Part 1 Ė In the hand and in the eye.
For many years Casio's ProTrek range has offered it's outdoors relevant data (altitude, barometric pressure, temperature and compass bearing) via a variety of digital-only displays. No doubt for clarity's sake and perhaps easy of manufacture Ė no matter the reason they have been a big hit for them.
Recent years have seen these 'ABC' watches (Altitude, Barometric, Compass) transition over to a combination display with the emphasis on analogue. Casio's most recent ProTrek (PRX-7000) is entirely analogue which underlines how valuable they see the old fashioned display type to be. Naturally the older all-digital models continue in several forms and I have one of the older types, a PRG-240 with which I will draw comparisons in part 2 of this review.
This PRG-510 is in fact a 'cut' down version of the PRW-5100, and while it appears identical to the eye a scan of the specifications reveals that the 510 is without the 5100's Atomic Timekeeping feature (hence the PRG tag) and Tough Movement (automatic aligning of the hands). However that appears to be the limit of the differences and if I tell you I paid £180 online for this 510 I think we have a bargain, but when I tell you the 510 has a hand alignment routine, albeit one you have to trigger, I hope youíll share the same amazement as me. The 5100 is coming up as over £280 on a quick Google search!
One of the many things I love about Casio is the fact that they don't downgrade build quality when they release sister models like this. The two different 9200 Risemans are another example of large savings being made on features but not style or quality.
Worth a quick mention is the PRG550 model which is identical to the 510 except for the bezel layout (larger degree numerals) and a small difference on the watch face. What the 550 brings is a 4 colour range whereas the 510 is only available in this black and silver version (to date at least). Picture taken from Casio.com.
Detailed specifications can be found in numerous places so I won't clutter this up with them nor will I bore you with packaging details; ProTreks come in a brown recycled card (appearance at least) box which holds a lightweight wooden box containing the watch.
It is hard to miss the outdoor connection although personally I think a tin is a far more sensible packaging option.
Out of the plastic and into the daylight my initial impression was just how little justice the Web images of this piece do for it. This watch glints and shines like my £400 Edifice does, especially the watch's face.
Starting with the face we have an inner circle which is clearly the (tough) solar panel with a distinct and cool honeycomb effect. The main colour of the face is a mid grey with very small concentric grooves running around it akin to a vinyl record (sorry kids ask an adult). Slightly outside of the solar circle is a chromed band which appears to serve little purpose except an agreeable cosmetic one. This band is missing on the 550 model, but that model has a stronger centre line up the face to the 12 oíclock position.
There is a faint cross overlaid on the solar circle which extends out to the chrome ring and I guess it is to assist with identifying the primary compass points (if you can't remember 12,3,6 and 9 o'clock).
Then we have the hour markers represented by traditional marker blocks (teeth style) which keep the face very clear and although I might have fancied numerics at the previously mentioned points it is possible that Casio wouldnít want too much GW3000/4000 influence to be seen here.
I would have to have done without a numeric at 6 o'clock because there lies the positive rectangular digital display. It isn't big but provides the information the analogue hands either can't (pressure graph) or are too busy telling the time to do, depending on mode. More of this in part 2 when I will explore the features and how they are displayed to you (I need more practice with the watch first).
As the light plays across the face you see details and textures not visible in some conditions and almost all pictures. It is a real head-turner if only of mine - I spend minutes waving it about in front of me, which looks odd indeed, trying to catch the light just right.
Around the face but still under the mineral glass is a ring containing World Cities and scales for the Barometer function and other data. This sits above the face and offers a nice depth to the watch. Outside the glass is a reasonably deep bezel - not as deep as my GW3000 but this isn't a G-Shock.
On the bezel is a degree script from 0 to 360 although the markings on the 550 are bigger and the bezel more chunky Ė it appears likely to be a matt finish where as this is glossy.
The inner face of this angled bezel is highly polished in black, whereas the outer edge is a flatter brushed finish Ė a finish which extends until this 'bezel cap' reaches the outer edges of the watch body where the final edges are again highly polished. This contrast in finishes is simple yet highly effective in giving the watch visual appeal as you move your wrist. It is hard to explain however so check out the images.
As you can see in the photos the bezel cap extends over to the sides of the watch where it meets the side moulding - a matt resin which appears a dark gunship grey against the very black of the upper surfaces, though is probably technically black too.
All 6 buttons are hard gloss black plastic/resin types and the three ABC buttons are textured on their ends in common with other models. The sole right side button - Mode - is a totally different shape (a bevelled rectangle) with only a protective shroud on the base.
The two buttons at the 6 o'clock position (Adjust and Light from L to R) slant inwards with their top edges almost flush with the body.
All buttons are simple and positive in their operation with no click or apparent rocking in place. You squeeze and something happens. Perfect.
Moving down the watch to the strap joints we have yet more textures and materials employed. In common with the GW4000 series the strap joint has two knurled washers separating the strap from the lugs. Move down the strap and there is a thin metal plate with the ProTrek logo etched onto it. Yet another texture placed exactly where it will be at right angles to the watch when wearing it, and so catching the light at a different angle to the body.
I can imagine several Casio designers all waving the watch about under various lighting angles and conditions ensuring that there is always a texture contrast to be seen.
The strap itself is a very comfortable, supple resin yet it feels stronger than that on the GW3000 whilst being light years away from that nasty band on the 240. Itís a little rougher in texture on the outer edges compared to the smooth finish on a typical G-Shock band, probably a mere cosmetic touch to emphasis the rugged nature of it.
The inside surface of the strap is corrugated to hold the keeper in place and the end of the strap has a raised end which prevents it from working its way out of the keeper - you have to squash this raised block when opening the watch. Seriously, this band never comes out of the keeper and the keeper never moves even when worn for 12 hours inc bathing a toddler.
A great strap design; comfortable, attractive and very functional.
I have 7 inch wrists, if that helps with the photographs.
The back plate carries the word "Japan" on it which perhaps accounts for some of the quality this watch exudes although otherwise the back of the watch is pretty standard fare.
I will add some lume shots in when I can, certainly theyíll be in part 2 but for now you can Google plenty Ė it is the same as that on the 5100 which means an LED at the base of the digital display which does a reasonable job of illuminating the digital display and the watch face. Yes a proper full digital illumination would be nice but Iím guessing thereís a reason why itís not there. However, since the 510 has a very good spread of lume, which works very well, I donít see the light being a problem. It is unlikely Iíll want to know the date when itís dark or what direction Iím going. The GW3000 and my Edifice do without lights completely and are none the worse for it.
So, that's Part 1 out of the way. Catch up with Part 2 where we take a look at the functionality and compare to the venerable PRG 240.
Now for the wrist shots