2018 is the 35th anniversary of a watch icon, the G-SHOCK, which revolutionised the face of a global industry, and which has just shipped its one-hundred-millionth unit. Built around the concept of strength, its bold and distinctive style has introduced legions of young people to the joy of wearing a watch. The G-SHOCK has played a part in many people’s lives, acting as a sort of watch nursery, and the entire industry has reaped the benefits! It is now going premium with the MR-G and G-Steel lines.
The dream of Mr Ibe
Who better to talk about the G-SHOCK than its creator, Kikuo Ibe? Europa Star went to meet him in Japan. “Exactly 36 years ago, I dropped the watch my father had given me, and it smashed into a thousand pieces,” explains the affable inventor. “From that time on, I was obsessed with building an indestructible watch!” This marked the start of the epic journey that would lead to the conception of the G-SHOCK. “In the beginning, I would throw my prototypes out of the window of the Casio building, using rubber to protect them. Eventually, I started protecting the prototypes’ individual components, so that I could reduce its size. But some of them still didn’t survive.”
The revelation came one day as he was walking in a park. “I saw a girl playing with a rubber ball… Suddenly the solution was obvious: I had to make the watch movement ‘float’! So we developed a shock resistant structure with certain contact points. The first G-SHOCK was finally launched in 1983.” His goal had been achieved, and even the workers on the building site opposite the Casio building could wear the watch with complete peace of mind. “The G-SHOCK has become the world’s strongest watch.” Commercial success was virtually instantaneous. Its unusual design proved widely popular, particularly with a younger clientele. “As far as the design of the watch was concerned, the challenge was to express all the technology the model used to make it so strong,” the inventor continues. “In a way, we had to combine form and function.”
Each watch encompasses seven elements; electric shock resistance, gravity resistance, low temperature resistance, vibration resistance, water resistance, shock resistance and toughness. Casio innovations and technologies to prevent it from suffering direct shock include internal components protected with urethane and suspended timekeeping modules inside the watch structure.
“In 1994 we set ourselves a new challenge: developing a new, dressier version of the G-SHOCK. That meant making it out of metal,” Kikuo Ibe tells us. “I started the project with eight young engineers. But it was difficult to find an effective way to protect the metal case and bracelet.” This time, the team found their solution by looking to the automobile industry. Car bumpers provided the inspiration for developing a way of protecting the watch bezel. Casio’s ultimate metal watch – the MR-G – was finally born. Kikuo Ibe confides his ultimate dream: “What I’d like to do now is make a watch that will work in space, but this project hasn’t yet got off the ground!”
So, in the meantime, back on Earth, Casio is embarking upon a special series of events, with a special series of watches to celebrate the anniversary of its icon. From New York to Tokyo, via London, there are plenty of surprises in store.
- The MR-G is the premium line in metal of the G-SHOCK watch. It is as reliable as the iconic watch and fuses Japanese technologies and craftsmanship.
A visit to Yamagata
This is a crucial time for the brand, which is hoping the continually evolving G-Steel and MR-G lines will take it upmarket (see our article in Time.Business). The present author has fond memories of the G-SHOCK he, like many of his adolescent friends, wore in the 1990s. The aim now is to continue to meet the expectations of these maturing customers, while appealing to new generations.
It’s a challenge on a number of levels, but they can all be summed up in one generic term: integration. Integration of increasingly luxurious materials in the watch case; integration of traditional Japanese arts such as tsuchime; integration of new designs; integration of new Bluetooth connection technologies as seen in smartwatches – all this in the “smartest” possible way, so as not to dilute the highly distinctive identity of G-SHOCK.
It’s not until you visit Casio’s flagship factory in Yamagata that you really grasp the Japanese watchmaker’s hitting power. The future of the G-Shock lies within these white walls. Testing is a crucial element.
- Shigenori Itoh is Casio’s Senior executive managing officer and Senior general manager of Global Marketing.
It’s not until you visit Casio’s flagship factory in Yamagata that you really grasp the Japanese watchmaker’s hitting power. Some 2.6 million watches per year are produced by around 300 people. The level of automation is impressive; the systems are engineered to get the best out of both man and machine. The future of the G-SHOCK lies within these white walls. Testing is a crucial element. More than 170 tests are carried out on the brand’s various models. Let’s not forget that, back in 1974, the Casiotron was already capable of surviving a fall of 10 metres. Over the years, an ever more elaborate structure has been developed to protect the G-SHOCK. Today, for example, the GPW-2000 Gravitymaster contains more than 400 components.
The MR-G: an alliance of technology and craftsmanship
It’s all about combining the best of Japanese traditional craftsmanship with cutting-edge technology. So let’s take a closer look at what is probably today’s best example of this fusion of the possible: the MRG-G2000HT, pictured on the front page of this issue. This extremely limited edition provides a foretaste of what we can expect from Casio in the future.
Mr Bihou Asano is a master of the ancient technique of hammering metal, used on the bezel and strap inserts of the MRG-G2000HT.
The Yamagata factory in northern Japan is at the heart of the G-SHOCK’s current and future developments.
“The MR-G is now the flagship series of the G-SHOCK collection,” notes Chief Engineer Singo Ishizaka. “And we keep enhancing its quality: titanium is used in the case and band. MR-G watches are scratch-resistant. Now they also feature Japanese craftsmanship. Mr Bihou Asano is a master of the ancient technique of hammering metal. There are many types of hammer tone in Japan. We chose a pattern in the form of a wave.”
The MRG-G2000HT features the GPS Hybrid Wave Ceptor technology to ensure the watch remains accurate in any location on Earth, under virtually any conditions. The watch receives standard time information via terrestrial radio waves, GPS satellite signals and, now, Bluetooth transmission. The watch selects the most appropriate system for the conditions, and supplies the correct time and daylight saving information for the current time zone. The companion MR-G Connected smartphone app provides additional functionality, with World Time for over 300 cities, automatic time adjustment and watch status display, over a Bluetooth connection.
But the premium MR-G range is not just about high-tech. It also showcases the distinctive kasumi tsuchime technique, first used over 1200 years ago to decorate armour and copperware. The bezels and strap inserts of each of the 500 watches in this limited edition are worked by master craftsman Bihou Asano of Kyoto, whose family has safeguarded the tsuchime tradition for generations. The age-old metal-hammering technique uses deft strokes of a special tool to impart a distinctive pattern to the metal surface. Here, the technique used on the bezel and centre band leaves eye-shaped indentations that ensure that no two watches are exactly alike. After hammering, the forge-cast titanium is subjected to a deep layer-hardening process, and a blue DLC (diamond-like carbon) coating is applied to the bezel, case back and metal plate at 10 o’clock. As well as improving abrasion resistance, it provides an opportunity to apply colour to selected parts of the watch. Casio has developed a unique shade called Japan Blue, based on the Japanese indigo hue familiar from traditional dyed fabrics. Achieving this unique deep shade relies on a complex and labour-intensive process, made even more difficult by the irregularities in the hammered surface.
Casio continues to innovate with the G-SHOCK, providing models for every price bracket. As Ryusuke Moriai, manager of the watch design, points out: “With the connected G-Steel for instance, the challenge is to create a steel design that fits the G-SHOCK line. Our goal is to come up with a completely different design. We challenged ourselves to use just straight lines and circles. We think we have achieved a kind of ‘primitive beauty’ with our watches. It was never our intention to focus on functionality. We wanted to show that the watch is connected. We designed a rotating wheel inspired by the jet engine.” The GST-B100X is a special model, equipped with a unique carbon, a combination of state-of-the art Tray Industries TORAYCA®*1 and NANOALLOY®*2 that results in a bezel with outstanding shock resistance characteristics, made of 37 layers of carbon. This tough model fits the G-SHOCK concept, and is a reliable companion even in the most extreme weather.
*2 NANOALLOY®: Original Toray Industries nanometre structure control technology makes it possible to combine multiple polymers on a nano-metric scale (one billionth of a metre) for performance that is far superior to previous types of materials. This polymeric material enables high performance and high function that was previously not possible with standard micron order (one millionth of a metre) alloys.
- The Triple-G construction of the GPW-2000 G-SHOCK Gravitymaster provides protection from three types of gravitational stress – external shocks, centrifugal force and vibrations.
Resisting the shocks of nature
Speaking of extreme conditions, the GPW-2000 G-Shock Gravitymaster has been designed with the needs of aircraft pilots in mind. As well as supremely accurate timekeeping, the GPW-2000 offers superior shock resistance to cope with extreme altitude and speed. The Triple-G construction provides protection from three types of gravitational stress – external shocks, centrifugal force and vibrations – and an anti-magnetic plate within the module prevents the hands from being moved as a result of magnetic forces. The case is constructed from carbon fibre, a material extensively used in aircraft for its superior strength and lightness, with the additional protection of FRP (Fine Resin Parts) both within the watch’s frame and at the ends of strap, to strengthen stress points and provide further vibration resistance. Optimum readability under difficult conditions is assured by bold phosphorescent hour markers and dashes of red, all within a dramatic multi-layered 3D dial. The low specific gravity of the vermilion carbon fibre second hand makes it possible to increase its size while maintaining impact resistance. Night-time visibility is provided by the Super Illuminator, a high-brightness LED. As well as time zone and adjustment functions, the G-Shock Connected smartphone app also features a flight log function, which can store location and time data to provide a travel history, including point of departure, interim and final destination, and return destination. A latitude/longitude display and Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) indicator provide further navigational aids.
- The new MR-G watches follow three guidelines: self-adjusting (with the GPS Hybrid Wave Ceptor), self-updating (with the Accurate Time System) and self-charging (with the Solar Power Technologies).
“Never, never give up!”
And this is just the beginning. In October, Casio announced the expansion of the MR-G line and unveiled two new 3-Way Time Sync timepieces, capable of receiving radio waves, GPS satellite signals and Bluetooth transmissions for the most accurate timekeeping possible. Representing the latest Bluetooth connected offerings from the brand, the new models also boast premium materials for the ultimate in luxurious, indestructible construction.
The MRG-G2000CB-1A features a bezel with Cobarion®* finish, a new material developed in Japan to give a beautiful mirrored surface, as well as increased scratch resistance and anti-allergenic properties. The MRG-G2000HB-1A features a dragon-inspired bezel in deep black, with a specialty Marume-Tsuiki hammer tone finish. Both timepieces boast evolved functionality with city codes and watch modes easily viewed on the right side of the watch face.
Both MRG-G and G-SHOCK timepieces also possess G-Shock’s GPS Hybrid Waveceptor technology to accurately measure time and location from anywhere on earth, Tough Solar capabilities for increased battery function, as well as a non-reflective sapphire crystal and black titanium case and bracelet, highlighting their premium construction. Additionally, by utilising the new G-Shock MR-G Connected smartphone app, users can easily set world time as well as enhance the reliability of the timepiece through monitoring the watch’s key functions such as self-adjustment, solar charging, and more.
Mr Ibe’s dream of creating an unbreakable watch came true… and it seems like it is just the beginning of a new era with the ongoing expansion of the G-Shock line. Mr Ibe’s mantra has never been truer than it is today, in the face of a rapidly changing watch industry: “Never, never give up!”