Historically, Casio's two premium action watch lines have been G-Shock and Pro-Trek (the latter incorporating Pathfinder and Sea Pathfinder). These watches have, almost without exception, boasted excellent build quality using high-quality plastics or other polymers (for a notable exception - see my much older review of the SPS-300, module no. 2572).
Despite their status the Pro-Trek and G-Shock line-up remain quite affordable however, with only some MT-G retail prices raising a few eyebrows. But there is a huge range of other action-oriented watches that come in below the price point of these premium lines, and yet offering similar features. So the question is how do you differentiate between a twin-sensor GW-9200-1 Riseman at £143.75 from my favourite UK retailer, and the twin-sensor SGW-200H bought for £39.98 on the same site? What is missing or different on watches with similar main functions to justify the Riseman costing 3.5x the price?
There are obvious differences, of course, in that the Riseman has G-Shock protection and is solar-powered and radio-controlled. But if you're on a budget and yet still want a feature-packed watch, does this matter? Let's look at the more subtle points now in finer detail.
The first thing to say about any cheaper or mid-range Casio watch, including the SGW-300H, is that they all, again almost without exception, meet a certain level of quality that is perceptible to the consumer. My personal opionion is that Casio are very good at establishing a sense of good value for any of their products at the given price point. On examining the SGW-300H I think very few people would doubt it was worth £40. To a Casio collector, however, especially of G-Shock, one thing is immediately apparent, and that is how light the SGW is. It weighs just 43 grams, which is a fraction of most twin-sensor G-Shocks or Pro-Treks.
Both the module, and the strap, are more thinly constructed than their premium counterparts. The other tell-tale sign is the presence of a plastic buckle. It is fair to assume that rugged outdoor use, involving exposure to both water and sweat, will result in strap failure earlier than on a resin G-Shock, or Pro-Trek. On the module, the outer plastics are as well-detailed and finished as on more expensive models, but are noticeably harder and shinier, and though unlikely to find out through normal use, I can tell you that were you to really subject these plastics to brutal forces you would find they were more brittle as well. These plastics tend to scratch more easily than those used on premium models, too. With its numerous exposed angular edges, the SGW-300H would not wear well from an aesthetic point of view, if used during rugged outdoor activities, in comparison to the Riseman.
Getting in to the features of the actual module itself, there are other differences too. Not all twin-sensor watches are born equal. The SGW may have the same sensors as the Riseman, and even the same measuring intervals, but the way in which the data gets displayed, and how useful this is, are quite different. The current Riseman has quite a good barometric pressure graph on its display, superior to the original 1990s Riseman (which I own). The SGW has no such graph, just an indicator that shows the barometric trend. OK, but not as useful. It's also a shame that the barometric indicator does not have the option of being displayed in normal timekeeping, instead it just counts seconds elapsed on a loop.
In altimeter mode the indicator does nothing either, all you have is the current reading, based on the watch's internal database for air pressure conversions. So you must set your own reference altitude for it to be useful.
Oh dear, maybe this watch is false economy then?
No. Ok, so the sensor data is better displayed on the more premium watches. But the information displayed is still useful enough for you to use it to predict upcoming poor weather or track your climbs/descents - you just need to do a bit more of the work yourself.
Where the build quality is concerned, this is not a major issue for the average user. You are not going to subject any Casio watch to forces or conditions that will really damage it under use. If you do, the chances are, if you're wearing it at the time, you will be seriously damaged too. I have worn many Casio watches with plastic buckles over the years and I have never known one to fail. Also, the latest generation of resin straps on the more affordable watch straps seem much more resilient than in the past, and if you look after the strap in accordance to the manual, it should give years of service.
The only exception I can think of is scuba diving, where water resistance, in terms of the static pressure resistance, really does become important. The latest Pro-treks have moved on to 200 metres (20 bar) water resistance, like G-Shocks, and you would notice the seals are that much thicker than on the SGW, were you to remove the back plates on each. But ruling out deep submersion, you would be hard pushed to find a way to break the water resistance on even a 50M rated, properly maintained Casio watch.
Also, some of the SGW's "weaknesses" actually work in its favour. The watch is lighter, so it will fatigue you less, and for many will be more comfortable. Waveceptor and solar features are impressive, but I know from experience sadly that when they go wrong, they are expensive to fix. Standard quartz accuracy is perfectly adequate, and the 3 year battery life comes from the ubiquitous CR2016 cell - affordable and easy to replace yourself with a little know-how. There's no doubt in my mind that the waveceptor and solar watches are slightly less reliable, overall, than their "standard" - and cheaper - equivalents, and if wearing out in a hiking trip etc. this is important. Consider which of the bells and whistles from the arsenal of Casio technology you actually need at which time, and for which application.
There's also the issue, for me anyway, of owning a premium titanium Pro-Trek that cost me, without limitless resources, what is a lot of money, and rarely wearing it in anger because of being worried about damaging or scratching it. The SGW, on the other hand, is a go-to watch. It was cheap to buy, so I won't worry about using it. Consequently I know I will wear it more often than the Pro-Trek.
And there are other strong points too. The SGW has an excellent array of secondary features, as with many mid-range Casio watches there can often be more useful secondary features than on some premium models. The SGW boasts 5 daily alarms (although alarms that can be set for a specific date would've been nice), and a 24 hour stopwatch and countdown timer. There is also world time, an adjustable timed backlight, a low battery indicator, and the option to turn off the button press tone. The display is large and clear, not at all crowded, and compares favourably with premium models which have to fit more information in to a smaller space. The current time is displayed on the top line in all modes, which is always a welcome feature.
I hope I've shown some of the more subtle ways in which a premium Casio differs from a mid-range model. Casio are masters of building each watch to a certain price. It's clear that the SGW could've been designed to deliver more from its twin sensors, but Casio want to steer you toward the premium sensor models for that. It's also clear that the construction isn't as solid, but the key thing is it is still solid enough.
What you get is an entirely competent watch for your money, in every way as useful a tool as the more expesnive Riseman. It won't look as good after 5 years of use, that's for sure, but I would lay a small wager that it would still be working. It's an excellent choice, for example, for a child who wants their first techno-watch, without spending a fortune.
I have no hesitation in recommending it, and if you do collect, consider adding more cheaper or mid-range Casio watches to your collection. You may be surprised at how often they end up on your wrist!