Sunday, September 25, 2011

G-Shock #39: Space 1999 - 2005

 In October 2005 Casio launched the G-8000 models. It’s probably the most futuristic designed model in whe whole G-Shock line. Together with the G-8100 and G-011 models, these were called the C3 or C-cubed models. The similarity in design can’t be denied for the G-8100 models, but I think the metal G-011 models are more “down to Earth”.
In Europe the G-8000 models were marketed as “freerunner’s watches”. In Germany this series is therefore sometimes called the “Freerunning Kollektion”. Free running (can also be spelt freerunning) is a kind of acrobatic sport, that uses the city and urban obstacles as playground to move from one location to the other, while performing tricks ay each obstacle. All you need is a human body and a pair of good shoes. This G-Shock model was called “Wall Runner” in Germany, named after a wallrunner’s trick (which isn’t new as I remember this trick was also performed in a Rick Ashley video).
Personally I think the G-8000 model looks like it is coming straight from a 60’s or 70’s science fiction series. I do not know why, but I associate this model always with “Space 1999”. I was always fascinated by this series, which aired in The Netherlands in 1978. As a 12 year old boy I tried to reconstruct Moonbase Alpha and it’s Eagles with my Lego. I still love the tune, which I actually have installed as a ringtone in my phone.
You might question why I associate this model with a science fiction series, but I think if you look at the display, you will probably notice the resemblance with cockpit instruments. The artificial horizon to be more specific. I also think the orange colors might give me a feel to the mid 70’s, when this kind of orange colors and green colors became fashionable in household decoration, clothing and vehicles. I remember we has a bright orange car around that time. The eighties were much colder and our orange car was traded into a dark brown car.
This G-8000 model, the G-8000-4VER (European version of the G-8000-4JF) has a negative display. To be honest, the display is not always very clear readable, in contrary to the normal display models. The G-8000 with a normal version were known for their crystal clear reading from the display. I don’t think you buy this watch for the clarity of the display. The orange bezel and strap give a very cool contrast to the black display. A part on the side of the bezel is by the way also black. It might be cosmetic, because it looks good. While the cross and the circle, that look like the artificial horizon, do not disturb the display on a positive display, I think it makes reading this display a little harder. When you own this watch for a longer time you, of course, learn how to read the display. Remarkable is that the seconds are located next to the date, under the hours and minutes. This gives the watch the advantage to use bigger digits for the hour and minutes.
Remarkable are the 4 screw like ornaments on the bezel. The 3 gray ornaments are just cosmetic. The big black ornament has a special function. This thing is actually a LED. You can sync this LED to the Alarm tones. This means, that when an alarm sounds (except for when scrolling through the modes) the LED also lights up. You an compare it with the FLASH function, which can be found on other G-Shock models, but the FLASH function lights up the complete display, while on this model only the LED lights up.
The G-8000 runs on the G-8000 module. It has a World Time function, Stopwatch function, a Count Down Timer function and an Alarm function. The Worldtime function shows the time in 48 cities in 29 time zones. Like I have written before, you have to correct the DST manually. The Stopwatch function has the usual 24 hour capacity. The Countdown Timer function has also a 24 hour capacity. It has also an auto-repeat function and it has a Progression Beeper. At certain times during the countdown operation, the alarm sounds so you can follow the countdown operation. In the Alarm function 3 alarms can be programmed. The third alarm is a Snooze alarm. This Alarm repeats every 5 minutes for maximal 7 times.

When scrolling between the functions with the MODE button, you will notice that the watch plays a little animations before the next mode is opened. It takes about 1 second to change from one mode to the other. You don´t have to wait until the mode opens though. You can scroll as fast as you like between the modes.
Actually I think it is a pity that there were only were less than 20 G-8000 models. Casio did a good job in making a watch that broke with traditional shapes and still looked good. Probably the futuristic design isn’t for everybody, but I think this design was ahead of the square “flight instrument inspired” watches trend, which are still popular today. Also the normal display versions got a lot of positive response from owners, because the display was very clear to read.
Although this model already 5 years old, you still can find a few, with prices starting around $70.-/€50.-. If you like this retro look, it might be the watch for you. When I was in the waiting room at my physiotherapist, I saw a ladies magazine with big headlines: “The Seventies are Back!”. Well, I you look for a suitable watch, I have a matching watch for you!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

G-Shock #38: The Funky Jason.

For Isabelle.
In November 1994 Casio released the DW-001. It was the first of the so called Nexax (or in Japanese ネグザクス, pronounced as neguzakusu) models, which covered the DW-001, DW-002 and DW-003. In the USA these models were called the “Capsule” models. Although all these three models have a thick round bezel that completely covers the case, the DW-001 actually was never supposed to be released.
It was a coincidence that a prototype was lying on a desk in an office at Casio. That day a famous Japanese pop star visited the Casio office, probably for a collaboration model and saw this prototype. When he was told it was just a prototype which was not meant for production, the pop star was very enthusiast. He told Casio they should release this model, which they actually did.
Along the older G-Shock lines, the DW-001 became a somewhat forgotten model. Until last year still some people loved it very much and I consider me one of them, although I had no clue what I bought back in 2001 or 2002. I really bought my first Jason out of curiosity. It took until 2003 until I discovered that my yellow DW-001 was a real rare bird, even in Japan. It was then I learned its nickname, Jason. I must admit I have never seen a complete Jason movie. Recently I had recorded one of the “Friday 13th” movies, but I couldn’t look at it longer than an hour. It was clear why my tv-guide gave this movie only 2 out of 5 stars. It looked to me that the female actresses were selected for their silicon breasts while the murders were less important. I definitively do not qualify for the teenage public that is probably the main target for these movies. At least I saw the famous ice hockey mask of Jason Voorhees.
After a long time of rumors, Casio released the G-001, which is a re-issue of the DW-001. The looks are so much the same that nobody doubts when this model also is nick named Jason. Although the look is the same, the real reason of the strange look did not return on the new model. The reason why the DW-001 had this strange look was that under the display there was a thermo sensor. The DW-001 was like the DW-6100 a Thermometer model. It also displayed the length of the day and night and it could calculate the sunrise and sunset times at a desired date. This function did also not return on the G-001. No idea why, because I think it can be a useful feature. Because the thermo sensor is absent in the G-001, the holes under the display are closed and the rudimentary dots are pure cosmetic.
The yellow DW-001 was the only version of the old models that stood out. The new G-001 comes in basic and stealth black, but also in bright colors. The G-001 I feature today, full model number G-001-1BJF, has a bit of both worlds. Basically it’s black, but the use of bright magenta makes this watch stand out. Actually this color scheme was already used by a G-Shock Mini and a G-5500. I think this combination is pretty nice. It reminds me also a bit to “English Licorice”.
The beating heart of the G-001 (32,768 times per second) is the 3247 module. The Thermometer function and the Day/Night graph disappeared on this model, so there should be room for extra functions. The G-001 is a basic model, so we should expect basic features here. Still Casio did a good job on the newer basic G-Shock models. While in the ‘90’s you had an alarm function, a stopwatch and a countdown timer function on a basic model, where the countdown timer could be replaced by a (now useless) Telememo function or a second time (later replaced by world time), you now often find world time and a countdown timer and a s stopwatch on a basic model, while the single alarm function has been expended to a multi alarm function.
The G-001 is no exception. The World Time function can show the time in 48 cities in 29 time zones. I guess that’s sufficient for most parts of the world. Like I have written many times, you have to apply DST manually for the different time zones. Although it looks like a flaw from Casio, it is actually impossible to implement DST for a long time as the DST change dates might vary in the future, resulting in wrong World Time info on the watch.
The Stopwatch function of this model has the usual 24 hour capacity. The Stopwatch function als has an Auto Start feature. When the Auto Start is toggled on, a Count Down beeper will sound for 5 seconds before the actual Stopwatch function starts. I think this function can be used for athletes who want to time their own activities and need a short countdown for they actually start.
The Countdown Timer can be programmed up to 24 hours and has an Auto Repeat function that can be turned on or off. Also the Countdown Timer has a Progress Beeper. When toggled on, this beeper starts giving signals in the last 5 minutes of the countdown. First only one per minute, in the last minute at 30 seconds and the last 10 seconds before the target time is reached. If the Countdown timer is programmed for 6 minutes or longer, the Progress Beeper will also count down the last 10 seconds before the 5 minute mark is reached. The Countdown Timer can only be programmed in whole minutes, but I see no problem here. I have never read a recipe that says something like: “Boil your egg for 2 minutes and 43 seconds” (I’m so happy I found “Go Weird” by the Wibbley Brothers, there is a 3’00” song on it called “Music to boil an Egg”).
The alarm functions has three alarms, where the last alarm is a Snooze Alarm. Of course there is the hourly chime that can be toggled on and off too.
Extra functions on this watch are the Auto EL function and the Mute function. When Auto EL is toggled on (hold the upper right button for 3 seconds) the EL light turns on automatically when the watch is tilted for about 40 degrees horizontally. This is the same position you hold your arm while reading time from your watch. The Mute function can be toggled on and off by press and holding the MODE button (lower left) for about three seconds. When MUTE is toggles on, the MODE button will not sound while scrolling through the functions.
I bought this watch on my last day in Japan in December 2010 on the top floor of a giant mall in Machida, Tokyo. I paid a high price for it, as the retail price in Japan is 13000 yen (€115, US$165). Even with the "usual" 10% discount I got I paid around €105 ($150.-). If you look around on eBay you can still find this model for around €75 (US110). Still it was a nice experience buying this watch at this shop. Actually I first tried to buy on of the Shiro Nakamo G-Man figures, that were in the display. I tried everything to buy it from the seller. He kept very polite smiling at me, but the answer stayed no. I even offered 10000 yen. A nice gesture of the man was that I could take a photo of me and the G-Man and a photo of some G-Shock on display with Star Wars figures for my son Bram.
Me a the shop where I bought this Jason in a mall at Machida, Tokyo, Japan.
Overall, the watch has an unique look. When looking at it, the story about the prototype seems very plausible. I pretty much like the Jason models, but I can’t say they are beautiful. I rather say it’s beautiful because it’s ugly. It’s a kind of the Chihuahua of G-Shock. Not about its size of course, A Chihuahua does not deserve a beauty price, but yet, a lot of people like them. The watch wears pretty comfortable, thanks to the wrist rest that keep the watch in place, no matter what you do. The watch is very light (68 grams according Casio), so actually you hardly notice it on your wrist. The resin used for the straps feels relative soft, almost rubber like. The straps of my old DW-001 feels much stiffer. I do not know if this was originally so or if this is the result of it being 16 years old now. I’m happy Casio followed the advice of hat pop star in 1994. The Jason models are too much fun to be kept as a concept model and I hope that Casio will release more G-001 models in the future. If possible, I would love an Atomic GW-001 too.