Shigenori Itoh on the rise of G-Shock
It’s been quite the year for you. Not only are you celebrating the 35th anniversary of the G-Shock brand, but earlier this year you passed the milestone the 100 million piece was sold.
For someone who has been there since the beginning, what emotions does hearing that bring up?
I joined G-Shock when the brand was very young, at first I was involved in the sales side, but in 1997 I joined the marketing department. When we first launched, nobody ever expected the brand to grow as it has done. It is really quite remarkable.
Did you ever imagine that G-Shock would be considered an iconic style item?
Not at all! It’s funny, because we still sell some models based on the same design we had 35 years ago – the design hasn’t changed a lot, but the engine has.
The technology has changed, for example, the piece I wear today has the same design as the original, but now uses solar and atomic waves to fuel the battery.
Why do you think that the G-Shock brand is so relevant today?
Well, it is something that we focus a lot on. Because we have such a youthful fan base, we spend a lot of time ensuring that our new products and designs are heavily influenced by youth culture.
We keep close communication with opinion leaders in arts, music, sports and fashion, and, of course, we keep very current with technology as it continues to evolve.
One of the main hallmarks of G-Shock is the toughness of the product. There must be some interesting stories...
We often get letters from clients all over the world who tell us interesting stories. Once there was a farmer in the UK who lost his watch in his fields. Five years later he found it buried in the mud, still working!
Or another one happened about five years ago, a person found a G-Shock in the ocean that had grown to be attached to a seashell. That too was still working.
That’s incredible! Any more?
Well, when I used to work in the US, I heard a story about someone was shot at with a gun, but the bullet hit the G-Shock on his wrist and actually saved his life! The watch wasn’t so lucky.
How did you attempt to extend G-Shock’s appeal to more market segments?
At first a G-Shock was only allowed to be produced in black, but I wanted more colours, so we first added ‘mustard’ and ‘skeleton’, the latter inspired by dolphins.
The second was that G-Shock was only produced for men and not for women, so we came up with the Baby-G line for them.
Lastly, the original stipulation was that a G-Shock could only be made in resin, but I wanted to add metal to the list of G-Shock case materials, something which would allow us to sell them at a higher price. All these were aimed at letting more people enjoy our products.
What are the collaborations that you have done that stand out the most?
We have collaborated with some major brands across fashion, music and arts, and they have all gone on to help form part of our history.
Personally, the one that stands out is a collaboration with Eye Search Japan, an eco-conscious organisation that helps protect dolphins and whales. It was 25 years ago, but we still continue that relationship in Japan with them and it remains very meaningful.
What is the most exciting project that you have worked on?
I started working in branding and marketing for the company 25 years ago, back then we used to be thrilled to see a group of 30 people queuing outside the big department stores in Tokyo waiting for them to open.
Back then G-Shock was rare and hard to buy, so even though we have gone on to sell 100 million pieces, I often think back to the early days when it was harder but still the people were so passionate about it.