The G-Shock: The Official Watch of the GWOT

When we talk tactical, we often discuss guns, lights, optics, modes of dress, and things like plate carriers and tactical rigs. One thing we never talk about is watches. They just don’t seem to be nearly as cool as the Crye pants and the latest Whizbang for the AR-15. However, the wristwatch for men was born of tactical necessity. In World War 1, the average man was carrying a pocket watch. It turns out that pulling out a watch while being shelled, facing gas, or being shot at is tough. These men needed to know the time to coordinate attacks, and if a troop was as much as 30 seconds late, the entire attack could fail.

Therefore the wristwatch suddenly became popular, and ever since then, the wristwatch has been a necessary part of military kit. They are a must-have even in the modern face of war. As you’d imagine, watches are like any mechanical or digital device. They can be fragile. The demands of the modern soldier, Marine, sailor, and airman are demanding, and they need a tough-as-nails watch. That watch for most service members is the G-Shock.

The G-Shock watch has become well-known amongst military members. Its name is commonly associated with the Global War on Terror. The war spanned decades, and the G-Shock proved itself over and over. It became so common it might as well be the official watch of the GWOT.

The Origins of G-Shock

The G-Shock has its own charming little story. G-Shock is a brand that falls under the umbrella of the Casio company. The G in G-Shock stands for Gravitational Shock, meaning it can take falls. The creator, Kikuo Ibe, was inspired after he bumped into a stranger, and the watch his father gave him fell off his wrist and broke to pieces. This inspired Ibe to create a watch that would follow his “triple ten” design philosophy.

G-shock military watch
The G-Shock comes in numerous models that are perfect for nonpermissive environments

“Triple ten” meant the watch would have a battery life of 10 years, have a water resistance of up to 10 bar (a unit of pressure), and could survive a 10-meter fall. Ibe and his team took inspiration for the watch’s durability from a rubber ball. This led to the first G-Shock making its premiere in 1983. The watch didn’t catch on much in Japan, so Casio attempted to sell it in the United States.

They create a commercial with a hockey player using a G-Shock watch as a hockey puck. The commercial was clever but unbelievable to the public. Some folks claimed Casio was falsely advertising the watch. A television news station decided to recreate the commercial, hockey player and all. This led to the G-Shock gaining a good bit of popularity in the United States.

Navy seals with G-Shock
Does that M4 on the second guy look weird? At least the G-Shock looks good.

Prior to the GWOT, the G-Shock was already in use by military forces. It likely saw its way to any number of hot posts in the late 80s and early 1990s. This includes the first Iraq expedition as well as Operation Gothic Serpent.

The G-Shock and the GWOT

The GWOT saw a massive expansion of the United State’s military. Men and women were constantly deploying to hot spots around the globe and facing seemingly insurmountable challenges. Those folks needed watches. Cell phones aren’t going with our troops overseas, and in 2001, they weren’t an everyday item anyway. Good watches existed before the GWOT, but they had a problem. They were expensive. While Rolex is known to be a fancy brand, those watches are very tough and very functional. The same goes for Tudor and many others. The average grunt cannot spend $6,000 to $10,000 on a watch, but they still need something tough, accurate, and well-made.

Marine shooting grenade
A Marine with Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment shoots an M32 grenade launcher on the flight deck of the USS San Antonio as it crosses the Atlantic Ocean on the way to BALTOPS 2015 May 31, 2015. Nice watch!

The G-Shock already had a fantastic reputation with the sports world and with small parts of the military. The G-Shock series of watches are rugged and could be had for around $100.

As a Marine, you have a few days on Parris Island, where you’re a Marine but still in student status. This includes family day, as well as graduation, and a free day before all of that. On that free day, our Senior Drill Instructor told us when to leave and when to return and gave us one additional order: Go buy a watch. What watch did he wear? A G-Shock, and so did every other Drill instructor in our company. What did we all buy? G-Shocks. We bought the PX out of them and adorned our wrists with digital devices for the first time in months.

Gshock on navy seal
The SEALs even moved from Rolex to G-Shocks (likely cause G-Shocks ar emuch cheaper)

Seeing the Elephant

I, like thousands before me, stepped off into the great adventure that was war. My entire squad, maybe even my entire company, wore G-Shock watches. I knew a single corpsman who wore a Seiko, and a few officers carried Marathon TSARs. Still, the majority were G-Shocks.

We endured an environment that hated us. We fought off rain and sandstorms, as well as a rugged environment of climbing, jumping, and falling on occasion. We crossed the Helmand River over and over. I can’t remember a single person having their watch break on them. Everything else might break, but the watches we wore sure didn’t.

Marine wearing gshock
A U.S. Marine with Marine Wing Support Squadron 472, Marine Aircraft Group 49, 4th Marine Aircraft Wing practices weapons operations on Range 106 during Integrated Training Exercise 4-19 at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., June 13, 2019. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Tessa D. Watts)

Casio developed the Master of G lineup that included the Frogman watch. The Frogman was designed specifically for the Navy SEALs and was the first G-Shock to meet ISO 6225 compliance and be capable of diving to 200 meters. At the same time, it was still an affordable option for a dive watch.

Casio embraced the heritage and made a number of their watches better suited for military use. My personal favorite is the solar-powered atomic options. The watch transcended the military and was used by astronauts aboard the ISS. Heck, they even received a Guinness World Record for the heaviest vehicle to drive over a watch and survive.

G-Shock Today

The Casio G-Shock lineup has evolved significantly. There are absolutely tons of model numbers out there. They are available at every price point. From less than $100 and up.

gshock on aircrew
8/20/2003 – OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM – 1st Lt Brian Huster, co-pilot with the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing, goes through pre-flight checks on a KC-10A Extender at a forward operating location in Southwest Asia. (U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Robert Couse-Baker)

These smartwatches tend to be used for sports and fitness. The Move Pro series is perfect if you want to compete, run, exercise, etc. If you want the highest-end tactical watch, it’s going to be the Master of G Mudmaster, which still comes in at under $500 with a built-in compass, barometer, temperature reader, and pedometer.

gshock on tyler rake
Even Tyler Rake prefers the G-Shock. (Netflix)

I’d imagine that could be quite useful in the field. Especially knowing which direction is what without having to break out a compass. The GWOT might be over in terms of big troop deployments and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but the G-Shock watch still serves in active duty and remains one of the top choices for spec ops commandos, grunts, cooks, and accountants, and for a good reason. It won’t tap out, and it won’t kill your wallet.

Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine Gunner and a lifelong firearms enthusiast. Now that his days of working a 240B like Charlie Parker on the sax are over he's a regular guy who likes to shoot, write, and find ways to combine the two. He holds an NRA certification as a Basic Pistol Instructor and is probably most likely the world's Okayest firearm instructor. He is a simplicisist when it comes to talking about himself in the 3rd person and a self-professed tactical hipster. Hit him up on Instagram, @travis.l.pike, with story ideas.

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