HANDS-ON: 21st century tech meets Japanese swordsmithing tradition in the Casio MRG-G2000GA ‘Gassan’Felix Scholz
At first glance, the pairing of a GPS-enabled, solar-powered watch, with a direct lineage to an 800-year-old family tradition in one of Japan’s most culturally important crafts might seem odd, but that’s precisely what we’re looking at with this high-end Casio MRG-G2000GA ‘Gassan’.
Before we get to the sword side of things, let’s have a look at the timekeeping side of the equation. The case of this imposing watch is made from titanium, but not just any titanium. We’re talking about recrystallised titanium, which gives the metal a unique surface finish, reminiscent of the tempering of a Japanese blade. Moreover, it’s been treated with an arc ion plating (AIP) process to give it a vivid grape colour which is funky, fresh and unusual. The unorthodox materials don’t end on the case — the bezel is made from Cobarion, a cobalt chrome alloy that’s twice as hard as steel and possesses a platinum-like lustre. I didn’t test the first statement, but the metal has certainly been given the platinum treatment with a sophisticated mix of radial brushing and clean mirror polishing.
The dial is a little more de rigueur for a high-end Casio offering, with plenty of digital bells and whistles, including GPS control, low-energy Bluetooth and solar power, that makes this a true go-anywhere, do-anything, anytime kind of piece. Not that this is a watch I’d be too keen to get beaten up.
Now, the swordcrafting elements, hinted at in the case construction, really come to the fore on the bracelet, which is titanium, and has seen some of the centre links worked by a gentleman named Sadanobu Gassan. Mr Gassan is the sixth-generation heir to 800-odd years of swordmaking history, and is a director of the All Japan Swordsmith Association. High-end Japanese swords are a big deal, and can easily give watches a run for their money in terms of rarity and collectibility. And while this watch is a far cry from one of Gassan’s swords, it still bears a mark of the master. The centre links have been treated with a ‘yasuri-me’, or rasp mark pattern that you’d find on the tang of the blade (the non-sharp bit that’s hidden away inside the handle), but even though it’s not typically on display, it’s no less carefully treated. The second bracelet link also bears an inscription of the Gassan family motto that translates as “devotion to the forging of swords”.
So while there’s definitely a juxtaposition of old and new at play here, the complete package comes across as very deliberate, thoughtful, and striking. This special Casio is limited to 300 pieces worldwide.
Casio MRG-G2000GA ‘Gassan’ price and availability
Casio MRG-G2000GA ‘Gassan’, limited to 300 pieces with an approximate Australian retail price of $10,999.