A fan’s (and guitarist’s) perspective on the John Mayer G-Shock

The watch Mayer always would have made

The watch Mayer would have made, even if there were no Instagram and no Hodinkee

By: Amish Behl

The construct of the online limited edition drop forbids any thinking before the (figurative) swipe of your credit card. You’re either in or you’re not. And you have to choose there and then. I was in on the John Mayer G-Shock sight unseen, but it was only after thinking it through the next day that I truly felt good about getting the watch. Those 8 minutes before I swiped my credit card and it sold out weren’t enough. But yeah, this is the watch John Mayer would have designed, even if there were no Hodinkee, Instagram, or any of today’s crazy watch internet. I’ve seen virtually every video of him, read or watched each interview, and learned to play all his songs on the guitar for the better part of 20 years — that’s why I’m pretty convinced about it.

I’ve been a dyed-in-the-wool John Mayer fan from when I had just a Citizen chronograph as a teenager and cell phone cameras were a big deal. When I didn’t even know Mayer was a watch guy. I’m talking mid-2000s John. The watch world had basically two things then — forums and individual taste.

John Mayer was somewhat polarising even then. He was playing alongside Clapton, BB King, Buddy Guy and other big names, but cynics argued that he hadn’t done “enough” to earn this place. But for me, John was the bright spot in an era when good guitar playing was dying, making his instrument central to the songs he wrote, even if they had pop flavour (why does mass appeal work everyone up?). It helped that he was incredibly funny, with a penchant for ideas, no matter how small or bizarre they may be.

I could go on about the impression he made on me as a guitar player, but what I’m saying is that appreciating this G-Shock becomes a lot easier if you understand John Mayer beyond just a celebrity name.

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Quick facts

John Mayer designed a limited edition Casio G-Shock in collaboration with Hodinkee. Grey in colour, it used a DW-6900 as its base and added yellow and teal accents. This palette was inspired by Casio’s Casiotone SK-5 sampling keyboard, which John has had a special place for since his younger days. It was announced on December 8, 2020 and sold out in a matter of minutes. John has been seen sporting G-Shock watches on many occasions and has expressed his love for Frogman G-Shocks as far back as 2012. 

Getting the obvious out of the way

Being neither deluded nor an apologist, I’ll add a few things that came to my mind at first.

Does the J-Shock (as we’ll refer to it hereon) bring something radically new to the table? No. Do I wish they’d used a more size-friendly platform? Yes. Should Hodinkee have mentioned how many of these they are selling, given that it’s apparently limited? Absolutely. Was the weight of expectation on this watch going to lead to eventual disappointment for many anyway? Hell yes. Given that vitriol and split-second opinions are included in the 2020s Watch Guy Starter Pack, there’s no escaping the pitchforks. The watch did get its share of knocks, criticisms and memes. Lots of memes.

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But John’s a musician who loves watches, with a very relatable quality to him that’s made him one of the world’s most popular collectors, while also getting many of his fans into the idea of collecting wristwatches. He loves a good story to a watch just as much as you and me, as all your reruns of Talking Watches will tell you. The J-Shock is him genuinely putting that personality into a watch, rather than designing the biggest-and-baddest version of what people expected this watch to be.

For something under $200, where the impetus to purchase is the person behind it, I’m going to choose an honest story over groundbreaking design. I know that good art doesn’t need explanation, but let’s face it — trying to understand where creators are coming from isn’t exactly our forte as watch collectors.

So when I tried to break this watch down as a John Mayer creation, its no-f**ks-given nature helped me bond with it more meaningfully. It was just John being John.

John Mayer through and through

The more I thought about it, the more it felt like the collective disappointment of many over this watch was rooted in a templated idea of what a good special edition “should” be.

Look, John’s an artist who wants to share his idea of something, rather than work backward from what a focus group says. He isn’t that predictable and loves toying with new concepts and ideas in a manner such that he can organically leave his own stamp on them. The relative subtlety of the Mayer stamp on this watch (which is to say, no direct visual cue on the face of it), as well as not choosing a predictable platform like the 5600 also adds up with his “look-deeper” philosophy on watches. Viewed head-on, this is just a fashion-forward G-Shock with some funky pops of colour; looking deeper, it’s John bringing his musician self into a Casio watch through a Casio keyboard. 

It’s just John looking to put a bit of himself out there (with zero contrivance) rather than playing to the gallery. In this case, he found a piece of himself through a Casio keyboard he liked as a kid, which makes for a pretty tight music-plus-brand story, honestly.

When I was a kid (talking early 90s), where I grew up, every keyboard or anything remotely resembling one was called a Casio. But if you had the real deal, you were the cool kid. From stealing jealous glances of real Casios, I remember the shades of teal and yellow that we see on the J-Shock. They were button colours for samples even on keyboards (like SongBanks and ToneBanks) other than the SK-5 which John used as inspiration. So the nostalgia rush for me is pretty hard too.

It’s minutia and emotional drivers that we’re looking for in our watches — even connections to the people behind them, whether in the context of a timepiece being handmade, or a merger of philosophies in the case of collaborations. This one had them all. It’ll bring cheer to many a Mayer fan for a grand total of $180. As far as keeping it real and spreading smiles goes, it was perhaps the most important watch of 2020.

P.S. I must admit the memes were hilarious.

Amish Behl is a wristwatch specialist and collector based in New Delhi, India, and the founder of Winding Ritual.

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