G-Shock: Inside One of the World’s Toughest Watches
A sub-brand of horological giants, Casio, G-Shock produces some of the most robust watches in the world. G-Shock may not be as classically time-honored as other watch brands like Tourneau and Timex, however, the technological prowess of G-Shock watches has seen the brand cement its place in the world of timekeeping.
Built on the concept of durability, G-Shock’s signature timepieces are purpose-driven to take a beating. We’re taking a moment to examine the beginnings of G-Shock and how the brand has become one of the most relevant makers in contemporary timekeeping and the global standard for tough wrist watches.
Brand History & Philosophy
G-Shock was conceived in 1981 by a Casio engineer named Kikuo Ibe. Ibe was inspired to design a durable watch after the loss of his beloved inherited mechanical watch. One day, while walking on the sidewalk, a fellow pedestrian bumped into Ibe, knocking his precious watch so hard that it came off of his wrist and fell to the pavement. The watch broke entirely. To prevent others from suffering the same disappointment, Ibe set out to create the most durable watch on the market.
“I want to make a timepiece that will not break, even if dropped.” — Kikuo Ibe
Ibe’s original concept, known as the “triple ten”, was to create a watch that would have a battery life of 10 years, have a water resistance of 10-meters, and could survive a fall of 10 feet. To achieve this, Ibe put together a team of three fellow Casio engineers, who became known as “Team Tough”. After building and testing almost 200 prototypes, Team Tough was yet to meet the triple ten criteria. They first assumed it would be best to cover the entire watch with a soft material like rubber or foam. They eventually found that the timekeeping module of a watch would break no matter how much shock-absorbent material was added to the exterior.
After two years of research, it wasn’t until Ibe visited a playground that he would have the lightbulb-moment that would kickstart the G-Shock project. In the playground, Ibe watched a child bounding a rubber ball. Ibe noticed that the center of a ball doesn’t suffer the effects of shock during a bounce on a rough surface. He took his discovery and applied the logic to a new watch concept: the floating module. Inspired by the center of the child’s rubber ball, Ibe concluded that if the timekeeping module of a watch floated freely in a cradle inside the watch, it would be protected in the instance of a fall. This concept led to the launch of the first G-Shock watch: the DW-5000C.
The Casio G-Shock DW-500C was released in April 1983. The shock-resistant design had 10 layers protecting the quartz timekeeping module, including a urethane rubber bumper; stainless steel case; mineral glass crystal; stainless steel screwed-down case back; and the “floating” quartz timekeeping module, floating freely in a urethane foam cradle. The strap of the DW-500C was also designed to protect the module during a fall of up to 10-feet, as per the original triple ten criteria.
“I tested everything I could think of! No stone was left unturned. Never give up! Even when faced by the biggest problem. This is my principle. And then one day in the park, I watched a little girl playing with a ball. I watched the ball bounce and imagined the ball containing a floating watch engine. Suddenly the solution was obvious. I came up with the idea to float the watch engine. Finally we could develop G-Shock, a shock absorbing structure with five steps and an engine floating structure with point contacts. My dream became a reality in 1983.” — Kikuo Ibe
The release of the G-Shock DW-5000C filled a gap in the market for durable, robust watches. The G-Shock range proved successful with a unique blend of markets, ranging from the most utilitarian wearers like military personnel and extreme athletes, to hip hop artists and streetwear aficionados. Ther DW-5000C offered a newfound level of shock resistance that had never been seen before. It also featured 200-meter water resistance, a 10-year battery, and a multitude of complications such as a stopwatch, countdown timer, 12/24 hour mode, alarm, and light. In 1984, Casio added more G-Shocks to their range, including the DW-5200, which was famously used as a hockey puck in a supporting advertising campaign.
Inspired by the initial success of the G-Shock range, Casio continued to release more G-Shock watches that were revered as the toughest on the planet. The DW-5000C eventually evolved into the DW-5600C (pictured above) in 1987 and lives on spiritually as the various “square” models that are still produced by G-Shock today. In 1993, G-Shock released its first diver’s watch, the Frogman DW-6300, with 20-atmosphere water resistance. The following year, G-Shock introduced Baby-G, a G-Shock line for women.
Continuing the brand’s philosophy of innovation, Ibe strived to create a G-Shock watch with a metal case that could be worn on more formal occasions. Other than the development of the original G-Shock model, Ibe states that this proved to be one of the biggest challenges his development team had ever faced. G-Shock prospered once again, releasing the G-Shock MRG-100 (pictured below). By the late ’90s, G-Shock was a household name and the go-to brand for hard-wearing watches, with over 200 models released.
Remaining under the Casio umbrella, G-Shock has enjoyed perennial success since its inception. The line of watches now includes atomic clock synchronization and solar technology. The Cockpit Series G-Shock is the official timekeeper of Japan’s Nismo Racing. Many newer models feature steel or titanium banding and analog timekeeping. G-shock is still producing their standard ‘DW’ models as standard G-Shocks, while producing more specialized ‘GW’ models that include specialized complications.
G-Shock’s functional complications and seemingly indestructible construction have earned the brand loyal customers in military and police forces worldwide. G-Shock watches are also popular among extreme athletes like surfers, snowboarders, and skiers.
G-Shock has enjoyed collaborations with multiple fashion designers including Stussy, A Bathing Ape, and Beams Japan. In 2017, G-Shock earned the Guinness World Record for the heaviest vehicle to drive over a watch. The officials from Guinness World Record drove a 24.97 ton truck over the Casio G-Shock DW5600E-1 (pictured below).
To date, G-Shock has sold over 100 million units worldwide, a number that is only set to rise as the years tick on. Through horological innovation, functional and fashionable designs, and a commitment to its original philosophy, G-Shock has become one of the world’s trusted watch brands, with a robust product range that can cater to almost every walk of life.
Available for $69.95 at G-Shock.
Available for $500 from G-Shock.