To many, G-Shocks are seen as robust ‘daily beaters’; inexpensive and mass produced, yet tough enough to survive the harshest of conditions. But they are much more: a symbol of Japanese engineering and industrialisation prowess; or simply over engineered tool watches.
What would come to mind when one thinks of 100% in-house manufactured timepieces? Probably something from Switzerland or Germany. While Europe is a traditional stronghold of the mechanical watch, Japan is a master of ubiquitous technical innovations. Solar. Quartz. Just to name a few. It also happens to be the birth place of the ‘unbreakable watch’, a.k.a Casio G-Shock – something that perhaps only the Japanese can pull off.
This brings us to the subject of our discussion: the Casio G-Shock GMW-B5000. Launched during Baselworld 2018, the watch commemorates 35 years since the G-Shock’s debut. But is it still the “indestructible” watch that we’re all acquainted with? Without further ado, we present our detailed hands-on review of the watch. Except that this is not just any other GMW-B5000, but the author’s own.
Review: Casio G-Shock GMW-B5000
In total, there are 4 different variations of the watch. The one covered is referenced GMW-B5000D-1.
The idea of an “unbreakable watch” was conceived by Kikuo Ibe in 1981 – then a Casio engineer. He specified three stringent design parameters which the watch had to pass. That is, every watch had to ensure a 10-year battery life, 10-bar water resistance and 10-meter dropping shock resistance. Or better known as “Triple 10 requirements”.
Engineering such a feat proved to be a technical challenge – one that would take over 2 years with 200 prototypes tested. The final design incorporated 10 layers of shock protection, including a urethane rubber pumper and stainless steel screw down back. But its most ingenious innovation was the solution devised to protect its electronic quartz module: a free floating quartz mechanism suspended in a urethane foam cradle, with the outer buttons and LCD module attached with flexible cables. The final product was coined “G-Shock” – short for Gravitational Shock, and a term befitting the watch.
Sidebar: A G-Shock holds the current Guinness World Record for surviving the heaviest vehicle driven over it. We have also done our own robustness test. See the video here. In addition, NASA has flight certified 5 G-Shocks models for use in space. All serves as a testament to its robustness.
In April 1983, the DW-5000C became the first commercially available G-Shock. The concept proved to be a commercial success, selling 19 million units by 1998. And in 2017, Casio shipped its 100-millionth G-Shock.
Case and Display
The first feature to strike the eye is its sleek metal case. Set from stainless steel, the GMW-B5000 is the first watch in the 5000-series to sport a full metal construction.
The case retains the iconic rectangular form factor of the original but boasts none of the typical qualities you’d associate with G-Shocks: no sight of funky coloured rubber and plastics. Instead, its metal build oozes quality and feels premium in hand. And, we dare say it’s one of the nicest G-Shocks ever made – the blend of polished (not coated!) and brushed surfaces is well executed, giving it a bright and seductive appearance at every angle.
Finishing and detailing is what you’d expect from a watch at its price point: impressive but nothing quite breathtaking. It is done to a high engineering standard. Manufacturing is consistent throughout, with tight tolerances and every component fitting well. Perhaps a rather convenient grab-and-go everyday piece; robust yet chic. A slight niggle would be the buttons, which we found to be somewhat firm and occasionally requires a bit of fiddling to activate.
At 49.3mm by 43.2mm, this watch is, by G-Shock standards, conservatively sized. It sits well on an average wrist due to a 13mm case thickness and offers a palatable amount of wrist presence. (The author has smaller than average 5.5″ wrists and is able to pull it off.) It also has a good balance between heft and size – heavier than a Rolex Submariner at 167 grams, but wears comfortably once correctly sized. However, the fit may be slightly awkward due to its rigid end links, which sticks out and causes the watch to overhang.
The watch uses a super-twisted nematic (STN) display with neutral-coloured background. Texts are crisp and highly legible. It offers overall excellent viewing angles, though the display can appear washed out at certain positions. Additionally, the watch is equipped with a Super Illuminator LED – Casio-jargon for LED backlight. It is senses ambient light and light up accordingly, ensuring a effortless time-telling experience in all situations. There is no brightness control, but the backlight has a nifty ‘fade-in/fade-out’ feature which is easy on the eyes, especially so in darkness.
Surrounding the LCD are solar cells which enables the watch to be recharged when exposed to a light source. They feature the iconic “brick” pattern which harks back to the original. A flat bezel protrudes from the case providing protection to the LCD and solar elements.
Turning the watch over, we find a DLC-treated solid case back. It is laser-engraved with technical specifications and the “MADE IN JAPAN” insignia.
The stainless steel integrated bracelet contributes a major part to how this watch looks and feels on the wrist. It meets the case effortlessly and harmonises the full metal aesthetics, sprucing up its handsome appearance. It features circular motifs which are indented near the edges – a design which harks back to the original rubber. Additionally, there is optimum built-in ‘stretch’ and flexibility, ensuring a comfortable fit on the wrist. Finally, the bracelet is complimented by a metal folding clasp which feels sturdy when opening and closing.
An interesting design quirk are its links. Instead of conventional push pins or screws, the bracelet is held together by spring bars which sits at the center of each link. In addition, the bracelet also does not include half-links, though the micro-adjustments holes on the clasp suffice. Nonetheless, they are well-sized and wraps around the wrist nicely.
Encased within is the Casio module 3459: a Multiband 6 and Bluetooth enabled ‘movement’.
The timekeeping function is typically regulated by the Multiband receiver, which syncs with 1 of 6 radio transmission stations across the world. They are located in North America, UK/Europe, China and Japan. Suffice to say, Casio has built-in support for 30 and 45-minutes time zones and Daylight Saving Time – talk about “Grand Complications”.
However, some countries and cities are out of covered range by these towers and will not able to receive the transmissions. The ‘G-Shock Connected’ mobile app compensates for this, though, an active Bluetooth connection is needed. In our testing, we barely used the app as the watch kept accurate time out of the box. There is also no official word on battery life, but 8 minutes of sunlight exposure is enough for a full day’s usage.
Aside from that, this watch boasts all of the usual bells and whistles: world time, alarm, stopwatch and timer.
In the area of tough tool watches, a G-Shock faces very little competition. There is simply nothing from the Swiss, let alone the entire market, which can match up to its ‘quality/function/price ratio’ – if there is one.
That being said, the GMW-B5000D-1 has a recommended retail price of S$799. Rather steep, especially when considering its functionality and compared to some of Casio’s other lineup. Thus, whether ‘good-value’ is warranted is entirely up to the reader.
We kick things off with the Victorinox I.N.O.X. (ref. 241682.1) – perhaps the toughest and most resilient watch on this list. It’s not an unwarranted claim, as the brand has thoroughly tortured this watch by subjecting it to over 130 test. The toughness is manifested in the design, which features a chunky metal bezel and removable rubber bumper. In addition, a sapphire crystal is used to protect the dial. The watch is encased in a 43mm stainless steel case and powered by a Swiss Ronda quartz movement. The I.N.O.X retails for US$525 – rather good value, considering its all-round versatility.
Next, we propose the Tissot T-Touch Expert Solar (ref. T091.420.44.051.00). It features a titanium case with matching bracelet and a slew of functions, including altimeter and barometer. But the standout function would be its ‘dial’: instead of a conventional setup, the watch utilises a convenient touchscreen which allows for tactile operations. It is protected by a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating. And rather impressively, the touchscreen is able to be powered by solar energy. The Tissot has a recommended retail price of US$1,250.
The Luminox Navy SEAL 3500 series is another contender. As its name hints, the timepiece is closely associated with the United States Navy SEALs. No questions about its durability. The watch has several standout features, including tritium gas tubes and a sturdy carbon case. It is powered by a Swiss Ronda Quartz movement which lasts 8 years on a single battery. The Luminox has a recommended retail price of S$695.50.
The Breitling Emergency II is the most innovative watch on this list. Designed for professionals, it’s the only timepiece which boast a personal locator beacon (PLB). The watch is powered by the Breitling caliber 76: a thermocompensated SuperQuartz™ movement that is COSC certified. All that technology is packed in a 51mm titanium case with a rechargeable battery providing 2 years of battery life. The Breitling retails for S$21,000.
A mechanical ‘contender’ would be the Richard Mille RM 53-01 Tourbillon Pablo Mac Donough. Designed (and tested) to withstand 5000 g’s of shock, it is the ultimate manifestation of a sports watch. (In contrast, a typical G-Shock can withstand 15 g’s). However, acquiring one might prove a challenge as its limited to 30 pieces and, probably a deal-breaker, priced at a cool USD900,000.
The Casio G-Shock GMW-B5000D-1 is as you’d expect with all other G-Shocks: tough as nails yet possessing a certain panache. Its sleek, full metal construction is a departure from the norm of G-Shocks and makes for a rather capable casual timepiece. Despite several design quirks (all of which easily forgiven), this watch is possibly one of Casio’s all-time best executions.