Casio’s G Shock is the new definition of a ‘hybrid’ smartwatch

Hands up if you want a smartwatch that’s water resistant, able to resist forces felt most often by fighter pilots, connects to a smartphone, and looks super-cool on the wrist? We’re confident it’s not just our arm waving about in the air right now. While all these aspects don’t often come together in a single device, watchmaker Casio may have the answer.

Casio recently opened a G Shock store in London’s famous Carnaby Street, and Digital Trends made the trek to meet with Alex Owen, trade marketing executive at Casio, to talk about the company’s future plans. Having already released Android Wear watches, Casio is putting more emphasis on hybrid smartwatches, and will launch the first smart, connected G Shock model in the coming months. What’s more, it turns out a G Shock is pretty packed with cool tech already.

“Casio has always been at the forefront of technology,” Owen said, explaining why it embraced Android Wear early on. “We made the world’s first touchscreen watch, the world’s first weather predicting watch, and the world’s first databank watches; so it’s very natural for Casio to progress into smartwatches. Android Wear gives us so many new opportunities.”

“Smartwatches don’t begin and end with Android Wear.”

Casio has two Android Wear smartwatches, the WSD-F10 and the WSD-F20, which are a part of its Pro-Trek range. However, smartwatches don’t begin and end with Android Wear.

“Smartwatches aren’t going to be for everybody,” Owen said. “There are limitations with battery life at the moment, which is something we’re working to improve; but still, not everyone wants to charge their watch every night.”

But it’s not just battery life that stops people buying Android Wear watches.

“Then there are the aesthetics,” Owen pointed out. “Many prefer a traditional looking watch, so an area we’re focusing on now is Casio Connected, which is a hybrid smartwatch. Our new watches that come out in the fall will be centered around this. They’re designed to bridge the gap between a traditional timepiece and a full-on Android Wear watch. The will have a Bluetooth connection, but without the battery life downsides. Instead, the watches will be solar powered, and will look like a traditional Casio watch.”

Casio Connected watches will self adjust their own time, and add features like a phone finder, multiple alarms, a world time mode, and more — all controlled by an app on the phone. Unfortunately, we shouldn’t expect fitness-tracking features, which are common on competing hybrids, such as those from the Fossil Group. While the beginnings of Casio’s smart technology has been seen in the Ediface range of watches, it’ll come to the G Shock range for the first time in 2017.

You may be familiar with the Casio’s G Shock watches due to their chunky, funky design and ability to withstand plenty of abuse due to impressive water and shock resistance. There’s also a surprising amount of cool technology inside these watches. Owen explained it to us.

“I always felt G shock was a little underrated when it comes to technology,” he said. “Everyone knows they’re tough watches, but few people get to appreciate the additional technology that goes into them.”

A Tough Movement G Shock will resist g forces up to 15G.

We’re not talking about the music-controlling G-Mix G Shock models here. It goes deeper than that. A great example is its Tough Movement tech, which is found in high-end G Shock watches, and combines features like solar charging and automatically updating time. The most recently introduced feature is centrifugal gravity resistance, which goes a step beyond the already comprehensive shock protection.

“If you hit a watch against something with enough force, the internal movement gets pressed very hard against the internal shock absorbers, which affects the shock absorption rate in the future. For Tough Movement watches, each individual part is coated in resin and secured with screws to stop it moving too far when this happens.”

This clever solution means a Tough Movement G Shock will resist g forces up to 15G. Yes, 15G.The world’s best jet fighter pilots will deal with a maximum of about 12G, meaning we’d be very unlucky to experience anything close to the watch’s limit in our lives.

Delve deeper into Casio’s technology and we come to a unique solution dealing with misaligned watch hands. This is where the hands don’t always point exactly to where they should – due to impact or magnetism — which is not only frustrating, but can cause inaccurate time readings.

G Shock Store Watch Display
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

“With Tough Movement, each cog in the movement has a series of holes that align with an LED light and a sensor. Every 60 minutes, it checks to make sure they all match up. If there are any discrepancies, it simply automatically realigns.

It’s a neat, no-bother alternative that’s way more reliable than a manual reset option, and makes sure the watch on your wrist is always as accurate as possible. Just remember, all this is squeezed into a wristwatch. Yes, a G Shock is hardly small, shy and retiring; but it’s still a pretty tight space for a lot of tech, and we’re not finished yet.

With a full solar charge, the watch could be hidden in a drawer for 22 and a half months, and still be working when you took it out.”

Solar charging is a major feature on Casio watches, and one which will be part of the new Casio Connected models too. You may assume it operates using the crystal over the face, but that wouldn’t fit in with Casio’s dedicated to toughness. On a Casio watch with solar charging, the photovoltaic cells are printed onto the watch face itself.

“There’s no point in putting a piece of glass in there that’s going to break,” Owen pointed out. “We have one of the best power reserves in the industry too, extending up to 23 months. With a full solar charge, the watch could be hidden in a drawer for 22 and a half months, and still be working when you took it out.”

For a single 24-hours day’s use, the little cell needs to see sunlight for just eight minutes, 30 minutes of sunlight through a window, or eight hours of indoor lighting. Incorporating solar power into its watches is an important step in the toughening process for Casio, because it removes the need for battery changes, which would disturb the delicate o-rings and other gaskets necessary for water proofing. Even the screws holding the watch together are important. They’re all tightened to a specific torque setting, ensuring the body meets shock proofing requirements, which is why sometimes the screw heads don’t all “match” across the body and point in the same direction.

Casio’s Connected G Shock hybrid smartwatches coming later this year will include the Tough Movement, meaning we can be sure it stays operational and in one piece, almost regardless of what we’re doing. Water resistance, high levels of durability, and long-lasting batteries are usually wish-list features on our gadgets, but Casio’s hybrid watches will tick all those boxes.

“Casio Connected is going to be our big thing for the end of the year,” Owen said.

Learning about the tech that’s already inside a G Shock, with the prospect of more to come, makes us excited for them too.

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