Where Icons are Made: TOPPER's Exclusive Look Inside the Casio G-Shock Manufacture
On Saturday, November 17th, we're thrilled to finally introduce Kikuo Ibe to Topper Jewelers, as 'the father of G-Shock' makes his long awaited visit to meet the watch community of the San FranciscoBay Area. This Topper x Watchthebay Meet-up was so popular that for the first time ever, we had to split it into two different event starting times so as many G-Shock enthusiasts as possible would get a chance to meet him. Mr. Ibe will be presenting at both slots, so we'd welcome you to choose the one that best fits your schedule from the few openings that we still have left. You can make your RSVP right here.
With Mr. Ibe about to visit our store, I'd like to share some of our experiences as my wife and I visited Japan in early September to learn more about the world of G-Shock. The trip was amazing on a lot of levels, but first and foremost it gave us the chance to witness firsthand the deep history and incredible influence of one of the world's leading watch manufacturers. The trip would also lend unique insight into how many of Topper's best-selling G-Shock watches are built – most notably with impressive design, development, and manufacturing processes not seen anywhere else in the watch industry.
The Corporate Museum & Stops in Tokyo
While Casio's origins are well documented, seeing their evolution through the second half of the 21st century to modern day was incredibly inspiring. Our tour started by a visit to the Casio museum in Tokyo where we saw firsthand the physical timeline of an amazing 35-year genesis between the brand's very humble first DW-5000C G-Shock, and the state-of-the-art, Bluetooth-enabled titanium MR-G B1000B-1A that I wore throughout this Japan adventure.
We discovered that the corporate museum is also a great spot to catch a glimpse of some of Casio's most successful early consumer products, like vintage calculators (which is interestingly enough the brand's first mass-produced product), electronic dictionaries, cool 2.5D printers, and tried-and-true design icons like the DBC-611 – the world's first calculator watch introduced in 1984. Looking at these “tiny” calculators that were still bigger than my hand, yet were groundbreaking in the 1970s was as entertaining as looking through the timeline of the watches themselves. But once the G-Shock is added to this product equation, you get what has now grown to be a $3 billion dollar global company.
We were also given presentations on the major families of G-Shock. One of the most memorable parts of this segment was when the Master of G line was presented, it was pointed out that the Frogman's now-iconic, but whimsical caseback motif started out as an internal joke, drawn for fun with no intention of ever being used on a production watch. This lead to my realization that I think one thing people love about G-Shock is the importance of subtle humor and design irreverence which are juxtaposed alongside incredible engineering capability and commitment to value – all hallmarks that we've come to appreciate with G-Shock.
Once the trip had kicked off at the museum and Tokyo headquarters, our trip was then segmented into several key tours, which included a stop at the slick G-Shock concept store 'Edge' in Shinjuku (a highly recommended visit for any watch fan while in Tokyo). But for true fans of the brand (and probably most G-Shock owners), the most exciting parts of this adventure were the pair of visits to the G-Shock MR-G manufacturing facility in Yamagata, and the brand's primary R&D center in Hamura City, Tokyo. It was here at the latter where the father of the G-Shock, Kikuo Ibe dropped one of his earliest prototypes out of a bathroom window from high atop the center to see if it could survive the fall and subsequent impact. And the rest, as they say, is history.
G-Shock Research & Development Center: Hamura City
In the spirit of Ibe's very first torture test, our visit to the G-Shock R&D Center was devoted to observing many of the tortures subjected on a G-Shock (and even administering a few of our own!), to ensure these watches perform without fail no matter what the wearer might be doing, or where they might be. Those tests include temperature, water, and impact resistance, resistance to g-forces in a centrifuge, electric & static shock resistance, and even mud resistance in a swirling bath of synthetic mud. Even Mr. Ibe's very first testing apparatus – an original G-Shock prototype wrapped in a ball of electrical tape loomed nearby in the adjacent museum, serving as a reminder that we were indeed in a very special place.
But the test that really surprised us took place at our visit to the G-Shock manufacture in Yamagata City. Here, we dropped a real, raw egg (much to the surprise of our followers on Instagram) five feet onto a bed of proprietary G-Shock movement module armor called Alpha Gel. Be sure to catch the highlights of this test in our Instagram Story Highlights, but spoiler alert: the egg survives with nary a crack, providing a hint as to how a G-Shock watch is able to attain the remarkable impact and shock resistance without any interruption to its timekeeping.
Gearing up to head into the clean manufacturing floor...
Casio Premium Production Line: Yamagata City
There were many takeaways from our visit to the MR-G manufactory in Yamagata City, but one of those key punchlines was that all the manufacturing processes are all largely automated with minimal human interaction, and designed to be super efficient in the interest of not just time management, but to minimize waste as well.
It's here, where all G-Shock analog movements like those found in the Master of G, G-Steel, MT-G, and MR-G models are manufactured. And as a fully vertically integrated manufacture, Casio not only builds its own movement parts, it builds the robots that build those parts, the machines that assemble certain steps of the watches, the instruments that conduct torture-tests of new watches, as well as the entire assembly lines upon which everything is performed. Throughout each part of the process, a series of incredibly precise sensors perform constant error detection, but final QC of each watch is ultimately left to the trained eyes of a human technician.
A look at some of the different production lines in the Yamagata factory. We were told that all MR-G, MT-G and Oceanus collections are made on one line.
The traditions of incredible reliability and durability pioneered by Ibe's original G-Shock should come as little surprise to anyone who's ever owned one and subjected it to the many real-world torture tests we find in everyday wear. But seeing firsthand the incredible care and precision that went into life-proofing these watches, as well as the truly humbling degree craftsmanship found in the MR-G watches only serves to reinforce the fact that G-Shock's reign in the watch world has been no accident, and we're proud to call ourselves fans. Once again, many thanks to our friends at G-Shock for including us in this incredible adventure.
Discover the latest Casio G-Shock and MR-G watches available at Topper right here.
The Topper Blog consists mainly of original writing by Rob & Russ Caplan with occasional special contributions and interviews. All photography in the blog is taken at Topper Fine Jewelers , or on location unless otherwise indicated in the photo captions.