Interview with Mr. Kikuo Ibe, the father of G-Shock
Casio celebrated 35 years of its trademark G-Shock watch with a party in New York City. EDGAR spoke to the brand’s R&D chief engineer – nicknamed the father of the G-Shock – about the story of the rugged and much-loved watchSudhish Chandran December 14, 2017
Do you remember the very beginning of your idea for the G-Shock?
My father bought me a watch when I first entered high school and I kept it very carefully. But one day, I dropped the watch and it broke into pieces. At that time, it was a common sense that watches are precision equipment and it breaks easily. By looking at my broken watch, I wanted to make a watch which was strong and sturdy and does not break and so this was the beginning of the G-Shock.
What happened next?
There was road construction going on in front of my technical centre building, but none of the construction workers were wearing watches, because watches break. I thought it must be very inconvenient for them not being able to know the time, and I wanted them to wear this strong and sturdy watch.
So strength was your number one priority?
In development, achieving strength naturally became its style and design. At that time, the trend was for thin watches so I think everyone was thinking that the G-Shock was unbelievably big and lack- ing common sense.
What were some of your early designs that you rejected?
I thought it would be easy, like putting some rubber on the watch would be fine [to make it unbreakable]. However, mak- ing the shape like that won’t work and I thought I had made a mistake. I needed to come up with a new structure that could absorb the damage of an impact. The size got smaller dramatically, but one of the electronic parts always broke. I almost gave up.
How did you solve the problem?
One day I was sitting on a bench in a park, watching a girl bouncing a ball. An image of the heart of the watch floating inside the ball appeared in my head. This solved the problem.
How did the Master of G range begin?
G-Shock started with wearable watches for construction workers, and the target for the Master of G collection was for people working in severe environments whether it was land, sea or air. As I am weak and cannot work in such severe environments, I wanted to make a watch for people in such extremes.
What is your aim for the smartwatch segment moving forward?
We know that nowadays people do not wear watches because they have smartphones. We have to think of a way to make things more fun and convenient by integrating smartphones and watches. There are many occasions when you cannot keep your smartphone with you – you cannot dive into the sea with smartphones – so you wear a watch, and when you get out of the sea you link the data with your smartphone. In this way, watches and smartphones can exist together.
Can you believe the G-Shock is still around 35 years later?
Not at all. The reason G-Shock has existed for such a long time is due to our sales team, but at the same time, it is because the media loved G-Shock for its difference from other watches.
What are you most proud of when you look at the G-Shock?
The concept is strong and steady. Even though more than 30 years has passed, I believe there is no other watch that exceeds its strength.
It’s also the most copied watch in the counterfeit market. How do you tackle this problem?
Whenever a fake is dispatched, we send a supervisor to the place to suspend all of them, but unfortunately it is a cat and mouse game. I tell my supervisors to hit the watch and if it does not break, then it is a real G-Shock.
What is the next big step for the G-Shock watch?
In the near future, I believe anyone will be able to go into space. My dream is to wear a G-Shock with aliens and make a home together with them. I hope they would say ‘G-Shock is wonderful!’