Sunday, May 30, 2010

#21 Defying Magnetism with the Gaussman

 I still remember buying my 4th G-Shock. It was a wet evening in November 2000. I just had collected my son Bram from my parents who had been babysitting, while I was at work. Earlier that week I had seen a sale at a jeweler in Vlissingen (Flushing). It was not my regular Casio dealer. I had seen a very nice big, ana-digi G-Shock is a showcase between a lot other branded watches. The discount price was “only” 200 Dutch guilders (around €90.-). Although this was a big amount of money for me that time, I had saved up a little and if I didn’t do strange things, I could afford it. I parked the car near the jeweler while pouring rain ran over the car windows. It must have been round closing time (18:00). The sun had already set for a long time and the sky was black. Only the light of the shop windows shone through the car window. The rain water shadows drew lines on Bram’s face. I got out of the car and took Bram, who was just a baby, with me and walked quickly to the store. Strangely, I do not remember much of me buying that watch in that shop. It must have been a fast transaction. I still remember getting back in the car, starting the engine and drive home. It must have been the surreal lighting of the shop windows light falling in the car and the rain. It was like I was in the middle of an old black and white detective movie.
I was very happy with my new gain. It was big and black and bulky. One of the funniest thing on it were the hands. I think Casio designed deliberately the hands a little small and thick. This adds to the suggestion this watch must be really big.
It was pretty clear this model was called Gaussman. The name was written big on the dial and you can’t miss the print on the straps too.
 There is a big mole engraved on the back. His hair is raised by static electricity and he is holding a lightning beam. This is the playful way Casio wants to let you know that this watch can withstand strong magnetic fields, for instance created by high voltages.
 I am not sure how strong magnetic fields can affect digital watches. Although the Gaussman looks like a analog watch, the time keeping is done by a quartz movement.
You might actually consider, what is analog in watch terms. Analog means that there is a continuous movement, digital means movement is steps. For a digital watch it’s simple. For regular timekeeping the progression goes in increments of 1 second. As for the digital chronograph, it mostly has increments of 0.01 seconds.
As far as I know classic mechanical watches and clocks are driven by a pendulum movement. This pendulum goes back and forth (according Wikipedia the pendulum in a mechanical watch is the balance wheel with the balance spring). Every time the pendulum reaches the end point, the movement goes forward a bit. So the movement only goes forward at the end point of the pendulum and in between these end points the hands do not move. So actually the classic pendulum clocks and watches are in fact digital too. By reducing the increment time (a fast ticking pendulum), you can let hands move like it goes fluently.
Enough “tik tok philosophy”. This was the first ana-digi G-Shock I owned and I learned the minute hand moves every 20 seconds. This means the hands move with a 2° increments. It sounds maybe like big steps, but on such a small dial you hardly notice it.
There is no seconds hand. Instead of that there are three digital circles (“eyes”) on the dial. The outer rings of the circles consists of 10 blocks. These blocks show up one by one and go out one by one, resulting that in the first 30 seconds the rings are filled, and in the next 30 seconds he rings disappear. These rings act as the second hands of the Gaussman. There is a small rectangular display on the 3 o’clock position on the dial. It normally shows time in hours and minutes, but you can choose to show the day and date or the seconds too.
When you scroll through the functions you notice it is possible to show two digits in the 9 o’clock eye. Therefore it would have been possible to show the seconds in that eye in timekeeping mode all the time. Probably Casio left this out for esthetical reasons. The dial of the Gausman does not look busy. I’m not sure how to define it in English, but in Dutch we would say that “it displays rest”. An ocean of tranquility perhaps. Well, if the designers had that in mind, a nervous eye counting the seconds would indeed have broken the inner peace here. And frankly, when do you know to need the time by the second (well, that was different when I travelled by train to school daily as a student). I somehow have respect for leaving out that option. This gives the watch a more serious look.
There is something funny about the Gaussman. If you do a search on this model (AW-571), you’ll notice that the first model was the Men In Yellow Gaussman in March 1998. Actually the first watch in exact the same shape, case and module was already released in September 1997. It was even looking almost exact like the model featured today. The model number was AW-570. Only the name GAUSSMAN is not present on the dial. If you turned around the watch you might be surprised. Actually I have received and seen a lot of questions about that model in the past. Instead of Gaussman, there was edged “Mudman” on the back. Indeed, the Gaussman was actually first released as an analog Mudman. One of the biggest hiatus in my collection is this analog Mudman. If someone makes an offer to you on a Men In Black Mudman, you have to ask which version, because both the digital as the analog version was present in this series. Casio was not pretty consequent in name giving as there was a Gaussman and a (digital) Mudman in the Men In Black II series. It might have been possible that between September 1997 and March 1998 Casio decided to change the name to emphasize the antimagnetic structure and movement of the watch. The basic analog Mudman versions were re-released as AW-571 models in August 1998 as a world wide release.
The model I bought on that rainy evening back in 2000 is the AW-571-1AV. In Germany this model was called “Clasher”. According to the 1999 brochure “Get Tough” by Casio Germany, it was the only analog G-Shock in the G-Shock line. It might have been the only analog model in the range that year, but it wasn’t the first. I have seen the earlier AW-500 and AW-550 models a lot for sale in the 2nd hand market in Germany for a long time.
As the AW-570 release already indicated, the Gaussman is one of the Mud Resistant models. Mud Resistance was not an exclusive right for the Mudman only. Beside the Mudman and Gaussman also the Raysman and the first version of the Codename DW-8500 also have this Mud Resistant structure. Now I can hear you think, what about the G(W)-5500. Well, these models were derived from the DW-5500C. This very rare model was also known as the G-Shock II. What maybe not is well known is the fact this model was the first Master of G model and was nicknamed “Mudman” by Casio. So every 5500 could be categorized as Mudman here.
I just mentioned the “Master of G” line above. While Casio releases most G-Shock models in series, there are certain models that have unique properties. For instance the Frogman models have a Divetimer for diving, the Mudman is Mud Resist, this Gaussma is Antimagnetic, etcetera. These group of models are called the “Master of G”. All models in these group have their name ending on –man. Obviously the Gaussman is extreme resist for strong magnetic fields and therefore also part of the Master of G group. Casio also have the Men In … series, which started with the Men In Black series in October 1997. Recently Casio revived these almost mythical series. Like the name already says, the Men In … series consist purely of models out of the ” Master of G” group. It would be nice if Casio would revive the Analog Master of G in the future too.
The bezel of the Gaussman covers the whole case, just as with the other Mud Resist models. The bezel is molded out of two kinds of resin. The black resin is very hard, while the gray resin is rubberish. The buttons of the watch are hidden behind the bezel parts that look like buttons. Because these gray parts of the bezel are soft, it is possible to operate the buttons. Of course it’s harder to operate the buttons, but you will get used to it. It’s just the price you have to pay for the Mud Resistant feature.
Not only the bezel is a duo-mold, also the straps are made of two colors resin This time the gray part of the strap seems stiffer than the black part. As if all the other looks were not giving you the suggestion that this watch is pretty tough, the strap also has a double closure.
 
Like more Master of G models, the Gaussman has a domed crystal. It’s a remarkable clear crystal. For photography a domed crystal is not always a pleasure. Light reflects in the crystal making it hard to get a nice shot of the dial. Actually I had no problems with that during the photo shoot. The watch was in clear sunlight. If you try to photograph it inside your house, light will reflect through the windows. When you wear the watch and want to know the time however, you won’t have problems with reflections. Reflections come from places that emit light, and since your head does normally not emit light, you always have a clear view to the dial.
Like more G-Shocks with an analog dial, the module is powered by two batteries. An SR626SW and a SR-927W battery. My guess is that the small 626 battery is for the EL backlight and the 927 battery for the timekeeping. The original batteries fitted by Casio give a much higher light output then when batteries are replaced (even at an official Casio Service Centre). I do not why this is, but I suspect that Casio used for this model a 626 battery with a higher voltage than 1.55V. The backlight is after battery replacement still sufficient enough.
When you have replaced the batteries, the digital time is set to 12:00 (actually 00:00, but it is in 12h mode). Since the hands are probably not in the right position (or the batteries must have coincidentally suddenly died at 12:00), you have to set the hands into correct position. You have to go to the HS mode (Hand Set) to sync the hands to the digital time. Later analog G-Shocks had the possibility of automatic hands progression (by pushing the upper right button, while you are holding the bottom right button. Unfortunately this function is not yet present on the Gaussman. You have to push the bottom right button all the way, until the correct time is reached.
The hands of the Gaussman have no illuminating paint. It would have been nice if they were visible in the dark. Nowadays the analog G-Shock models have some kind of luminescent paint and a LED that illuminates the dial. That way the hands are visible, but the lights strike over the digital displays, so they are not illuminated.
The functions of the Gaussman are pretty limited to basic watch functions. On the other hand, I think you choose an analog watch mostly for timekeeping. Still the Gaussman has three alarms and a hourly chime, a 60 minute Countdown timer and a 60 minute Stopwatch function on board.
You can change your preference in the time display from time to day and date to seconds by pushing the lower right button in Timekeeping mode. Actually I like the standard display with just the time (without the seconds).
The retail price of the Gaussman was 21000 yen in Japan and DM299- in Germany, which would be now €150.-. Considering these prices, I think I had a good deal back in 2000. Over the years I have had considerable better deals on Gaussman models. A NOS Gaussman probably does around $100.- nowadays, while special model will do more, up to $150.-. I pretty much like this model, specially the MIY version. I hope that one day I can get hold of one of the red Enduro models. The watch has an overall very big, sturdy and tough look. The Gaussman were made in pretty high numbers, so it should still be not too difficult to find one, though it has been out of production for at least 10 years now. Would it not be a great idea if Casio released an upgraded Tough Solar Waveceptor version of this model. Like a GW-3000 packed in a big tough looking resin case

5 comments:

azziman said...

Great review Sjors!
The Gausssman I think is an underrated G Shock, I have had my Men in Khaki one on for a couple of days now and had forgotten how good they are and comfortable too.
Another interesting feature on the Gaussman is that there are 3 different alarm tones -selectable by pressing the adjust button in alarm mode but only for a second then press start/stop button to hear each alarm after pressing adjust.

Sjors said...

Hello Azziman,

I just can only agree with you. It is a great model. I specially love the yellow versions.

Cheers,

Sjors

Marcello G. said...

Hi there Sjors,

Fantastic review as usual, you always manage to gracefully balance hard content and personal subjectivity - my compliments!

I have a "Kenwood" Gaussman that I just noticed has its hands a wee bit misaligned. The manual says nothing about it nor how to reset the hands to a perfect zero.

Can you point me in the right direction, Sjors? Any help will be greatly appreciated!

Cheers,

Marcello GT

Sjors said...

Hi Marcello,

In Hand Set (HS) mode you can adjust the position of the hands to the digital time. Just push ADJUST in HS mode and use the bottom right button to set the hands while HS is flahing.

Cheers,

Sjors

Marcello G. said...

Thank you for the prompt and kind response, Sjors!

OTOH, though, the problem is a bit more complicated than simply adjusting the analog time; actually the hour hand is misaligned in relation to the minute hand.

Right now I have 15:54h and the hour hand should be hovering very close to the 04 o'clock marker; instead it is pointing to minus 2 minutes off the 04 marker.

If you think about a quartz chronograph, most if not all of them have a reset function and/or procedure to realign their hands to "zero". That is what I am after in relation to my Gaussman.

Be as it may, I appreciate your reply and look forward to the next review!

Cheers,

Marcello GT