Ever since its inception in 1983, the G-SHOCK has continuously taken on new challenges and processes of evolution.
Now, thirty-odd years since the inception of the watch, the G-SHOCK Dream Project — a new undertaking of Kikuo Ibe’s — has taken shape.
The aim was to take the long-pursued metal-clad version of the watch’s shock-resistant construction and to craft it in that finest of materials: gold.
Read on for the full story of this ultimate challenge.
Since the debut of the very first model in 1983, the G-SHOCK has kept pace with the changing eras and cultural trends to offer an ever broadening range of variations. Youthful consumers appreciated the innovative designs and colorations, which won many of them over as avid G-SHOCK fans. Then in the 1990s, the G-SHOCK transitioned into a further phase of its evolution: the development of a model those early fans would keep loving, even as they grew in age themselves: the metal G-SHOCK. This was a point of pride as well as a personal passion for Kikuo Ibe, who had developed the very first model.
Resin is lightweight and easy-to-process, so it had been used for the exterior components of the G-SHOCK up until that point. Ensuring resistance to drop impact implied the need to limit the watch’s own weight and also mandated a design with many uneven surfaces. Now, the dream was to realize the same form, but in metal, with its higher degree of strength. The process of development was extremely challenging, but two years of work, at long last, produced the MR-G MRG-100.
Employing the same hollow case structure for the module that had brought success with the development of the first model, the MRG-100 was heir to the G-SHOCK identity. This time the material used was forge-cast stainless steel. The model came in a full-metal shock-resistant structure made possible by a variety of technological innovations, including a shock-resistant module, bumper construction for the bezel, and a rubber suspension for the case back.
Launched with the release of the MRG-100, the MR-G line accelerated the pace of the move to full-metal construction for the premier line of G-SHOCK watches. The range of materials used was expanded from stainless steel to include variations such as titanium. Advanced forging techniques were employed to cast the complex forms of the bezel, case and band, and hairline and mirror surface finishes were applied with an intense attention to detail. With processes like these, development was driven by a pursuit of the finest quality, and the watches boasted ever more meticulous craftsmanship.
Other models were released as well, including the MT-G and G-STEEL made with a combination of metal and resin. As the lineup continued to grow, the metal models came to occupy a position in the G-SHOCK portfolio on par with the resin models.
Now, fast-forward 30-odd years from the inception of the G-SHOCK. The ultimate watch of toughness added a new page to its history book: an ultimate, legendary pursuit of a special 18k gold model. The key concept here: eternal value. As Kikuo Ibe relates, “This collaboration between the G-SHOCK, the ultimate in toughness, and gold, the ultimate in metals, presented the challenge of my dreams: combining the truly ultimate with the ultimate.”
The model was at first developed as a conceptual model symbolic of the G-SHOCK spirit of challenge. Ibe, who spearheaded the project, was passionate about the possibilities, however, and the production of a “real” version of the model compliant with G-SHOCK product standards was set as a development goal. A task force was formed to complete the project.
The first issue they tackled was developing a new shock-resistant construction for the 18k gold. The weight of gold is 150% that of stainless steel. With the conventional construction, it would be difficult to satisfy the criteria for shock resistance. Their solution was to enclose the inner body of the watch in the outer case with fine-resin cushioning material in between to provide omnidirectional shock absorption, a feat they accomplished by employing the innovative concept of “new shell construction.”
The team was also particular about the delicate, sophisticated processing of the gold, to the highest degree. Paying visits to manufacturers and skilled artisans time and again, they accomplished a carefully detailed finishing process integrated with high-precision casting and handcrafted micro-componentry. From the case, band and buttons down to the smallest screws, all could be produced in 18k gold.
They had poured all the passion and technology they had into this ambitious project to realize the ultimate of ultimates. This was truly the birth of a dream G-SHOCK, alive with the spirit of “never give up.”
The completed 18k-gold G-SHOCK debuted at Baselworld 2015, called the “Ibe Special.” Later, in response to significant demand, the task force undertook the work of getting the watch ready for public release. Orders were taken for a worldwide limited release of 35 pieces, presented as an anniversary model commemorating the 35-year anniversary of the G-SHOCK’s inception. Despite its ¥7.7 million price, the limited production run sold out immediately.
In Ibe’s words, “The G-D5000 is a creation that truly ventures into the realm of dreams in its fusion of the G-SHOCK, with its continuous pursuit of toughness, and — at the other end of the spectrum — gold, a material of utmost elegance. The square design, which has been maintained since the very first model, is symbolic of the G-SHOCK’s point of origin — the concept of an unbreakable watch. And the brilliance of the 18k gold is an embodiment of the dream of a full-metal G-SHOCK presented with the very finest degree of quality. The history of G-SHOCK is also a history of making dreams come true.”
The challenges Kikuo Ibe takes on with the G-SHOCK — with his sights set on ever-new forms of the ultimate — seem likely to continue.