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G-Shock maintains its identity as the world's toughest watch that also happens to perform many other functions—and looks good doing so.
Yuichi Masuda turns up the volume on the Queen songs playing over the speaker on his iPhone as it sat untouched on the table. He then turned down the volume. Ready for the next song, he changes the selection to a tune by U2. And never once does he touch his phone.
But Masuda isn't controlling his music via a headphone connection, as many listeners do every day. Instead, Masuda simply presses the pushers on his G-Shock watch, model GBX6900B, to demonstrate the expanded capabilities of Casio's own version of a ‘smart watch,' a category of timepiece he knows is a hot ticket among many non-timepiece makers these days.
Masuda, who is senior general manager of the timepiece product division, demonstrated the new Bluetooth-connected watch at the Casio Hamura manufacturing facility in Tokyo, where International Watch recently joined several other media guests for a three-facility Casio tour.
User friendliness is important here, he explained, and we want to be sure we are providing useful and well-designed expressions of our technical expertise in our replica watches.
With this particular watch, that user friendliness means that not only can the user quickly control his or her iTunes volume and selections, but can also control numerous email, instant message and alarm notifications as desired. In addition, the user can reverse the process and set the watch's time, time zones, calendar and alarms by making various single-touch commands on the phone's screen.
And unlike many of the marquee-name ‘smart replica watches' now reaching the mass market, none of this functionality requires the user to recharge the watch every night.
We make replica watches, not wrist devices that need to be removed and charged, said Casio managing director of sales and marketing Hiroshi Nakamura. Casio has developed this Bluetooth model to ensure ultra-low energy consumption with standard quartz watch battery life—and to maintain the G-Shock identity as the world's toughest watch that also happens to perform many other functions.
Ibe's obsession
Since 1983,when the first G-Shocks rolled off the Casio assembly lines after two years of research by Masuda and Chief Engineer of Module Development Kikuo Ibe (known as the Father of the G-Shock) and Takashi Nikaido, the Japanese electronics giant has been expanding G-Shock's appeal by adding both new designs and new functions—like the Bluetooth capability demonstrated above—to the core super-shock resistance sought by Ibe when he proposed the new watch.
At first discouraged by Casio's board of directors from pursuing the design, which was judged too bulky amid the in-demand thin models of the early 1980s, Ibe nonetheless tested hundreds of prototypes in search of the toughest watchcase possible.
My breakthrough moment came when I saw a little girl playing with a ball in the park, Ibe explained. As I watched the ball bounce, I imagined a watch engine floating inside of it.
The solution suddenly seemed obvious, he added. I constructed a prototype in which shocks were absorbed in five steps, while the engine was separated from the parts that were impacted externally.
The first G-Shocks featured a hollow case structure in which the only contact between the movement and the resin exterior was via a gel-based material (now called Alpha-Gel). In addition, Ibe and Masuda's team curved the points where the strap and case meet, allowing the strap itself to become a shock absorber. Similarly, a raised case frames the bezel, deflecting major contact with the crystal. The pushers are protected in the same manner.
G-Shock focus
Casio manufactures many other timepieces, including steel analog models within its Edifice and Oceanus collections, outdoorsy analog/digital offerings within its ProTrek (formerly known in the United States as Pathfinder) models, and also Baby-G and the newly launched Sheen ladies replica watches in Asia. Yet the company's most successful—and best recognized—name brand remains G-Shock. In fact, more than 65 million G-Shocks have been sold since 1983, and replica watches now represent about one-third of Casio's overall $3 billion in sales.
While the steel-cased Edifice and Oceanus collections give watch consumers a dressy (and mostly higher-priced) choice within Casio's offerings, neither can boast the large, youthful fan base G-Shock enjoys.
In fact, G-Shock's success worldwide owes much to its early acceptance in the United States, according to Ibe, who explained that as Japanese consumers continued to prefer the thinner timepieces popular there during the early 1980s , the first G-Shock models in 1983 were a hit in the United States among hip skateboarding youth of the day who appreciated its toughness—and its rebellious spirit.
We had no idea how big the brand would become, explained Ibe. When we started, thin replica watches were the rage. That's why it took longer in Japan. On the other hand the U.S. wanted the practical use for the watch. And also, in Japan, U.S. culture was so influential that G-Shock's success in the U.S. began to be seen in Japan.
Today G-Shock reaches a much wider range of consumers. Athletes, soldiers and first responders prize the brand for its toughness, while its Team G-Shock list of ambassadors includes snowboarders, BMX racers, surfers and of course professional skateboarders. G-Shock has also created special limited edition collaborations with such brands as toymaker Medicom, cap maker New Era and apparel brand Undefeated.
G-Shock's marketing and promotion also maintain the brand's visibility within a creative crowd that includes artists, photographers and musicians, including hip-hop legend Eminem, who recently performed in New York as G-Shock celebrated its 30th Anniversary—and who helped design a watch.
And within the United States, Chairman and CEO of Casio America Inc. Shigenori Itoh continues to burnish the G-Shock image and last year opened a highly successful G-Shock store in New York's trendy Soho neighborhood. To bolster the G-Shock brand everywhere else, Casio has opened nine other G-Shock stores worldwide and of course includes the brand in its 600 all-brand G-Factory stores that Casio has opened worldwide, though none are yet open in the United States. replica kids watch
Design and function
Since their debut, G-Shock models have added a rainbow of colorful resin-cased models in various sizes. In 1996 the first steel models (‘Mr. G' collections) debuted in Japan, though not initially in the United States, while three years later metal and resin were joined in the GC2000 models. The next year (1997) saw the brand's first titanium models. G-Shock's most recent update was announced just a few months ago: The Metal Twisted MT-G models integrate metal and resin in both the case and the strap.
Within all this cutting-edge case and dial design Casio has also been adding new functionality, upgrading sensors and user interfaces almost every year. Analog-digital models appeared in 1989, thermo-sensors were added in 1992 for temperate gauge readings, ISO-rated dive models appeared in 1993, the first electro-luminescent models appeared in 1994, the same year pressure sensors appeared in G-Shocks to measure altitude, depth and atmospheric pressure.
Starting in 2000 runners watch , Casio began to add the multi-function features now seen in the majority of G-Shock replica watches, including radio-controlled atomic and solar power, and, very recently, highly accurate magnetic and pressure sensors. In fact, the new edition Rangeman models offer location and direction measurements accurate to within one meter, a noticeable jump beyond the five-meter measurements possible with the previous-generation sensors. The compass now offers fully sixty seconds of measurements, well beyond the twenty seconds offered previously.
New models
Today's models follow a very similar design protocol, but with three decades of updated materials, designs and technology.
According to Dave Johnson, vice president of timepieces for the Dover, New Jersey-based Casio America, this new technology is prominent on the list of highlights for these newly released Rangeman models.
The new ones have the three sensors: the temperature sensor, the barometric sensor for altimeter reading and the magnetic directional sensor, he explains. While we have had them before, this is the first time all have been combined together. We have used them separately before in the ProTrek, but they were too large for just G-Shock. It took a major effort to downsize these sensors.
With the MT-G models, the existing features have been made more intuitive via the Smart Access crown, first seen last year. It allows the user to access multiple functions with one crown. Using the various dial hands as indicators, the user can access the Multi-Band 6 atomic timekeeping, world time settings and alarm settings without also pressing any pushers.
With the Smart Access feature placed into the three new steel-cased MT-G models, Casio is appealing to existing G-Shock fans ready for a higher-priced premium steel watch and to new consumers who might otherwise seek other replica watches within the same $900-to-$1,100 price range, says Johnson.
We are already seeing success with the $600 models in recent years, and we feel these new models will also bring us a whole new client, he adds.