The Ultimate Square: G-Shock MRG-B5000By Adam Craniotes
In 1983, the horological landscape was changed forever with the introduction of the original G-Shock. It was the first dedicated “tool” watch of the LCD quartz era and one that would go on to become a genuine icon. And while it was far from a runaway success in its early days — something that can be said of many icons — it wasn’t long before it cemented itself as the de facto king of ruggedized timepieces.
What began as a single watch soon became a collection, and before long G-Shock was improving on the formula with new designs and added functionality. But even with the success of the young brand assured, G-Shock creator Kikuo Ibe remained restless. And so it was that in 1996, his team of designers and engineers unveiled their first all-metal watch, and with it a new and more upscale line called the “MR-G.” Ibe’s idea was that rather than be relegated to leisure activities and hard use, a G-Shock could be someone’s daily wearer — a true boardroom to the beach timepiece. Initially, these watches were digital- only, as was de rigueur for the time, but it wasn’t long before “ana-digi” and full analog pieces followed.
Well, fast forward 26 years and the MR-G has fully claimed its position as the top dog in G-Shock’s expansive catalog. And while the full-metal cases have remained, now in hardened titanium (and even more exotic materials), the watches are exclusively analog in design, which would seem to fit the tastes of higher-end collectors. Indeed, with prices starting at USD 2,600 and going up to over USD 7,000, this seems like a safe bet. Naturally, all of the technology at G-Shock’s disposal has been bestowed upon the line, like solar charging, Bluetooth connectivity, atomic radio signal syncing, and more.
Even so, the MR-G is starting to be challenged — in a good way — and oddly enough, from within G-Shock’s own ranks: namely, by the GMW-B5000 “Full Metal Square.” The GMW-B5000 is a direct homage to the original DW-5000C, albeit rendered entirely in stainless steel, and has proved to be a solid home run for the brand, confounding the naysayers who claimed to anyone who would listen that no one was going to pay over USD 500 for a digital watch, regardless of what it was made out of. Well, not only were sales gangbusters straight out of the gate with the G-Shock faithful, even longtime G-Shock deniers were won over by its deft combination of nostalgia, functionality and aesthetics.
Not content to sit on their laurels, G-Shock upped the ante with several limited edition models in titanium with MSRPs of USD 1,600 and higher, all of which immediately sold out and now command prices on the secondary market that, in some instances, are double the original price. This proved conclusively that there was a market for an even more expensive version of their venerable Square.
Maybe it was time to make the ultimate Square…
Of course, when you’re tinkering with an icon, it’s best to tread carefully. Indeed, the G-Shock Square is almost the perfect watch. From the very beginning, it was a master class of form following function, offering the wearer a comfortable, unobtrusive and unfailingly reliable timepiece. Indeed, it is for this reason that the same basic design can still be found in G-Shock’s catalog, in spite of the fact that the brand is more well-known these days for its larger and more colorful models, and, yes, even the current darling, the so-called “Casioak.” The last major update to the Square came in the form of the GX/GXW “King” series, which upsized the case to almost cosmic proportions with the inclusion of AlphaGel inserts for added shock protection. And while the usual suspects among G-Shock’s diverse fanbase were enthralled, the line proved to be far too niche in its focus to have universal appeal.
Say hello to the MRG-B5000 “Square”
Oft rumored, the MR-G Square is finally here, and with a starting price of USD $3,500, it had better deliver the goods.
At first blush, the MRG-B5000 “Square” may seem as though there is little to differentiate it from its more humble stablemates in the GMW series, and this feeling is reinforced by the use of a nearly identical digital module (functionality remains the same, but the internals have been modified with gold-plated connectors). However, this is by design as this devil is all in the details.
G-Shock pays homage to its origins with a case design that faithfully echoes the lines of the original, just as it did with the GMW series, replete with the flat bezel and trademark “brick wall” pattern on the dial. But here the ante is upped considerably. For starters, the bezel is made from Cobarion®, which is a cobalt-chrome alloy that is four times harder than titanium. Then there’s the case assembly, which is constructed from Ti64 hardened titanium. And finally we have the bracelet crafted from DAT55G titanium, which is three times harder than untreated titanium yet is still able to take a mirror-like polish. That’s right, no less than three different types of metal are used in the MR-G Square’s construction. A sapphire crystal and DLC titanium screw-locked caseback round out the package. Initially, two models will be offered, with the MRG-B5000D sporting a silver titanium carbide-coated case with matching buttons and a black DLC-coated case back, while the MRG-B5000B is rendered entirely in black DLC with both gold IP-plated buttons and a gold IP-plated case back.
Even so, this may not appear to be enough to justify its lofty price tag until you look closer. Do so and you’ll see that the bezel/case is no longer a single unit, but rather is composed of 25 separate pieces in what G-Shock is referring to as a Multi- Guard Structure. At first blush, this may impress many as complexity for complexity’s sake, but this was done to achieve the mind-bogglingly insane level of finishing that an MR-G must possess to earn its spurs. It also employs flat springs and silicone buffers to ensure that the MR-G Square’s shock resistance remains wholly intact. So, while you may be loath to put this beauty through the wringer, no matter what you ultimately throw at it, it remains, above all else, a G-Shock.
This high degree of detail also applies to the DAT55G titanium bracelet, which employs multi-part links that are both polished and satin-finished. The locking clasp is also a new addition that calls to its status as a proper MR-G.
As noted earlier, functionality remains the same with other Bluetooth-enabled Squares. This means that you’ll find world time, multiple alarms, a stopwatch, countdown timer, and Bluetooth connectivity with both iOS and Android smartphones via a dedicated app packed under the hood. Also along for the ride are solar charging and G-Shock’s Multi-Band 6 atomic time signal syncing. True, some will bemoan the lack of more modern display technology, such as the MIP (Memory in Pixel) unit employed in certain G-Shock models, or more exotic capabilities, but that misses the point: the MR-G isn’t the next evolution of the Square; it’s the ultimate expression of the Square as it was originally conceived back in 1983.
So, just who is the MRG-B5000 “Square” for? Clearly it’s not for the casual G-Shock collector, for whom an affordable weekend watch/gym companion is all that is required, nor is it for the G-fanatic looking for the very latest in sensor/display technology. Rather, this is for the well-heeled purist who respects the original and perhaps grew up with it, and now wants to have the most uniquely idealized version of the classic on their wrist. Yet for all its spit and polish, the MR-G Square isn’t a watch that jumps out at you from across the room. Rather, it’s a slow burn that grows more dear as time passes and new details are discovered. From the raised “Shock Resist” medallion under the crystal, to the perfectly Sallaz polished facets of the case and bracelet, everything on the MR-G Square silently, subtly attests to the care and craftsmanship that went into its design and creation. It truly feels special.
No, the MRG-B5000 “Square” is not for everyone, and that’s exactly how it should be. It’s a love letter to the original, rendered in modern materials and with the highest level of finishing that the industry is humanly capable of. Indeed, you can feel the pride of the watchmakers on the fabled Yamagata factory’s Premium Production Line as you hold one in your hand or strap it to your wrist. It’s a personal sort of luxury that speaks not only to G-Shock’s confidence in their product, but the owner’s as well.
That confidence is further reinforced by the fact that both the 5000D and the 5000B will not be limited editions, but will become staples of the MR-G collection going forward.
All hail the Square!
For more information, visit the G-Shock MRG-B5000 website.