Celebrating 40 Years Of Casio G-Shock — A Concise Overview Of G-Shock History
G-Shock celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. It’s hard to believe that the brand has been around for four decades, providing us with some of the most remarkable timepieces in watch history. G-Shock has evolved into a cultural phenomenon that is so much more than just a watch brand. It is part of street culture, movies, and fashion, but most of all, G-Shock plays a part in so many of our lives. Whether basic and sturdy or colorful and cutting edge, there is a G-Shock for everyone. Time to look back at some of the brand’s highlights of the last 40 years.
So many great brands and products start with a very simple idea arising from a very functional need. It’s a well-known story that Casio engineer Kikuo Ibe designed the first G-Shock prototype after accidentally dropping and breaking a watch given to him by his father. He designed it according to the Triple-10 concept — waterproof to 10 bar, drop-proof to 10 meters, and with a battery life of 10 years. After conceptualizing the watch, three people were selected to form Team Tough in 1981 and assemble/test over 200 prototypes. It took two years to develop the DW-5000C, the first G-Shock ever released to the public.
The revolutionary G-Shock DW-5000C
Ibe’s basic concept for the watch came from observing children playing in a park. He realized that no matter how hard they bounced a rubber ball, the core remained unaffected by the impact. That would become the main idea for the watches that he and his team developed. The DW-5000C was the first G-Shock watch released to the public, and it embodied the concept of a hollow design in which the interior module is almost floating. To be more precise, the DW-5000C featured a solid metal inner casing for the digital module. This was placed in a plastic outer case with ample space to dampen shocks.
The watch also featured a screw-in metal case back, a resin bezel, and a strap for comfort and impact protection. This original case design is legendary, and the watches with this shape are known as “Squares.” The watch came equipped with a 240 module. This module had several functions that would become standard across the G-Shock collection. It featured the time in both a 12-hour and 24-hour display, a daily alarm, a 60-minute stopwatch, a 12-hour countdown timer, an automatic calendar, and a backlight.
From unknown to a successful brand
The first G-Shock DW-5000C was not an immediate hit in 1983. As with so many new products, it took some time to have an impact. But in 1984, the brand made some waves with a now-legendary US TV commercial. In the ad, an ice hockey player takes a slapshot, using the 1984 G-Shock DW-5200C as the puck, and the watch flies through the air before being caught by the goalie. The commercial well and truly made waves for the brand as it led to claims that Casio was deceiving customers with false advertising. The claim was put to the test with a DW-5000C, and after finding out that the watch was easily able to pass the test, it made G-Shocks far more popular with a wider audience.
G-Shocks became popular with police personnel, adventurers, and extreme sports athletes. By the late ’80s, the G-Shock collection featured 200 different models. One of that era’s most famous G-Shock models, the DW-5600C-1V, was released in June 1987. The watch was famously worn by Keanu Reeves in the 1994 movie Speed, which led the model to take on the “Speed” nickname. Legend has it that it was actually Reeves’s own watch. This particular G-shock is also known as the “NASA” model, as it is flight-qualified by NASA for space travel and has been worn by astronauts. So it did not take too long before G-Shock made a cultural impact.
Technological development at the heart of the brand
But one thing that has always been a primary focus for G-Shock is technological development. As a brand that was founded on solving a practical problem, the G-Shock designers would focus on creating new timepieces that pushed the envelope in terms of technology. A great example is the G-Shock DW-5500C “Mudman” that was introduced in 1985. It was constructed with a dustproof and mud-proof structure. This is why it is known among G-Shock enthusiasts as the original “Mudman.” You could also label this the first oversized G-Shock. The watch was famously worn by Arnold Schwarzenegger in the film The Running Man.
And more developments came in rapid succession in the 1980s. In 1989, G-Shock released the AW-500, its first model with an ana-digi display. While digital displays were the norm, combining them with an analog time display was new for the brand. But as it turned out, ana-digi displays would become common within the G-Shock collection over time. And the innovations would continue in the 1990s with the G-Shock DW-6100, which featured a thermometer that was able to display the ambient temperature.
Big steps for G-Shock in the 1990s
In 1993, we saw the introduction of the famous G-Shock DW-6300-1A Frogman. This release marked the introduction of the first ISO-certified 200m-rated G-Shock diving watch. And to this day, every Frogman receives ISO certification to ensure that the watches can be used for serious diving. It turned out to be the start of one of the most beloved G-Shock lines and a collector’s favorite.
Additionally, it was the second watch in what became the Master of G-series. I already mentioned the mud-resistant DW-5500C that was nicknamed the “Mudman.” The DW-6300-1A was the first G-Shock Frogman and the first with the official “-man” series name. While the watch does not have the Frogman name on the bezel, the screw-down case back does have the image of the diving frog and the “Frogman” text on it. Thus, it was the official start of the Frogman series.
The biggest introduction of the 1990s was, without a doubt, the iconic G-Shock 6900 series. The first five DW-6900 models were introduced in March of 1995 with a round case shape, a triple-graph layout, and a big button on the front. The G-Shock DW-6900-1V is generally considered the first “Third Eye” model.
The combination of the case with these two distinct features worked very well and made it the second G-Shock icon after the G-Shock Squares. A big difference compared to the Square models is the size. The new DW-6900 models were substantially larger. But the use of lightweight materials and a great fit on the wrist made the new series a joy to wear.
New materials for a serious change in perception
The rise in popularity would go hand in hand with the introduction of more new product lines. In 1994, we saw the introduction of the Baby-G line, which was aimed specifically at women. The collection featured the same familiar aesthetics but in smaller sizes and with a female twist in colors and designs. It proved to be another huge success for the brand. And in 1996, we witnessed the introduction of the first solid stainless steel G-Shock with the MRG-100-1. The biggest challenge for the designers was maintaining the initial concept’s shock resistance. G-Shock also introduced new watches in lightweight titanium, keeping the appeal alive for an audience that had grown up with the brand since the early 1980s.
The 1990s also marked growth in G-Shock’s cultural impact. During that decade, the watches became popular among a wide range of street cultures. It gave G-Shock a huge boost in credibility among young people. Skaters, rappers, street artists, and movie stars alike could be seen wearing G-Shocks. One reason was the great number of collaborations with other brands, famous artists, and stars, which boosted the popularity tremendously. As a result, G-Shock became a cultural phenomenon. A G-Shock was the watch to have for a lot of subcultures. And the collaborations with cool brands are still very much alive and a part of the success of the brand 30 years later.
Shifts in technology bring even more practicality
The late 1990s and early 2000s marked a big change in terms of technology. First, in 1998, we saw the introduction of the first solar-powered G-Shock with the DW-9300. Batteries would then become increasingly unnecessary with the integration of solar power in G-Shock watches. Roughly 25 years later, solar-powered G-Shock watches make up a big part of the brand’s collection. In 2002, the brand introduced the first G-Shock that received the exact time by radio signal. This made setting and changing the time a thing of the past. On top of that, it had a solar-powered module too, making it the most practical of the G-Shock models available at that time.
Six years later, in 2008, G-Shock would introduce the first radio-controlled model with Multiband 6 radio technology with the GW-9200. It’s a technology that is still very important for exact timekeeping within the current G-Shock collection. A year later, the Frogman series would also introduce the technology for even great accuracy for the divers and adventures wearing the watch. In 2010, the first G-Shock pilot’s watch was released in the form of the GW-3000, which features a completely analog dial layout. This special watch was able to withstand a G-force of up to 15 Gs, making it suitable for the extreme pressures that a pilot is exposed to.
New materials, new models, and new connectivity
In 2012, an important new step was made for the future connectivity of G-Shock watches. The introduction of Bluetooth technology with the G-Shock GB-6900 allowed wearers to connect their watches to their mobile phones. This new solution added a lot of practicality that we still see in the brand’s current lineup of watches. Connectivity to boost accuracy was further improved with the introduction of the G-Shock GPW-1000 in 2014. The watch is the world’s first timepiece that received GPS and radio signals in a hybrid system for better accuracy.
G-Shock has also made significant investments to introduce new materials and combinations of them to improve the build quality of the watches. On top of that, G-Shock has taken huge steps in using different finishes for its watches. As a result, the various models have greatly improved overall quality, appearance, and luxury perception. A great example of that is the G-Shock MRG-G1000HT, which debuted in 2016. It combined the best of the brand’s technology with solid titanium and traditional Japanese tsuiki hammered finishing for a sophisticated, unique timepiece.
Coming full circle with the latest developments
In 2018, we saw the introduction of the stainless steel 5000 series, marking a special point in history. After 35 years of G-Shock, the famous Squares became available as stainless steel models. It gave them an overall boost in appearance and quality that gained a lot of fans. But it hasn’t stopped there. Over the last few years, we have seen so many spectacular timepieces in different colors with different functions that it is sometimes hard to keep up. But the ones that stand out leave a lasting impression.
One of the brand’s most memorable recent models was the G-Shock GA-2100-1A1 “CasiOak,” which was introduced in 2019. The hype surrounding the watch was incredible, and it made the resulting model line an instant icon. But the old icons were also celebrated. Next to the stainless steel Squares, we also saw the introduction of the titanium Squares, bringing a lightweight material to the classic silhouette. Furthermore, the overall quality and finishing of these models show the incredible steps the brand has made in four decades while maintaining the same cultural and design impact.
G-Shock celebrates its 40th anniversary in style
After 40 years, the G-Shock is still as impactful as it was in 1983. The biggest difference is that nowadays, everybody knows the brand. Nevertheless, the fascination and amazement with its remarkable timepieces remain. Currently, the collection consists of a wide variety of watches that are part of eight different product lines. Within those lines, you will undoubtedly be able to find the G-Shock for you. Not only is there a G-Shock for everyone, but if you need a capable, stylish timepiece, you can never go wrong with a G-Shock. They always combine the best in design, materials, and functionality.
The latest proof of that came with the introduction of the 40th-anniversary models late last year. They show the great versatility of the different designs and finishes. More recently, we also saw the introduction of the super colorful Adventurer’s Stone series as well as the spectacular 40th Anniversary Recrystallized models. The latter series of three Square models benefit from recrystallized and deep-layer-hardened stainless steel for some amazing results. One of the three models is the DW-5040PG, a modern take on the 1983 classic. It perfectly shows what makes G-Shock such a great brand.
For more information, visit the official G-Shock website.