Casio's G-Shock watch still hitting the big time after 35 years

Casio's upcoming sapphire crystal G-Shock models on display at the brand's 35th anniversary celebration in New York City. The watch's case is said to be protected by sapphire crystal and will be almost unscratchable.
Casio's upcoming sapphire crystal G-Shock models on display at the brand's 35th anniversary celebration in New York City. The watch's case is said to be protected by sapphire crystal and will be almost unscratchable.ST PHOTO: TREVOR TAN

Its enduring popularity a surprise even to its creator; new sapphire crystal model to be released next year

Its brand longevity has surprised even its creator, especially for a product made so durable it shouldn't need replacing. But with over 100 million watches shipped around the world, the demand for the Casio G-Shock is showing no signs of waning as it turns 35 next year.

Casio kicked off the brand's 35th anniversary celebration last Thursday in New York City - the venue was selected because it was in the United States where the G-Shock craze started - with a press conference followed by music from designer, DJ and founder of fashion label Off-White, Virgil Abloh, and performances by members of popular US hip-hop collective A$AP Mob.

Created in 1983 by Casio engineer Kikuo Ibe, the G-Shock watch is famed for its extreme sturdiness and toughness.

"Actually, I never imagined that it (G-Shock) could last this long. I am just grateful that it has sustained for so long," Mr Ibe told The Straits Times before the press conference.

This is especially so since a G-Shock watch can last so long that wearers do not really need to replace their watches.

"Generally speaking, for any product, we should develop products that can last at least 10 years," said Mr Ibe, adding that he was glad that Casio's management was not concerned about the longevity of the product.

"Whenever there are new models (of G-Shock), there are collectors who buy the new products even though their old watches are still working." And this has helped the G-Shock to thrive.

ALWAYS IN DEMAND

Whenever there are new models, there are collectors who buy the new products even though their old watches are still working.

CASIO ENGINEER KIKUO IBE, who created the G-Shock in 1983

During the press conference, Mr Ibe announced a sapphire crystal G-Shock that he has been working on. Details of this watch are scarce at present. But it is said that its case is protected by sapphire crystal and will be almost unscratchable. The sapphire crystal G-Shock is scheduled for release some time next year.

Mr Kazuhiro Kashio, president and chief operating officer of Casio, recalled how a Casio commercial in the US 33 years ago - showing an ice hockey player using a G-Shock as a puck and how the watch still worked despite being hit - triggered interest in G-Shock watches.

"A US TV programme then tried to verify the commercial's claim and found the watch to be truly unbreakable," he said.

Sales surged and the G-Shock's popularity was then "imported" back to Japan and subsequently spread worldwide.

  • 100m

    Number of G-Shock watches that have been shipped worldwide to date.

Mr Kashio feels that Casio did "something unprecedented". And with users wearing G-Shock all the time because it is unbreakable, he feels that Casio is contributing to society in a way.

"The G-Shock is a watch. But at the same time, it is something beyond a watch," said Mr Kashio, pointing to how Casio has created a culture on its own.

Over the years, the G-Shock has found fans among military figures and famous adventurers. It has also transcended into a pop and fashion icon.

Casio has done several collaborations with many artists, celebrities and designers, such as Eric Haze and Robert Geller.

Mr Haze, an American artist and designer, has worked with Casio for 20 years to create special editions of the watches. He also designed the G-Shock's 30th and 35th anniversary logos.

He feels that unlike his own works, which might be limited in reach, working with Casio has allowed him to expand to more audiences around the world.

"The idea that my ideas and style go so far out into the world and are well-received is the most satisfying part," said Mr Haze.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 15, 2017, with the headline 'Casio's G-Shock watch still hitting the big time after 35 years'. Print Edition | Subscribe