A favorite of outdoor enthusiasts, military personnel, first responders, extreme athletes, celebrities, gadget freaks, and fashion trendsetters, the G-Shock watch has a long and storied history that goes back over thirty years. After Casio lead designer Kikuo Ibe dropped a watch given to him by his father and saw it shatter to pieces, he vowed to create an unbreakable watch that could withstand major drops and impacts.
In 1981 the three-member Project Team Tough set out to make Ibe’s vision a reality. The team sought to develop a watch based on the “Triple 10” concept: shock resistance to withstand a 10 meter drop, 10-bar water resistance, and 10-year battery life. To achieve this, Ibe came up with the “floating module” concept that suspended the module with a few points of contact and provided efficient shock protection without the need for excessive shock absorbing material. After going through over 200 prototypes and rigorous testing, the final result was the G-Shock DW-5000, launched in April 1983.
The G-Shock would quickly gain a reputation as the world’s toughest watch, featuring a protective case and an extreme level of shock resistance and toughness that had never been seen before. It also featured 200-meter water resistance, a ten year battery, and had the digital functions that remain integral to all G-Shock watches today: stopwatch, countdown timer, 12/24 hour mode, alarm, and light. It didn’t become the worldwide sensation it currently is overnight, but the tough G-Shock sport watch filled an untapped niche and continued to grow in popularity and reputation. The DW-5000C would evolve into the DW-5600 in 1987 and live on spiritually as the various 5600 models that are still produced today. The original DW-5000 was also reissued in limited editions for the G-Shock 25th and 30th anniversaries.
The First G-Shock Commercial:
Casio did not rest on its laurels and continued to innovate, consistently introducing new G-Shock models and technical features.
In 1989 the first analog G-Shock AW-500 was launched. 1992 saw the first sensor equipped watch, the DW-6100 with a thermometer. 1993 saw the introduction of the Frogman DW-6300, an oversized, asymmetrical diving watch. The Frogman was the first G-Shock to be ISO-certified and would later become one of the most significant model lines in G-Shock history.
The G-Shock brand experienced a golden age in the 1990s and found the brand gaining more mainstream acceptance and a newfound image as an innovator of streetwear style and fashion. G-Shock’s many limited edition collaboration watches with popular streetwear and lifestyle brands would prove to be extremely popular and continues to be a major part of its operations.
With the clear success of their resin G-Shock watches, Kikuo Ibe and a team of eight young Casio engineers set out on a new mission to create a metal G-Shock that could be worn for both casual and dress occasions. The result was the MR-G series which launched in 1996. Analog models joined the MR-G series in 1997 and laid the foundation for the high-end G-Shock watches of today.
Later in the 2000s with the release of many limited editions, the GW-200 Frogman models became fashionable timepieces and highly sought after collectibles. Casio launched the Baby-G line for women in 1994 with the DW-520, a smaller, fashionable watch with the same shock resistance technology. In 1995 the first DW-6900 was launched. The 6900 model would become one of the most popular and iconic cases like the 5600 and seems unlikely to ever be discontinued. The first solar powered Raysman DW-9300 was released in 1998 and this was the beginning of the now popular Tough Solar feature. 2000 saw the introduction of radio time calibration with the GW-100, later to evolve and currently be known as Multi-Band 6.
Standout technological features of some current G-Shock models include:
- Tough Solar – solar charging with rechargeable battery
- Multi Band 6 – radio synchronization with 6 atomic clock stations worldwide
- Mud and dust resistance – (Mudman G-9000 and G-9300)
- Twin Sensor – compass and temperature (G-9300 Mudman, GA-1000 and GA-1100)
- Triple Sensor – compass, temperature, altimeter/barometer (GW-9400 Rangeman and GWN-1000 Gulfmaster)
- Bluetooth – smartphone linking with Bluetooth 4.0
- GPS Hybrid Wave Ceptor – GPS timekeeping combined with Multi Band 6 (GPW-1000, MRG-G1000)
- Triple G Resist for analog models – resistance to shock, vibration, centrifugal gravity (Aviation Series, MTG-S1000)
- Smart Access – electronic crown (Aviation Series, Gulfmaster, MTG-S1000, MRG-G1000)
In the 2010s G-Shock began to focus on analog models but also continued to develop digital models like the best-selling GW-9400 Rangeman with Triple Sensor.
Significant recent releases include the highly popular and fashionable GA-100 Big Case Series including the GA-110, GA-120 and GD all-digital versions, the S Series for women, the current Master of G professional line, the GPS hybrid GPW-1000, the new Mudmaster, and the luxury-end MT-G and MR-G models.
The G-Shock has sold over 70 million units worldwide and has seen a resurgence after the brand’s 30th anniversary and Casio’s excellent ongoing promotional efforts, including events and collaborations with athletes, artists, and fashion designers. Through technological innovation, functional and fashionable design, and a strong commitment to its original mission, G-Shock has become one of the world’s most recognizable and trusted brands.
Kikuo Ibe on Inventing G-Shock
Kikuo Ibe made an appearance on the EVINE shopping network in September 2015 to tell the story of G-Shock in English. The following is his story transcribed from that appearance…
“For me the story of G-Shock is one of dreams and challenges. My first dream was the challenge of building a very tough watch … years ago on my way to work I dropped a rather precious watch that had been a gift from my father. It broke into many pieces. Of course, this watch was not Casio. At the time, it was felt that a watch should be treated with care, so I decided to develop a tough watch that would not break even if it was dropped. This was the beginning of G-Shock. At that time, there was a kind of slim case competition in the watch industry, so I decided to test my dream in a secret place. The secret place was a restroom in our R&D building. I took a standard metal case, found some rubber protection, and threw it from the second floor window. Using rubber to make the size of a ball, it worked. The size, oh shock! So next I started to develop a shock-resistance structure consisting of five steps to protect the engine. By having five steps to absorb the shock and protect the engine, the total size of the watch could be reduced dramatically. But in the engine itself some of the electronic parts would break and even after reinforcing some parts, other parts would start to break. I tested everything I could think of! No turn 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.”