“Cool & Fun” As The Driving Force Of G-Shock Watch Design
In all my years visiting watch makers around the world, I’ve never until visiting Casio heard top-level designers freely mention that their goal was to make a watch that was “cool” and “fun” to use. The lack of marketing-language obfuscation at Casio is really refreshing. The designers are open with what inspires them, how they integrate those ideas into their products, and why they design the watches they do. Yes, it is true that like other watch makers Casio is engineering watches that will perform and survive more applications than most consumers need, but at least Casio isn’t asking its consumers to pay too much for the privilege. Again, Casio makes the perfect watch for the gadget lover who wants a cool item on their wrist that is actually very useful.
Casio’s G-Shock watches are meant to be for various types of activities on land, sea, or in the air. Some of the consumers will take full advantage of the durability and functionality, and others will simply appreciate the idea that they can enjoy the fuller promise of these watches someday. In any event, the much more democratic pricing at Casio (even with a push upmarket) means that a higher volume of people can share in these experiences – which is one of the reasons Casio is a much more social brand when compared to others.
In addition to Mr. Ibe, another long-time Casio employee is Mr. Ryusuke Moriai who is now the Design Manager of G-Shock. This prolific designer is responsible for some of the most iconic Casio watches of all time including the simple and effective F-91W and many G-Shock models. These men are inspired by functionality, but also their own lives and upbringings. When designing a new G-Shock dive watch, they look to modern submarines and other equipment, and when designing the G-Shock Mudmaster, they look at military vehicles, outfits, and tools for inspiration. Casio G-Shock is the brand that makes modern Japanese design iconic. If you grew up with Japanese cartoons and toys you’ll be immediately at home, but you’ll also find a lot to appeal to you if you are like most men who like high-performance machines.
What I think I inherently like so much about Casio is that it isn’t inspired by the world that came before it. So much of Swiss watch design, or that of other high-end Japanese products is based in design influences that existed before the designer was even born. Casio is rare in looking at today as well as the future in the design of pretty much all their men’s watches. This is even the case in dressier watches such as Edifice or Oceanus, which are more classic in their familiarity, but still thoroughly contemporary in their aesthetic.
I want a fun and cool watch more than pretty much any other design motivation. I don’t know that myself or most other consumers might articulate it that way, but when it comes down to it, prestige and tradition for most people are second place criteria when compared to the idea that a watch needs to stimulate the play-loving youth that still exists in us all.
The Future Of Casio G-Shock
Where is Casio and G-Shock going in today’s complicated consumer electronics environment? With an all-electronic collection of timepieces and the most modern approach to design, Casio is perhaps in the best position to look ahead – even compared to its domestic Japanese competitors. Nevertheless, Casio is still cautious about deploying new technology before it is ready. Furthermore, today the watch game isn’t just about hardware, but also software. Casio currently has some internal software development capability but uses mostly outside resources when it comes to the majority of their software development.
This is a crucial component when it comes to developing better and more interesting smartwatches – even if they base their smartwatches on popular wearable operating systems such as Android Wear – as well as when it comes to the development of applications for smartphones which are required for both aesthetic purposes or communication purposes, like enabling a smart watch to be updated with cool watch faces or, ultimately, to help realize their goal of having watches that communicate directly with mobile data networks.
Casio is for the most part aware of where they have gaps, but in an uncertain environment I can imagine it is difficult for them to effectively plan and allocate resources. Japanese design is more careful and cautious than their neighbors in China or Korea, which means they come out with more complete products that tend to take longer. In an age when the lifespan of some of the technology in watches is less than a year, Japan’s manufacturing mentality is still trying to figure out how to adapt.
Casio doesn’t only sell watches directly to consumers, but a large part of their business is selling watches in wholesale volumes to third-party stores. This is especially true in the context of the more high-end products they produce, such as Oceanus, Master of G, MT-G, and MR-G. While visiting the Yamagata factory, I was joined by a few retailers who sold these products along mostly high-end luxury Swiss watches. It was interesting to gauge the looks on their faces when they realized that Casio used at least as much if not more effort in producing their watches compared to more expensive brands.
Even though many Casio G-Shock watches look like Tonka toy trucks in display cases next to Cartier or TAG Heuer timepieces, I think the retailers could immediately appreciate that all of these timepieces share core values when it comes to purpose, construction, quality, and long-term appeal. Casio is getting more and more retailers to appreciate the deeper values of their products, which is something the Japanese brands are a bit late to the game in doing as compared with the Europeans. With that said, the stories they have to share are proving persuasive, and high-end Casio sales are certainly on an upswing in the traditional watch stores that currently carry them.
It probably doesn’t surprise you that Casio pays extremely close attention to the market and what competitors are doing. Japanese companies have been eagerly eyeing each other for years, so they know about what others are doing with smartwatches and other technology watches. Casio has certain standards of durability, utility, and longevity that they put to all of their watches, which might explain why they can seem to be slow to adopt new technologies.
In many ways, the geeks who make their awesome products also know that asking consumers to make sacrifices is a bad idea – what I mean by that is they don’t want to introduce new features to the detriment of other ones. This mainly relates to battery life: Casio could introduce more features into many of their watches but battery consumption could go drastically up. That might mean they could no longer offer solar power generation and total watch autonomy – which is something they would not want to ask of their customers.
While Casio has many slogans to explain their core values like promoting “Absolute Toughness,” one thing they haven’t expressly said but have historically demonstrated is what I mentioned above of not wanting to overstep when it comes to innovation. Casio products build on one another. Yes, Casio does produce some expensive models that each have different features and promises, but when it comes to their high-end watches you never need to take items off the list of features. Casio only likes to add features, and doesn’t want to remove them. For me, that is the major takeaway of Casio’s particular brand of innovation, and it feels like a mandate directly from the employees on the items they are responsible for proudly producing, while looking cool wearing them… and having fun in the process. gshock.com