When Kikuo Ibe dreamt up his indestructible watch, it’s safe to assume that he had no idea — nor any intention — that the G-Shock would be considered a pop icon some 36 years on. How then, did the G-Shock manage to transform from a utilitarian object to one of personal style?
The story as it is told is that for the first 15 years of its life, G-Shocks were only produced in black, to go along with its rough, tough, come-at-me-bro demeanor. Then a gentleman in the brand’s marketing division, at a given opportunity, proposed to the big bosses at Casio that more of an effort must be made to reach out to a wider audience; make the G-Shock relevant to more than just the individuals who needed a watch that could out survive the perils of their working conditions.
A Colorful Future
So in 1997, as part of a project initiated by Shigenori Itoh (better known as Mr G-Shock), the world was given its first non-black G-Shock, in mustard and then in a clear resin, which many today refer to as the skeleton G-Shock. The next step the G-Shock would take is one towards the fairer sex, because for as long as it had existed until then, the watch had always been a macho piece of wrist gear.
It was also Itoh-San who brought the conversation to the table that G-Shocks should be produced in collaboration with brands and individuals of influence — this as a way to widen the G-Shock’s audience. Itoh-San was probably one of the first in the watchmaking industry to have thought up this concept. Given how ubiquitous the formula is today, it’s easy to take for granted just how groundbreaking such a decision was on the part of Casio.
Remember, that this was 1997, pagers were cutting edge, The Philosopher’s Stone had just been published, Backstreet Boys had only just come into existence (cue Quit Playing Games With My Heart), the first generation of the iPod wouldn’t be announced for another 4 years. This is the year that Casio dropped the ’97 Stussy x Casio G-Shock Limited Edition (1,000 pieces) and followed up swiftly with the ’98 Bathing Ape x Casio G-Shock Limited Edition (1,000 pieces).
Conquering New Spaces
Beyond the pioneering execution in having the watch become more visible to a crowd far removed from itself, what the Stussy and Bathing Ape collaborations ultimately did for the G-Shock is that these inked the G-Shock’s name into the history books of streetwear, forever.
But not just by partnering two of the biggest names in streetwear, Casio also permeated into youth and pop culture further down the line with great innovations in its own watchmaking. Take for instance the 1998 G ‘Mix Groove Tune DW-9550HB-2T, which had a light-up beats per minute counter, intended for use by DJs and other musicians who often have to work in dark theatrical spaces.
In this way and with further collaborations with graffiti artists, tattoo artists, rappers and designers the G-Shock became synonymous with everything to do with street culture. Recently some of the bigger, global names that have collaborated with Casio to produce their own G-Shock, has been the likes of the Wu-Tang Clan and even, Eminem.
But let’s not for a second think that in their effort to reach out, that the G-Shock has neglected its core watchnut base. Watches such as the G-Shock Full Metal 5000 collection was, first and foremost, a runaway hit with watch collectors from all walks of life.
Now, Casio’s taken its savvy know-how — of what’s cool and what isn’t — from having collaborated with a multitude of street style entities and its watchmaking prowess, to produce the G-Shock GMW-B5000V Black Aged IP.
When it was first announced at Baselworld 2019, it was one of the most visible watches people were posting about on Instagram. Encountering collectors and watch journalists on the fairgrounds would, without fail, involve a mention of the G-Shock GMW-B5000V Black Aged IP in amongst every other novelty that had created an impression on them.
Perhaps the reason why the Black Aged IP has been so well received is because it plays on two trends. Number 1, it develops on the success of the G-Shock Full Metal 5000 in the watch community. And number 2 — the reason why it caught on beyond the watch community — is that the watch is a play on the world’s current fascination for patina and that aged look. Case in point: the abundance of stone washed denim jeans, t-shirts that are intentionally made to look worn-in, patinated high-end leather goods that are made to look like they’ve been used for years.
With the Black Aged IP, Casio has perfectly demonstrated an awareness of the appeal that G-Shock has among the watch crowd and the larger pop culture scene. It is this insight into itself that has kept the G-Shock relevant three decades on. And it’s this very same self-awareness that’s sure to continue to expand the G-Shock’s influence and provide the world with ever more stylish and innovative watches.