We might all have put on a little weight during the pandemic but, be in no doubt, fitness is big business. Health and athleticism have always appealed to watchmakers, and few brands have served sports and activity enthusiasts better than Casio’s G-SHOCK, whose rugged timekeepers have been firm favorites for decades. With smartwatches muscling in on its market, G-SHOCK has stuck to its core DNA while integrating high performance materials and advanced technology into its watches. Rob Corder looks at the latest examples in the company of David Johnson, vice president of the Timepiece Division of Casio America.
Casio takes a tried and tested approach to the development of new models for its G-Shock family of highly functional and rugged timepieces.
The company calls it CMF — Color, Material, Finish — and each new edition moves the portfolio forward by innovating with one or more of the variables.
The GBDH1000 maintains the finish and toughness expected of every G-Shock, but is bristling with technology to measure exercise and help to improve athletic performance.
Its striking colors of luminescent yellow, white and black are striking and sporty; not that the watch needs Day-Glo to be noticed given its 63mm x 55mm x 20.4mm stature.
The watch reached (online) stores in May, and was an instant hit, according to David Johnson, vice president of the Timepiece Division of Casio America.
“Our recent introduction of the GBDH1000 has been highly successful for us because it encapsulates all of the brand’s latest technology. The watch was developed to improve the wearer’s performance and combines the toughness G-SHOCK is known for with key functions for workouts. In addition to introducing the brand’s first built-in heart rate monitor, the watch measures running distance, elapsed time and pace, as well as VO2max, which has proven an exciting new feature for consumers. Users can also check the status of their training, training data and history, all on the brand-new G-SHOCK MOVE app,” he explains.
“It was developed to enhance a runner’s performance and is receiving very positive reviews among both consumers and industry professionals. Although we have had watches with similar functions in the past, this watch is the first G-SHOCK to offer HRM combined with GPS, and Quad sensor technology to evaluate V02 max, which helps runners analyze and evaluate their running training activity,” he adds.
GWF-A1000 Frogman is G-SHOCK’s first entirely analogue diver’s watch. Old fashioned hands might seem like a step towards the past, but the watch is very much a leap into the future thanks to its onboard connectivity to a smartphone app where the precise time is constantly updated and where functions like managing world times and tracking diving data from the watch are performed.
On the materials front, it is the first time a carbon monocoque case has been used that contributes to its 200 meter water resistance. The strap also advances G-SHOCK’s expertise with materials, being made from fluoroelastomer, a soft feel rubber designed for comfort and fit on the wrist that is also highly resistant to marking or corrosion.
This constant innovation is critical to keeping Casio G-SHOCK relevant in an era when smartwatches, particularly Apple’s Watch, are selling in their millions. Casio has stuck to its core principles, rather than lurching into a head-to-head battle with a tech giant like Apple that spent $16 billion on research and development in 2019.
Asked about G-SHOCK’s strategy to compete with the likes of Apple, Mr Johnson swerves the comparison by focusing on the essence of what G-SHOCK customers have always valued. “G-SHOCK is unique in the fact that it’s known for its toughness and durability. We have watches with 200 meter water resistance, mud resistance, and low temperature resistance – all features that are specific to G-SHOCK. Consumers who are looking for a watch they can wear every day without worrying about it getting damaged know that G-SHOCK is the brand to provide that value,” he says.
The company is not ignoring the impact that wrist-worn computers are having on the wider watch market, but G-SHOCK will adopt it at its own pace and in its own way. “As technology progresses, we will continue to explore how we can integrate new features into the line and grow it based on consumer interests,” Mr Johnson suggests.
Technological advances are also front and center of Casio’s business plans as its customers increasingly research and shop for watches online. The company maintains a two-track retail strategy that supports its retail partners while providing in depth information on gshock.com, which has also become its highest-grossing retail storefronts, particularly during the Covid-19 shut down.
“Our brand website gshock.com has always been very important to our business as it is the main stage for us to tell our story. Over the past several months, it has become even more important to our overall sales as it’s the first stop for consumers who are looking for a new G-SHOCK. When consumers visit the website, they’ll also see a location finder for the closest authorized G-SHOCK retailer should they prefer to shop in-person,” Mr Johnson explains.
“In-person retail has slowed down significantly due to the pandemic, making e-commerce our strongest and fastest growing channel,” he adds.
Authorized dealers are supported to drive their own ecommerce sales, with Casio focused heavily on increasing its digital efforts, honing in on email marketing, social ads, Google ads and SEO initiatives, according to Mr Johnson. “We have also supported our authorized retailers by ensuring they have the necessary creative assets to promote our brand on their own sites, which has proven beneficial to the business,” he adds.
One of the most successful combinations of creative design and intelligent marketing comes in G-SHOCK’s program of regularly rolling out limited editions, often created in collaboration with iconic cultural phenomena such as Gorillaz, Bruce Lee, Transformers and even NASA. These contribute to a fanatical collectors’ scene for G-SHOCK, which in turn can turn the most desirable pieces into assets of rising value.
“G-SHOCK is fortunate in the fact that our fans are passionate about our brand and continuously look forward to new releases, whether it’s collaborations or limited editions. Collaborations are a seamless integration to our product line as we partner with like-minded brands that share similar DNA across fashion, music, art and sports. All of our collaborators, in their own way, embody the G-SHOCK ethos of Absolute Toughness,” Mr Johnson suggests.
“In the end, we strive to give the G-SHOCK community something fresh and exciting to add to their collections or if they are a first-time buyer, begin their journey into the G-SHOCK world,” he says.
*This article first appeared in the USA edition of WatchPro magazine.