How a Humble G-Shock Helped Me Unclutter My Watch Collection

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Finding a functional answer to the too-many-watches problem.

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A lot of people are trying to trim down their watch collections these days. And while I didn’t have crypto winnings to blow on timepieces in the first place, I started to realize that my own collection had grown a little too large for my liking. Not because I don’t love what I buy, but because I’m like a big, dumb child when I see something I like. I should say: that doesn’t mean I’ve got a couple of Cartier Tanks just lying around. I don’t find Rolexes hidden in my couch cushions. It’s more that if I’m at a flea market or tag sale and see anything that screams “1980s cocaine lord,” I’ll probably take it. A friend’s dad once showed me the watch he was wearing when he defected from the U.S.S.R. in the 1970s, which kicked off an obsession with picking up any Soviet-era watches I might see whether they work or not. But my biggest love of all—and the one piece I can’t seem to Marie Kondo myself out of—is the first “cool” watch I ever got when I was a kid: the simple, utilitarian Casio G-Shock.

A year ago I counted and found that I’d amassed over 50 watches, which put me in a funny, in-between sort of place: that number is modest compared to some timepiece lovers, but insane to people who don’t own a single watch and will tell you if they need the time they can look at their iPhone. I tend to have an easier time weeding out records, books, shoes, vintage t-shirts and other assorted things I collect. But for some reason, I just kept acquiring more watches that, in a lot of cases, I never wore. I realized I needed to cut down. The point was always to get timepieces I loved, not start a mini-watch museum in my small apartment.

So I decided the best thing to do was start giving away watches. Nothing too crazy; I wasn’t just handing out Oysters to acquaintances. Instead, I was junking an ‘80s Swatch that was maybe a little too colorful for my wrist that I got at a garage sale. I thought an old Rado from the 1970s that I picked up for $50 bucks (and now seems to be reselling for around $400) would be a nice gift for a friend who just had his first kid. I didn’t give away my entire collection. In fact, I’d say I offloaded a dozen, at best. 

But the pieces I never gave a second thought to keeping were my three G-Shocks: The bulky, all-black analog-digital Mudmaster I wear when I do anything remotely outdoorsy; the orange collab Casio did with NASA; and my trusty “weekend watch,” the DW5600E-1V I bought for 75 bucks forever ago.

There is something about the G-Shock. It isn’t the original digital watch (that distinction belongs to the Hamilton Pulsar, which turns 50 this year). When you go on Reddit, the nearly 37,000 members that belong to the G-Shock community are paltry compared to the 704,000 Apple Watch obsessives. But the G-Shock has a way of transcending brand loyalty. Plenty of luxury watch people still respect the Casio. In the book A Man & His Watch, the artist Tom Sachs, who created his own take on the G-Shock “a la Hermés double-tour watches,” quotes the Patek Philippe slogan about how you never actually own that specific sort of watch, “You merely take care of it for the next generation.” Sachs doesn’t doubt the very expensive watch will have some sort of meaning to whoever it is handed off to, “but I like the idea of something that costs $40 that you own, versus something that costs $4,000 that owns you.”

Seemingly all of my watch pals have a soft spot for this one watch. My friend Tom Kretchmar, a lawyer and fellow lover of old Seikos, doesn’t really think of himself as a digital watch guy. But earlier this year, a classic 5600 G-Shock caught his eye and he picked it up. “It’s actually a really handsome watch,” he says. “And it helped me better understand why when you go to a museum like MoMa they have things like a Danish stapler from the ‘70s and the first-generation iPod in the permanent collection. There’s beauty in functionality.”

I agree with my friend. My problem was that I had moved past functionality to something unsustainable when it came to my collection. I think it’s fine to have multiple watches for different purposes, but I had reached a point where I’d pick up a watch and I couldn’t remember when or why I had bought it. One day, while doing some light cleaning in my office, I found an Edox from the ‘80s that I didn’t recall even purchasing, then I found a stainless steel Omega from the ‘70s that I could remember buying because I thought it would look good with a nylon watch band I saw somewhere. I got the watch, never bought the band, and now the Omega just sits around now. I kept saying I’ll wear the tortoiseshell Timex x Beams I got from Japan, but I never did. It’s great-looking and gets more compliments than my Datejust or any of my divers.

But in an ironic twist of fate, I just didn’t have enough time to wear all the watches I’d bought. So I started with the G-Shock and worked backward. What is the purpose of each watch? Do I want it, need it, or both? Obviously, nobody needs more than one watch, but I had to find a reason for each one I kept. And while I couldn’t part with all of them, and I still hear ticking coming from various parts of my apartment—inside a drawer, behind my couch, at least three places in my office—I knew the G-Shock, the one kind of watch in my collection that doesn’t make a sound unless I set its alarm, was a definite keeper.

Casio G-Shock Classic Core DW5600E-1V watch

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