Casio Atomic G-Shock

Classic shock-resistant timepiece

A favorite of cops, troops, construction workers, pilots, extreme sports people, and the just plain clumsy, G-Shock watches are tough, very tough. While I’ve destroyed common, everday watch after watch, the G-Shock I’ve worn the last three years is unkillable and always accurate. Mine has been dropped from fourth-story windows, juggled with, trodded on, thrown at walls, survived repeated falls from desks, used while mountain biking and wielding a Fubar, and moonlighted as a cat toy. (Of course, being experimented on by programmers was probably its worst ordeal!)

The ISO standard for a diving watch — typically costing a thousand dollars or more — is that it can take a one-meter fall onto a hard floor and still run, albeit with a loss of accuracy. The G-Shock can take a *ten-meter* fall and submersion in 200m of water without stopping or losing accuracy. Enthusiastic owners have frozen their watches in solid blocks of ice, dunked them in liquid nitrogen and boiling water, and passed them through the dryer.

The prices can range from $60 to $2000 (!), depending on each iteration’s bells and whistles (memo systems, countdown timers, tide predictors, etc.). All G’s are about equally tough. But all other G-Shocks pale in comparison to the solar “Atomic” aka “Waveceptor.” For $100, you can buy a model that never needs batteries, never needs maintenance, is much closer to being indestructible than the human body, and is always perfectly accurate because it’s re-set nightly from atomic clock transmissions. It will even automatically adjust for Daylight Saving Time. (Assuming you’re in range of a signal — most of the US is covered, I believe.) This is literally a watch you can wear for decades without worrying about winding, servicing, re-setting, immersion in dishwater, involvement in bar fights, motorcycle accidents, or non-fatal hang glider crashes..

Mine is a UK-only model — Casio are prone to this sort of hyper regionalization — but it’s almost the same as the one Tom Cruise wears in MI3 (though silver instead of black and set to the UK instead of US frequency). Casio changes models so fast that any model that has been worn for a few years will only be available used anyway. Nevertheless, the key internals and shock resist etc. stay the same, which is what matters. If I was buying a new G today I’d probably buy either the Casio GW9000A-1 or GWM5600-1, multi-band atomics that will get signals in the US and Europe. The first is a “Mudman” (pictured above) designed to resist button-gunking in muddy environments; the latter features a lighter and slimmer classic shape (pictured below)

G-Shocks don’t have the compass of the previously-reviewed Protrek, but they aren’t as bulky, they are much, much tougher and they’re also flight-approved for NASA space missions. Only a couple caveats: every G I’ve used has a lousy alarm beep, because of the sealed waterproof case. While there are G’s with hands, the lume is lousy. However, most or all G’s have an auto-illumination system that can be turned on to light the watch when it’s tilted towards your face.

-- Jonathan Coupe [also recommended by Brad Reese] 02/26/09

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