The G-Force: Kikuo Ibe On Creating The G-ShockWritten by Alvin Wong
Many lessons here – and they are not just about how to make a watch.
Ibe-san wearing the Casio G-Shock DW-5600, one of the earliest iterations of the timepiece
HEARTACHE CAN BE INSPIRING
“I was on my way to work when I dropped and broke a beautiful watch that was given to me by my father. That happened more than 30 years ago. At that time, watches were treated as delicate instruments. Afterwards, I was determined to make a watch that wouldn’t break.”
DON’T BE A FOLLOWER
“The trend for watches back (in the 1980s) was very thin cases. But my vision for an ultra-tough watch required for it to be big. And I had to develop the watch in secret. I conducted the shock tests by dropping the prototypes out from a toilet window on the third floor of the company’s R&D building.”
WATCH THE KIDS
“The prototypes were the size of a ball, and I was beginning to think that my idea was too unrealistic. I made some progress with a new shock-resistant structure to protect the watch movement, but it would damage its electronic components. I conducted every test imaginable. One day, I was in a park and chanced on a girl bouncing a ball. I imagined the watch being housed inside the ball, and developed the idea of housing the engine in a floating structure, which is the basis of the G-Shock concept.”
The original G-Shock: the Casio DW-5000
EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED
“The original G-Shocks were targeted at policemen and road construction workers. We then added mud-resistant features to make the watch hardier and more suitable for professionals working in tough conditions – whether they work on land, sea or air. But today, the G-Shock is popular across all sectors, and is even worn as a casual timepiece.”
A cross-section of the MR-G case shows how far the G-Shock has come since the prototype, which looks like a digital watch wrapped in a tennis ball (top right of image)
NEVER STOP INNOVATING
“After the success of the G-Shock, I started another project with a group of young engineers. The dream was to create an equally strong G-Shock with a metal case. It was even more challenging this time round. The conception took over a year and the anti-shock concept took its cue from the bumper design of a car. Even then, there were internal challenges to overcome, such as agreeing on the design of the metal G-Shock. In the end, we launched the MR-G in 1996, and the watches sold out on the day.”
Casio commemorates the 20th anniversary of the MR-G with the 'Hammer Tone' limited edition in titanium case, with bezel and bracelet links decorated in 'tsuiki, a hand-finishing technique traditionally used on armour. Priced at US$6,200, it is limited to 300 pieces.
Alvin promises not to be a douche when talking about watches. He may have scoured the Basel and Geneva watch fairs for the past 15 years, and played an instrumental role to the growth of Singapore's pioneering horological and men's lifestyle publications, but the intrepid scribe seeks to learn something new with each story he writes.