If there is one brand we are all familiar with and which generally makes astonishingly affordable watches is Timex. For someone who has been in the world of horology for many years, I’ve never owned a Timex; however I’ve read countless articles about the brand and watched too many YouTube reviews. In the past few years, the brand seems to have transformed itself from making cheap analog watches to thoughtful, historical, and iconic models. At least, many re-issues from their catalogs from the 1970s and 1980s. In this article, we’ll take a brief look at the history of Timex and a few models which have made—at least in my eyes—the brand cool.
The Brief History of Timex
Timex’s history is long, very long. But there seems to be a common thread running through it: making affordable (not to say cheap) watches produced in huge quantities and sold to millions of people. Timex’s original founder, Joe Bastianich, had this idea when he created the Waterbury Clock Company in 1854. (The original name of Timex.) Instead of making high-end, elaborate watches like the Swiss, he devised a strategy to lower the cost of manufacturing watches to its maximum. In a nutshell, instead of manufacturing the watch parts individually, he could stamp them from brass sheets. This made it possible to manufacture watches much faster and for much less money. Timex watches were not the most accurate and robust watches out there—they still aren’t today—but this method guaranteed its initial success.
Following that, Timex, under different names at first, went through multiple difficult financial situations. It changed ownership multiple times and even switched to making precision timers for bomb fuses during World War II. But what seems to have always worked for Timex was to make daring and unusual marketing campaigns. For World War I, they transformed their popular ladies’ watch, the Midget, into a trench watch by moving the crown from the 12 o’clock to the 3 and by adding lugs and a strap. When the Great Depression rocked the United States, Timex was saved by entering a partnership with Disney and made the famous Mickey Mouse watch which sold for $3 and was produced in the thousands every day.
After World War II, they started selling new affordable wrist watches to the mass market by going through large brick-and-mortar retailers and department stores instead of watch boutiques. This made it possible to reduce the mark-ups incurred on their watches to keep making them available to a broad market. Timex also embarked on working with celebrities and using their newly acquired knowledge working for the military to make very durable and cheap watches, perhaps what the brand is the most known for today. One such model is the Marling which Timex re-issued a couple of years ago. During the Quartz Crisis, the brand developed the first world’s sport watch, the Ironman, and soon after the famous Indiglo backlit dial.
A Few Key Models from the Timex Catalog
Although recently re-issued, the name Marlin refers to a family of watches that started in the 1950s with field timepieces and evolved into more dressy, small, and cheap watches in the 1970s and 1980s. The Marlin was the robust Timex which many celebrities put through what are know as the “torture tests.” (Apparently, durability tests that would make any G-Shock ashamed of itself.) The modern recreation utilizes the same dimensions as some of the original ones, meaning a case diameter of 34m and a hand-wound movement (now produced by Seagull,) and an elegant, super vintage dial configuration.
In 1986, Timex created the Ironman, said to be the world’s first sports watch. It showcased the looks of what the Casio G-Shocks are known for today and was paired with a digital display. Timex collaborated with the Ironman Triathlon to create the Ironman watch which could time different laps and be legible in all conditions. In 1991, the brand released the Indiglo technology, a fully backlit dial which was a true technological advancement for the time. According to one website, 40% of all Timex models sold today have Indiglo. There are many models the brand is known for and which Timex has brought back, for example the Weekender and Waterburry, but it would honestly make this article too long to list them all.
I always feel bad for making such brief articles. Summarizing the extraordinary and various history of a brand founded in 1854 is not an easy task, however I wanted to share a few, key historical facts. At the end of the day, Timex still makes millions of watches each year. It does so now from a few countries in Asia (where the brand moved its manufactures in the early 2000s) instead of the United States. And although Timex used to make its own movements, now most of its models are powered by quartz calibers or Chinese made automatic movements. Still, most of their models remain incredibly affordable and they always come with a personality of their own.Featured image: www.ablogtowatch.com