Time Travel: How Casio Watches Foreshadowed the Future

IMAGE UNSPLASH/Nikolai Chernichenko

Cool, stylish, durable, and affordable, the Japanese company has made countless industry innovations since introducing its first digital quartz watch in the 1970s and has managed to stay ahead of the times

If you’re looking for a timepiece with genuine street cred, there’s no better place to start than with Casio watches—they are, after all, a favorite of fictional action heroes, staples of celebrities in real life, and incredibly durable and sturdy companions built to withstand whatever life throws at you… and they look good, to boot.

From the Japanese company’s humble beginnings as a manufacturer of electric calculators to its foray into the watch world, let’s trace the brand's trajectory and find out why Casio watches are what all the cool kids are wearing.  

What Is Casio Watch: A History 

In 1946, factory worker Tadao Kashio founded a small subcontractor company called Kashio Seisakujo in Mitaka, Tokyo. It started out as a producer of microscope parts and gears, but soon Tadao’s younger brother, Toshio, who worked as a technician at Japan’s Ministry of Communications, decided to join his brother’s business and employ his electrical know-how toward invention and innovation.  

The company’s first breakthrough came in 1954, when it completed Japan’s first electric calculator. It took a few more years to refine it, but by 1957, it eventually introduced and successfully marketed the all-electric compact calculator, the Casio 14-A.  


This spirit of innovation was once again seen when the company, by then known as Casio Computer Co., Ltd., tapped into the growing digital watchmaking market with the launch of its first digital quartz watch, the Casiotron, in October 1974. For this, the brand capitalized on its technological expertise from developing electronic calculators to create a machine that, essentially, showed a running calculation of each second as it passed. Apart from telling time, the Casiotron was also the first watch that could automatically determine the number of days in a month, all of which were visible on its small computerized LCD screen.  

Casio’s watch category experienced exponential growth in the 1980s; a chunk of this was due to the introduction of the world’s first shock-resistant watch, the G-Shock DW5000C, in 1983. It was unique for its time as thinner, lighter watches had been gaining popularity, yet here was a hefty, rugged timepiece that was built around the concept that it could be dropped from the top of a building and yet still survive the fall. By the time the Baby-G arrived in 1994, the brand had cemented its reputation as a producer of quality digital watches.    

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Is Casio a Luxury Watch Brand? 

Casio is considered an affordable watch but does not mean it's not without classic following among the greats. It’s no coincidence, then, that Casio watches have been favored by some of our favorite fictional heroes on the silver screen. It was the watch worn by Michael J. Fox’s Marty McFly when he went Back to the Future—his classic CA53W Twincept Databank was water resistant up to 165 feet and also featured an alarm, stopwatch, calculator, and naturally, a calendar. That’s all the proof you need that this watch will look cool in any era you might find yourself in.  

Another man who famously wore a Casio was Keanu Reeves’ LAPD officer Jack Traven on his most stressful day at work: the one where he had to figure out how to get all passengers safely off a bomb-rigged bus, a.k.a. Speed. His Casio G-Shock DW5600C-1V no doubt helped him pull it off, and hey, he also got the girl.


(Unfortunately, this exact watch is no longer available as it was discontinued in 1996; the G-Shock DW5600-1V is pretty much a dupe, with the words “Illuminator” instead of “Water 200M Resist” being the only visible difference.)   

Perhaps the man to have worn the most Casios onscreen, however, is immortal IMF operative Ethan Hunt. Tom Cruise wore a Casio G-Shock DW290 when the first Mission: Impossible film came out in 1996, upgraded to a G-Shock DW6900 in the follow-up film four years later, and then swapped it out for a G-Shock MTG910D when Mission: Impossible III was released in 2006.


By the time Rogue Nation came out in 2015, his tech guy Benji (played by Simon Pegg) was the one with the G-Shock on his wrist, sporting the GWA1100-1A3 G-Aviation. Needless to say, this is definitely the watch to conduct impossible missions in. 

How Long Do Casio Watches Last? 

These days, whether it's a G-Shock or an aviation piece, the average lifespan of a Casio's battery life is can be up to 4 to 10 years with regular use. Advances in technology have allowed manufacturers to create smaller batteries that last longer. Ten years ago, your brand-new Casio watches would have lasted on a new battery for up to two years before replacement is needed. 

Casio Watches in the Future: Ahead of the Smart Watch 

Even before Apple made its bid for wearable tech ubiquity by launching the Apple Watch in 2015, Casio was already introducing features that predated many of the ones smart watches would boast about bringing to your wrist.  

The VDB-1000, dating back to 1991, was a touchscreen watch that came with a built-in phonebook, organizer, and notepad. The JC-11 from that same year already monitored steps and calories decades before the very first FitBit debuted, while the BP-400 had other health features, like keeping track of your blood pressure and heart rate. 


As early as 1994, Casio perhaps anticipated a time when everyone would have a phone permanently attached to their bodies by coming out with the VivCel VCL-100, a watch that detected a ringing phone via an antenna and alerted you by setting off a vibration on your wrist. By 1999, the brand launched a watch that came with GPS functionality, as well as one that used infrared to communicate and transfer data from your PC.  

From a watch that came with an MP3 player to one that had a digital camera, Casio came out with it first—and, despite having the ability to practically predict the future, it has also managed to retain that veneer of retro ’80s cool, just enough to stoke the flames of nostalgia among watch nerds and newbies alike.  

Everyone from Prince Harry to Kanye West has been spotted wearing a G-Shock at one time or another on his wrist. And if you’re still wondering why Casio watches just make you look and feel cool, it’s probably about time you go and get one yourself (the best part: most anyone can afford it) and find out.     


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Nana Caragay
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