Sunday, March 22, 2015

G-Shock #13: Defying Gravity

What if you are a pilot and you want the ideal Pilot Watch (Flieger). Probably your answer is that the watch needs to be large and extreme good readable. Lange and Sohne manufactered in 1941 their classic B Uhr Type-B for the German Luchtwaffe. While we call this type of watch a "Fliegeruhr" ("Pilot's watch"), or short "Flieger", it was actually meant for the Beobachter (navigator), hence the name B Uhr, which was short for Beobachtunguhr. These watches were extreme accurate and quite expensive. Therefore the watches were owned by the Luchtwaffe, not by the beobachters. This watch had a thick 55 mm wide case, big hands and bright thick hour markers, which proved to be a classic and loved design. A big leather strap allowed the watch to be strapped on the Beobachter's sleeve (see the first photo above). The Lange and Sonhe B Urh Type-B became the mother of all Fliegers.
In 2010 Casio introduced the first G-Shock Pilot's watch in the Sky Cockpit series with the GW-3000B model. While that model was a quite impressive at that time, Casio didn't sleep. In 2012 Casio presented a new model Sky Cockpit at Baselworld. Casio worked closely with the Royal Air Force to design this models, so this watch has functions that pilots really want in a cockpit. Instant Zulu Time, and a Thermometer function were such special requests. The result was quite surprising and very nice, the GW-A1000 "Gravity Defier". While the GW-3000B was already quite big at it's time, the GW-A1000 looks even bigger. The official dimensions by Casio (for the resin versions) are 52.5 x 49.8 x 15.5mm for the GW-3000 and 54.1 x 52.4 x 16.4mm for the GW-A1000. Also the weight has increased a bit from 74g to 85g. Of course this model is quite heavier because of the bracelet. The weight depends on how many links are removed to match your wrist.
Note: The name "Gravity Defier" was in Europe already in use since Casio Released the GW-2000. Therefore the name Gravity Defier applies currently to the GW-2000, GW-2500, GW-3000, G-1100, G-3000, GW-A1000 and GW-A1100. The name Sky Cockpit was introduced in 2010 with the GW-3000 model. Thanks Jean-Manuel for bringing this to my attention.
The GW-A1000 was released in several versions and until now there are 9 different models. The most exclusive version is the RAF model GW-A1000RAF-1A. This model has a red stripe on the crown, white markers on the dial and a blue accent on the dial, representing the colors of the Royal Air Force. This model has a carbon fibre strap keeper with the RAF logo and is presented in a special box. The most appealing GW-A1000 model for me was the model with the bracelet. The model featured today. At the time of release in Japan this model was even a bit more expensive than the RAF model, but in Europe it was cheaper.
Somehow I have a weakness for G-Shocks with bracelets. It's not always easy to wear them as you need to adjust it carefully for a good fit and comfortable wear. Sometimes you can only adjust the bracelet in length with the buckle with half a link with two holes, better ones with one third of a link, but this bracelet has even 4 holes, although the length of a link is 3 holes. Because you can adjust the bracelet very accurate, the watch can be fit perfectly on your wrist. It it's too loose or too snag, just move the buckle one hole and you probably have the perfect fit again. G-Shocks intend to be very light, but I don't mind heavier watches. The bracelet makes this watch somewhat heavier. In my opinion the weight somehow gives you the impression that you own a high quality watch, though with three links taken out (for fitting a 7" wrist), the weight is 144 gram.
This analog watch does not look sophisticated, but appearances can be deceiving. There is quite some features under the hood. Probably, the most eye catching part of the watch is the giant "Smart Access" crown. Smart Access was introduced on this model for the first time. The crown should be locked under normal circumstances. You can unlock the crown by pressing the crown, while a black marker on the crown is aligned with the white marker on the case and turn the crown anti-clockwise to the red marker. The Smart Access crown functions as a scrolling device. Scrolling is easy, just turn the crown clockwise or anti-clockwise. If you want to scroll fast forward, turn the crown three times fast in the desired direction and the hands keep spinning,until you decide to stop them. Actually it sounds sophisticator than it actually is.If you have used it several times, you know when to use the crown. Check out the above video how to unlock and use it. Locking the crown is the reversed operation as activating it. It's not always easy to unlock or lock the crown, due to it's protectors on the case, but practice makes perfect.
The watch has a thermo-sensor. In Timekeeping mode you can easy access the Thermometer function. Simply push the upper right button and the second hand immediately starts moving to the top, pointing if the temperature is under or above 0°C. The hands show the temperature. The hour hand shows the 10°C units and the minute hand the 1°C units. For instance if the watch shows 02:15 it shows 23°C (minute hand is at the 3rd marker). It takes some time for the hands to move to the right position. Once the temperature is shown, the hands keep position for 10 seconds, before moving back to show time.
The GW-A1000 compared to the GW-3000B
With the usual lower left button you can scroll through the different modes. The first mode you'll find is the extensive World Time function. First the minute and hour hands move to the World Time, while the second hand shows the time zone. You can change the time zones with the Smart Access crown. A handy feature for travelers is the possibility to switch between World Time and the time in Timekeeping mode. Just push and hold the upper right button for a few seconds and you see the second hand move from the chosen World Time zone to the Timekeeping timezone. A special feature, on request by RAF pilots, is the Instant Zulu Time function. By press and holding the lower right button, the time goes to UTC (GMT), in military time called Zulu Time.
Note: The basic GW-A1000 with resin straps weighs only 85 gram. With three links taken out my Gravity Defier weighs 144 grams.
Next mode is the Stopwatch Mode. It is possible to measure times up to 2 hours. The minute hand shows the seconds, while the hour hand shows the minutes. Wait, I hear you think, 2 hours is 120 minutes. Indeed, the upper dial is a 24 hour dial. It takes 120 minutes for the hand in the upper dial to go totally round. There are two ways to use this Stopwatch mode. First like a usual stopwatch. The upper right button is used to stop, start and if desired continue the stopwatch, while the lower right button resets the Stopwatch. The second way is using the so called Fly Back function. After you start with the upper right button, you can start a new stopwatch operation instantly by pressing the lower right button. You can do this over and over again and stop the Stopwatch eventually by pressing the upper right button. Of course the hands need time to point the right time, but they move to the correct positions. The second hand moves in 1/20s positions until 30 seconds. Then it stops at the 12 position. When the Stopwatch is stopped the second hands shows the correct 20th of a second again.
The 60 minute Countdown timer is relative simple. In this mode only the minute hand is used to display the minutes to count down. As you probably expect, the timer set withe Smart Access crown and is started and, if needed stopped, with the upper right button. When the target time is reached, an Alarm sounds for 10 seconds.
Last, but not least, there is an Alarm function. You set the time again with the Smart Access crown, but you need to pay attention to the upper dial, which displays 24 hours, so the Alarm goes off at the right time. To toggle the Alarm on or off, press the upper right button.
The hands of this watch are checked every hour if their positions are still right and, if needed, they are corrected. Timekeeping is synced with atomic clocks at night if you live within the reach of one of the 6 transmitters that broadcast the Atomic Time and you have set your watch to the right Home City. As you probably already knew, there are 2 transmitters in Japan, 1 in the US, 2 in Europe and 1 in China. While on the GW-3000 the illuminating hands and markers were remarkably good for a Casio watch, they are even much improved on the GW-A1000. In my experience the watch is readable in the dark for about 6 - 7 hours in total darkness.
Of course I can tell a lot of the features of this watch, but for me the looks are most impressive. With it's large appearance on the wrist, it looks like a serious tough watch. I do not use the Thermometer function much, because I wear it direct on my wrist. To get a good environment temperature reading you have to take off your watch and let it acclimatize for about 20 minutes. However, in the times I tested this feature, it proved to be very accurate. For a serious watch you can expect a serious price. You can buy a GW-A1000 for about €449 in Europe, but this GW-A1000D sells for around €549. My GW-A1000D comes from Tiktox in the UK, know for their extensive selection of G-Shock replacement parts. The overall good quality finish of this watch, the tough design and technology does justify such a price, though it will probably not be affordable for everyone. In my opinion, this Gravity Defier is one of the best looking models in the more premium G-Shock range.