Casio recently announced the Casio G-Shock MRG-G1000HT Limited Edition watch to much fanfare and buzz in Singapore. They flew in the inventor of G-Shock, Mr. Kikuo Ibe, who had invented the G-Shock in 1983, and still helms the Research and Development team responsible for the G-Shock watches. Much of the interest is in the magnificent aesthetics of the MRG-G1000HT, but a lot of discussion was also on the price tag: S$ 8,888 for a G-Shock. A sticker shock? We investigate.
Although the bulk of Casio G-Shock watches sell for below S$ 300, the higher four digit priced G-Shocks are not totally unknown. The quest for the more exclusive G-Shock was introduced in 1996, with the intent to create a watch which embodies the qualities of the G-Shock’s indestructibility goals, as well as to be able to fit under the sleeves of a formal suit. The first MR-G, as the series is known had a metal case with a screw back. The first model featured a resin bezel, but next versions were in full metal bezels and bracelets with solid links. Models were released between 1996 and 2001. For some reason the line ceased until it was revived in 2003. In 2015, the new series with larger cases were announced. The MRG-G1000 had a full titaniun case and bezel with DLC finish, and retailed for S$ 3,999 for the version in ‘Gun Metal Grey’ (MRG-G1000B-1ADR) and Silver (MRG-G1000D-1ADR) at S$3,699.
This is the beginning of the more expensive G-Shocks. And also the concept of limited edition. Traditionally the Japanese concept of a Limited Edition might mean an edition size of 2,000 pieces or more. But in the higher echelons of G-Shock, the Limited Editions are refined to a number more acceptable in the luxury industry. In 2015, a limited edition MRG comprising only of 100 pieces was announced. And in today’s review, the MRG-G1000HT is limited to 300 pieces.
As alluded, the special edition G-SHOCK MRG-G1000RT was released in October 2015 at a retail price of S$ 11,888. The series was a limited edition of only 100 pieces, and featured a case in a special titanium alloy: the Ti64, which is 90% titanium, 6% aluminum, and 4% vanadium. The watch also took inspiration from traditional Japanese sword making. It featured a ‘Nie’ design on its bezel, a pattern made famous in Japanese swords, and framed with black and gold accents. ‘Nie’ is a distinguished characteristic of Japanese swords that represents the superior detail and quality of Japanese craftsmanship. The design gives the bezel and metal plate a rich and polished finish with an interesting play of reflections as it catches the light at different angles.
This opens the stage to celebrate the MRG’s 20th Anniversary with the MRG-G1000HT: the Hammer tone!
The Casio G-Shock MRG-G1000HT
As the movement is solar powered, the entire dial is a solar panel, built to maximize the amount of light gathering to fully charge the internal storage as fast as is possible.
The dial is quite busy. The main dial indicates the hour and minutes of local time, and a second subsidiary hour/minute hand tells the home time. On the outer perimeter marks the cities, 27 of them, to indicate the times in each. Another subsidiary dial tells the lattitude of the local time, and the day of the week using a retrograde indicator. The same dial doubles up for the DST indicator, which can be switched to show standard time, DST, or automatically switch to DST when applicable. Also on the same sub-dial, a small mark indicates Flight Mode, like on iOS devices for the transmission and receiving functions to be turned off in-flight so as not to potentially interfere with navigation. A 24 hour dial completes the dial. Though busy, the layout is quite well done, and the huge, layered look is quite charming. Another interesting detail is the 3 dimensional, faceted hour markers.
There is no denying the amazing presence of the MRG-G1000HT. The case is massive, and exceedingly well made. The hammer tone bezel and links stand out as unique works of art.
But let’s begin with the case. It is made from forged titanium. An unusual choice. We are not aware of any Swiss manufacturer who use forged metal cases, and the other recent watch to use a forged metal case is the Grand Seiko SBDG001 Spring Drive 8 Day Power Reserve in platinum. Perhaps it is a Japanese thing. But forging makes a stronger case, as during the process of application of tons of pressure, the grain of the metal is aligned. Of note, another Japanese manufacturer from another industry, Shimano makes their HollowTech bicycle crank arms by cold forged aluminium, when all their competitors, notably Campagnolo of Italy, make theirs by machining the aluminium.
In the case of the MRG-G1000HT, the forged case is then hardened further with a Diamond Like Carbon (DLC) process. On top of this highly technical case base, the hammer tone is applied to the bezel and the bracelet links.
Hammer tone and the mastery of the Tsuiki: blending the old with the new
The hammer tone is executed by hand, one at a time by a third generation master of the art of tsuiki, Master Bihou Asano. The hammered metal has a quality which expresses tradition and values of the old, while yet, at the same time ably carries the high technology within.
The tsuiki technique is one used for traditional crafts in Japan. Some of Master Asano’s works include the suspended incense burners and rooftop statues of dieties restored for the Kyoto State Guet House and Osaka City Central Public Hall. He studied metal casting techniques under the forth generation iron tea pot master Jorobei Takagi, and is regarded as Takagi’s professional successor.
A detail of the bezel showing the marks left by the hammer, each delivered as a calculated precise strike of the hammer handled by Master Asano.
After the forging, the bezel and links are then passed over to Master Asano’s atelier. It is not clear to us if the hammered parts of the bezel and links are DLC treated like the rest of the case before the handover. Master Asano then painstakingly applies the hammer tone finish. Each dent is made in a precise and calculated manner with a blow of the hammer. And Master Asano makes all 300 sets for the entire edition. These hammered part of the case are then plated using a special Japanese “Oboro-gin” (silver grey colour) finish, traditionally used for sword accessories and ornaments. The bezel and band is in a distinct luster, a rather attractive grey, and seem a bit more silvery and lighter in hue than the main body of the DLC treated case.
The other interesting accent is the copper highlights on the screws and crowns. This also takes its inspiration from Japanese traditional armour work. Known as “Akagane” (copper colour), these are used to highlight with its deep brilliance.
With these techniques, the finish is very dignified. We hesitate to use the word sober, because while it does seem to be mild and restrained, it does so with a flash which is at the same time traditional and reflecting of the arts, and yet a brilliance which hints at the technology within.
The overall build of the case and bracelet is exceptionally high quality.
Unlike most of the watches we review, the case back is closed, and we are not able to see the movement. Not that there is much to see, for it is a quartz standardisation movement.
Let’s face it. The MRG-G1000HT is not about the movement. The same movement is found in the much less expensive MRG-G1000. And though this is absolutely a top of the line, state of the art movement for a quartz system, it is not decorated or finished to the traditional haute horlogerie standards.
Excellent timekeeping is expected of this a quartz module at this level. A dual reference to the terrestrial radio wave time calibration signals (US, China, Europe and Japan only), and the Global Positioning System is provided to automatically synchronize to time signals. It is packed with features like automatic synchronization on both timezones shown on the dial. Up to 40 timezones are available, though only 27 cities are indicated around the dial. Automatic update of local time on landing on a destination, including automatic update of Daylight Savings if applicable. 1/20s chronograph and a daily alarm. LED light. And solar powered, with the capability of running for 18 months in the dark on a full charge with the automatically activated power saving function.
The technology and the featured offered is not unusual of movements of this caliber, and typical of high technology instruments. The movement itself lacks the soul of a mechanical movement, and does not attract the same affection.
The only distinction of the movement is that as it is designed and manufactured in-house by Casio. Each piece is produced at the Premium Production Line in Yamagata, Japan, and crafted to perfection in a clean-room environment by Master Craftsmen. It is reputed that the craftsmen who work in this Premium Production Line must each have had numerous years of watch-making experience.
So the new MRG-G1000HT is not the most expensive Casio G-Shock to be released. But it is still a pricey consideration. Is it worth the asking price? Of course, only the collector can decide for himself. We find the aesthetics to be magnificent. Very articulate, with clear and coherent design language which is highly inspired by Japanese traditional metal arts. And the execution is beyond reproach.
The Casio G-Shock MRG-G1000HT presents interesting options for the collector. Here is a watch which is already well known and proven for its toughness and durability. With tons of high tech wizardry to keep to very accurate time, automatically adjusting for DST and home/travel time. And coupled that with a traditional craft that is so aesthetically appealing, and so intellectually satisfying that the entire package seems to be quite desirable.
As a limited edition of only 300 pieces worldwide, it will be an icon in the amazing history of the Casio G-Shock, and will have to be a must have for the serious G-Shock collector.
Casio G-Shock MRG-G1000HT specifications
Casio G-Shock MR-G Hammer Tone Limited Edition 300 pieces
Case: 54.7 mm in diameter, in DLC-finished, hardened titanium with tsuichi decoration, akagane and oborogin accents.
Movement: G-Shock, shock resistant, tough solar, 6-band GPS, world time with 40 time zones, dual home and local time display, LED illumination, alarm and perpetual calendar, stopwatch and countdown timer, latitude indicator, airplane mode for the GPS receiver.