Designing a watch is often like breaking a few eggs to make an omelette. It takes persistence. And just as there is more than one way to break an egg, there is certainly more than one way to design a watch. Given a choice however, and with a suitably planetary-sized budget, it’s hard to think of anyone who would refuse to pick a watch that has been painstakingly conceptualized and constructed by one person, or a small group of people. Let’s be real — the watch industry as a whole is selling the idea of luxury and nostalgia to the end consumer, and that draw to own a piece of a handmade, bygone era can be very strong indeed. Conversely, designing by committee often gets a bad rep, especially amongst the blandness of contemporary consumer products such as cars and appliances. In the defence of those companies, they have real-world commercial considerations to think about, such as the market price the consumer is willing to bear, or meeting safety standards put in place by regulators, which eventually affects or possibly waters down the initial pie-in-the-sky design.
Take the Casio G-SHOCK, for example. The nostalgia that people feel toward what is probably the toughest watch in the world, is not for its handmade, hand-finished virtues — for it has none of those — but for its wearable, everyday, made-for-the-everyman qualities. Many collectors and enthusiasts who in their adulthood, are now able to afford whatever watch suits their fancy, often think back fondly to the times of their youth, when their first introduction to the world of watches was probably the ownership of a G-SHOCK (this writer included). This is probably the reason why the two most innovative G-SHOCK product families (MR-G and MT-G), from an engineering and artistic design standpoint, are incredibly successful for Casio despite the four-figure retail prices they command. Sure, G-SHOCKs at the lower end of the price range remain hugely popular amongst consumers (military personnel come to mind) who routinely use them for their intended purpose, but these G-SHOCKs are for the fans who are passionate about the watch brand of their youth and the ethos it represents.
But how are G-SHOCKs conceptualized at the design phase, you may ask? You would be forgiven if you thought it is done mostly by committee, and certainly market analysis has to inform product design at a corporation as large as Casio and for a product as mass-produced as the G-SHOCK. Yet, there is innovation being developed at the individual employee level that is wholly exciting to see. The latest addition to the MT-G line is one of those developments where Casio’s engineering and design teams have continually pushed the envelope of what is possible. The MTG-B3000 now contains two significant leaps in its design, an updated slim module and an entirely novel shock-resistant case structure that when put together, reduces the thickness of a MT-G G-SHOCK to a never-before-seen 12.1mm. That is more than 2mm slimmer than the previous MTG-B1000. To put that in perspective, the tough-as-nails MT-G line is now thinner than most sports watches on the market right now, quartz or mechanical.
According to Mr. Nakatsuka Yoshiki, Department-1, Mechanism Development Unit (MDU), Engineering Headquarters, the product development process is usually done sequentially. At the Sales and Planning Department, the product concept is first determined in terms of size, selling price range and product functions. From there, the product design department creates sketches to satisfy those constraints. Thereafter, each department, including mechanical design and quality assurance, identifies potential issues and consolidates all considerations into a realistic design. The MTG-B3000, on the other hand, was fast-tracked through an “advanced development” process, where the core technologies were invented in advance before the product concept was determined. The slim module found in the MTG-B3000 is, in fact, not an entirely new invention. It was adopted from the OCEANUS OCW-S5000 launched in 2019, Casio’s high-end, ultra-thin (only 9.5mm thick!) solar-powered chronograph that features luxury touches such as mother-of-pearl dials and Japanese Maki-e decorative lacquering techniques. The OCW-S5000 itself was the culmination of 15 years of development from the introduction of the original OCEANUS in 2004, to finally arrive at its ultra-thin form factor. The adoption of the slim module into the G-SHOCK family shows the kind of synergies that can be brought to bear at Casio.
The module’s slimness is achieved by a manufacturing process called high-density mounting technology. To reduce the size of an electronic circuit board, every individual component has to be downsized and mounted at a level a 10th of a millimeter high, to make the most efficient use of the limited space available. Casio’s mechanical designers also play an integral role in designing the board layout, optimizing the positioning of gears that are required for the analog display on the MTG-B3000. However, Mr. Nakatsuka elaborates that the module was unable to pass the harsh shock-resistance tests every G-SHOCK undergoes without further development, which was an incredible challenge to undertake. During the drop test, the thin battery holder was damaged and to remedy that, other parts had to be rearranged in order to increase the thickness of the holder. Other fragile parts such as the alarm and the Super Illuminator LED light were wrapped in rubber to increase shock resistance. Through trial and error, the MDU was able to achieve both shock resistance and thinness without sacrificing other technologies that are familiar to fans of the MT-G line.
The module may be 1.45mm slimmer than in the MTG-B1000, but it retains the multi-hand chronograph that is capable of measuring elapsed time, split time and first- and second-place times. Automatic time correction, either through Bluetooth and the Smartphone Link function or through multi-band radio frequency reception, remains a key feature. To ensure continuous operation of the watch, the battery is efficiently charged through light entering a solar panel that sits directly underneath the dial and covers the entire module, save for the cutouts for the hands and the date. Through Casio’s “light-shielding distribution” technology, sufficient solar power can be absorbed regardless of the position of the hands covering the dial.
The second key innovation is the redesigned Dual Core Guard case structure. The Core Guard structure from previous models consisted of a circular tub to house the module, which was sandwiched by the metal components of the bezel and cargo frame. As a design concept centered around “slimness” began to take shape, the Design Department for Watches and Wearables was presented with the unique challenge of reimagining the Core Guard structure, to further improve the shock resistance. Designer Mr. Hamaue Tomohiro explains: “It had taken approximately two years until the design was finalized. Among the G-SHOCK brands that embody toughness, MT-G is a series that features ‘structural beauty’, where different materials are combined in the form and function. After the popular models such as MTG-B1000 and MTG-B2000 came onto the market, the most challenging task as a designer is to set the direction of how to evolve the ‘structural beauty’ of MT-G in the development of MTG-B3000. For this project, ‘slimness’ was chosen as its fundamental product concept, as the new development of the thin module was going ahead concurrently in a different project. ‘Slimness’ and the ‘strength’ that is unique to G-SHOCK, are paradoxical. Overemphasis on slimness could make its design mediocre, whereas overemphasis on strength could make its design far from the sophisticated impression of the high price range. I pursued the best balance of thinness, strength and beauty by drawing the sketches over and over. A new structure popped up during repeated sketches — the structure that protects the lug, crown and buttons that secure the module, and a case with a back cover that has raised sides like a bird’s nest that the back cover wraps around. This idea, which expresses ‘structural beauty’ while maintaining slimness, was selected as the final design. A new Dual Core Guard structure with a complicated back cover was invented.”
The Dual Core Guard is made of a single piece of stainless steel, wrapping around the carbon-reinforced resin case that protects the slim module. Mr. Nakatsuka describes the manufacturing process to produce the Dual Core Guard structure, “The key to improving shock resistance is to integrate the back cover with the side guards. This complicated shape is inspired by the bird’s nest ‘gently wrapping’ the interior components with metal. The first step is to push out a flat sheet of stainless steel with a press and then forge it to form the general shape gradually. The cutting process comes next. The parts that require precision processing are cut or drilled to finish the shape. Lastly, a beautiful finish is created on the surface during the polishing process. Each step has to be applied repeatedly before the final result is achieved. While it is difficult to measure the time spent on manufacturing a single watch, it takes an estimated few months for the completion of every single process including pressing, surface finishing, ion plating, and the tests, for every manufacturing batch. In designing the back cover, drop-simulation using CAE (computer-aided engineering) analysis was applied to identify where deformation occurred and where stress concentrated in each part. While adjusting the shape, the actual watch was repeatedly evaluated till it could manage to withstand the shock-resistance tests of G-SHOCK. There were many prototypes and design changes, as tiny shape changes happened multiple times as we refined the design.”
The bezel is the final piece that encloses the case, and here it has taken on a softer round shape, a departure from the angular form of past MT-Gs. Mr. Hamaue explains that the round bezel was a natural conclusion that came to him when the idea of the protective “bird’s nest” was first formulated. It is a perfect balance of irregular and uniform shapes.
The MTG-B3000 is the first MT-G to implement a quick strap-change system, which is fast becoming de rigueur in the watch industry. Close cooperation between the MDU and Design Department was especially pronounced in the development of this system. Mr. Hamaue was very particular about this feature in the overall design. He wanted to do away with the need for conventional strap-changing tools that are often fiddly to use. The release lever is operated by two push buttons that Mr. Hamaue designed as low-profile metal nuts that maintain both the aesthetics and fit, complementing the look of the four screwheads that secure the bezel to the caseback. The most well-thought-out product features are usually the ones that require the least input from the end-user, and with this system, you can literally change the band with a single touch.
To ensure this low-profile lug design could adhere to the G-SHOCK philosophy of “shock absorption”, Mr. Nakatsuka had to devise the connection rod that the band hooks on with thicker parts to improve shock resistance. The rod is spring-loaded and has two shouldered flanges on either side that work very much like a conventional spring bar. The push buttons are screwed into the rod through the metal lugs, with the half-hole of the band’s end link securely locked onto the rod itself when the buttons are released. Reassuringly, the band will not come off even if it receives a substantial impact and this reinforced one-touch exchange system easily passes the shock-resistance standards of G-SHOCK. The two bracelet models are each given a touch of color on their end links through ion plating, a type of metal vapor deposition surface treatment conducted in a vacuum environment, which bombards evaporated metal particles onto a surface, creating a layer of colored metallic film. The bracelets themselves are functionally light with hollowed-out links that are replaced with individual segments of resin — an articulated construction that is comfortable on the wrist.
The new MTG-B3000 may be one of the thinnest G-SHOCKs currently available, but it has not lost any of its wrist presence. Its case diameter and lug-to-lug width have been maintained at a robust 51.9mm and 50.9mm, respectively. There is a widespread perception that G-SHOCKs lean too hard into their technical ikigai as the ultimate indestructible, unbreakable watch. They might be viewed as lacking in refinement, finesse and sophistication. And yet, there are other G-SHOCKs from the DW, GW, GM and GMW families that would comfortably suit more casual or urban lifestyle-focused tastes. Let’s not forget that G-SHOCK cemented its significance in everyday-wearable streetwear culture by being a pioneer of the limited-edition collab, releasing watches with streetwear labels Stussy and BAPE way back in 1997 and 1998. More importantly, refinement, finesse and sophistication should be viewed through a different lens.
According to Mr. Nakatsuka, the history of technical development at G-SHOCK has always been to reshape the negative impression of “too big-sized”. Functional advancements such as applying technologies to reduce the size of modules and reducing power consumption, or the development of the shock-resistant case have continually been pursued. There are different trends that value watches of different sizes and the brand’s design department will always be nimble to meet those consumer needs. Crucially, it is too narrow-minded to judge a watch only through a single perspective when it is the harmony (or Chōwa) of design that matters. This new G-SHOCK has that in spades with refined slimness, balanced with an uneven, rugged silhouette and a thoughtful finesse in the way every single part has been designed.
Casio is never sitting still — continually pushing innovation and providing value, especially for its highest-end models, for old and new fans alike. All thanks to dedicated individuals like Mr. Nakatsuka and Mr. Hamaue who, through their dogged problem-solving and out-of-the-box thinking, have developed the best MT-G G-SHOCK yet.
CASIO G-SHOCK MTG-B3000
Ref: MTG-B3000B-1A (black), MTG-B3000BD-1A (red), MTG-B3000BD-1A2 (green)
Movement: Slim quartz module; about 18 months continuous operation with power saving function ON after full charge (Tough Solar power system)
Functions: Hours, minutes, dual time, day, date, radio-controlled time adjustment, stopwatch, countdown timer, Smartphone Link via Bluetooth, auto home time hand position correction, alarm, battery level indicator, full auto calendar, Super Illuminator
Case: 51.9 x 50.9 x 12.1mm; resin and stainless steel; water resistant to 200m
Dial: Black; black with red or green accents; Super-LumiNova filled hour markers and hour and minute hands
Strap: Resin strap with stainless steel pin buckle; resin and stainless steel bracelet with ion plating
Price: SGD 1,599 (MTG-B3000B-1A); SGD 1,699 (MTG-B3000BD-1A and MTG-B3000BD-1A2)
Availability: All G-SHOCK stores and online at https://gshock.casio.com/sg/ from June 2022
Learn more about the MTG-B3000 here.