Sunday, December 23, 2012

G-Shock #50: Rising Red Frogman

It’s the last G-Shock article of 2012. The conclusion of 5 years writing G-Shock articles, so it should be a bit special. I hope you enjoy this write up about my Rising Red Frogman.
We are at the dawn of G-Shock’s 6th lustrum. Since 1993 Casio has made a tradition of bringing out lustra anniversary models (only 15th anniversary was skipped in 1998). Like in 2007, Casio started early with bringing out Anniversary models. In September 2012 Casio launched the Rising Red series and also 3 special 30th Anniversary collaboration models (Eric Haze, Clot and Burton) are released too. The Rising Red series looked like a gift to me. I have a weakness for red and yellow G-Shocks. Only the idea of a complete red series was already for me awesome.
The Rising Red models consist of 4 models. These are in ascending price order the DW-6930A-4JR, GW-M5630A-4JR, GW-9330A-4JR and the GF-8230A-4JR. Outside Japan the Mudman model is released as G-9330A-4, without the Multiband 6 feature. In the UK and US also the GWF-T1030A-1 shows up as a 30th Anniversary model. This black titanium Frogman with red straps and accents was not shown in the original Rising Red line-up (first photo on top of this article), but the name (model number also ending on an A) suggests it should be considered as one.
The GF-823A was featured first live at the Shock The World party in New York City on August 9, 2012. Eminem was wearing a Rising Red Frogman, which can be clearly seen on the many video's you can find on YouTube. Unfortunately the sound of most amateur recordings is, even at best, near horrible. Luckily I found this footage montage with studio music below.
Although officially the Frogman was only sold in Japan and the US, a few made it to the European market. Only 10 were sold in The Netherlands at carefully picked shops (as GF-8230A-4ER). As far as I know Casio Europe wants to distribute the Frogman in Europe too, but there seem to be trademark issues with the name “Frogman”. Maybe it’s time that Casio pulls the “Seaman” name out of the closet again.
You might think, what does the name “Rising Red” stand for. It is actually easier to answer than what one might expect. The color red refers to Japan, “the land of the rising sun”. Of course there are many associations with the color red, positive and negative. Red is the signal color for danger. Think about red traffic lights or the international STOP road sign. If you se someone wearing this watch, you might indeed actually stop, but not for danger (well, I’m not really dangerous), but just how good this watch looks. Red is also the color of blood, which colors your heart and therefore, the color of love. There is no coincidence that the lights in the red light district are red. The glossy finish make it even look better. This is a watch to be loved. And to me, it does. Already when I knew which models would be released in the (first) 30th Anniversary series, one of my goals was to get two of the DW-6930A-4’s and GF-8230A-4’s. I somehow have the habit to but two of a model. One to remain as new in the collection and one to wear. Not a big deal for the €129.- DW-6930A, but the Frogman was different. It was only possible to obtain one via my friend Katsu in Oita. When I had funds for a 2nd, prices were above €500 in Japan, but I luckily managed to get hold to one of the 10 sold in The Netherlands, which probably saved me a lot on tax (20%) and duties.
The Frogman model has evolved from DW-6300 in 1993, via the DW-8200, DW-9900, GW-200 into the GWF-1000 model in 2009. Casio released also a non-atomic GF-1000 model. Finally Casio released in 2010 the GF-8250.This model has the same shape as the DW-82XX models, but shares the GF-1000 module.
What a Frogman stands apart from all other G-Shocks is the 20 bar ISO rating for diver’s watches. This means every watch is tested individually if it applies to the ISO prescript standards. All Frogman cases were made from a solid metal (titanium or stainless steel) block. A very secure operation, which is only done in Japan. Because of these factors this means that the Frogman is quite an expensive G-Shock model. Only the GW-200 models were relative reasonable priced (started from $200 and ended around $300), the GFW-1000 models cost around ¥68000 and the GF-8250 started from Y38000.
The Rising Red GF-8230A-4 is a special version of the GF-8250 model, which is the last in the Frogman timeline, but is actually evolved from the stainless steel DW-8200 versions, known as the “Air Diver’s” DW-8250 models. I have no idea why Casio uses Stainless steel for these new “Diver’s”, but I do also not have a problem with it. I have the old DW-8250Y-9 Men In Yellow Frogman worn while swimming in our sea several times, but there is no sign of rust anywhere on the watch.
Let's compare some Frogman weights.
Original DW-8200 type with full titanium case
Original DW-8250 type, Stainless Steel
Tough Solar GF-8250,  DW-8250 re-issue model
GF-8230A, Stainless Steel with IP Coating.
Two basic G-Shock models for weight comparison. 
The heavy feel of the watch is for me also a plus. Maybe it is a reference to the old good mechanical watches, which are also heavy, because a lot of metal is used in the mechanism. The Rising Red Frogman, however, has a gold IP coated back. This is a sophisticated process where the surface metal is bombarded with ionized gold atoms in an almost absolute vacuum at very high temperatures. It results in a very strong bond. Where in classic methods (electrolysis) it was relative easy to wipe the gold off, it is now ion bond in the metal structure. The buttons and the case are black ion plated. Maybe a gold IP coated case would have looked too much with the gold tone display and screws in the bezel. It would probably not have been a price question, since IP coating process itself is an expensive treatment and the gold layer is actually only a few µm thick. 
The GF-8230A-4JF comes with the 3266 module. It has the same functions as the 3184 module, found in the GWF-1000 models, except for the atomic time reception. If this is a problem for you, is a personal question, but in my experience G-Shock modules, specially the newer ones (let’s say, produced in the last 5 years) are pretty accurate. Even if it’s on the edge of the tolerance, I think 15 seconds per month is acceptable, but usually my G-Shocks are between 5 and 10 seconds fast. My Frogman is an exception. I think it is about 10 seconds slow a month. [2]
So, what functions do we find on the 3266 module? The Frogman is made for diving, so there is a Dive Timer on board. This function is a bit hidden, but reveals itself when the mode button (lower left) is push and hold for about 2 seconds. It is started and stopped with the lower right button. To stop, you need to push and hold again, until a long beep is heard. An improvement on the GW-200 and earlier Frogman models is that the newer Frogman have a Dive Log, which stores up your last 10 dives. [3]
If you leave the Time Keeping mode with a normal push on the Mode button, you enter the Log Memory mode. You can view and scroll through the last 10 registered dive data (or as many stored), starting with the most recent log first.
When leaving the Log Memory, you enter the Tide/Moon Data mode. The Tidegraph was a long wish to be present on a Frogman. A lot of G-Shock models (specially G-Lide models) had a Tidegraph over the years, but only the GWF-1000 and GF-8250 models have one. Tide can be very important for divers and water sports. I live near the mouth of a river and you even small children are learned not to swim to far from the shore at falling tide. Specially with the sometimes 4 meters tide difference (spring tide). The Tidegraph can be easily programmed. All you need to know is the High Tide at the current date. When you push and hold the Adjust button, you can enter this time. The Tide Graph will now be synced with your local tides. The watch also shows the Moon Age. This is important to calculate the tide differences. At new moon and full moon the tide difference is at it’s highest (spring tide), while during the in between quarters the difference is at it smallest (neap tide). You can view the Moon Phase in the circle above the Tidegraph (representing the moon). It is possible to view the Moon Phase in both Northern as Southern view. You can change this also in the adjust screen of the Tidegrapgh. Here, at the Northern Hemisphere you see the moon in the South (Southern view).
GF-8230A Tests screens: push the ADJUST, MODE and FORWARD button all together and scroll with the FORWARD button, until a normal screen appears again.
Well, above mentioned functions are probably the Modes that differ much from other G-Shocks. The further functions can be found on much modern G-Shocks too. These are a 48 city and 31 time zone World Time mode, an Alarm Mode with 4 normal Alarms, a Snooze Alarm and a Hourly Time Signal, a 24 hour Stopwatch mode and a 24 hour Countdown Timer mode.
The solar energy is stored into a rechargeable battery (highly probable the Panasonic CTL1616) which can store up enough energy to keep the watch running for up to 10 months in Power Save mode. The Power Save mode disables the display if the watch is not moved for about an hour in the dark (“Sleep Mode”). After about a week in the dark without movement also the alarms will be disabled.
The duration of the illumination can be adjusted from 1.5 seconds (LT1) to 3 seconds (LT3). This Frogman has a Full Auto Illuminator on board. This means that besides manual operating of the light button, you can operate the backlight (when the function is turned on) by a simple twist of your wrist. If it’s dark enough, the EL backlight will turn on. If there is sufficient light to read the display, it does not light up. This function was first introduced on the Raysman in 1998. I still think this is a pretty cool function. In the past I had made friends nuts by saying that the watch registered that you look at it and then turns on. Of course the Full Auto Illuminator can drain a lot of energy if it is left on for a long time. On the other hand, the battery will be charged again when there is enough light. It does not only charge in sunlight or daylight, but also under artificial light, such as at the office or in the evening at home. The solar panels are nowadays that good that only a little light is enough to charge the watch.
The GF-8230A-4JF was made as a pretty limited run. I am not sure how many were made, but it seems that there were only 3000 available world wide. This is not a very limited number, but sources will run dry faster, than with the GF-8250-9JF and the GF-8250ER-2JF. The first one was produced for over a year, while the production of the GF-8250ER has been stopped only recently. The price of this model varied quite with the region it was sold. In Japan the retail price was ¥47000, which is about €470-.-, which meant that if you looked good, you could buy it for around €430.-. I had my first for a good price for just under €400.-. I was not that lucky on a second one. The stock had dried out in Japan quite fast and it was hardly possible to find one under €500 in Japan. Luckily 10 of these were sold in the Netherlands, and I was able to get one of them. You might think that I should have wait for the US release ($ 500), but with expensive shipping and possible tax, it was easier and also a lot faster to get one from my own country. Of course it is also good to support your local economy if possible. The second Frogman I bought half October, came from Unknown, a sneaker store in Alkmaar (a city about 40 km north from Amsterdam), who also have a website called “I Love Sneakerz”. Meanwhile this Frogman is also released in the US at the beginning of November, with a retail price of $500.-. If you really want this watch and look around good, you can still find it for around retail price or maybe even lower.
I can't recommend leaving the Auto-Illumaination permanent on in wintertime. I had worn this watch for weeks with this function on and also wore it at night. After the EL photo session, the display went blank. First I thought it was the Power Save mode, but then I saw CHG flashing. I have to admit I was so much enjoying taking EL pics with my new 100 mm Macro lens, I must have pushed the light button about 20 - 30 times in about 10 minutes. I guess the battery didn't like that. Meanwhile the battery is back in strength after sunbathing in the pale winter sun for a few days. 
I pretty much love my Frog. I have put my Japanese frog in my box for the daily rotation watches and it has already been on my wrist a lot of times. It is a nice alternation with my yellow and white watches. As this is quiet an expensive model, I was already intend to buy two, one to wear and one for the collection. I would like to thank my friend Katsu Higuchi-san for getting the first GF-8230A Frogman and also Darnell of Unknown for helping me out for the second. Also a big shout to the person getting me on track for the Dutch Frogman, who likes to remain anonymous. Without you I might had missed that Dutch release. Thanks guys for being my friend and helping me out!