Tuesday January 10, 2017
Growing up, I was a huge science fiction fan, and one of the things I used to wonder about in my spare time was what you would want to have with you if you invented a time machine, got into the time machine, managed to travel back in time to the age of the dinosaurs (everyone nowadays talks about the Jurassic period but I’ve always been a Cretaceous period fan. More charismatic apex predators; T. rex, Krososaurus, Utahraptor…) and get stuck there. You’d try and fix your time machine, sure, but that could take a while and in the meantime, you’d want stuff capable of working in isolation from anything remotely resembling civilization. One of the reasons I got interested in mechanical watches (right in the middle of the Quartz Crisis) was that I loved the idea of not having a watch dependent on batteries.
In the fullness of time, however, solar powered quartz watches came along, and among them were, and are, solar powered G-Shocks, which are pretty strong contenders for the crown of Ultimate Time Traveler’s watch (depending on how long you think you’d be trapped in a time When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth). The Master of G Frogman GWF-D1000B is the latest in Casio’s line of Frogman G-Shocks, which were first released in 1993 as one of the first watches in the Master of G family. Master of G is made up of G-Shocks designed for specific professional environments – the first was the 1985 DW-5500C, which was the first Mudman. The Master of G watches generally follow a “-man” naming convention – Gaussman (antimagnetic) for instance – although there are numerous exceptions.
The Frogman GWF-D1000B is designed for use by scuba divers, and it combines several core G-Shock and Casio technologies in one watch. It’s a triple sensor watch; with a depth gauge, thermometer, and compass; it’s also a six-band radio-controlled watch and of course, you have Casio’s G-Shock case construction, which makes the watch extremely shock resistant. The Frogman is also, of course, 200m water-resistant.
The scuba-specific functions include the depth gauge, as well as the ability to track depth, record dive time and water temperature, and log data for up to 20 dives. It’s not intended as a substitute for a modern electronic dive computer but it’s certainly about as solid a backup as you could want. When you read about depth gauge watches – either mechanical or quartz – you often read this, by the way (that they’re not a substitute for a dive computer) and the reason is because dive computers do quite a lot that wristwatches don’t. Most importantly, a dive computer calculates, based on things like dive time, descent time, water pressure, water temperature, air in your tank, and so on, when and whether you need to make decompression stops (a dive computer, for instance, can tell you if you are getting close to the time and depth limit for no decompression “on the fly” which is something a watch can’t do).
That said, this is certainly a very sturdy back up watch, and it’s not just the depth rating that makes it useful during a dive. The buttons are very large, to make them easier to operate with gloves on; the backlight can be set to activate in low light when the watch is brought into a vertical position; and the compass is capable of giving you a good bearing even if it’s not in a flat position. If you are diving without a dive computer, you could probably use this as your primary dive instrument in combination with dive tables, and get away with it, although Casio specifically recommends you don’t do this. There is also an ascent rate alarm, which will go off automatically if you break the diver’s rule-of-thumb of not ascending faster than 10 meters per minute to avoid decompression sickness. This alarm, as an essential safety feature, can’t be disabled.
Case and strap construction are extremely sturdy and while I guess it’s possible that in the line of duty, you might do something to the watch to kill it, I’ve always had the impression of G-Shocks that the owner is likely to expire before the watch and the GWF-D1000B does nothing to alter that impression. This is one of the very few production G-Shocks to have a full stainless steel inner container for the timing module (module 3445, if you’re curious) as well as a screwed-in caseback; both have a DLC (diamond like carbon) coating and for better scratch resistance, the crystal topside is sapphire. Everything that could be harmed by impact is pretty much shielded; the (very big) mode and adjust buttons on the left sit inside deeply recessed rubber guards and the compass and light buttons on the right are protected by the large bumper around the depth gauge and the general configuration of the strap.
I had a lot of fun wearing this watch for a week. Of course, it’s a Master of G so don’t kid yourself, it’s yyyyuuuuuugge at 59.2 x 53.3 x 18.0 mm, and I hate to trot out that cliché “surprisingly wearable” but what the hell, it’s surprisingly wearable. It’s a bit of a shock having a near 60mm watch on your wrist for the first day or so, but I found myself warming up to it pretty fast. Despite the bulk, it’s not actually all that heavy (weight is 141 grams, or exactly one gram less than our reference watch, the Seiko SKX007) so it feels less big than it looks.
The moonphase and tide indications are going to seem a little abstract if you live inland but I live in New York and ever since Superstorm Sandy, I’ve been a lot more aware of the tides than I used to be so I enjoyed having a tide indicator. Obviously this’d be a great watch for surfers as well (especially if they’re recreational scuba divers). By the way a common failure point for watches worn in the water or in big surf is the strap or bracelet; you probably don’t have to worry about that with the Frogman, though. The strap is attached to the case with four quarter-inch Allen screws (I am not kidding) and the strap itself is two layers of fused neoprene over a strip of carbon fiber, so you probably don’t have to worry about it actually breaking on you.
Okay, so is this the ultimate time traveller’s watch? Well, the battery can’t die on you because there isn’t one (solar power FTW) and while quartz timing packages and integrated circuits can and do fail, they’re largely most vulnerable when there’s a greater risk of moisture intrusion and this is a pretty well-sealed watch, so the humidity of a Cretaceous jungle shouldn’t be a problem. It’s highly impact resistant (obviously) and the sapphire and DLC coatings, plus the anodized aluminum, would give the watch an excellent chance, if a T. rex does chow down on you, of making it out the cloaca intact even if you don’t, so maybe its fossil (embedded in a coprolite, no doubt) would be discovered in centuries to come, to clue your friends and fam into what happened to you.
The radio time sync would be of little use, but accuracy could be maintained by using the calendar and a homemade sundial to estimate mean solar noon and you could always re-set by that (accuracy would indeed eventually drift so far off as to be noticeable).
It’s tough, it’s useful, it’s bold as hell. So what’s not to like? Well, the catch here is that it’s at a price that takes a little getting used to if you think of a G-Shock as a tough but cheap $40 watch; Frogman GWF-D1000 is $1,050 (available at Macy’s in New York, and also at G-Shock stores). On the other hand it’s definitely not a straight apples to apples comparison with the base-model G-Shock; the case and strap are far stronger and more complex; the triple sensor tech comes with a premium over the base model; you have a full stainless steel, DLC coated inner case, and so on. It’s a fair price for what you get (as G-Shocks are) and if you want a commanding presence on the wrist, look no further. See you in the Cretaceous.
The Frogman GWF-D1000: case, 59.2 x 53.3 x 18.0 mm. Movement, module 3445 “tough solar,” 6-band radio controlled quartz with daily auto-calibration. Time, perpetual calendar date, chronograph, dive time and depth log for up to 20 dives with rapid ascent alarm; depth gauge accurate to 10 centimeters. Digital compass; thermometer; moon and tide graphs; countdown timer; 5 daily alarms. Visit G-Shock online here; and read our in-depth interview with G-Shock inventor Kikuo Ibe too.