G-Shock's £500 RAF Watch Lacks Shiny Hardware to Avoid Being Spotted by Enemies

By Bulent Yusuf on at

After the Royal Air Force gave G-Shock the skinny on the various functions it needs from a watch, the "Gravity Defier" GW-A1000RAF-1AER was born. We sat down with Flight Lieutenant Nathan Jones to discuss his involvement on the project, and find out why he deemed compasses, torches and locator beacons surplus to an RAF pilot's requirements.

Formed in 1918, the RAF isn't just the oldest air force in the world, it's also one of the most technologically-sophisticated. That's why G-Shock approached them for input on the specifications of their flagship aviator watch, enabling them to design a cutting-edge timepiece that would actually be useful to a professional pilot. "When they gave me the opportunity", says Jones, "I jumped at the chance".

"The majority of aviator watches on the market today are fiddly and expensive and don't have the features that would really help a pilot. Also, you wouldn't really want to be going into tricky situations in the desert and have it getting covered in dust and grit or knocking it on the side of things. With a G-Shock, whilst it's a great looking watch, you can still bash it around and not worry about it because it won't get damaged".

Jones was the primary point of contact between the RAF and G-Shock, and he clearly enjoyed the whole process: "It was an amazing experience for me. I loved the whole design aspect of it, researching all the different gadgets you would need for when you're flying. I went around all my colleagues -- helicopter pilots, jet pilots, air-transport pilots -- and asked them what they would come up with if they were going to make a watch. We compiled a pretty long list, but quite a few of the same features kept cropping up".

"Once we'd compiled that list, we had a meeting at the RAF museum in London with Casio's Research & Development team from Tokyo. They had a list of all the technology available to G-Shocks and we cherry-picked the ones that we liked best." Interestingly, features like compasses, torches and locator beacons were discounted. The reasoning was that they'd been done before, and were not considered strictly necessary in an aviator watch.

So what features does the watch have? The foundation of this G-Shock is the "Triple G Resist" technology, where the watch is shock-resistant, vibration-resistant, and resistant to centrifugal gravity. Overlaid on top is a new innovation called "Smart Access", an analogue movement where each of the three hands are controlled by individual motors, allowing the face of the watch to display different -- and complex -- types of information.

One of those functions is to measure the temperature in the flight cabin, using the hour, minute and second hands as indicators. Another is a one-touch Zulu time display, which ensures that all pilots, regardless of location, are using the same 24-hour clock, thereby avoiding confusion when flying between timezones. There's also a count-up/count-down stopwatch mode for recording flight times and, er, bombing runs.

All of these features are controlled via a shock-resistant electronic crown and quick-lock rotary switch, so they can't be activated by random knocks. Multiband 6 atomic timekeeping ensures the watch is always accurate, and its battery is powered by a discreet solar panel that soaks up weak illumination from fluorescent lighting.

The boys at the RAF had suggestions for the visual cues of the watch, too. "We made it stealth grey so that it would be a neutral colour between the two different flying suit colours we wear. Another reason is that if you were in a survival situation, there's nothing shiny or colourful to give your position away". The hands on the watch, meanwhile, were slightly elongated to improve visual clarity.

They allowed themselves one little flourish, however; a carbon fibre resin keeper on the strap with the RAF wings logo. The traditional red-white-blue roundel is nowhere to be seen, probably to avoid associations with the Lambretta-riding Mod Squad.

Now that this watch is in the can, any plans for further collaboration in the future? Perhaps, but confined to further iterations of the Gravity Defier. "We're really pleased with this model, and we've talked about developing further generations of this one". Naturally, Jones's first priority remains flying planes in the service of Queen and country.

The GW-A1000RAF-1AER is in a limited edition of 2000, set for a June release. Retail price is around £500.