Reviewed today is the Casio G-Shock GS-1200-1AJF. We’ve done a fair number of G-Shock reviews here on WatchReport, but this one might be the most unusual to date. To give you an idea why, here’s the specifications for the GS-1200:
- New tough movement calibre 5046 assembled on a new factory line just for this line. (More on this below.)
- Solar powered with six-month power reserve.
- Radio-set, six bands (US, UK, Germany, Japan x2, China).
- Hour, minute, second, date (with a neat matching red date wheel as shown).
- Settable timezone in 1-hour increments (if you need fractional you have to disable automatic time setting).
- Stainless steel case with screwed caseback.
- Resin strap.
- 200m (660ft) water resistant.
- Luminous material applied to hands and hour markers.
- 46mm by 14.1mm, 87g weight.
…and that’s pretty much it. No backlight, alarm, stopwatch, countdown timer, depth gauge, compass, etc, etc. Just time. But it does time really well. Keep reading to find out why.
There are a number of unusual things on that list. Stainless steel cases are almost unknown in the G-Shock line, as are time-only watches. Despite that, I think that this is my favorite G-Shock to date, and a watch worth considering yourself. Read on and see if you agree, and feel free to let us know what you think in the forums.
Let’s start with the movement. Casio has been relentlessly improving the internals of their watches for years, and every now and then, they add a big improvement. This new tough movement is, I think, one of those times. What it does isn’t visible; they simply added the ability for the watch to detect when the hands had been knocked out of alignment so that they can be automatically corrected. Why this is useful requires a bit of explanation.
Typically, computer-controlled analog watches have one or more stepper motors driven by a microcontroller. The chip simply sends out pulses periodically, and relies on the motors to function properly. The CPU has no way to detect the hand position which is why analog quartz watches have a reset or ‘align hands’ function for when you change the battery. The other time misalignment can occur is in the case of massive impact, where you literally cause the motor to rotate or gears to skip. Despite some high-impact sports, I’ve never managed this, but apparently it happens and Casio designed a fix. If these hands get jarred, the next time five minutes before the hour rolls around, it’ll silently notice and fix it. No fuss, no intervention, just the sort of diligent engineering that I appreciate and admire from Casio.
Internals aside, the GS-1200 is an unusual watch in appearance as well. The stainless steel case is a mixture of brushed and polished finishes, with integrated plastic guards, polished square buttons and a robust screwed caseback. The resin strap is typical G-Shock, meaning functional and comfortable, with probably-decorative screws at the head end of the straps.
A closer inspection of the dial is rewarded with an appreciation of the subtle appeal of this watch. The hour and minute hands are polished down the center and frosted on the edges, and thus easy to read quickly. The second hand is two-tone white and red, matching the red highlights on the dial and standout white-on-red date indicator in its trapezoidal window. An even closer look shows the sectored texturing of the dial, only visible at the right angle and close up. The required indicator markings on the chapter ring for yes/no/ready/working are unobtrusive as well. At night, the luminous material on the hands and hour markers lights up well, and is visible for several hours. Overall, it’s a very handsome dial, and quite finely detailed — the nicest I’ve yet seen on a G-Shock.
I was a bit surprised at the lack of a backlight, though the luminosity is the best yet seen on a G-Shock.
So why do I like this model so much? Overall, I have to say that I think they really got the look and the details right on this one. Stripping out the usual companion functions makes for an ultra-reliable watch that’s finely focused on telling time. It’s not fancy looking, you’ll pay more than it appears, but in return you get a watch that will absorb years of abuse and keep perfect time with zero maintenance and excellent legibility.
List price is 40,000JPY, or about $434 US as of December 2008.
By Paul Hubbard