Hands-On Review – G-Shock NASA DW5600NASA20 & DW5600NASA21

The Casio G-Shock DW5600 is a simple an inexpensive watch that has become a quintessential non-essential accessory for tech-minded folks with a frugal streak, such as yours truly. In its purist form, the G-Shock DW5600 is tough as nails, its utilitarian function leaving a drab aesthetic that some consider a true classic. Others may say it’s a “dad watch” due to its underwhelming nature and anachronistic likeness to the original G-Shock DW-5000C from 1983. For me, it’s really both.

On the flip-side, Casio/G-Shock has a history of borrowing from Swatch’s playbook. In 1992 G-Shock introduced resin colorways. In 1994, G-Shock introduced its first collaboration by partnering the with International Cetacean Education and Research Center (ICERC), which unites scientists, artists, healers, and mystics in a shared effort to help whales and dolphins and other cetaceans. This collaboration watch paved the way for later mash-ups with pop-culture brands such as BAPE, Burton Snowboards, Wu-Tang Clan, Keith Haring, Gorillaz, Bamford London, and, of course, NASA. Limited edition collaboration G-Shocks now proliferate so profusely that they’ve become the epitome of drop culture.

drop is a limited release of merchandise, often as a marketing technique deployed by streetwear fashion brands. Drop culture is the thinking, behavior, and community surrounding drops. I can’t think of a better example of drop culture in action than Casio dropping the limited edition NASA collaboration watches in 2020 and 2021. G-Shock serves so many audiences that it’s hard to sort through their never-ending barrage of press releases, but, as a space nerd, this one caught my eye. I bought a single DW5600NASA20 from the G-Shock website during the initial 2020 release and my personal narrative was more like, “I’m into space stuff, this looks cool, add to cart!” I got in early. The hype-meter hadn’t pinned its needle just yet, but these NASA G-Shocks quickly wound up in high demand on the secondary market at prices cresting well above retail.

G-Shock NASA 2020 Limited-Edition

Open the pod bay doors, HAL. Photo: Greg Bedrosian
  • Model: DW5600NASA20
  • Type: Digital Quartz
  • MSRP: $130
  • Release Year: 2020
  • Size: 48.9 x 42.8 x 13.4 mm

Visually, the G-Shock DW5600NASA20 is ultraclean and sterile, thus depicting a familiar futuristic space travel aesthetic. It’s a lot of white, almost too much. You might feel like Derek Zoolander strutting on a runway while wearing it. Fashion and marketing aside, the DW5600NASA20 feels like a toy belonging to a kid playing astronaut compared to the Omega Speedmaster, iterated to the nth degree in celebration of 1969’s moon landing. Unless you’re actually in NASA, you’re just dressing the part either way. I’m guilty on all accounts, but I did have space shuttle tent for my bed as a kid. Does that somehow count me as a NASA guy? Culturally speaking, for sure.

NASA G-Shock 2020 DW5600NASA20 Packaging
The packaging of the DW5600NASA20. Photo: Greg Bedrosian

This 2020 release is supposed to “honor decades of space exploration and groundbreaking discoveries” according to G-Shock. That’s very broad, even for watch marketing. The whole package (marketing lingo included) is a miss-mash of iconic space imagery. It was also interesting that NASA was able and willing to bend its policy for this co-branding effort, allowing G-Shock to feature the red NASA “worm” logo on a commercial product. The red NASA logo seemed to be everywhere in street fashion during 2020, which helped the watch’s popularity immensely.

Saturn V Rocket Stage IB NASA
A section of Stage-IB from a Saturn V rocket during assembly. Image: NASA Archives

The packaging is a step up from your average G-Shock DW5600, as you would expect for a limited edition. The 2020 cardboard package features a picture of the Earth. The metal tin has the same pattern as the Saturn V rocket used by NASA from 1967-73 and made famous by the Apollo mission. It’s a clever choice because the cylindrical nature of the packing tin is suggestive of the staged modules that separate from the rocket during launch.

G-Shock NASA 2021 Limited Edition

DW5600NASA21 G-Shock NASA 2021 on Wrist
The DW5600NASA21 on wrist. Photo: Greg Bedrosian
  • Model: DW5600NASA21
  • Type: Digital Quartz
  • MSRP: $140
  • Release Year: 2021
  • Size: 48.9 x 42.8 x 13.4 mm

A year later, in 2021, G-Shock dropped another limited release co-branded with NASA. The DW5600NASA21 was designed to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the first Space Transportation System mission (STS-1), commonly known as the “Space Shuttle.”

The glaring aesthetic change is that the DW5600NASA21 has a black case, which mimics the Space Shuttle’s stark colorway. The black belly of the shuttle is actually made up of thousands of tiles that serve as a thermal protection system, or TPS. The essential role of these tiles is to prevent the incineration of the shuttle and its crew from the approximately 3,000°F temperatures achieved during atmospheric re-entry.

These black thermal protective tiles have become part of the Space Shuttle aesthetic. Image: NASA

Unboxing the watch, you will notice that the resin strap is different from the first, all-white NASA G-Shock. The black shapes on the strap are styled after those same tiles that give the Space Shuttle is distinct lines. Continuing to comb through the packaging contents, you will notice that the 2021 design is entirely specific to the shuttle, not just NASA.

G-Shock NASA DW5600NASA21 2021 Packaging
The packaging for the DW5600NASA21. Photo: Greg Bedrosian

The outer cardboard box itself is meant to look like one of the closed-circuit television monitors for the payload handler (giant boom-arm in the cargo bay). However – and here I’ll show you my space nerdery in high gear – there was no Remote Manipulator System (or mechanical arm) on the first shuttle mission. Oh well. The screen on the box lists facts about the STS-1 mission. The tin can inside that holds the watch also commemorates the first Space Shuttle launch on April 12th, 1981, as well as listing facts about the mission. Listing all those facts is cool, but it gets space nerds like me into fact checking. Space nerds love fact checking.

As A Watch

There is no shortage of colorways and limited edition versions of G-Shock DW5600s. In its most basic form, it’s a watch with roots in the 1980s. You get enough internal protection to use the watch as a hockey puck if so desired. The watch wears a little large as the resin strap is fans outward from the lugs rather than hanging most straps. This feature gives the perception of an integrated strap. However, after the resin strap breaks in, the seams between the case and strap will become more evident.

Like most digital quartz watches, it is full of functions and features. The Casio 3229 digital movement has a two-year battery life and is good for +/- 15 seconds per month. That’s not particularly impressive for a quartz watch. It is operated by four buttons (“A,B,C,D”) and the menu system is so cumbersome that it’s borderline unusable. But thats’ ok, because the functions are close to worthless (except for the stopwatch, which is easy enough to use). But are you really wearing one of these things out jogging? Not me. The buttons are also asymmetrical, and the “A” button in the top left of the DW5600 has a flush profile with the case that makes it nearly impossible to press. G-Shock’s customer support told me that, “too many customers were complaining about hitting that button by accident.” Casio’s solution is more annoying than helpful.

One of the best features is the teal backlight that Casio calls “electroluminescent backlight afterglow.” Timex kind of wins the name game with “Indiglo.” G-Shock tends to reserve this style of backlight for special and limited editions, however. When the backlight is activated, images of space stuff appear behind behind the LCD. The 2020 version has the Moon, and the 2021 version features the Space Shuttle and the years 1981 & 2021.

As A Collectable

G-Shock Nike SB
“Drop Culture” is nothing new. Photo: Greg Bedrosian

Predicting the future is usually difficult. In this case, there is a high probability that we will see G-Shock release the DW5600NASA2022 in the Spring of 2022 (assuming the co-branding partnership remains intact). The biggest question is what will NASA celebrate? Surely not the anniversary of the failed spacewalk of 1982. You can play watch marketing executive and brainstorm something to celebrate about 1982’s Space Shuttle missions from this list from NASA. The specific event to commemorate is arbitrary, and the DW5600NASA2022 will sell out quickly when it drops. Folks like me who own the first two NASA G-Shocks will have to get the third, and the secondary-market flippers are poised to cash in on that mandate.

These types of collaborations blur the line between the typically staid world of watches and the constantly disruptive world of fashion drop-culture. The NASA G-Shocks constitute one of the closest parallels I’ve seen between sneaker drop culture and watches. The MSRPs even share similar price points; $100 (give or take). A trained eye can navigate the endless stream of “special” G-Shock models to predict the hits, just as a sneaker nerd can pick out the hits from Nike and Adidas. Something relatively cheap has the potential to quickly increase in value on the secondary market once the initial “drop” is sold out. One can find fun (and profit) in these speculations, and the NASA G-Shocks are sure to continue their upward trend.

G-Shock NASA 2020 DW5600NASA20 Nike Dunk Heineken
Secondary market gold. Photo: Greg Bedrosian

If you missed out on the NASA G-Shocks (and the latest pair of Nike Dunks), that’s fine. Don’t let FOMO (fear of missing out) control your consumer dollars. There’s an easier way to study the red NASA worm logo: the NASA Graphics Standards Manual, now published as a book, will set you back $80. While you’re at it, grab a pair of Nikes below MSRP from GOAT. Strap in for launch; next stop Hypetown.