'Unbreakable': The man behind G-shock
MANILA, Philippines – Most 20-somethings will remember how having a G-Shock or Baby G watch would instantly make you a cool kid in the eyes of your classmates.
It came in various colors, a bit large which made it very noticeable, was virtually damage-proof, and it lit up. Almost every kid in your class had one, and you knew you needed one too, to make sure you were up in the same alley.
But at that time, most of us didn't even know the story behind the watch, that there was more to its design and purpose.
Kikuo Ibe, the man considered to be the father of the G-Shock, was in the country recently for his company's "Shock the World" (STW) event and to launch the Manila version of their STW watches.
In a press conference, Ibe told the story of how he was able to make a watch so sturdy that people considered it 'unbreakable.'
Back in the day, watchmakers were in constant competition for the slimmest or most lightweight watch in the market. At that time, most people considered watches to be fragile instruments, including Ibe, who was then Casio’s head of watch design.
One day, on his way to work, Ibe accidentally dropped his watch that was given to him by his father.
He watched his dad's precious gift break into pieces. Along with the sadness over losing a valuable item came an idea – what if there's an unbreakable watch available in the market?
Ibe's road to success turned out to be unimaginably difficult. With a team of only 3 members, Ibe had to figure out a way to protect the electronics of the timepiece, which would often break when dropped.
He could not find a way to absorb the shock and, many times, feared that the project would be a failure.
He and his team would go through experiments, assembling several timepieces and dropping them at different heights to see whether the new model would be able to withstand the shock and be able to work after a fall.
After several tries, Ibe found himself with a watch model bigger than a human's fist, wrapped with protective material. He knew such a watch would never be worn by consumers.
Ibe, who first gained inspiration to build a shock-proof watch through firsthand experience, decided to search for the solution in his daily life.
Ironically, he found the answer while observing a little girl play with a bouncing ball. He imagined the engine floating inside the ball, and this insight allowed for Ibe and his team to develop a watch with a hollow structure with the module suspended inside.
This was the solution he was looking for, and it made sure that the watch he built could withstand tough tests like being dropped from great heights, being used as a hockey puck in one of his watch's early commercials, and even being driven over by a truck.
He was able to achieve this by putting together several layers of protection: a hollow case structure, to lessen the force of external shocks; key part protection with cushioning material, to prevent errors in operation or damage from shock; 200-meter water resistance, to enable users to wear the watch during water-related activities, and an all-directional guard structure, for protection against shocks resulting from drops in all directions.
Finally, after testing over 200 handmade samples, Ibe became succesful in fulfilling his dream of ‘creating a watch that never breaks’ in 1983.
It immediately became a watch suitable for active individuals who engage in highly strenuous activities.
Ibe says that through his long and rough ordeal in fulfilling his dream, it was his mantra that kept him going. It was something simple but it did its job – "never, never give up."
To this day, Ibe makes sure his watches keep up with technology and trends to retain a watch's status in an individual's daily life – particularly since a lot of gadgets like cellphones and tablets are able to give the time to their owners as well.
He says the formula for his watches' evolution through the years is 50% fashion and trend and 50% keeping up with new technological advancements.
Recently, Ibe's company came out with a Bluetooth watch that can remind the owner about his phone in case he misplaces it.
Shock the World tour in Manila
G-Shock celebrated its 30th year in the market last year, and to commemorate the watch's anniversary, Ibe and his team from Casio have been touring several countries.
In his visit to the Philippines, Ibe noticed how different the Filipino people are from the Japanese. "I find the Philippines to be very laid-back. Not that it's a bad thing but people in Japan are always rushing and on time," Ibe said, smiling.
He also launched a special, limited edition G-Shock watch with the Philippine flag's 3-stars and a sun design.
The Shock the World Manila watch only has 100 pieces available and 100% of the proceeds will be donated in rebuilding affected areas in Leyte, ravaged late last year by Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda).
Ibe adds that they are thinking of opening their own G-Shock store in the Philippines after a good, steady response from Filipinos in the past 3 decades. Ibe adds that in their watch models' evolution, they have always kept the Filipino consumers in mind and will continue to do so.
Ibe says that to this day, he still has the first G-Shock watch he ever created. It sits safely in one of his desk drawers in his office.
The one he is currently wearing is something he's had for 20 years. It has never been repaired and only had to go through one battery change in its 10th year. – Rappler.com