When I attended Casio’s launch party for the G-Shock X Herschel Supply Co. G-Lide launch event, I immediately realized that this new reference GLX5600HSC-3 (aka GLX5600HSC-3CR) limited-edition timepiece was not your average Casio collaboration product. Herschel Supply Co. has their design studio based in Los Angeles, and is most well known for its backpacks, but what I also learned is that they have a seriously talented and motivated creative team. The resulting watch that Casio and Herschel produced together represents what more of these limited edition collaborations should be like, offering aesthetic good looks, emotionally gratifying detailing, and a packaging experience that reminds everyone why people in circa 2019 still really like traditional wristwatches.
To learn about the project from Herschel’s perspective, I spoke with Herschel Supply Co.’s Creative Director Jon Warren in an interview below. Before we get to that, I’d like to offer a few thoughts about the G-Shock X Herschel G-Lide watch itself.
To sum up the timepiece, it imagines itself as what a G-Shock would look like if these products existed at the time when United States veterans were returning from the Vietnam War (and bringing their timepieces back with them). The inspiration for the watch was actually a Zippo lighter from the era that was owned by a soldier and that had “You Can Surf Later” stamped into the steel case. That same statement, with the same font, is stamped into the back of this watch, complete with a period-appropriate font. It makes you smile to read it, and it also helps explain why Herschel decided to use the G-Shock G-Lide watch, which is actually intended for surfers, with its moon phase and tide chart indications on the dial. Don’t miss the gradually “re-trending” removable metal “screen protector” on the case that was popularized in the 1980s.
Additional visual inspiration came from a litany of military items once popular to find in army surplus stores — hence, the military khaki green color tone, metal screen protector, and handsome, simple looks. My favorite story about the development of the watch is the slightly yellow-toned mineral crystal over the dial. Normally transparent, Herschel wanted the crystal to be a slight yellow color in order to mimic to crystals placed over certain types of popular military flashlights. Casio reportedly first push back, with Herschel eventually winning on the grounds that it would simply lead to a more cohesive and satisfying product.
The reason I mention this story is to demonstrate how Herschel had a creative vision, stuck to it, and was ultimately rewarded with an excellent result. When you see collaboration watches that feel lazy or not particularly inspired, it is often because someone didn’t push back hard enough on the brand making the watch to convince them it was worth the added expense. Seeing the faces of the people who experienced the watch (including my own feelings), I thank Herschel’s team for their efforts. Now on to my interview with Herschel’s creative director, Mr. Jon Warren:
Ariel Adams (AA): The Casio G-Shock x Herschel G-Lide product isn’t your typical limited-edition Casio watch. You and the Herschel team imagined a new product based on a particular theme, and you focused on getting all the details right. How would you explain the concept behind the watch in your own words, and what is your elevator pitch to someone who doesn’t know about the collaboration to explain what this very special G-Shock timepiece is all about?
Jon Warren (JW): When Casio approached us, there was no doubt about the watch we wanted to work with. It had to be the G-Lide tide watch because it’s a classic with a modern twist. In surfing, the term “First Watch” is used to describe the first person to the beach to check out the wave conditions. We liked how it also had a military meaning and tied the timepiece’s design to military functionality and color with the performance of a tide watch. We drew inspiration from a traditional military flashlight for the collaborative timepiece — everything from the yellow lens, the mil-spec on the watchband, and the engraving on the backside of the watch.
AA: Casio is known for a relatively conservative approach to adopting new designs because so much time and effort are spent validating each new product as fitting within the G-Shock product family’s values and durability needs. The Herschel G-Lide is, however, one of the most interesting bespoke G-Shock watches I’ve seen in a long time. What was Herschel’s secret behind getting Casio to make such a unique creation?
JW: First and foremost, we always want to work with best-in-class companies. For us, there is no one better at functional watches than Casio. From there, we try to figure out a reason for our two brands to come together. In this case, the element of traveling to the beach in search of waves with the perfect watch was enough for us to start building the idea. In our first meeting, we handed them a deck with a military dossier explaining the references, the colors, and direction. We were stoked to get a quick response saying they loved the direction we wanted to take.
AA: Emotional hooks are a big part of the storytelling behind the G-Shock x Herschel watch. One can easily point out the “You Can Surf Later” statement stamped into the rear of the case. Point out some of the design elements on the watch or the accessories that are designed to have an emotional effort on the wearer as many of these details will be impossible to spot without the designer pointing them out.
JW: I will answer with a list of points:
-We removed all the unnecessary verbiage from the face of the watch; we believe in “less is more” — plus, it forces you to really take the time and learn about the functionality of the watch.
-All metal finishes are Mil-Spec. It was important for us to make sure it matched our references.
-Mil-Spec Herschel First Watch Division on the Wristband, Ops with for field & water in any weather. The military always specs out case usage, it was important to tie into the story of functionality.
-The Casio Watch tin and box packaging ties into the food rations the GIs would receive, we thought this would be the perfect way to introduce the customer to the experience right from the beginning.
AA: You and I spoke about growing up with Casio watches, as well as a youth filled with tinkering and creativity. How was the G-Shock x Herschel watch design and project overall affected by you having a long personal history with the brand?
JW: As designers, I think we ultimately try to create a blend of old and new experiences. As a brand, we like creating that nostalgic feeling, but with that modern twist. We all grew up either skateboarding, surfing, or snowboarding and G-Shock was an ecclesial brand for us. They are bombproof and we put them to the test. They always stood for function first, which made them stylish. It’s one of the brands on our design bucket list and it was an honor for them to trust us with the brand history.
AA: Have you ever designed a wristwatch before? As an experienced product designer with everything from luggage to shoes in your portfolio, talk a little bit about the unique challenges — design-wise and production-wise — that perhaps surprised you about coming up with a wristwatch design?
JW: I liked the challenge of creating a story on such a small area, especially with a watch that is so personal. It’s on your wrist so you need to see it all day long. I think that was the ultimate challenge — how to create something that is timeless and told a story at the same time. I believe we found that sweet spot, but I think a lot of it comes from the passion we had for the brand. I feel like we’ve all dreamt of making this watch since we were kids.
AA: When I think of Herschel Supply Company, I think first of backpacks. The company has evolved since then and incorporated more products and themes into the brand. Tell me a bit about how the Vietnam veteran aesthetic and nostalgia of the G-Shock x Herschel G-Lide watch falls into your larger efforts to keep adding personality and story-telling to the brand.
JW: Army surplus stores were the only places that would make a product that would stand up to the wear and tear of skateboarding. When we were kids, there really wasn’t an industry making skateboarding clothes like there is today. So we would go there because the military would make mass-produced goods that had to function. We study them and, for a majority of us in the design world, take those ideas and spread them into the product we make. We also like that the price point was affordable, since, as a kid you had limited funds and you needed things to last.
Thank you again to Mr. Warren, Herschel, and Casio. Price for the Casio G-Shock X Herschel G-Lide GLX5600HSC-3 watch is $150 USD. Learn more at the G-Shock website here.