Posted 17th Jun 2011
The humble Casio G-Shock is more than just another cheap, digital watch amongst a sea of cheap, digital watches – it is an engineering masterpiece that has graced the wrist of some of the toughest people in the world, and has lived to tell the tale.
The story began in the 1980’s when a young Japanese engineer by the name of Kikuo Ibe began development of an unbreakable watch. He himself had broken a watch that had a great sentimental value to him, and he wanted to create a timepiece that could be passed from father to son without fear of damage.
Taking inspiration from a child’s bouncing ball, he designed a shock protection system that used rubber mounts to cushion the movement within the watch case. When the watch hit something hard, the rubber shock mounts would compress, slowing down the deceleration of the movement inside, thus protecting it from the full force of the impact. The first G-Shock, the DW-5000, was launched in April 1983 in the United States, with an advert that showed it being strapped around an ice hockey puck and being hit at full force. It took the market by storm.
The G-Shock would also be designed to follow the three tens – ten year battery life, resistance to a ten metre fall and a 10ATM water resistance. The truth is that these watches can withstand that and more, such is the efficiency of the sealing and shock protection system. This durability meant that the movement itself could be host a bounty of technological devices, such as a solar panel and a radio receiver to sync the watch to atomic time.
Such is the success of the G-Shock that numerous collaborations with major fashion houses and designers have become standard fair for Casio. Companies such as A Bathing Ape, Levi’s, Stussy and KIKS TYO have had collaborations with Casio and the G-Shock, and the success doesn’t end there. From Brad Pitt to Usher to Steve Carell, the G-Shock’s good looks and outstanding quality puts it on the wrists of men who can afford watches hundreds of times more expensive. The popularity of the watch is so humongous that by 2007, sixty million had been sold. That is the population of the UK.
In 1985, Casio launched the ‘Master of G’ line, designed to be used by professionals who required utmost accuracy in harsh conditions. They have been popular with NATO and American Special Forces ever since, with many reports of watches surviving bomb blasts and even direct fire from high powered automatic rifles. Black Hawk Down author Mark Bowden even mentions the G-Shock on the wrist of Delta personnel in his writing.
The G-Shock may not be the most intricate, best looking, or most expensive watch, but the enormous following generated through its success is nothing short of incredible. Not only that, but it takes a special kind of watch to earn the respect of some of the deadliest and most highly trained special forces in the world, and who can argue with that?