Story by Jim Cobb, Photos by Jim Cobb, Tammy Cobb and manufacturer
Before he retired, my dad spent a couple decades as the General Manager of a luxury car dealership, and when he left the house in the morning, he looked like he’d stepped right off the cover of GQ magazine.
A key part of the ensemble was the watch, of course. My dad was very much a watch guy. From the time I was very young, I can recall him having a constantly changing lineup of timepieces. Tag Heuer, Breitling, and – of course – Rolex were among his favorites.
Were he still with us, I’m certain he’d covet the Casio Protrek PRG-650Y; as it is not only a great looking watch, but is absolutely loaded with tons of useful features that elevate it far above a simple tool for letting you know it is finally time to head for home.
The watch arrived in a nice, sturdy box made of hardboard, or a similar material. Along with the packing material and watch, the box also contained the instruction manual. The English portion of the manual runs 107 pages; with Spanish and French also represented in the same booklet. The text is fairly small, but I was still able to read it without resorting to my magnifying glass.
As a general rule, I tend to favor either metal or leather bands for watches. However, the Protrek’s DURA-SOFT band is exceptionally comfortable. It is pliable and easy to pull around the wrist; unlike many other plastic-like bands I’ve used in the past.
The Protrek is solar powered, so I let it sit for just a bit in the sun while I reviewed the manual.
Setting the correct date and time was simple, just a matter of unscrewing and pulling out the crown, pressing a couple of buttons and using the crown to scroll through the hours, minutes, and such. As the user goes about playing with the various settings, it becomes clear that the crown is what sort of unlocks the settings. It is a locking crown, meaning the user must unscrew it before pulling it open, then screw it back down after pushing it in.
The manual mentions the importance of keeping the crown secured in the locked position, to maintain the water resistance of the timepiece.
Once I had the watch set properly, it was time to explore just what the Protrek could do.
To be quite honest, I’ve never owned a watch that could do as much as this Protrek does.
To start, it is equipped with a digital compass. The margin for error is +/- 11° – which is actually somewhat significant when it comes to serious navigation. However, for most users, they don’t necessarily need to know the direction down to a few decimal places. Being able to find north and then puzzle out the general direction of travel will generally be enough.
Pressing the button to the upper right of the watch dial activates the compass. About a second after hitting the button, the second hand will rotate to point to magnetic north. Simultaneously, the digital screen will indicate what direction the 12 o’clock position of the watch is facing. It is important to note that the compass works best if the watch is placed as flat and horizontal as possible.
The 1/100-second stopwatch can do split pace timing, which is a nice feature. It also has a countdown feature, with a range of up to 60 minutes.
The Protrek has an internal barometer, which can be quite useful to those who spend time outdoors. Barometric pressure is a solid indicator of impending weather conditions. As low pressure moves into an area, it brings with it cloudiness, precipitation, and windy conditions. Conversely, high pressure will indicate calm weather. By using the Protrek’s barometer, the user can get a heads up, so to speak, on what to expect from the skies. It will tell you the current pressure reading as well as whether pressure has been rising or falling.
There is also an internal thermometer, that will give the user the ambient temperature. In my experience with the Protrek, this sensor is very sensitive to external stimuli, such as lamps and sunshine, with the result being higher readings than I felt were truly accurate. However, if you take the watch off and set it in the area you would like a temperature reading, for approximately 10 minutes, it is fairly accurate. Perfect for keeping an eye on the temps in your hammock or tent while camping.
The Protrek uses air pressure measurements to determine altitude. Essentially, as altitude goes up, air pressure goes down. By using defined relationships between the two, the watch will interpret the air pressure readings and convert them to an approximate altitude. The readings can differ a bit, even in the exact same location, due to variances in air pressure. But, like with the compass, the user likely doesn’t need exacting precision with these readings.
The inside surface of the watch band emits a faint glow at night, which is pretty cool. In addition, when the bottom button is pressed, the watch lights up bright enough to be easily read – even in total darkness.
One really handy feature, equipped on the Protrek, is called Auto Illumination. When this setting is turned on, the watch will automatically activate the internal light when the user tilts their wrist about 40°. This can be turned off, of course, when stealth might be warranted.
The user can set up to five different alarms, as well as hourly chimes at the top of every hour, if desired.
One complaint I’ve always had about watches that had both analog and digital displays, is that the watch arms can sometimes interfere with being able to read the digital screen. The Protrek solves this problem by moving the arms out of the way with the touch of a button, then returning them to their proper position in a few seconds. Very cool.
I took the Protrek with me on a few nighttime patrols throughout my area of operation. Meaning, I wore the watch when we took our dogs out for their evening walk, several times. It was also my daily carry watch for several weeks.
From the very first time I put on the Protrek, I was surprised at how comfortable it is on my wrist. The band is soft, yet very durable. For years, I wore mostly heavy watches with thick metal bands. At 2.7 ounces, the Protrek has just enough heft so you know it is there, without feeling cumbersome.
The buttons are easy to find, even in the dark. Once you know which buttons do what, it is very easy to scroll through the different features and activate them. I really appreciated the illumination capability, making it very easy to read at night. This isn’t surprising, given that the Protrek PRG-650Y was made specifically for nighttime use.
Overall, I was, and remain, very impressed with the Protrek PRG-650Y watch. For those who spend considerable time outdoors and are in need of a timepiece that is made to last and loaded with features that are actually useful, this is a solid pick. I’d give it an A-.
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Jim Cobb is a recognized authority on disaster readiness. He has written several books and is also the Editor in Chief for Prepper Survival Guide magazine. He is a longtime collector of knives, EDC gear, and defense weapons. Jim lives in the upper Midwest with his wife, kids, and a motley crew of dogs and cats.
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