Friday, October 5, 2018

Where the Present Meets the Future - Casio Visit Day 3

The Shinkansen is blowing its whistle (metaphorically) so it's time to wrap this up.  I have intentionally staged this report out not only over segments, but over a few weeks.  One reason is that a three-day whirlwind tour of three different locations with three different themes is not only a lot to digest, it is a lot to try to quantify and also qualify to people who were not there, and (unfortunately) will likely never be there themselves.

Our third day with Casio began with an early start as we headed off to Tokyo Station to get the Shinkansen north.

Like Minase, the main factory site for manufacturing the high end Casio G-Shock (and a few other brands) is based "somewhat" north, of the Tokyo Metro area (a little less than 3 hours north).  We found ourselves in Yamagata - ken.  

And a little cultural aside, we were treated to a pretty fantastic lunch of soba, which the region is famous for.

 After lunch, it was off to Yamagata Casio-

It is important to note that although only the high-end G-Shocks are assembled here, this is also the place (if I understood correctly) where all of the G-Shock movements are made.  Owing to this, in many ways this is the most important piece jewel in the G-Shock crown. 

And just as the G-Shock itself is made to be indestructible, certain steps have been taken to make sure that the facility in Yamagata - ken can keep humming along, even in the event of an earthquake!

You will notice that there are a LOT of machines, and a even a few people ; )

And this is something that you have to see to really get your head around.  Casio has created an extremely automated system that ensures that the components of the G-Shock's movements, and the movements themselves, will keep being produced without an individual person needed to be at every single process.  While that might fly in the face of horological purists, I have to be honest, it was pretty amazing.  And it also speaks to what is so amazing about the G-Shock itself - an incredibly accurate, durable watch at a very reasonable price.

But let's get back to earthquakes.  The night I arrived in Tokyo (or the morning after) there was apparently a fairly significant earthquake that did quite a bit of damage in the northern island of Hokaido.  Being an old Japan hand myself?  I slept right through it.  But it was a hot topic of conversation at the breakfast table the next morning.

And what does that have to do with G-Shock?  Well, try to imagine a massive (or even slight) earthquake hit a facility with a lot of solid, but still vulnerable machinery?

Well, the team at Casio thought about it, and therefore there is a section of the flooring at the Yamagata facility that is set up in such a way so as to mitigate any potential damage done by an earthquake.  I have no doubt that there is a much deeper explanation offered by someone else more verbose, but suffice it to say that as this is where the movements are being made, you want to protect it and make sure the line does not go down.  So a special flooring section has been installed to ensure that should the inevitable happen (this is Japan, after all), the floor will shift, adjust, and accommodate the tectonic shifting, and thus the line will continue to run.

One other interesting thing to note - the actual watch makers responsible for the Premium Production assembly, etc.?  Are pretty much all (I believe) women!  When I broached this topic with the folks touring us through the facility, she confirmed my suspicion.  

The production facility underscores the reality that nothing at Casio really happens within a vacuum.  And nothing happens "just because."  There is a rhyme and a reason for pretty much everything happens.

And while it is romantic to extol the virtues of hand made, artisan watch making, it is also important to understand that not everyone has $5,000 - $10,000 to spend on a watch.  And when you really consider what goes into making a G-Shock watch, it is really somewhat staggering that they can put so much quality, reliability, and durability into a watch with so many functions for so little money.

I have seen some fairly impressive, beautifully upholstered facilities in Switzerland, and I absolutely appreciate the historical pull of some of the dyed-in-the wool historical brands.  But what I saw in my three days in Japan with Casio really was a bit of a re-awakening for me.  It took me back to what I really loved about watches in the first place.

So we concluded our visit, and hopped back on the train to return to Tokyo.  And I want to thank Casio and Casio in the US for the kind invitation and the warm hospitality.  And to answer the burning question - is a G-Shock worth it?  

Yes, 100%

One last entry to sum it all up is on the way - stay tuned!

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