FratelloWatches Interviews A G-Shock Authority
We love people with a passion for watches, whether this is a passion for Pateks, Rolexes, independent watchmaking brands or Swatches and G-Shocks. G-Shock is a sub brand of Casio and it will soon celebrate its 30th anniversary. Admitted, it is not the brand that is top of mind when we write or think about watches, but we’ve learned that there are a lot of fans out there that collect G-Shock watches and we don’t see any reason to neglect them!
What would be a better way to explore about G-Shocks than to ask an authority. We didn’t have to search long, as one of them is a Dutch guy that has his own blog about G-Shocks (50Gs), a website about G-Shocks (G-Peopleland) and is the moderator of the WatchUseek G-Shock forum. Meet Sjors from G-Peopleland!
FW: Sjors, you are the moderator of the Casio G-Shock forum on WatchUseek since 2003 and you’ve become an authority on this subject ever since. Can you explain to our readers why the G-Shock is so popular?
S: Although I am the initial G-Shock Forum moderator on WatchUseek, it was my website G-Peopleland which drew Ernie Romers (owner of WUS) his attention. Now I try to spread my free time between WatchUSeek, G-Peopleland and my G-Shock weblog 50 Gs. Specially the latter costs me a lot of time. I think the popularity of G-Shock is the result of the huge range of models starting from relative cheap models to high end models. There is a G-Shock for everyone and for every occasion.
You often see that collectors of high end mechanical watches, such as Panarai, etc, choose to have a small G-Shock collection too. What you sometimes happens that G-Shock collectors evolve into high end watches collectors. People who do not know much about this Casio sub brand do often not realize that G-Shock models do not stop above the €200 range. The current MT-G and Giez line are for instance nice watches for representative work at the office and with prices varying between €300 – €600 still affordable. For those who want a real high end model, must look in the MR-G range. The prices of these models start around €1000 and go up to about €5000. My favorite in the MR-G line is the MRG-8100B, which has a price tag of €3000.
FW: What makes a Casio G-Shock better – or more interesting – than its digital competitors?
S: With the G-Shock range, there are not many competitors. Their success formula is pretty simple. High quality digital watches for very good prices. There are other competitive brands that come with good looking watches, especially sports brands like Adidas and Nike and you have the Timex sports watches like the Timex Ironman models, but frankly the G-Shock line-up in just looking best.
FW: Can you elaborate on the history of the G-Shock?
S: It all started with Mr Ibe Kikuo, an employee of the research department of Casio in the early 1980s. One one day his mechanical watch accidentally fell on the concrete pavement, resulting in a broken watch. He felt very sad and decided secretly to develop an indestructible watch. He gathered up a small team, called “Team Tough”. Their aim was to develop a watch that could withstand a fall from 10 meter on a concrete floor, having a battery life of at least 10 years and having a water resistance of minimal 10 bar. These rules became known as the “Triple 10 Criteria”.
Their research was so secret, that he used the toilet of the third floor for these dropping tests. It resulted in strange looking test models. Finally, when he saw a child playing with a bouncing ball, he completely redesigned his idea with a floating module, which is still now the heart of every G-hock. This floating module hangs in a range of rubber shock breakers. In April 1983 Casio presented the first G-Shock, the DW-5000C. It’s the first watch matching the “Triple 10 criteria”. Later (with the introduction of EL-backlight) the 10 year battery life (it is actually 15-18 year on a DW-5200C) was changed in at least a 10 year lifespan. Almost all G-Shock models have a 20 bar water resistance.
G-Shock DW-5000C – 1983
FW: Here on FratelloWatches we are avid Speedmaster & Space program fans and noticed that some of the NASA astronauts also have been wearing G-Shocks in the Space Shuttle for example. Is there a story behind it? Personal choice of astronauts or also chosen by NASA?
S: It’s a bit of both sides. If I’m correct NASA let astronauts free to choose which watches they take into space, but pretty much adviced an Omega Speedmaster or a G-Shock. Sadly, I have no experience (yet) with the Speedmaster, but a simple G-Shock has the right functions for tests, especially the stopwatch and countdown timers. I can imagine these are used a lot. I have seen photos of astronauts wearing more than one DW-5600E’s on Space Shuttle missions. Also the G-9000 Mudman seemed to be a popular astronaut’s choice. About 8 years ago, NASA bought a lot of GW-300 watches for their diving drills.
NASA Astronaut Walz with his DW-5600E in the ISS.
A NASA diver and his G-Shock GW-300
FW: Is there any logic in the reference numbers of G-Shocks and what are these model names like ‘Mudman’, ‘G-Lide’, ‘Fairy’s Charm’, ‘Gold Defender’ and so on?
S: Yes there is, but where must I start explaining…There are quite a lot of layers here.
First of all there is the basic line. There is almost always a simple black version of very basic model. Casio refers the DW-5600 and the DW-6900 as their all time basic G-Shock models. Other basic models can be produced for about a year to many years.
Next you have special models aimed for special groups. The G-Lide is a very old series throughout the G-Shock line, specially for extreme sporters. For these sports you must think about skateboarding, all kinds of surfing and snowboarding. This probably explains the name a bit.
I mentioned above the more high end models, which can be found in the Giez, MT-G and MR-G series. MT-G stands for Metal Twisted G-Shock, where high quality resins meet metal.
Then you have the special purpose G-Shock models, known as the Master of G series. Most of these models have their name ending on -man and refer to their special purpose. Currently available are the Mudman (several versions), Gulfman (several versions), Riseman and, probably the best know of the range, the Frogman, currently available in retro DW-8200 shape as GF-8200 and the GFW-1000/GF-1000 (W stands for able to receive Atomic Clock signals). The Master of G models have a special series line, know as the Man In Color series. It started in 1997 with the Men In Black series, followed by a Men in Yellow series. Now a lot of colors have been added. The latest series is the most recent Men In Military Colors series of 2012.
About every month Casio releases several new G-Shocks. Sometimes as a basic model, but often as a part of a new series, with a series name, like you mentioned above as Gold Defender and Fairy’s Charm. Currently popular series are for instance the Metallic Dial, Hyper Color, Crazy Colors and the recent 30th Anniversary “Rising Red” series.
And finally there are the collaboration models and Casio has made many of them. Some are only available in Japan. Collaboration are often done with urban clothing brands, band, musicians, graphic artists. Also very limited production models can be made for a store or brand, which is then only sold in that store or by that brand. Recently Casio released 2 Dutch collaboration models, one with OntFront and one with Dutch graphic designer and musician Parra.
FW: How many G-Shocks models do you own and which models are your favorites?
S: Currently my G-Shock collection is about to hit the 600 mark, but I have also about 25 Baby-G models somewhere. The good thing about G-Shocks is that there is so much variety in models and colors. Still, I think the DW-6900s, some special DW-8800 Codename Ciphers and the Frogman models are my biggest favorites.
A few G-Shocks Sjors bought on a trip to Japan
FW: Which G-Shock model(s) would you advice to the starting collector?
S: This is a difficult question, which is more or less based upon personal preference. Are you looking for something big, I can recommend a GA-110 model. Something small, a DW-5600 or a Giez. Something more sturdy, a DW-6900 maybe? It is maybe like advising someone for a good mechanical watch. A Seiko Monster is not an Omega Speedmaster or a Panarai.
FW: What would be the most desirable configuration Casio can create in the future?
S: You can imagine a lot of exotic features on a digital watch, but frankly, I love a model if it has a 24 hour Countdown Timer with Auto Repeat and a 24 hour Stopwatch and some good alarms. If it is Tough Solar and “Atomic” (capable of receiving an Atomic Time signal), it’s even more perfect. If you are a fan of dive watches, the Frogman is the ultimate G-Shock for diving. It’s the only ISO tested 200m water resist model. Frogman’s have survived dives much deeper, including a World Record dive of 318m by Nuno Gomez. If you like walking in the mountains or maybe mountain climbing, maybe the Riseman with it’s Altimeter is something for you.
FW: Have you been in touch with Casio, have you ever visited them?
S: I have been in contact with Casio Europe, Casio Benelux and even had contact with Casio Japan. I have never been to an office, but I have met people from Casio Japan, Casio Europe and Casio Benelux. I have also been able to meet Mr Ibe Kikuo himself twice.
Sjors and mr Ibe Kikuo
FW: From your own experience, is the G-Shock enthusiast entirely different from collectors (or aficionados) of high-end mechanical watches?
S: I think most of them are. Probably they are much younger than I am, but that’s no guarantee. There are also G-Shock collectors which also much older than me. Often they are not as serious as mechanical watch collectors and you find them in all layers of the population. I know students collecting them, but my co-moderator is a lawyer, while I know dentists and more lawyers who are collecting G-Shocks. Often (very often) G-Shock collectors love sporting. Also most G-Shock collectors and aficionados are easy going and interested in a wide variety of subjects, like collecting vinyl figures, sneakers, bicycles. If you are involved in G-Shock collecting for a while, you often develop also an interest in Japanese culture.
FW: Vice versa, what would be your favorite mechanical timepiece and do you own any?
S: I really want to own an Omega Speedmaster in the (far) future. In Japanese culture it’s a common tradition that a good mechanical watch goes from father to son or grandson. If I die, I would like to pass on such an Omega to my son.
I have a very small collection of Pontiac mechanical watches from around the 1950s. Further more I have a Seiko Orange Monster and a Citizen Ecozilla. The latter was a very special gift from Ernie Romers. He thought the watch was defect, which is not a real problem for me. I have a Citizen dealer near who does also their repairs (a lot of professional divers work here in my area). Actually the watch only just needed a small reset.
FW: Thank you for your time Sjors!
Make sure to visit the 50Gs blog by Sjors about Casio G-Shock watches: https://50-gs.blogspot.com/?m=1 (in English).