The heart of each G-Shock watch is the movement module which is always its most delicate component. From the beginning of G-Shock watches, the movement was suspended by a few points in the case so as to maximize resistance to shock, drops, and vibration. Some more sophisticated G-Shock watches actually mount the movement in a material they call Alpha Gel. Casio actually has us test this material by throwing a raw egg at it (yes, throw) and demonstrating how the egg would not break (it didn’t, and I know because I threw the egg).
The surrounding case must also prevent dirt and water from entering it and must also allow for the various pushers to connect with the movement. The pushers must also be safe to use when the watch is dirty or underwater. Thus, the fact that so many G-Shock watches tend to have a distinctive and familiar look is because they all employ similar techniques to result in the same functionality.
Where Casio continues to innovate isn’t just in durability, but also in making the core G-Shock watch even more interesting-looking. The company even has a series of production innovation awards for this, like injection molding and precision manufacturing of plastic parts. No watch company I know of actually makes plastic something so interesting – but of course, G-Shock watches also use other materials such as steel, titanium, carbon fiber, and sapphire crystal, depending on the model. The high-end G-Shock does exist, and it just depends on finding the models that are right for you. Nevertheless, you can still get an incredible G-Shock watch for around $150.
In the mid-1990s Casio was given an interesting gift. Just a few years prior to that, the design philosophy at Casio was actually pretty conservative. Many people there believed that G-Shock watches should only be black in color. What happened in the 1990s was the adoption of G-Shock watches into American youth culture. From street fashion to surfing, G-Shock watches became an important lifestyle symbol. Casio responded quickly, catering to this demographic by swiftly transforming the G-Shock into a fashion icon. This resulted in tons of interesting colors as well as freedom for designers like Mr. Moriai to go a bit nuts. This is where the culture of wildly multi-colored G-Shock watches came from, and such watches remain a cult hit today.
From stores that sell hundreds of ironic and quirky stickers to colorful crepe dessert stands, Mr. Moriai illustrates for me the rich palette of hues that inspired him when thinking about new G-Shock watch designs. He is also inspired by the people on the streets in places like Harajuku – where Tokyo teens are known for their impeccably detailed and spirited costume-style clothing.
In Japan especially, people like Mr. Moriai are local celebrities. When entering a watch store that specializes in curating cool affordable watches (mostly Casio), he is pulled aside for pictures and autographs. I ask him to show me some of his favorite designs which he selects and then talks about. His capacity for entertaining wild colors among his preferences is impressive as is the type of watches he chose that he is the proudest of. You can tell he is a stickler for symmetry, and he likes rich, three-dimensional design that carries from the case to the dial.
Mr. Moriai impressed me when saying that he actually prefers to design digital dials as opposed to analog ones. This might come as a surprise to many people who have clearly noticed that Casio has been developing so many analog watches as opposed to purely digital ones. The reason for this is that Casio has found that analog G-Shock watches for some reason tend to sell better. Moreover, designers like Mr. Moriai are fascinated by the three-dimensional spaces you can play with in an analog dial as opposed to a flat digital one that uses a screen. His biggest hopes for the coming years are that screen technology will develop to make it more colorful, brighter, and with more depth to the eye. Of course, it would need to follow the G-Shock philosophy of “worry-free” wear, meaning that the watch doesn’t need battery changes/charges (regularly or at all) and that they be highly durable.
I agree with Mr. Moriai in that I find the legibility and utility of digital screens to be superior to analog dials even if the latter tends to look cooler in many instances. Casio has innovated greatly when it comes to making watches that consume less power, but where it still doesn’t have the answer (no one really does) is how to actually generate more power. Such additional power would be the key to expanding Casio watch functionality beyond the limits of what we see today.
When asked what his dream Casio watch to make would be, Mr. Moriai once again reads my mind in talking about a watch that is meant to survive being in space. This isn’t just his dream, but the dream of many watch companies. I personally think that Casio would make an incredible space travel watch. One of the reasons they don’t yet is that they don’t want to guess how such a watch would function. Without the efficient ability to actually work with astronauts in space to test and develop watches, this is a dream the brand might have to put on the backburner for a while.