The new Casio G-Shock GXW-56 — and its American counterpart, the GX-56 — are proof that huge is the new big. With a case 55.5mm wide at its widest point, and 17.5mm high, the GXW-56 is the biggest G-Shock ever made. (Yes, they are even larger than the venerable Frogman.)
(Before going any further, I want to point out the differences between the GXW and the GX. The GXW is the Japanese version and has multi-band atomic timekeeping. The GX is the American version which is less expensive, and has all the features of the GXW except atomic time calibration. This review focuses specifically on a GXW-56-1BJF which I imported from Japan in order to get atomic time calibration, but most of what I cover here pertains to the GX, as well.)
The thinking behind the GXW-56 (and the GX-56) is that, in the overall scheme of things, typical G-Shocks simply aren’t all that big anymore. Yes, they are certainly bigger than your average timepiece, but if you look at the watches that are really driving the trends right now, G-Shocks don’t completely dominate in terms of size. So in order to maintain their status as trend-setters (and make no mistake — G-Shocks are as much about fashion as they are toughness; if you don’t believe me, read my coverage of Shock the World), it was time for G-Shocks to take the next step.
Fortunately, Casio decided to do something constructive with all that extra space in the case: they filled it with aGEL which they describe like this:
aGEL® is a soft silicone gel material with outstanding shock-absorbing characteristics.
So what is this mysterious new aGEL material? aGEL, or Alpha GEL, is the brand name for the soft silicone gel material which was first made famous by Asics Gel running shoes, and it helps to make the GXW-56 even more shock and vibration resistant than your standard G-Shock.
But the GXW-56 isn’t all about size. It also has the functionality and features that we’ve come to expect from G-Shocks. Here’s an exhaustive list:
* Solar powered. Fully charged and without atomic time calibration, the GXW-56 can run for 11 months without light.
* Multi-band atomic. Like all the new G-Shocks, it’s multi-band 6 which means it can receive time calibration signals from every atomic time transmitter in the world (one in the US, two in Japan, one in Germany, one in the UK, and the newest one in China). (Note that this feature is missing from the GX-56 line.)
* 200m (660 feet) water-resistant.
* Highly shock-resistant. With the new application of Alpha GEL at the 12, 3, 6, and 9 o’clock positions, the GXW is even more shock-resistant than previous G-Shock models.
* Mud and dust resistant. An inner layer of flexible urethane completely encloses the buttons sealing the case against small particles.
* Electroluminescent backlight with auto-illumination feature which allows the light to come on in the dark when the watch is tiled toward your face.
* World time with 31 time zones and 48 cities (and UTC).
* Four daily alarms and one snooze alarm.
* Stopwatch with a resolution of 1/100th of a second.
* Countdown timer with a maximum capacity of 24 hours.
* Perpetual calendar, pre-programmed until 2099 (at which point watches will probably be so much bigger that this one will look positively dainty).
* 55.5mm x 53.6mm, and 17.5mm high. Weight is about 88 grams.
* The GX-56 goes for $150 retail, and the GXW goes for about $260 USD.
To summarize, the GXW has everything I’ve come to expect from a G-Shock, but in a much larger and bolder case. The GX has everything the GXW has except atomic time calibration.
So the big question on everyone’s mind whether the GXW-56 is actually too big. I say it’s not. When I initially got it, I fully expected to eventually pass it along to someone with a wrist as large as my biceps after the review. However, after wearing it for a few days, I’ve really come to like the size and the presence, and at this point, I have no intention of letting it go. It is now officially the newest member of my permanent G-Shock collection.
Watch sizes are like haircuts. Sometimes it takes a couple of days to get used to them, but once you do, they feel completely natural. Rather than it feeling big, my other watches now feel too small. To me, the size, bulk, and presence of the GXW-56 simply represents more of a very good thing.