Friday, March 30, 2012

G-Shock #15: Heavy Metal

In December 1995 Casio came with a decent successor of the DW-6400, the DW-8300. While the DW-81XX models were merely used for limited edition runs, the DW-8300 was a basic model. In Japan three versions were released, a black, red and a blue version. All these models had a leather/cloth watchband, similar to the ones found on one of the Japanese DW-6400 models and on some DW-002 and DW-003 models.
The DW-8300 was also released “overseas”. There were two versions, the silver version, which is featured here today and a gold model. This model had yellow and white lettering and a yellow/gold tone display. I believe in Europe only the silver version was released. Around 2001 - 2003 you could find them by heaps used on eBay Germany for very nice prices. I have tried several times to get a new model for a good price, but they were still popular then, about 5 years after release.

Casio Europe, based in Germany, had a tradition of naming G-Shocks. Unfortunately it seems they ran out of names a few years ago. The DW-8300 was well known for it’s nickname “Heavy Metal”, which in my opinion suits this watch well. Somehow it always reminds me to the great song "(She's) Heavy Metal" by the Märtini Brös.
The DW-8300 had adopted a similar bezel as the DW-6400. The big bumpers on the side are still there, but the bumpers on top and bottom are less high and are as wide as the straps. This makes this watch look, in my opinion, more balanced in design, than the DW-6400. Still the DW-8300 stands out, specially in G-Shock line of that time, but I think this model still stands out as a remarkable good looking G-Shock.
As it was pretty easy to find for low prices 10 years ago, I happen to have 4 of them. Although the bezel and case are all in good condition, I had to replace the straps on 3 of them. There is still one with the original strap, but it started to bleed in sunshine, while I was writing and also the band loop is about to tear or crumble. I think this is a pity. Casio is doing a lot with big cases lately, but the variety of GWX-56 and GX-56 models is not very high. Would it not be a good idea if Casio made a similar looking model, but with metal parts in the bezel and bumpers. A kind of what Casio did with the DW-80XX and DW-81XX models. I was in front row when the GXW-56 came out (I actually phoned Casio Europa personally about the release). I will be on front row if Casio would release a big square metal model with bumpers again.
Something I noticed on all the DW-8300’s I bought was that the white paint of the upper bumper (showing “ILLUMINATOR”) is that it was pretty faint. I had repainted the letters on several of my DW-8300’s. Repainting is pretty easy. Just use enamel (the paint used for scale models). Repaint the letters and wipe off the excess of paint with a cloth and white spirit or a similar paint remover. The result gives the watch a surprisingly fresh look.
The DW-8300 is powered with the 1288 module. This module was at that time already used by the DW-6800 (February 1995). The the DW-290 uses a similar module too (1189). The DW-290 is not a G-Shock, but is has quite a futuristic and tough look. On these modules the upper and lower display are separated by a row of indicators. The indicators show if the Alarm and the Hourly Signal are toggled on, if the Stopwatch shows Split Time and when the Flash function is activated. For the Alarm, Hourly Signal and the Split Time an triangle indicator appears above the indicator. For the Flash function, the Flash indicator pops up in the square right of the LIGHT indicator.
The functions of the 1288 module are very simple. Besides Timekeeping, this module has one Alarm function, a 24 hour Stopwatch and a 24 hour Countdown timer  with Auto Repeat on board. Maybe the functions are simple, but for me these are the most used functions I use. The Alarm function is default set to Daily Alarm, but you can also set it to a date. When you only set the month, the Alarm will sound on the programmed time during that month and when you only program the day, the alarm will only sound on the programmed time on that day of every month.
The EL is very bright. There is a Flash function. Default its’s set on. When the Flash function turned on, the EL backlight flashes when an alarm sounds (Hourly Chime, Alarm, Countdown Timer end signal).
From all models I have reviewed this month, I guess this one is the least rarest. Until a few years ago it was even possible to find a new old stock (NOS) model on internet stores. I actually don’t know what the popularity of this model is now, but about 6 - 7 years ago it was a hot model. At that time it was possible to find for low prices (around $80.-), but now it’s not easy to find anymore and prices around $150 - for a regular version and $180 for the gold version. Nowadays I do not see this model pass a lot, so prices might have been dropped. For me it’s a great model. In the past I wore them a lot, but since the resin is getting older, I’m afraid for the bezel to break. I now keep my quadruplet safely in a box with other vintage G-Shocks. Secretly I hope that there will be a revival of these big metal square models. Until now, this DW-8300 was the last big metal square G-Shock model Casio produced.

Intermezzo #48: Quadruplets get new batteries...

My Heavy Metals had gotten weak displays or even died. It's time to give them a new battery. 

With the tools ready, it's time to start.
The battery locks on the 1288 module are not very easy to open. It's harder than on a casual DW-6900 for instance. You got to stick the sharp tooth tweezer deep into the lock to pry it open. 
The AC contact.
The reset procedure. Conect the AC contact with the back of the battery with a sharp tooth tweezer or  similar objects (I have used two staples or two screwdrivers instead in the past). Hold for about 2 seconds.
These are 4 very happy Heavy Metals!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

G-Shock #14: Gundam

In my series of Techno and Gundam models the DW-6400 can’t be absent. Casio has a reputation of futuristic designs for G-Shocks. While the AW-550 in 1992 already looked a bit odd, the January 1994 DW-6400 looked like it was from another planet. Not strange that this model got the nickname “Gundam” in Japan.
The animated series Gundam is not known in my country and I think this goes for whole Europe. This show is popular in the he US and Japan. This animated series of about war between giant “mecha” robots, called “Mobile Suits”. Although I do not see the direct resemblance, it is said that the case of the DW-6400 looks like the head of an Mobile suit.
In 1995 a DW-6400 featured in the movie Hackers, on the wrist of a boy friend of Kate Libby/"Acid Burn" (Angelina Jolie) at an Arcade hall in the beginning of the movie.
In 2008 fashion brand HTML (Hobby Tasteful Merchandise Laboratory) has released a series of special 25th anniversary T-Shirts. One of them was this T-Shirt with on the front “G-SHOCK” and “HTML” in the style of the Gundam logo and on the back a giant Mobile Suit, with the head replaced by the case of a DW-6400.
In January 1994 Casio released two DW-6400 models, the DW-6400B-1 and the DW-6400C-1. These were the only two models that Casio produced. As I have only seen the DW-6400C version, I think this model was made in much bigger numbers and was probably the only export model. A little strange detail is that the resin used on the 6400C is a bit khaki greenish. It would have maybe been better if the suffix was -3, instead of -1.
Although the official description on G-Shock GPS is quiet summarily, the DW-6400 models featured three novelties. The B version was the first G-Shock model that not had a resin strap, but a woven/leather strap (like the Crazy Gangsters strap, featured last week). Both the B and C version have the wrist rest shock absorbers used for the first time. These wrist rests are known for their comfortable wear. These wrist rest were recently used again on the G-001 and the G(W)-7900 models.
Most eye catching is of course the use of metal in the bezel (cover of the case). Unlike the later MT-G and MR-G models, the DW-6400 still has resin bumpers, protecting the case and display. In the 4 corners of the metal part of the bezel there are 4 screws with an hex key socket. I think these screws are pure cosmetics. I recommend never to try to unscrew bezel screws. Often they are glued in the bezel. These screws add quite to the tough look of the watch. I would not be surprised if, at the release in 1994, this was the biggest G-Shock ever made.
The module number of the DW-6400 is 901. This was not an unknown module at that time. This module can be found on the later DW-5600C, DW-5700C and DW-5800 models. A month later Casio used this module also on the DW-5300.
The 901 module has an Alarm function that can be set as a daily alarm, but also can be set on a date. If you only fill in a day number, the alarm will sound on the programmed time when the day number of the month has reached, if only the month number is programmed, the alarm will only sound during that month.
The Dual Time function is pretty primitive. Where on modern G-Shocks the World Time function is linked to Greenwich Mean Time from where you can choose many time zones, linked to big world cities, on the DW-6400 you can program Dual Time independent from the main time. Only the seconds synchronize with the main time.
The Countdown Timer and the Stopwatch function are just simple and both of the 24 hour type. The Countdown Timer can be programmed to the second. In this mode you can also see the time in the small rectangle in the top of the display. Since the Stopwatch measures in 100th of a second, the hours are displayed that rectangle.
A bit funny extra function is the Reminder Function. Above the seconds, under the rectangle, you find the text REM. If you have to remember something very important, you can set a reminder by push and hold the bottom right button. This function can be seen as the digital version of “Tie a Knot in your Handkerchief”. The basic idea of the know in your handkerchief is that when you have to perform an important task (when I did a search I found a tasks like: cleaning the hamster cage, watching your favorite TV program), you will reminded to this task every time you blow your nose in your handkerchief. Now you are reminded to your task by a blinking digit next to the REM mark on the display. Only thing you have to remind now is what that task was.
This watch is released 5 months before the first DW-6600. As the DW-6600 marks the introduction of the EL backlight, the DW-6400 therefore does not have an EL backlight. Instead there is a small lamp bulb (microlight). This lightbulb only lit up when the light button is pressed. This means the light stays on as long as you need to read time. There is no afterglow, like found on all models with an electro luminescence backlight.
The Gundam is a great watch to have in your collection. If you collect vintage G-Shocks, this would be a “Must Have” for your colllection. It has an unique look, even compared with the DW-81XX and DW-8300 models. I just changed the strap on one of my Gundams (I have 2 of them). It’s original strap was torn and after I changed the strap, it appeared you could easily tear the strap. Luckily a spare strap is still available. I got mine from, one of the best places to get spare parts for G-Shocks. Still, when a model is not produced longer than 10 years, spare parts are harder to get and are not restocked from Casio. The new strap feels a bit rubberish, like it’s old strap. This means the strap will follow the natural form of the wrist, so that this strap is pretty comfortable. Also the wrist rest add to the comfortable wear.
The Gundam was produced in pretty large numbers and was available worldwide. Still this does not mean it is easy to find. It’s simply a watch that has been released 18 years ago and at this time it’s not easy to find one. It’s hard to put a price on this model. I have paid pretty low prices for the two I have (one is in very good condition, probably hardly worn), probably under €50.-. If you look good at auction sites, you might still find one for a good price, but when I did a search over eBay and Yahoo Auctions Japan, I could only three Gundams and the lowest bidding price was ¥12500 (€115.-, $150). Like I have written in my other articles in this Gundam/Techno series, I would love to see that Casio would make a new updated model, which looks like these classic models.
All right, that's too good to be true. In real it's a little darker than on the photo below...