Sunday, July 26, 2009

#33 Tree Frog Love the Earth and the Sea

Casio wants to profile themselves as a company that cares about the environment. Of course most companies would like to profile themselves that way. Our school is linked to one of the biggest factories of one of the biggest chemical companies in the world. When you take a tour around the plants, you can spot a lot of rabbits and other wildlife all over the place. They say there is no safer habitat for these animals around the factory in the whole region.
About a year ago I visited another big chemical factory that produces natural resins for glues and chewing gums. During the tour around the plant we were pointed at a group of wild goose. The group landed on the company's ground many years ago and never left. The company is proud to have this population walking around the terrain as proof how nature friendly they are.
I was coincidently telling this to an old school friend of me yesterday. He says that between the waste plants where he works rabbits are hopping around and roe deer are almost hand tame.
Casio is of course not a chemical company, though a green image looks good on any company.
In the nineties Casio often used plastic containers around their watches. I think you remember those hexagonal boxes for G-Shocks. In Japan special models were sold in them, while a little different version was used in Germany for all G-Shocks. Also Baby-G models were packed in plastic. This time in blue semi-transparent containers.
Although these plastic containers look pretty cool, most of them were thrown away by the new owner of the watch. Not quite environment friendly. I think these containers were made of poly-urethane, like the plastic parts of G-Shocks. It's about the most durable polymer around. Good for G-Shocks, not good as package material.
At the end of the nineties Casio begins to realize this too and nowadays the package materials are made of recycled paper.
Nowadays Casio publishes an annual environment report. By reducing energy consumption and waste the company is proud to be climate neutral.
On more fronts Casio is working on a green image. One of their goals is that in the future all watches are Tough Solar. Rechargeable batteries last as least 3 times longer than conventional Lithium or Silver Oxide batteries.
In the Timepieces department Casio has released several models and series to promote organizations with an environment preservation character.
In 50 Gs the W.C.C.S. and I.C.E.R.C. Have been highlighted before. Since 1994 Casio releases almost annually one or more ICERC models in the G-Shock and Baby-G range. The 2009 models were just released about three weeks ago. Recently I bought a "Masai Mara" Codename from a series that supports a wildlife reserve in Kenya. Not only G-Shock and Baby-G models are supporting nature projects. Casio also released Birdlife models in the Protrek range.
In 2009 Casio comes up with a new range to support environment organizations. It's "Love The Earth And The Sea" series (yes, every word begins with a capital, not only the pronouns).
L.T.E.A.T.S. supports Earthwatch Institute. Earthwatch is not supporting a specific environmental project, but acts as a global platform for dozens of projects worldwide. It seems the I.C.E.R.C. Is part of Earthwatch too, since the 2009 models have both the I.C.E.R.C. and L.T.E.A.T.S. logo, but that’s another story.
I discovered at the end of February on my friend 山猿 his photo weblog a photo of a green frogman from a new retailers catalog.
A green Frogman has always been absent on the list of all released models. Well, almost, one of the Triple Crown models (2005) had dark green straps, but a black case.
Finally, since the first Frogman release in 1993, a green Frogman, the most logical color for a "Frog" (as these models are often named to by G-Shockers). Although frogs appear in nature in wide color ranges, as shown in Petew's great article about the relation of poisonous frogs and Frogman models, in most people's perception a frog is green. I wonder how much Sesame Street and The Muppet Show has contributed to that perception, though in the short time after it's release June 2009 the nickname "Kermit" popped up (inevitably). It would be funny if Petew came up with a poisonous green frog now. Specially,because the green shade of this Frogman in my country is described as Poison Green. Actually it was pretty hard to get the color right on the screen.
Although I have thoroughly corrected (whited) the white balance, the watch appeared a shade more yellow on my screen. I have manually tried to set the color closest to the watch I could get.
The suggested retail price of this Frogman, ¥32000, is ¥2000 yen more expensive than the recently released Men In Rusty Black Frogman. A logical explanation is that a portion of the price of the watch is donated to Earthwatch (probably ¥2000, about $20).
I am often asked what I paid for an JP model, so I am happy to say I honestly have no idea. I ordered this Frogman months ago together with the I.C.E.R.C. Gulfman, not knowing that they would be released at the same time (well, I think the Frog had to wait about 4 or 5 days for the Gulfman). Therefore I paid for both the models plus shipping. I got my Frogman from my friend Katsu Higuchi-San of Higuchi Inc, Oita, Japan.
After spending 10 long days at the Dutch customs office (in the past this was maximal 3 days!) this Frogman finally arrived at my front door.
The Frogman comes in a simple (environment friendly) cardboard box. Besides the standard Casio logo, the logo of L.T.E.A.T.S. and FROGMAN is printed on it. The L.T.E.A.T.S. logo looks pretty much like the I.C.E.R.C. logo. Inside the box you do not only find a manual (in Japanese of course, you find the English 2422 manual here), but a small newspaper too.
The FROGMAN logo on the box is in yellow and green. Personal I think it gives the logo more a Rasta appearance, but this color combination becomes clear after opening the box.
Instead of using the standard silver color for the metal parts they used gold color, like on the 25th anniversary models. I could have known this when I studied better on the official photo's of Casio. It's a nice surprise. I would have thought silver accents would have been better, but the gold accents turn out to be pretty nice.
A cool feature on this model is the come-back of the diving Frog in the EL backlight. Funny designs in the EL backlight are discussable. Personally I think they are funny, but frankly sometime the don't make it easier to read time when lit. I often wear my Rescue-G Gulfman. At night I have to watch twice or three times to figure out time. On my "M.I.B. Mudman in sheep clothes" it's practically impossible to read time with the EL lit. The swimming frog in this model distracts a little, but time is still good readable.
Setting time is always a bit difficult on the Frogman. A GW-200 type Frogman is standard set to Japanese time (GMT+9). The time is linked to a "home location". Instead of Worldtime, a GW-200 (like the DW-9900 type Frogs by the way) has "Site Mode" with 10 diving locations pre-programmed. You can link the watch time to one of these locations. Cool if you live at one of these locations, like the Great Barrier Reef or Hawaii, but a pity if you live in Zeeland, The Netherlands. You can reprogram these locations, so I have set one of the less interesting sites (I believe GUAM, so I don't have to make letters blanc) to Middelburg (currently DST on, GMT+2). If you have set this your home location as one of the sites (actually my province is popular for diving, but don't expect tropical "Finding Nemo" scenes underwater since the water is much colder here), you must return to the main time keeping mode. In Time Adjust mode you can now choose your home site. Also in this mode you can toggle DST, so you don't have to do that in "Site Mode".
This bit cumbersome way of setting time will probably over on the next Frogman. A totally new Frogman model will appear on the marked next autumn or winter. This model will be Atomic. Photo's of a study model revealed on Baselworld earlier this year also showed a Tidegraph, a handy tool for sea divers. Well that was the good part of the news on a new Frogman model. The bad news, according rumors, is that it is going to be very expensive.
Frankly I find the current GW-200 line pretty expensive already with the newest models in the $300 - $350 range. As a simple educational assistant these prices are hardly to call affordable. A much more expensive Frogman will probably be less collectible, because they will be almost affordable for most G-Shock collectors. Maybe the GW-200 line will exist besides the new Atomic Frogman. The Future will learn.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Intermezzo #12: Viva Summer Hollidays!!!

The Sumer Vacation finally started. We are the final; region and very late this year. It is also a week of birthdays. It felt I had to do more than on a normal working week. For those who missed my posts on WUS and my JP weblog, this might explain a bit.

First of all was our Bram. He celebrated his 9th Birthday last Tuesday. He had his children's party last Wednesday. It was a fun day, but really exhausting. Great sunset.
Yesterday my Brother phoned me for some help. He had followed my Battery Change topics and tried a battery change on the Baby-G of my niece Chelsey. I tried to get a CR1616 battery yesterday, but unfortunately, the shop was closed and I had to move on to the next Birthday.
Well, it was a great party. A friend's son celebrated his 5th birthday. I met a lot of old friends. His wife made a delicious tagliatella with pesto. Hmmm. In the mean time I organized a photo shoot for 50 Gs for about 2 weeks or later (reminder for myself, I must buy a CR1616, sorry Chelsey).
This morning I woke up, thinking I must write a 50Gs post... No time, No time. Bram is behind my computer playing Generals (Skirmish). Another Birthday, my neighbor has become 40 years old. We could not stay very long, because we had to go though to my brother Paul's birthday. He celebrated his 50th birthday. My little niece from Tilburg couldn't come. She celebrated her 13th birthday today too.
Another great party. Here's my brother disguised as an old man. I hope they don't do this to me when I become 50. The beer was good also. DK, the dark beer of De Konick, St. Louis Classic Kriek cherry beer, Mc Chouffe, and Leffe Christmas. I probably will have forgotten one or more beers I have tasted today.
Finally I and Bram got home. It was very late for Bram, so he could roll into bed almost immediately. Time to turn on the HD-recorder. Today was an important stage in the Tour de France 2009. The legendary Mont Ventoux is the end of this stage. I didn't want to miss anything, so I recorded the race today. Well, they are now at 68 km before the finish.
I got a mail from KIKS TYO that they have out a summer package. For ¥10000 you get quite some goodies, so I already ordered a package for myself.
Well, I'm not sure I will manage a new post for 50 Gs tomorrow. Well, in case not, enjoy my I.C.E.R.C. Gulfman of 2007. Eva wants to go to the beach very early to our beach cabin. I will take my PDA to bed. maybe I can put something together tomorrow morning. It reminds me to Keith LeBlanc's "I'll come up with something. Let's hope so. First I'll enjoy the climb of the Mont Ventoux with a good old Gouden Carolus Classic.



Sunday, July 19, 2009

#32 Mission Impossible 2½: "The Solar 6900"

I think I never did hide my love for the DW-6900 model. In June 2009 Casio released a successor of this very popular model, the GW-6900.
Like with the introduction of the DW-6900 in March 1995, several models are released. Together with the basic model, a black model with bracelet and negative display was released. This month a bright yellow and a white model follows.
Although I tend to cut my G-Shock expenses for about a year, I'm planning to buy a yellow GW-6900. I think it is a worthy successor of the DW-6900H "Taxidriver".
The announcement of the GW-6900 came right after the announcement of the GW-5000. Since I was a "bit" shocked by the price of the GW-5000, I was afraid that the price of the GW-6900 would be very high. Fortunately the GW-6900 did not get the expensive stainless steel case with the screwback like the GW-5000. With a suggested retail price of 20000 yen($212, €150, £130), this is a pretty normal price for a Tough Solar Atomic watch.
I got mine from Tiktox. At the moment they sell it for £95.-. From what I understand, it's pretty normal the shop prices in Japan are about 33% lower than the suggested prices. I wish this was normal in Europe too, in The Netherlands we often pay full retail price. Therefore I think Tiktox offers a pretty good price for European standards.
Keith of Tiktox let me know that he will receive another batch in September and he will try to get them for maybe even a better price. It's good to have a good European source, since the custom costs (at least here in the Netherlands) are pretty high.
Yesterday I received a gift, declared worth ¥10000 ( €75), custom duties and tax €35,24 which is almost 50%. And don't let me begin about the 10 days(!) delay on an EMS package. Viva la bureaucracy!
Enough grumbling...back to topic. The classic DW-6900 was featured in the movie "Mission Impossible 2" (a.k.a. MI:2). I saw this movie in the cinema in 2000, not knowing I was going to be a little G-Shock collector. I thought Ethan Hunt's watch was pretty cool, though I had no idea I was looking at a mocked up DW-6900.
Later, when I was starting my website G-Peopleland, I started searching for information. On a small Japanese personal website (probably long gone, unfortunately) I found the nickname "Triple Eyed Devil" for the DW-6900 (all models, not only the basic model). I started using this term too, assuming it was a general nickname. Probably the collector who invented this name will always remain anonymous, but I think it's a great name for this model.
I also found that the basic DW-6900 was nicknamed "Mission Impossible 2". I lend the DVD from my friend "Bleephead" and observed the close-up screen shots. It's a pity the movie makers mocked up the original display to add a "Transponder Tracking Device", but still the G-Shock is impressive. I recently heard MI:4 is about to hit the Cinema's. Wouldn't it be great if Ethan Hunt would wear a GW-6900?
The DW-6900 was released 9 months after another classic, the DW-6600. The DW-6600 was the first G-Shock introduced in Europe (read Germany) in 1994. This is the reason why you in the past could find auctions on eBay Germany referring the 6600 as "Die Ersten G-Shock" (the first G-Shock). First I thought this was a mistake by the sellers, but later I found out that before 1994 G-Shock were not sold in Europe.
In the beginning both the 6600 and 6900 model were used for special and limited edition models. Later the DW-6900 (together with the DW-5600) became the most popular model for these purposes.
The GW-6900 is too short on the market to know if it will success the DW-6900 for special editions. The release of the yellow and white model this month might indicate so, but I think the DW-6900 will still remain an important model.
A limitation for using the GW-6900 for special models is it's Waveceptor technology. While large parts of the world are covered now for the atomic time signal, also large parts of the world are excluded, like South America, Arabia and Australia.
I think that eventually some JP or US limited editions will follow, but most emissions will be the classic DW-6900. Maybe, like with the MIRO models, there might be a non-Atomic overseas release of a JP-only Atomic release. Well, a month after the release of the GW-6900 it's still guessing game.
As being basic, the classic DW-6900 has the perfect basic functions. Just an alarm function (can be set to a date!), a 24 hour Stopwatch and a 24 hour Countdown Timer. The Countdown Timer (CDT) function was improved compared to the DW-6600, which has only a 60 minute CDT.
Of course the functions on the GW-6900 are improved. Obviously the watch now has a 6-Band Waveceptor function. As all modern Waveceptor models are Tough Solar and the World Time function is inevitable with a 6 band atomic signal receiver you might consider this basic on this model.
The Alarm function is expanded to 5 alarms (including a snooze alarm). The possibility to program to certain dates has gone. Frankly I've never used that function.
I am not curious, but what's all that beeping about?
The Countdown Timer and Stopwatch function are of course still present. It's a pity the current time is not more shown in these modes. Instead of the current time, in the CDT mode the programmed time is shown, while in STW mode the hours are shown in the upper right part of the display.
The eyes of the GW-6900 have different functions than the DW-6900. While the big right eye now counts the seconds (was indicating the 10 seconds), the left eye shows the battery notifications (levels, Power Save and Charge). The middle eye shows the status of the Alarm functions (Alarm, Snooze, hourly chime, Mute) and the Full Auto Illuminator function. In some models DST is also indicated in one of these eyes, but Casio choose to show DST in the main display, where the old model shows that the 24h system is displayed.
The designers of Casio have fitted the solar cells beautifully in the display. Earlier Casio released models with 3 eyes, that, in my honest opinion, did not look as good as the Triple Eyed Devil. The three eyed version of the GW-300 and GW-500 (2003) did actually not even look like the DW-6900, because the big eye is on the wrong side and the cases are different. Also the G-7210 (2004) did not look as good, though similarities in the case were present. The metallic ring around the display and the smaller eyes made this model not look as good as the DW-6900.
Resuming all this together, I think Casio did a terrific job in making the GW-6900 a worthy successor. One can always debate if things could have be done different, to make it better, but overall I think Casio made the right choices (except of displaying the programmed CDT instead of the current time) to make this a great looking and functioning watch.
This model is only short on the market, so I can't say anything about the price development. If it hits the US market, it might become significant cheaper than in Japan. At a certain moment the GW-5525A was sold for less than $80.- in some shops, while the retail price actually was ¥22500 ($225). I do not expect such spectacular price drops, but if in the US the GW-6900 will be widely available for between $80,- and $100,-, this could become a very popular basic model.
If I'm correct the European release is in September. I do not expect it to be cheap. A standard DW-6900 costs still €80.- in the shops, while Waveceptor models are about €150.-.