G-Shock celebrates its 35th anniversary this year, and in that time it has achieved the sort of iconic status that one might accord to Xerox or Levi’s. Indeed, when describing a tough watch, “G-Shock” is bandied about as a noun, never mind that the watch in question might be from another brand.
But, it almost never happened.
It’s hard to believe that the juggernaut that is G-Shock today, with over 100 million watches sold the world over, owes its existence to a single, broken watch from almost four decades past, and yet that is exactly how it came about. Indeed, the story behind the creation of the first G-Shock is almost as famous as the man who created it. Kikuo Ibe, then a young engineer at Casio Corporation, dropped a mechanical watch that was a treasured gift from his parents, and, naturally, the watch smashed into a million pieces. Heartbroken over his loss, he set about creating an “unbreakable” watch. Needless to say, this was easier said than done. In fact, it would take a lot of convincing on his part just to get permission from upper management to take on the project. Ultimately they acquiesced, but only on the dual conditions that it be done after-hours and that no currently running projects be affected.
Ibe set to work with a hand picked team, and the rest is history. In the end, it would take two years and over 200 prototypes before the the project bore fruit, but throughout the process Ibe’s mantra “Never Give Up” held true. And so it was that in 1983, the first G-Shock, the DW-5000C, made its debut. Water-resistant, and, of course, shock-resistant to heretofore unheard of levels, the DW-5000C would find its way on to the wrists of everyone from military and Law Enforcement officials to outdoorsmen of all stripes, to everyday Joes who wanted a reliable watch that maybe - just maybe - telegraphed something about their Mitty-esqe aspirations for more than a simple 9-to-5. (And even yours truly, an eleven year old kid with some allowance money and an already well-developed yen for Casio watches.)
Over the course of the next three decades Ibe would apply his Never Give Up philosophy time and time again, which led to the creation of the all-metal MR-G collection in 1996, the introduction of environmental sensors, solar charging and atomic time signal syncing. Yet no matter the watch, the core principles of Ibe’s Triple-10 concept – 10 year battery life/10-bar water-resistance/10-meter fall shock-resistance held true. Indeed, in many respects, the G-Shock actually betters these yardsticks.
Far from resting on their laurels, G-Shock continues to innovate year after year. For their 35th Anniversary, G-Shock unveiled their new Master of G Rangeman GPR-B1000 which features the world’s first solar-powered GPS navigation system contained in a wristwatch. This tour de force was followed with what is perhaps the most talked about and sought after release the watch industry has seen in 2018 – the GMW-B5000 “Full Metal Square” – a love letter to the original DW-5000C wrought entirely in stainless steel, and incorporating the latest technology that Casio could bring to bear, including full Bluetooth connectivity to control the functions and sync the time down to the second. In the works: a G-Shock crafted from sapphire and carbon fiber…
Today, G-Shocks can predict the weather, gauge your altitude or depth, communicate with your phone via Bluetooth, connect to orbiting satellites and literally navigate you out of the woods. As for what comes next, Ibe has famously stated that he wants to create a G-Shock for EVA missions in space, so clearly the sky is far from the limit.
And, yet, without that first broken watch…