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As legend has it, famed designer Gerald Genta scribbled the design of the Patek Philippe Nautilus on a napkin at a Basel restaurant in the ‘70s, taking just five minutes to conceive one of the biggest grails of all time. The story has stuck around for so long because it illustrates both the freewheeling creativity of the Raging Bull era of watch design and the casual brilliance of the designer himself. The story of the Casio G-Shock is a very different story, but it tells you just as much about how this watch became the absolute legend it is today.
The time was 1981, the place was Japan, and the designer was Kazuo Ibe. Unlike Genta, a painter who dreamed of sinuous lines and whimsical shapes, Ibe was an engineer with a singular goal: create the toughest watch the world had ever seen. It would have to withstand a 10-meter drop and 10-bar of underwater pressure and run for 10 years without needing a new battery. After two years of failed experiments, smashed prototypes, and many all-nighters, the G-Shock was born. It wasn’t sinuous like the Nautilus, but it had a certain Volvo-like boxy charm. It was also affordable and—most importantly—tougher than the LSAT in Dothraki.
Forty years later, the G-Shock is one of the most successful watch designs in history, with countless variations and special editions, and the kind of fanatical cult following usually reserved for beauty Youtubers and Toto bidets (also a Japanese invention, as it happens). While every G-Shock retains the durability of the original, the brand has doubled down on the technology inside, adding everything from satellite timekeeping and solar cells to barometric sensors and step-counters. You can spend a long time nerding out over the 200-plus models in the current lineup, each of which comes with its own unique combination of features and styling, but all of the ones below are faithful successors to Kazuo Ibe’s original design, and proof that genius takes many forms.
Want to brush up on your terminology and find your next dream timepiece? Don’t miss GQ’s ultimate guide to watches for men.
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