You would have to have been living under some sort of horological rock to not be aware of how massively smitten the collective watch collecting community has become with Casio’s Full Metal 5000 series of G-Shock watches.
Funny thing is, this isn’t the first time a G-Shock has been made in all-metal. The first all-metal — all-steel to be specific — G-Shock was announced back in 1996. In fact, that same year there was also an all-titanium G-Shock. These did great for Casio, but reason why the 2018 all-metal G-Shocks have been such a runaway success for the Japanese watchmaker, can squarely be attributed to the fact that these are basically steel versions of Kikuo Ibe’s 1983 original DW5000C G-Shock.
G-Shock models designed in the silhouette of the original square DW5000C have a global cult following that’s really in a league of its own. So, you’d think that to take this robust and rugged — and, not to mention, most successful — form of the G-Shock and give it an all-metal exoskeleton, would be a no brainer for the brand. It would, no doubt, be a really cool G-Shock and it would, no doubt, fly off the shelves. Then, why did it take Casio such a long time to give the world the G-Shock Full Metal 5000?
The answer lies in the three defining principles that Mr Ibe-San set forth when he invented the G-Shock, better known as the “Triple 10” development concept. Every G-Shock has to have 10-bar (100 meter) water resistance, 10-year battery life and be able to withstand a 10-meter free-fall. So, in the 36 years that Casio has produced G-Shocks, not a single model was brought to market that did not meet all three of these prerequisites.
With the solar charging technology having become a common feature in more and more G-Shock models, the 10-year battery life has become a given. Water-resistance on the simplest G-Shock now goes all the way to 20-bar. But when considering new materials for the G-Shock, water-resistance and, most definitely, the 10-meter free-fall make for quiet the engineering challenge.
What we have to remember is that the square case’s design serves a very definite intention, which is to hold the time module in suspension and protect it from all measures of trauma. Meaning to say that the architecture of the case has as much engineering purpose on the outside as it does on the inside. Even with modern day micro engineering technologies, the laws of physics dictate that at such levels of precision milling, the economies of things and the mandated “Triple 10″ concept, don’t always stand on agreeable grounds.
Let’s also not forget that Casio no longer only requires that all new G-Shocks meet the “Triple 10” development concept. There is now a battery of some 183 tests that are performed on new concept watches at their R&D facilities in Hamura, Tokyo. These tests range from horrific drops performed by machines that emulate 10-meter falls with a sling-shot like mechanism, to water and mud resistance tests that are performed while mechanical fingers incessantly press on the watch’s buttons.
Some of Casio’s G-Shock Prototype Torture Tests in Action
One peculiar test requires the G-Shock development team to immerse the prototype watch into a vat of a vile liquid that they themselves have concocted to emulate the corrosive effects of human sweat. Add to this that the tests are constantly updated and adjusted as the team receives feedback from customers and people from within R&D. Therefore, the validation process for every new proposed G-Shock becomes progressively more and more stringent.
Creating the Full Metal 5000 series of G-Shock watches, thus, meant not only formulating the right case architecture but also discovering the right alloy of steel that would survive the 183 torture tests, before the series could become a reality.
Says Mr Yuichi Masuda, who is Senior Executive Managing Officer and Member of the Board Responsible for Product Development as well as Manager of Timepiece Business Unit and the Business Strategy Headquarters, “Our engineers were always aware of the fact that the timepiece market is all about metal watches. When we came out with the G-Shock [in 1983], with the technology that was available to us, we were only able to use resin as a material to give the G-Shock all of the qualities we had wanted for it. But as we developed our own know-how, it has always been a passion of our engineers’ to be able to create G-Shock watches in ever more challenging materials.”
This philosophy isn’t just applicable now with the Full Metal 5000 series of G-Shock watches. It was applicable even with the steel MRG-100 and titanium MRG-100T of 1996. And Mr Masuda-San would know this well enough, considering that when Mr Ibe-San dreamt up his indestructible watch, it was Mr Masuda-San who was project leader in charge of “Project Team Tough” that gave us the very first G-Shock in 1983.
Today, after conquering resin and steel, the G-Shock is all about the third material, carbon. As much as the use of carbon for now is more for the mid-case in round watches, during our conversation Mr Masuda-San hinted towards their R&D being in the process of experimenting with implementing the use of carbon to more of the G-Shock’s case construction and across more varieties of watches in the G-Shock family. On that note, let’s not forget that the 2019 G-Shock Gravity Master GWR-B1000 already has a carbon monocoque case.
But let’s not for a minute think that the G-Shock’s only pursuit is material innovation. Today, Casio has an entire family of G-Shocks that are positioned as premium timepieces, namely the G-Shock MRG family of timepieces. Casio, in fact, has set up an entire dedicated facility out in the Yamagata Prefecture, where these premium G-Shocks are produced.
Stepping into the Yamagata Premium Product Line manufacture requires you to adjust your own perception of what a G-Shock is. Because the world at large is of this mindset that G-Shocks are produced by endless rows of programed robots that stamp out thousands upon thousands of G-Shocks every hour. There are still robots at Yamagata, which are dedicated to the production of micro-components and automated production conveyor belts. But Casio makes a very serious case for the precision and high standards of watchmaking that the MRG family of watches represent, at their Yamagata facility. One curious fact that really ought to get any watch nut’s mind going is that the analog movement assembly line at Yamagata is set upon a floor space that is able to compensate for adverse effects to movement assembly in the case of earthquakes!
Most of all, what cannot be denied after having witnessed the Yamagata manufacture is the sheer number of people who are responsible for the watches being produced at the Premium Product Line. It’s still a person, with a pair of hands that regulates the movements, sets the dials and hands — ensuring precision with a microscope — and ultimately puts the movement into a case and seals it off.
But okay, you have every right to say that this sort of attention only applies to the highest range of G-Shocks. See the thing is that unless Casio is pushing boundaries at that high a level and in turn constantly figuring out how to apply their new know-how to a level where the average G-Shock is endowed with the same innovation and technology, then us plebeians would forever be devoid of cool, affordable watches such as the Full Metal 5000 series of G-Shocks.