Interviewing Kikuo Ibe, The Legendary Mastermind Behind the Casio G-SHOCK
Kikuo Ibe shares his personal take on 35 years of G-SHOCK design and shows no signs of slowing down.
Today on Watchonista, we sit down with the mastermind behind the Casio G-SHOCK, Mr. Kikuo Ibe. As the inventor of one of the world's most popular watch collections, Ibe had some wonderful stories to share.
Hyla Bauer: How did the G-SHOCK come into being? What was your inspiration for designing the watch?
Kikuo Ibe: When I started at Casio, I wore a watch, but it was not a Casio watch. The watch was a special gift from my father. And one day, I dropped the watch to the floor, and the watch was destroyed entirely. And that's the reason why I started to develop a watch that would never break. I wanted to make the strongest watch in the world. I wanted to wear the concept of what I had imagined.
HB: Was your father’s watch a classic design?
KI: It was a very classic analog watch with a round case.
HB: Do you have any personal favorite G-SHOCK watches?
KI: I actually only own three watches.
HB: Only three?
KI: Yes. I love my original design for G-SHOCK. In the whole Casio range, I like the original G-SHOCK the most. I personally have only three watches. I have a black and a red and a white [versions of the original design]. I wear the red in the winter, white in the summer, and black in spring and fall. I am wearing the black today. Except for changing the batteries, they have been running perfectly since then.
HB: That’s amazing. Can you explain a few words about the seven elements of G-SHOCK?
KI: These are seven elements that were the standards when I developed the G-SHOCK. But now we have metals, and we have other colorations, not only the black, that led to yellow and white. We've had an evolution. We have developed the color and metal variations.
HB: Do you have any interesting stories about your collectors? I am sure there are many!
KI: I have two very impressive collectors. One is a collector who has the most G-SHOCKS in the world. Imagine how many pieces he has?
KI: Bingo! It’s one person, he is Japanese. He’s the president of a construction company, so he has a lot of money (laughs). He has a room just for displaying his G-SHOCK watches in his house. Just to display his watches. I don't know if he has the original ones, but he has 2000 of them.
KI: The second collector is the youngest G-SHOCK collector. How old do you think he is?
HB: I don’t know, five?
KI: No, he’s only two years old! I met him when he visited the 35th Anniversary event in the Philippines. A lady came up to me with a two-year-old boy, and she said, ‘my son is a huge G-SHOCK collector.' Two years old, a baby? How can that be, I thought? The mother said that he loves to use the G-SHOCK as a pacifier. He always has it in his mouth. And she said, ‘I am OK with it, because the G-SHOCK is very, very safe material-wise, and also very tough, even though he is constantly biting it.’ He always has his G-SHOCK with him, she said.
HB: Have there been any extreme situations that the watch was in that stand out in your mind?
KI: I heard this story from one of my colleagues. A report came to our Tokyo headquarters. One guy had a serious, very dangerous accident in the sea. Finally, he was rescued, and then had an interview with the first responders. He could clearly remember all of the things that happened in that accident, including what time it was. For example, at 5 AM, something happened, and then at 6 AM. In this very serious and dangerous situation the G-SHOCK still worked, he found that the G-SHOCK was very reliable in a very extreme situation. The G-SHOCK can work correctly. It can work in water, and it can work in ice. Those kinds of tests and others are required for each new G-SHOCK model.
We have a lot of stories. Another one was a US person working on a dock working where containers are brought into port. Suddenly, a container dropped, and it hit his wrist. Fortunately, he was wearing a G-SHOCK! The container hit the watch, and his G-SHOCK protected his wrist. The G-SHOCK is still all right, and his wrist also was fine. Was absolutely fine. His brother sent a letter to us, telling us that because of his G-SHOCK watch, the accident was really big, but he didn't injure anything because the G-SHOCK protected his wrist. But we have a lot of stories. From our customers.
HB: How have you been able to continue the innovation of the watch and come up with fresh ideas and fresh functionalities?
KI: We have a team to develop the shape and design and a group to study the material and a team to think about the function. These teams meet to discuss what new functions, what new designs will be produced. They come together with their ideas.
As far as outside opinions are concerned, we have experts who we consult with. Pilots, for example. The team will interview a real pilot (or several) before they build the function. Or if we introduce a diver’s watch, they will go to for example professional divers who work in the sea. We always ask for professional opinions.
HB: What are the highlights of the 35th anniversary for you? What are you looking to emphasize, what are the special features of this year?
KI: Especially for the 35th anniversary, I wanted to go back to the roots of G-SHOCK. Back to the original, but still evolving in terms of materials and also technically. Even if it looks like the same design, the G-SHOCK is still evolving.