REVIEW: Casio G-SHOCK GPW-1000 GPS Atomic Solar Hybrid [TOP 15 of 2015]
The following article, originally published on March 19, was AkihabaraNews' 2nd most popular of 2015. It also happens to be the world's #1 most popular article on the CASIO GPW-1000. Go ahead, Google it. We dare you! ...though we have no idea why antagonism is our policy on that point. Anywho - enjoy! [Check out the full Top 15 of 2015 list here.]
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Our Worthiness is Questionable.
Given AkihabaraNews’ ambient levels of editorial dorkiness, it’s uncommon to find a piece of consumer tech we can’t push to its limits. We’ve got a hardcore camera geek in Senior Contributor Nayalan Moodley, an executive-level PC buildup & teardown guy in Ike Leus, and in one review we even very scientifically zapped beer with way-too-powerful lasers.
But with the CASIO G-SHOCK GPW-1000 series…well, let’s just say that very few of us tech nerds will ever find ourselves marooned in Antarctica with a desperate need to figure out what the relative time was when the rescue ship departed from Buenos Aires. So, the tables are turned: in this review, it was kinda the tech that pushed us.
CASIO G-SHOCK GPW-1000 Series
World’s First GPS Atomic Solar Hybrid Time Calibration System
When it was released on June 25th of 2014, the GPW-1000 series set itself apart by incorporating two supertech means of automatically setting the time: 1. CASIO’s Multi Band 6 system receives atomic-clock-based time calibration radio signals broadcast around the world, and 2. it has a built-in GPS receiver that correlates location with internally stored map data to instantly set the time with a push of a button.
So, no matter where you find yourself on planet Earth, if you’re reachable by terrestrial radio waves or GPS signals from space, the watch will be accurate within about 15 nanoseconds or less. And sure, you can pop out the electronic crown with a twist and pull and set the time manually, or just like, you know, pretty much never do that again.
As a Watch:
In addition to the time calibration sexiness, a more pedestrian yet still welcome feature list includes a 27-city world time guide printed on the DLC-coated bezel, photoluminescent hour markers, solar-charged battery, LED illumination, and secondary dials for dual-time, approximate latitude, seconds, stopwatch, countdown timer, alarm, and calendar.
The face is scratch-resistant sapphire crystal, and the case is stainless steel surrounded by soft to the touch yet basically everything-resistant resin. A subtly embedded strip of carbon fiber reinforces the band, and, as a G-SHOCK watch, it is of course resistant to shock, vibration, and damage from pulling madd Gs in a fighter jet. Even if your fighter jet is up to 200m underwater.
Our test model was the GPW-1000-1A, sometimes called the Sky Cockpit because...Japanese marketing (video at the bottom for more J-marketing). It’s also called the GRAVITYMASTER GPW-1000-1A in the U.S. and Middle East, and GPW-1000-1AER in Europe.
Whatever the name, the watch is unmistakably G-SHOCK, and unmistakably this watch:
Full Gallery Below
While the watch is physically beefy, it never felt overly obstructive. We expected as much, but didn’t really find ourselves locked out of deep pockets or knocking it on doorjambs or refrigerator shelves or other places where hands should smoothly slide to and fro. That being said, however, the size means it eventually will get whacked on something, but when it does, it’s nice to know that it’s probably not the watch but the something that needs to worry.
As rubbery watch bands go, another pleasant surprise was the GPW-1000’s relatively low rating on the icky/sweaty/funky meter. It attaches to the lugs (the bracket hinge thingys on the top and bottom of the face) in a way that minimizes large portions of the band coming in direct, continuous contact with one’s skin, which helps. The recessed groove down the middle of the carbon-fiber-laced straps (hidden in normal light, visible in the overexposures below) also gave it an airy feel.
At only 126 grams, weight-wise the watch is generally comfortable to wear. Given the size, however, it does take more than a few practice runs to be able to muscle-memory it into place on your wrist. You might drop it a few times...but again, no worries there.
Once you get the hang of slipping it on and going about life, know that people will notice it. Often. A timepiece like this might be par for the course when one’s out having adventures in the wilderness and such, but in everyday life it definitely pops. It’s not cartoony like some G-SHOCK products, nor is it garish or blingy, it’s just...obvious.
To that last point and to size in general, being aesthetically comfortable with the GPW-1000s requires that you’re either a large mammal or someone comfortable with seemingly oversized wristwatches. One of our editors, a man of about 5’ 9” and 145 lbs. (175cm, 63kg), found it too big and a little loud for everyday use. Another, a chubbeh writer just under 6’ and about 210 lbs. (180cm, 95kg), found it just right. Best to actually put one on in person before adding to cart online.
Full Gallery Below; Pictured Here: Arm of large chubbeh mammal comparing the GPW-1000-1A to his badass CASIO DATA BANK replica
As you the reader might imagine, there’s only so far we the editors could go to test this watch. Japan only has one time zone and our review budget doesn’t allow for overseas travel, so running around Tokyo had to do. To test the auto-time-setting capabilities, we approximated real-world, just-landed-in-London situations by manually randomizing the time, taking the subway somewhere, strolling up to the surface, pushing the auto-set/GPS button, and voilà: the hands automatically swung back around to JST and everything worked as advertised. With the radio receiver and Sony-made GPS LSI chip inside, we’re confident that the same will happen anywhere else on the planet.
When it comes to the most common use, simply reading the time, the watch presents reasonable contrasts amongst the various dials and markers, and a glance is all it takes. Others have criticized them, but we actually appreciated the somewhat wider than normal main hands for said at-a-glance time checking (they can occasionally obscure the smaller dials, but tilting the watch slightly allows you to see under).
Out of the box, you only need a single GPS button push to get the current accurate time, but diving into the rest of the features will probably require the manual, particularly if you’re new to the CASIO/G-SHOCK watch ecosystem. In running through the various options and settings, we found the buttons easy to push yet firm enough to limit accidental activation, and the digital crown, which locks into place and remains inert when not being used, is well designed and integrated into the larger feature set. Here’s GPW-1000 series' user manual, if you like.
Tokyo is not only the largest but also the safest city on the planet, and as such we faced very little hardship during our trials. We probably should have sought out more adventure, because when we mentioned to CASIO how careful we’d been, that we neither tossed their brand-new $1000.00 flagship watch out the window of a moving car or 10-story building nor dove past 200 meters to test water resistance nor did we centrifuge it past 5Gs, they were kinda like “Why not?” Okay, a point duly noted for next time, CASIO! Just kidding. Maybe.
But anyway, we definitely feel like we could have been pretty harsh with little consequence. The classic G-SHOCK protections are well regarded, and there’s zero doubt that this burly pinnacle of G-SHOCKiness holds the line.
Regarding power source durability, battery life is of minimal to no concern with this watch. CASIO’s Tough Solar charging system functions well even in low light, and the battery will last for a full 7 months without any light at all, which may not seem like a lot for a normal watch, but normal watches aren’t equipped with power-hungry radio and GPS receivers. Unless you’re an incorrigible shut-in or prone to epic, year-long spelunking expeditions, you can basically never think about the battery.
Complete GPW-1000 Lineup. The two on the far-right are special editions with a $100 price bump. CASIO added two more to the line just yesterday.
Summation and Overallability:
“Dress for What You Want, Not What You Have.”
It applies here. Some quite likely are, but most who'll purchase a GPW-1000 are not globe-trotting thrill seekers or pilots or secret agents, and that is 100% fine. For those who so aspire, realistically or not, this watch will make you happy in day to day use and, in all likelihood, do exactly what it’s supposed to do for a long, long time. And hey, if you’re a buttoned down M-F office drone but have some cash to burn on a weekend warrior timepiece, this could also be your ride.
Remember a Few Things:
It’s a big watch, but it wears smaller than it looks. It stands out, but models with less-sporty colorways do offer a bit more subtlety and professionalism. Also bear in mind that the GPS feature is primarily for time-telling, and aside from approximate latitude and nearby major city, the watch doesn’t tell you where you are located.
It’s Supposed to be Anything but Subtle
Whether we’re talking the Gundam Limited Edition, the GBA-400 music controller, the blinged-out GAs, GWs, and GDs, or even the feminized Baby-Gs, “sleek” and “understated” have never been part of the G-SHOCK design paradigm - this line has always been intentionally chunky and bold. Even by that standard, the GPW-1000s are hulks, but they’re attractive hulks that can both take their knocks in the field and keep their composure in civilized discourse.
Addendum on Meeting the Guy Who Invented G-SHOCK!
The burly, tech-stuffed GPW-1000s are now the crown jewel of the line, but the whole idea started in 1983 with a CASIO engineer named Kikuo Ibe. He wanted to build something tough, maybe unbreakable, a watch impervious to SHOCKS from G(ravity). Thirty-one years later, we met Mr. Ibe at the Tokyo GPW-1000 launch event, and he gave off the exact energy you would expect from a guy who came up with something as fun as the G-SHOCK line.
G-SHOCK inventor Kikuo Ibe kindly poses with Editor Reno at last year’s GPW-1000 launch event. Apologies for the low-light iPhone shot.