Sunday, March 1, 2015

G-Shock #10: The new Hyper Color.

Frankly, I'm not a big fan of most Ana-Digi X-Large models. I love the GA-110s, which is, until a few months ago, the only X-Large Ana-Digi model in my collection. The GA-100 (except for the Desert Beige version maybe), GA-150, GA-200 and GA-300. All not so for me. Should this be a design mistake by Casio. I don't think so. Although I personally don't really like these models, these models seem hotter than any other model G-Shock series in the younger generation worldwide. I spot those models a lot at my school and in street fashion. While in the past some people had doubts if a white G-Shock should be suiting them, nowadays it seems one of the most popular colors G-Shock. But my luck has changed. Casio made a new X-Large ana-digi model, that immediately draw my attention. The GA-400. Would it be a coincidence that I like this model very much, like it's digital brother, the GD-400?

The first GA-400 models were released in August 2014, but I became seriously interested when Casio released the Hyper Colors models one month later. Although a lot of elements of the GA-110 model are present on this watch, the 5 buttons and a scroll wheel, that looks like a beefed up crown, makes it look much different than the earlier X-Large ana-digi models. Maybe the best part is the scroll wheel and it's protection, breaking the symmetry, as all earlier models are simply round. Also, it does not look too,serious. This scroll wheel feels quite solid and firm. Maybe you can draw a line to the somewhat funny G-001 "Jason". Simply big and round ana-digi models don't need much guts to produce and sell, playful models like these take more guts and that's what I like about Casio in general. They have the guts to experiment with different looking G-Shocks.

So, what is Hyper Colors all about? If you do a little research, the term is actually not new. In the early '90s the sports clothing company Generra invented a temperature sensitive pigment. When applied to fabric it could change colors by temperature change. They called this clothing line of T-Shirts and dresses Hypercolor. It was a big hit in the US in 1991 for a brief three months. Actually the clothing was great when new, but the color effect faded already after a few wash cycles and the fabric had to be washed very delicately, because if washed to warm it would stay in that color, often brownish purple, not the color you want to associate with "Hyper Color" I think. The prefix or adjective "Hyper" means over, above, beyond, or in this case maybe more (in number). Funny detail, the first Hyper Colors models contained three very bright, near neon unicolor GA-110B's, pretty unique for non-black G-Shocks. This Hyper Colors series does what you expect. All three GA-400 models have a wild color arrangement and actually all look very nice, but this one jumps really out of the box. It might be that yellow is one of my favorite colors, but I really think this is the best looking of the three. Some students that were in the lab seeing this watch thought it was a Brazil model, because of the green strap keeper. The buckle is pretty cool purple with red.
While a regular G-Shock has a color scheme of one main color and one or two supporting colors, you find on this watch black, red, blue, purple, green and white accents on a main yellow case and straps. On the dial the red, green and blue accents are painted metallic, which gives a nice effect when rolling the watch in light, sparkling up another part of the dial every time. The two displays are both black negative. They function most of the time as a black dial. If you look good you'll see that the upper display has a kind of blueish digits, while the bottom one has a the more regular amber digits. You either love negative displays, or hate them. I'm nowadays somewhere in the middle. They are cool, but sometimes I find them hard to read. Fact is that they are some harder to read, specially under dim light conditions and other than the normal viewing angle on your wrist. As the time is normally displayed analog with yellow accented hands, it shouldn't be a big problem. I assume you buy a watch primarily for reading time.
The heart of this watch is the 5393 module. While the GA100 to GA-300 models G-Shock have pretty much similar modules, this one is different. While the other models are operated with 4 buttons, you operate the GA-400 with 5 buttons and the scroll wheel which is called a "Rotary Switch". Instead of using the usual upper and lower right button for adjusting times or scrolling, you now use this rotary switch. So, what do we find on-board. First of all of course Time Keeping Mode. Most important if you get the watch, is to check and possibly adjust the Home City and the Daylight Saving Time setting. If you have chosen the appropriate Home City and the time is not right, just adjust in Time Setting Mode with choosing the right digits with the Mode button and scrolling with the Rotary Switch. Furthermore on this watch you,find a 24 hour Stopwatch Mode with optional Auto-Start, a 48 city, 31 time zones World Time Mode, an Alarm Mode with 4 Daily Alarms, a Snooze Alarm and of course a Hourly Signal and finally a 60 minute Countdown Timer Mode. Normally you scroll through the different Modes by pressing the MODE button repeatedly, but by pressing the middle left button you can direct access the Countdown Timer Mode. This way you can access both the Stopwatch Mode as the Countdown Timer with just one press off a a button.

Now comes maybe the best part on this watch. One of the most annoying things on a random ana-digi watch is that during the different Modes, the hands block one or both displays. A long time owners have complained about this and Casio now came with an answer. You can move the hands easily out of the way by push and holding the LIGHT button and then push the MODE button. The hands immediately start to move to a position where they do not block the displays. If no button action takes place for an hour, the hands turn back showing time.
The Auto-Start function can be activated by rotating the Rotary Switch up or down, so you can set a countdown time for the Stopwatch function starts between 1 and 60 seconds. Starting and stopping the Stopwatch or the Countdown Timer is done with the middle left button. Split Time and Resetting is done with the bottom right button. If you are used to several G-Shocks, operating this watch is a little different, specially with three buttons on the left side, but it feels quite natural. Luckily the Mode and Adjust button are on the usual place.
There are some extra functions on this watch too. You can choose the backlight duration between 1.5 and 3 seconds and you can turn the Button Tone on and off. Remind the the GA-110 and probably all X-Large ana-digi models had no Button Tones. While some people find the beeps annoying, I like to hear what I am doing. Also the Button Tone sounds in a higher pitch when you return back to Time Keeping Mode. Handy in the dark. Also this watch has Auto-Illumination. Although it is a good and sometimes useful function, I cannot really recommend it, as this watch is battery powered and backlight drains power. Luckily this function turns automatically off after six hours. Further more, if for some reason the hands do not match the displayed time, you can start "Adjust Hand Position" procedure.
In my opinion this is a great and funny watch. It has a potential for future wild color designs. I think I do not have to explain why I like this watch. It looks playful, but it has serious good functions under the hood. This model is also relative cheap, with a retail price in Europe of €129,-, comparable with the other X-Large G-Shock models. In Japan you pay ¥16000. I bought mine from Boersma Juweliers in Monnickendam (see banner on the side). The watch is quite good available in Europe at the moment.
The "move hands from view" function is a big plus and so is the asymmetric look. Is it all great on this watch? Well, I still do not know why the digital displays are not backlit. It should, after some year experience with these X-Large models, not be too difficult to add an ultra-thin light translucent film between the liquid crystal and the reflector. Another thing that's bothering me are the batteries. The watch is powered by two SR927W Silver Oxide batteries. Casio claims always to do their best for the environment. Why then use Silver Oxide batteries, as Lithium batteries are much better for the environment (Silver ions are quite harmful heavy metals). Nevertheless, this is a G-Shock that will bring me a lot of joy, I think.I hope Casio will bring more nice color schemes on this model in the future.

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