Where it all began.
The goal was to build a watch that would never break, flaunting the prevailing view that finely made watches were susceptible to breakage if dropped. The singular conviction that this was possible gave rise to the G-SHOCK. Development of the watch entailed unfathomable repetitions of trial and error. Finally, at long last, the shock-resistant structure constituting the core technology of the G-SHOCK was finalized. It was 1983.
A vision so clear it fit in one short phrase.
“A durable watch that would not break even if dropped” — A proposal submitted at a company meeting contained only this single line of text. The author of these words was Kikuo Ibe, who was in charge of watch exterior design at the time. He recalls that this clear, simple idea struck him as he looked at a watch he had happened to drop at work one day, which broke in the fall. At the time, watches were considered precisely crafted, delicate instruments, and it was thought only natural that your watch would break if you dropped it. The concept of toughness — in a watch — was too unconventional, too avant-garde. Still, his proposal was approved. Choosing a window in the third-floor washroom at the Research & Development Center as the site for drop-testing, he began working to develop a new form of watch.
Countless days of trial and error.
Ibe’s vision defied all conventional wisdom, so the work for bringing it to fruition had to start from square one. His first assumption was that the whole watch would need to be covered with a soft, flexible material. Drop tests, however, shattered this notion. No amount of shock-absorbent rubber applied to the exterior prevented breakage from occurring. On top of that, greater amounts of cushioning meant ever-increasing watch sizes. At one point, he ended up with a test model the size of a softball!
Eventually, Ibe was able to solve the size issue by devising a five-stage shock-absorbing structure designed to protect the core components of the watch with five cushioning materials. The problem, however, then became that just one of the electronic components would break in the drop test. A vicious cycle took hold: when he strengthened the component that had broken, it would cause another one to break instead. He would fling a prototype with improved componentry from the third-floor lavatory window to the ground 10m below…analyze the components that broke… increase the strength of those components… and repeat the experiment once again. The seemingly endless days of this trial and error stretched on and on. However, the encouraging news came when the “Tough” project team was formalized and tasked with developing a market-ready watch, and the name G-SHOCK was selected, along with a schedule for release.
A miraculous moment.
It was looking like development had ground to a halt. Ibe, finding himself in a tight spot, made a big decision. In a final show of stubborn resolve, he assigned himself one last week to devote every waking hour to the research. The thought even plagued him, he recalls, that if he failed he might have to leave the company. He did his utmost, but the last day of the week came and still he had nothing to show for his efforts. It was a Sunday, and Ibe stepped into a park adjacent to the office and saw some children playing with a rubber ball.
The sight captivated him, and the miraculous idea came: a watch floating inside a rubber ball would be resistant to even the strongest shocks. This breakthrough revelation was the key to the unique construction of the G-SHOCK: five levels of shock absorption, and within, the module — the “heart” of the watch — positioned inside a hollow case structure where it would seem to float in air.
Introducing the ultimate form.
It was 1983 when the very first G-SHOCK — the DW-5000C — made its debut. With its big, rugged form, the watch was ahead of its time and barely sold upon initial release. Once a North American television program testified to its practical utility, though, G-SHOCK became an explosive hit worldwide. On top of that, in the 1990s the younger skating and surfing crowd fell in love with G-SHOCK for its toughness and style. This sparked its continuing long run as a must-have piece of street fashion, and today the G-SHOCK is appreciated around the world for its timeless, iconic presence.
The G-SHOCK is a truly unique watch of toughness. Its symbolic square design, eschewing all hints of the extraneous, is the product of the single-minded pursuit of shock resistance alone. Presented in the ultimate form, this G-SHOCK vision has been passed down to this very day as the enduring standard of G-SHOCK design. This is a story of conviction brought to fruition, through a tireless spirit of inquiry and determination never to give up. This is the G-SHOCK point of origin, and a spirit of toughness that will never fade.
TO BE CONTINUED IN THE NEXT ISSUE: #2 EVOLUTION TO THE FULL METAL
FROM THE BEGINNING TO GMW-B5000 SERIES
* Some graphics are included for illustrative purposes and may vary from actual appearances.
* Models cited may be subject to regional limitations or may be currently out of production.