An Interview with The Father of G-SHOCK
by Dzul Fazly
If Mr Kikuo Ibe had lived in Singapore, he might well have ended up in jail instead of creating the iconic Casio G-SHOCK watch.
He admitted that when testing designs for what would become the G-SHOCK, he would throw prototypes from the toilet window of his Hamura research office on the third storey to see how they survived.
“I made sure there was absolutely no one below before I threw the watches. Otherwise, it would have been embarrassing,” he said.
Mr Ibe, 60, a Japanese mechanical engineer who graduated from Tokyo’s Sophia University, was inspired to create the ultimate rugged watch after he dropped his watch 32 years ago and damaged it.
It was a high school graduation present from his father. He had worn it for 12 years before that fateful drop.
Watches then were cherished, expensive and less than robust.
At the time, he had been working on miniaturisation research at Japanese electronics giant Casio. After his watch was ruined, he directed his efforts to researching a watch that could withstand a 10m drop.
He and his engineers spent two years developing – and dropping – about 200 prototypes from the window before they managed to perfect the design.
It was, he said, a very intense period of constant experimentation. “It is one of the reasons I am so slim,” he joked, gesturing at his frame.
The team, he said, was on the brink of giving up when Mr Ibe experienced an eureka moment.
It was literally a walk in the park.
There, he saw a child bouncing a ball.
The sight of the ball in mid-air gave him the idea of having the main watch module float in the air, thereby preventing any shock from reaching it.
He tested the design and it worked. Thus was born the G-SHOCK with a hollow structure and a floating module.
This shock-resistant design has remained constant, although new features and styles have been added.
The brand has transcended its rugged beginnings to become a fashion statement.
Mr Ibe said he had in mind “those doing hard work such as road workers” when he designed the G-SHOCK watches, which are now worn not only by singers and students, but also by skydivers and soldiers
“I never imagined that it would become so popular,” he said.
He started the metallic line of G-SHOCK watches, as he wanted people to be able to grow old with their watches. They buy the casual designs when they are young and can switch to the more mature metallic designs when they are older, he explained.
Mr Ibe has also designed other Casio watches, such as the Edifice models.
His only regret, he said, is that he has not been able to create a fire-resistant watch for firefighters because he has not found a material that can withstand fire.
“If I have a chance, I certainly would like to look into it,” he said.
When asked what his dream G-SHOCK watch would be, he said: “It is probably impossible. But I would like to design one that, by just thinking about the time, it will pop up in your mind.”
His hobby is something more down to earth – vegetable farming in Saitama, where he lives, about a 40-minute drive from Tokyo.
On a 100 sq m of land, he grows vegetables such as carrots, white radish and Japanese mustard spinach.
The harvest is usually so large that he ends up giving the excess to his neighbours. “As the vegetables are organic, the neighbours are very happy to receive them,” he said.
He loves growing vegetables because “you can see the result of the love and hard work you put in”.
He likened it to the G-SHOCK team pouring heart and soul into the watches and seeing their work bear fruit.
Despite already spending more than 30 years in the company, he wants to continue to be involved in it and pass his knowledge on to his juniors for as long as he is able to.
Retrieved 28 July, 2013, from The Straits Times