Back when it entered the market, Casio was known for its inexpensive pieces. “Because we were new in the crowd, we had to make sure that we were established at a low price. We could be competitive in that regard. We used a lot of plastic material and showed what the quartz digital watch could do,” says Saito. Casio evolved by adding different functions, such as a calculator, a device to measure the pulse, and a stopwatch. And, amongst that, the G-Shock came about in 1983.

Interestingly, Saito notes that the Japan-born G-Shock first found popularity across the pond. “In 1984, we ran a TV ad in the US where we used G-Shock as a puck in an ice hockey game. When it’s hit by the hockey stick, it does not break. And that was the whole concept of G-Shock, to show it’s a truly tough, shock-resistant watch.”

The G-Shock was then imported back into Japan as an American cultural icon. “That took off with the American casual fashion that was hip at the time with the young Shibuya crowd. And that took G-Shock to a whole new level in Japan.”

But it never was about what’s trendy. “It was about what can we offer as a new product to the world, about the new technology that we can build in, and new elements, new materials, to show what we can do with watches.”

With new models and collaborations coming out every few weeks, G-Shock is Casio’s best-selling line, and can be often seen on celebrity wrists. Eminem, for one, has been spotted wearing a red Frogman (and he wore a flashier gold-plated GM110G-1A9 in the “Higher” music video). Tyler, the Creator, Ryan Gosling and Kristen Stewart are also Casio fans. And, Casio was name-dropped in Shakira’s diss track for footballer Gerard Piqué, who then retaliated by saying the digital watch would “last a lifetime.”

“It’s the stars who naturally wear the watches, or the movies that chose to have them as a props,” says Saito. “That led to the fans catching on to that, and that gave us a leeway to becoming a legend in that sense. That’s why we have a long standing fanbase.”

This story originally appeared on British GQ with the title ‘How Casio watches kept their cool’

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