Casio G Shock’s Mr Ibe Interviewed

Casio G Shock Kikuo Ibe interview

Casio G Shock Inventor Kikuo Ibe

Kikuo Ibe is one of Japan’s foremost inventors and also the creator of the renowned Casio G Shock series. The Casio G Shock, the cult classic watch celebrated its 35th anniversary this year. Casio G Shock watches are a combination of both digital and analogue technology. They’re encased in a mammoth rubber exterior. This not only protects the movement from destruction, but also gives the watch collection its distinctive identity. Adopted by hipsters, artists and musicians, G Shocks are still as popular today as when they were invented.

I met Kikuo Ibe, inventor of the G Shock in Japan. Ibe describes himself as more of an inventor than a watchmaker. He came up with the design after trying to solve a practical problem he himself had encountered. Watches tend to break when they’re dropped. Bounding into the room to meet me, Kikuo Ibe is a ball of energy, a firecracker. He’s small with black-rimmed round glasses and wiry hair. Ibe’s the human equivalent of a  lightning ball. He may indeed be small, but he’s a giant in the world of watchmaking. Particularly for Casio, where the Casio G shock accounts for something like 30% of their entire turnover. “I had an idea to make a watch that was indestructible,” he tells me. “My father had given me a watch, a precious heirloom and one day I dropped it and it smashed into many pieces. I was devastated”, he recalled. “That was the point at which I decided to create a watch that was absolutely indestructible.”

Mr Ibe began his invention in quite an unusual way. Most watchmakers start from the movement and work up. Ibe started in reverse with the case and worked backwards. Working on the premise that his watch mechanisms would be protected if they were protected by a rubber, he wrapped a watch in rubber bands and dropped it from the top of the office building. He expected his invention to survive. And this was the starting point for what would eventually become the Casio G Shock.

Ibe realised that the watch had to have a rubber baseplate and the movement and dial encased in a plastic moulding. This had the dual advantages of giving the watch firstly an identity. Secondly being able to produce it in an array of different colours. Instead of being just a watch brand, Casio’s hulking new watches became fashion icons too. Casio G Shock then allied itself to the three central pillars in its marketing campaigns, fashion art and music. As well as of course, toughness.

casio G Shock Kikuo Ibe Interview 

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PHOTOGRAPHY: Tom Hartford

WORDS: Ian Thorley

STYLING: Georgina Hodson

PRODUCTION: Sofia Sallons

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