The rough-wearing, unpretentious, fun personality of G-Shock watches could hardly be better experienced than by testing one while riding ATVs around the muddy woods in New Jersey. That is how the brand introduced the new Mudmaster GGB100 to several New York-based journalists one recent Wednesday.
It easily survived the bumpy ride, being totally submerged in mud, an encounter with a hostile local, and an ATV that seemed to catch fire briefly. Of course, that’s a fraction of what the Mudmaster is built to withstand and just a small piece of the performance it promises, and the GGB100 packs new durability features and tech at a characteristically approachable price.
Notable: The G-Shock Mudmaster is about as giant and serious-looking as any G-Shock watch out there, and it has continued to evolve in 2019 with several new features and some design updates to differentiate it. A lightweight “Carbon Core Guard” is new this year and is supposed to enhance the durability of the already famously rugged watch. Further, this is the first Mudmaster to offer Bluetooth connectivity and step-counting, which the brand numbers among its Quad Sensors. This model regrettably does not include Casio’s Tough Solar light-charging technology.
Who It’s For: Broadly speaking, there are G-Shocks that can appeal to actual or wannabe tough guys, fans of youthful street fashion, and retro-futuristic nostalgics. The Mudmaster falls into the first category, and was made for professionals working in genuinely rugged conditions, but perfectly suitable for those who simply like that idea or want something built with that level of toughness in mind. You need big wrists or to be on board with the idea of large watches to enjoy a Mudmaster.
Alternatives: The combination of features G-Shocks typically offer is pretty unique, so the most legitimate alternatives to the Mudmaster exist within the G-Shock family itself. The Mudmaster’s all-digital sibling the Mudman is one obvious example, but those who appreciate the extensive functionality will find similar technology offered across the “Master of G” tier of G-Shocks in which the Mudmaster lives.
Similarly affordable, genuinely beat-me-up, quartz tool watches are available from brands like Victorinox, Luminox, and Marathon. The Super-Quartz-powered pilot watches in Brietling’s Professional series perhaps come the closest in terms of intended use and range of functions — but they are many times more expensive and therefore lack the casual, fun nature that characterizes G-Shock.
At first encounter, the Mudmaster’s aggressive size seems to suggest its purpose as rugged equipment and just how much tech is packed inside it. Colors and textures that reference military or industrial themes further communicate that this watch means business. Ad what business does it mean, exatly? Many G-Shocks were originally designed for and actually worn by professionals who work in demanding physical conditions, and the Mudman and Mudmaster lines are specifically designed to deal with mud and dust, as well as general rough handling.
G-Shock watches mostly share a basic set of features, with more involved and premium models building upon them. Stylistic elements aside, the differences between G-Shock families and models can largely be divided into durability and technology features. Basic models are famously shock-resistant, water-resistant to 200m, and have functions including timers, world time, calendar data, and LED backlights.
The Mudmaster GGB100 is also rated 200m water-resistant. However, while you might think that anything that keeps out water would easily be able to prevent mud ingress as well, the small particles in mud and dust present challenges of their own. These “mud-resistant” watches use a special “filter” behind the buttons and a steel case back covered by a layer of plastic resin. In testing, mud didn’t seem to hurt the watch’s functions at all, but it is hard to completely clean from the many nooks, crannies, and facets of the Mudmaster’s complex case.
A new feature for 2019 is the use of a plastic resin case reinforced with carbon fiber, which replaces the plastic-only structure of many existing models. The brand is calling this type of case “Carbon Core Guard,” and the idea is that it will keep watches as light as those fully made of plastic and possibly even more resilient. “Carbon Core Guard” also sounds more premium than “plastic,” but G-Shock haters should remember sometimes that plastics have some incredibly useful durability properties (and not all plastics are the same). The carbon case is visible from the side, but what is seen from the front is the carbon fiber-patterned bezel, which is also lightweight but mostly serves to highlight the watch’s new carbon focus. The button at 6 o’clock activates a surprisingly bright LED dial illuminator.
In terms of techy features, G-Shock watches measure, calculate, and display information in several ways. In addition to the quartz movements and microchips that provide timing and calendar data that is basic to G-Shock and other Casio watches, more premium models like this Mudmaster GGB100 include sensors and a bluetooth link to connect with a smartphone. All these together add up to so many possible features that consumers may be easily overwhelmed, and even Casio has trouble explaining it all. Most people will only use a few of the available features anyway.
Previous “Triple Sensor” watches had a compass, thermometer, and pressure sensors, which are used for barometer and altimeter readings. The fourth sensor in the Mudmaster’s “Quad Sensor” is an accelerometer which senses the acceleration of gravity the same way smartphones are able to detect directions, tilts, vibrations, etc. This is used in the Mudmaster to offer a step counter which can then share data with a smartphone via a bluetooth connection (activated by the button at 3 o’clock). The smartphone connection allows for other features as well, some more useful than others depending on the wearer’s needs.
Frankly, some functions which require proximity of the connected phone seem of limited utility — like the ability to register a location on the watch and then have the watch indicate the direction and distance to return to it, drawing on data from the phone. An Activity Log feature uses the phone’s positioning and the watch’s altimeter to track activity, but it seems like most smartphones alone would be able to accomplish this. It will be more useful if future versions of the watch are able to perform these kinds of things autonomously like some smartwatches already can.
The bluetooth smartphone link, however, makes a lot of sense and genuinely enhances the user experience in several ways. Even basic Casio watches require a little learning, but all the functionality offered in these more feature-packed models can be overwhelming to use with only the few buttons available on the watch itself. From within the G-Shock Connected application, you can control various settings and displays, set alarms and timers, and customize the watch’s modes. The smartphone link further allows the time to automatically update when changing time zones as well as adjust the timekeeping accuracy.
Everyone who sees the Mudmaster remarks first on its size — there’s no getting around that it’s just plain big — but if you try it on you’re just as likely to remark on its comfort. Yes, the case is a whopping 53.1mm wide and 19.3mm thick, but like just about all G-Shock watches, it’s ergonomically curved and light on the wrist at just 92g. For a price of $350 retail, the Mudmaster GGB100 offers a healthy dose of the G-Shock brand personality and experience, a ton of functionality, and genuinely tough watch you don’t need to worry about.
Verdict: You really can’t beat G-Shock for its combination of durability, tech, and — subjectively — its extroverted style. Some people love big, bold G-Shocks and others don’t, but the size will be unwieldy for some people. While not every element of the functionality that G-Shock claims to offer is ideally practical, you can still get a lot out of a watch like the Mudmaster, whether or not you are regularly getting muddy. Only the omission of the brand’s Tough Solar prevents the Mudmaster GGB100 from being unreservedly recommendable for those that would otherwise be served well by it.
In the end, even if most people won’t use all its features or put its durability to the test by splashing around the woods on ATVs, everything offered by G-Shock watches like the Mudman amounts to a general sense of durability, reliability, and genuine functionality — and that’s what G-Shock fans rightly appreciate.
Case Size: 53.1mm wide, 19.3mm thick
Water Resistance: 200m
Battery Life: 2 years