression of higher quality. The action of the pushers is pleasant, with a firm tough required. They do not click, however, so the only indication of actuation is visible activity on the dial. A damped click would be preferable, but th pusher action is smooth, and consistent between all three pushers.
A screw down caseback would be preferable to the 4 screw setup. The BGC is not a dive watch, though, so 4 screws are acceptable. Water resistance of 100 m is sufficient for all but the most serious of divers, at any rate. The case back contains a considerable amount of text, and a stylised radar dish indicating radio control. Most useful are labels indicating the chief function of the three pushers.
A sapphire crystal would be preferable on a watch of this type. That said, the example reviewed was 2nd hand, and the crystal was completely scratch free. Another significant improvement would be drilled lugs.
As is the case with so many lower end Japanese watches, the bracelet is a real weakness. It uses brushed and polished surfaces to create the impression of a 5 link bracelet, but in reality it uses full width solid links (at least they are not folded). It is of reasonable thickness, but could be a little thicker to better balance the watch head.
The clasp is a rather cheap feeling pressed sheet steel contraption, and is not up to the same standard of heft and solidity as the rest of the bracelet. The clasp is released sing two ‘buttons’ that sit fluch with the bracelet. They look better than they feel, and I would never 100% trust this clasp not to open unintentionally. The clasp does, however, match the nasty folded endlinks. Solid endlinks would be such an improvement.
Dial and Hands
The dial is a solar panel, and has an inky metallic finish to it. There is a very fine grid pattern etched into it, as well as some kind of starburst effect going on. The subdials each have a thin red circle inside the numerals, while the 12 and 6 dubdials are framed by metallic effect rings. Sounds busy, maybe a little gaudy, but is actually extremely classy in a hi-tech way. Top marks. I would go so far as to say that the face is the aesthetic highlight of this watch – it looks fantastic. It is busy, and yet somehow very legible, and just downright attractive.
The hour and minute hands are lumed. It would be nice to have a lumed seconds hand. Indices at every hour are also lumed. Lume is not bad, but it’s no Seiko diver. It doesn’t need to be. The LED illumination on the BGC is AWESOME – tactical feeling orange LEDs light up around the dial from between the chapter ring and the dial. It’s like being in the cockpit of a stealth fighter (I imagine). The auto illumination function somewhat precludes the need for a lumed second hand, too.
I can’t describe all of the BGC features here. It would be dull as dishwater, and go on forever. If you are interested, the manual is available here:
In the short time the BGC has been with me, however, I have noted the following quirks:
- What is the point in having a 1/20 second subdial when the digital display allows 1/100 second timing?
- Why does the 1/20 second subdial count in real time for the first 60seconds in chrono mode and then stop, only to snap to the correct position once timing has ceased after 60seconds?
- The ‘dual time’ feature is useful only if you know the GMT differential of the time zone of interest. It cannot begin to compete with a genuine digital world time feature, a la G-Shock.
- Waiting for the hands to spin round and round when switching modes can be frustrating and a bit annoying. On the other hand, it can be really cool and is a neat feature depending on your mood and if you’re in a hurry.
Sponsorship aside, would the WVQ-620DBE-1AVER be the watch of choice for Bear Grylls when he is stuck in the desert or jungle? I’m not so sure. Personally I would like to have that Breitling emergency signal transmitter strapped to my wrist. I’m not familiar with the Breitling, but apart from radio synching I don’t imagine it would lack any of the features of the BGC. And, somewhat disappointingly, the BGC ony synchs to 2 (European) transmitters.
On the other hand, and lets be realistic here, not many defence / adventurer types actually have US$4000 to blow on a watch. Most outdoor types do their adventuring on a budget, and it isn’t a Breitling Emergency sized budget. For those ‘normal’ folk, I think the BGC is an excellent outdoors watch.
Is the BGC as good for outdoors activities as a G-Shock or Protrek? Depends on what other gear you have at hand, and it certainly isn’t as tough or functional as either. But it’s a damn sight better for outdoor survival mode than a Bremont!
What about when you eventually make our way back to civilisation? There are some pretty ritzy hotels at those former colonial outposts of once great empires. A G or Protrek might not cut it. But a BGC will. It’s a high quality, well finished, handsome piece to strap to your wrist. A possible conversation piece too – “did you know bear Gryllswears one of these…”
If you like the look of this, buy it. It’s a BARGAIN. My closing advice would be to fit NATO or other tactical style strap. By removing the bracelet, you’d be removing nearly every weakness this watch has.