I’ve never owned a G-SHOCK. I have small hands and a relatively narrow 6.5” wrist – not the best place to put a large, chunky watch. And then the GA-2100 series caught my eye – and fit my wrist. Thanks to its Carbon Core Guard architecture, the GA-2100 is the thinnest analog-digital G-SHOCK’s ever made. It’s also a very affordable $99. Well, it was until sales of the “Casioak” went nuts . . .
The Casioak nickname springs from the GA-2100’s resemblance to the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, both in terms of looks and, now, unavailability. The aesthetic similiarites between the two watches are certainly there: octagonal bezel, minimalist design and perfectly integrated bracelet. But Casio says no. They claim the original DW-5000C inspired the GA-2100.
To be fair, the original DW-5000C did have an eight-sided bezel. And a matte finish. And a case perimeter with smooth sides and castellated surfaces between the sides and the lugs. And four chrome pushers located at 2, 4, 8 and 10. But if AP were to make a Royal Oak ani-digi, the GA-2100 would be it.
Colorways-wise, when launched, Casio offered the GA-2100 1A (black with white hands and light gray indices), the GA-2100 1A1 (the “stealth” version with black with gray hands and black indices) and the GA2100 4A (red with red hands and indices). I chose the the white-on-black 1A – it’s more legible than the gray-on-black 1A1 and I’m not flashy enough to rock a fire engine red watch.
With a case diameter of 45.4 mm, the G-SHOCK GA-2100’s a fire engine big watch, significantly larger than the largest Royal Oak (41mm). The GA’s a bit outside my timepiece comfort zone, but it doesn’t wear large. Credit the GA-2100’s diminutive height (18mm), lug length (47mm) and weight, tipping the digital scales at just 1.8 ounces (51 grams) including the resin strap.
The GA-2100 sword-shaped minute and hour hands won’t please lumatics, but the lume’s bright enough for one-handed time check in the dark, and they save battery power. It’s too bad the G-SHOCK GA-2100 didn’t place lume dots near the indices. Never mind. The on-board illumination button triggers both a back light for the digital screen and a LED for the analog display. Sorted.
All three of the original GA-2100 versions have a negative liquid crystal screen with light colored letters. In the case of the 4a, it’s a red screen. The other two are black (actually dark blue), blending in well with the rest of the watch face. There’s a supplementary half dial – indicating the day – next to the 9 o’clock index, and a small digital screen positioned in the lower right quadrant. In Timekeeping mode, they can be toggled between date/seconds and time/seconds.
The GA-2100 uses Casio’s 5611 module. It delivers a small feature set for a G-SHOCK: analog and digital time, stopwatch, world time, perpetual calendar (good through 2099), five daily alarms and a countdown timer. The power source is also pretty basic (no advanced solar power system or long life battery). The two SR726W cells are supposed to last three years.
The GA-2100’s quartz movement is made in Japan. My watch was cased in Thailand. Japan-cased watches carry the JF suffix, at a price premium of about 40 to 100 percent. Considering G-SHOCK’s automated assembly, I’m not sure it makes any difference where the factory is located, at least in terms of quality. That said, the GA-2100’s still a hundred dollar watch. Under a macro lens you can see that the hands’ finish is a bit spotty. The flaws aren’t visible to the unaided eye at a normal distance.
As delivered, the GA-2100’s minute hand was off by 20 seconds. According to the User’s Guide, the analog hands can become misaligned due to “strong magnetism, impact, or other abnormal conditions.” That’s a bit surprising coming from G-SHOCK, a brand whose name implies impact resistance. But it’s not a big issue; the hands are easily fine tuned per online instructions
Running through the functions and setting the watch is straightforward – with a bit of optional theater. To begin, you set the watch digitally. Once the time is set, the analog hands motor around the dial to the correct time. Should a hand or both hands obscure the digital screen, pressing the light and mode switches rotates the hands away from the screen. A touch of the mode button returns them to their proper positions. In normal use, the minute hand leaps forward a precise third of a minute every 20 seconds.
The G-2100’s water resistance is rated to 200 meters. Casio’s traditional four-screw stainless steel caseback is engraved with the Carbon Core Guard logo. Bonus! Quick-release pins hold the rubber in place (tool required). Should Casio introduce other colors, you’ll be able to mix and match the straps.
The G-SHOCK GA-2100 doesn’t all the digital bells and whistles associated with the brand. It’s form-follows-function minimalism combined with G-SHOCK durability, reliability and rugged good looks. Is it worth a premium? That’s up to you. I don’t think we’ve seen the last of this model. Definitely not on my wrist.
UPDATE: As we were preparing this review for publication, another three color schemes have gone on sale. The “1990s throwback” models include the GA-2100THB-7AJF, with a white case, white indices on a black dial, and two-tone purple and pink resin band, and the GA-2100THS-1AJR with a purple bezel and blue indices and hands. With its gold hands and red and green indices the black bezeled GA-2100TH-1AJF would be perfect for the Christmas season if any vendors can deliver at this late date.
Casio G-SHOCK GA-2100
Retail price: $99 (out-of-stock just about everywhere, street price $339)
Case: Resin outer case, Carbon Core, Stainless steel caseback
Lug length: 47mm
Lug spacing: 16mm between the lugs
Case thickness: 11.8mm
Crystal: Mineral Crystal
Clasp: Stainless steel strap buckle, Casio branded on reverse
Movement: Casio 5611 quartz analog/digital
Accuracy: ±15 seconds per month
Functions: Analog minute and hour, Digital minutes, hours, seconds, 12/24 hour formats, Digital month, date, Analog day, World time, Stopwatch 1/100 sec – 24 hrs, Countdown timer, Five setable alarms, Auto calender to 2099
Power reserve: 3 year battery life (SR726W × 2)
Luminescence: Neobrite on hands only (1A and 1A1 models), LED dial light, LED backlight for digital display
Water resistance: 20 bar (200 feet)
RATINGS (out of five stars):
Design * * * * *
A more traditional horological take on the rectangular G-Shock Square, channeling the spirit of Gerald Genta. The main reason the GA-2100 is a huge success.
Legibility * * * *
White-on-black model’s analog hands are fine, “stealth” gray-on-black, and red-over-red models not so much. Digital screen is hard to read in direct light but on-your-wrist legibility is fine.
Tactility * * * * *
Function pushers are ergonomic and out of the way, while giving the matte resin case some visual pop.
Comfort * * * * *
Weighing just 51 grams including the strap and less than 12mm thick, you’ll forget you’re wearing it – until you need it.
Overall * * * * *
An attractive, minimalist feature analog/digital G-SHOCK that puts a traditional spin on classic Square aesthetics. A smart brand extension that’s entranced both G-SHOCK fans and traditional watch enthusiasts. Mine’s not for sale.