The 'CasiOak' has taken the internet by storm recently. But why does everyone think it's a G-Shock?
Despite global troubles, the last 12 months was a good one for the watch community as there were plenty of new models to look at even if launches were online affairs rather than mass gatherings. There were lots of high-end watches for us to aspire to - take for example the latest release Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Diver range starting at a not insubstantial £20,000.
However, at the opposite end of the scale, there was a sub-£100 release which caught all of us off guard and became one of the unexpected stand-out hits of last year. The Casio G-Shock GA-2100 Octagon Series and its derivatives – colloquially known as the CasiOaks. This watch represents a total re-imagining of the G-Shock brand taking it into fundamentally different, and controversial, design areas. Already the series has become so popular that certain variants have sold out.
The Casio G-Shock GA 2100 'CasiOak'
If you are not familiar with the CasiOak series pause and look it up now as before we examine the technical details, we must address the elephant in the room. The new Casio bears more than a passing resemblance to an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak. The latter being a high-end piece of horological craftsmanship which, since its launch in 1973, is considered to be one of the finest original waterproof diving watches; or to use AP’s marvellous vintage term “fluid-tight”. A unique and defining design, the most striking element of the watch was, and still is, its octagonal bezel which is based on the outer hatch of an old-style diving helmet.
The Casio GA-2100 series has the same 8-sided bezel design, and it is no surprise that significant parallels have been drawn between the external appearance of the two watches. But let us be clear, this is where that comparison ends. Indeed, Casio distance themselves from the link and would have us believe that no such parallel design was intended and the octagonal bezel on the new watch is nothing more than an inherited homage to their classic original DW-5000C; which to many defines the G-Shock. Compare the new and vintage Casio models and you can clearly see the family trait, nevertheless the moniker of “CasiOak” has stuck and the GA-2100 will forever be known as such.
The nickname derives from Scottish Watches and Steven Davila.
WatchGecko had two of the new Casios on test. The 45mm GA-2100-1A1ER “Stealth” model has been designed to present a full blackout dial picture and the slightly smaller 43mm GMA-S2100-1AER which is also predominantly black but with polished rose gold indices and hands.
If you are a seasoned G-Shock wearer then these watches will surprise you. They are noticeably slim and light-generating the immediate question of whether they can maintain the shock-resistant characteristics synonymous with the brand. The 45mm GA is 11.8mm high and the smaller GMA is a mere 11.2mm high. The watches weigh 51g and 41g, respectively. In practical terms, this means that you really do not know you have them on.
The lack of weight and mass can be attributed to the use of Casio’s propriety Carbon Core Guard which surrounds the movement and claims to offer full protection. The watches have been designed to allow the carbon composite shell to be visible and this really adds to the ultra-modern look. The dials share a common design and are uncomplicated with the lower right quarter given over to a digital timekeeping unit and the area around the nine-hour showing the day via a pointer. The analogue hands on both models are large and lume coated.
If you have owned a G-Shock or Casio AQ Tough Solar analogue/digital watch then the new 5611 Module hand operation will be intuitive and familiar. Select the traditional ADJ setting on the digital screen, adjust the time to the chosen value and the hands automatically match the inverted LCD display.
Both models have the expected Casio digital functions such as stopwatch, world time (dual-zone), countdown, multiple alarms and an automatic calendar which is pre-programmed so far into the future that you will never need to make a manual adjustment.
As the digital unit is offset in the lower right quadrant Casio have devised a very clever way of viewing it if the hands are covering the screen. A specific button operation moves the hands away to the 10:55hrs position allowing you to manipulate the digital screen with complete clarity. Once your chosen task is complete, say setting an alarm, you can then instantly return the hands to the correct time with the touch of a button. Under normal operations, Casio claims the battery will have a 3-year life.
The whole dial is protected by a mineral crystal which has no obvious AR coating and probably will scratch in time but still affords 200m of water resistance.
So, all in all, these new watches seem to be competent G-Shocks which Casio have miraculously reduced in size, weight and mass to be more user friendly and fashionable. Perfect? Maybe not…
The CasiOak Isn’t A Real G-Shock
As a seasoned G-Shock user who has worn them in the harshest environments on the Earth, I genuinely appreciate what Casio achieved back in 1983 when the first model rolled off the production line. The creation of the G allowed me to wear a watch where other models would have curled up and surrendered. They remain a source of wonder to me, and I will always have an insatiable appetite to collect them.
I fully appreciate that G-Shocks have become trendy and are as commonplace now in a wine bar as the Gobi Desert, but when the brand name appears on a bezel, I fundamentally believe you should still have a reasonable expectation that the watch will technically perform.
And here we discover a major glitch - these new watches do not appear to meet that technical expectation.
Most new G’s only come with a superficial, cheaply printed, manual in the box and you are expected to download the full operational handbook. When you download the module 5611 manual it has an additional page telling you what the new CasiOak GA and GMAs cannot do. For example, they are likely to fail if they are exposed to electrostatic charge, magnetism, heat, cold and…. impacts. I paraphrase from the manual:
Your watch is designed to withstand impact occurred during normal daily use and during light activity such as playing catch (!!)…. Dropping your watch can lead to malfunction.
There then follows a disclaimer that nowhere on these watches does the famous Shock-Resist shield appear and hence they and cannot be treated as G-Shocks. The only conclusion is that these new watches are G-Shocks in name only.
Do not misunderstand me, I can see how this range makes complete commercial sense to Casio. They have a hugely successful brand and why not expand it, perhaps to cover other equipment such as backpacks or sunglasses. This I would wholly support (and probably buy), but if the name G-Shock appears on a watch, I genuinely feel it should be able to do what a G-Shock does.
I believe Casio have made an error here and sadly diluted the brand. However, sales of the GA and GMA are high, so this clearly proves that even if the whole ethos of the brand is technically missing it does not make a dent in popularity.
Final thoughts on the CasiOak
As a genuine G-Shock enthusiast and purist I really struggle to like the CasiOaks. For me, they are nothing more than a water-resistant digital watch that has appropriated an iconic brand name but fails to deliver on many of the expected technical characteristics. To compound my angst, the Blackout “Stealth” model is aimed at the military “fashion” market and has no practical value. It is almost illegible and flies in the face of everything that a genuine Special Operations watch is designed to do.
Supreme legibility is a Spec Ops governing criteria and the blackout model offers zero legibility.
I was excited to review two new G-Shocks and have left the process feeling rather let down by Casio. Had they rebranded the GA and GMA models as the G-Shock-X or some other alternate name I would have been fine, accepting them as G’s in name only.
However, fully labelling them as G-Shocks is misleading. This experience has left me in a position to offer only one piece of advice. If you genuinely need a G-Shock, with all its legendary technical attributes, then stay clear of the new CasiOak range.
If it is more important to flash the brand name in a smaller, lighter package then the CasiOaks may be just the watch for you.
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