Posted on September 15 2020
It’s a mission that has remained fairly constant with Timex producing a range of affordable watches.
The Connecticut based brand introduced its first bestselling affordable watch in 1895. The Yankee pocket watch was known as the watch that made the dollar famous. Selling six-million units, it was the cheapest watch on the market and the first to sell for $1. The brand no longer competes at the lowest price-point, but that was where it originally won its market share.
By the 1950s Timex was being used as the brand name and the watches were featured on TV being put through a series of ‘torture tests’. Stunts designed to demonstrate the watches durability. It was at that time that they coined the memorable ‘Timex – Takes a Licking and keeps on Ticking’ slogan.
The success of this marketing, and the sales of the watches through a variety of channels, meant that by the 1960s they were America’s best selling watches. A third of all watches sold there were produced by Timex.
Clearly the American consumer felt that Timex watches represented good value for money.
The current Timex range is built on the foundations of this history and the brand’s subsequent innovations. A standout watch from this later period was the Ironman - introduced in 1986. It quickly became the best-selling watch in America and the world’s most popular sports watch. This was followed by the companies development of the Indiglo night light and the Expedition collection.
Within the current Timex range, there are a number of memorable designs, most of which do represent good value for money. Again, I’ve tended to focus on the mechanical pieces - not ideal when some of the companies biggest successes have been digital and quartz models. However, like most watch enthusiasts, I prefer analogue models, with a preference for automatics. So I’ve selected the watches that I believe show the brand at it’s best - the watches that I’ve worn or would most like to wear.
Timex has collaborated with a number of companies and individuals over the years. This has ranged from Disney and Peanuts to more recent partnerships with Hawaiian tattooist Keone Nunes (eBay) and British fashion designer Nigel Cabourn (eBay).
The Peanuts collection features models aimed at kids as well as adults. Space Snoopy, for example, is a colourful and fun piece that would work well for an adult, but I prefer this understated Charlie Brown model.
It’s 40mm, larger than some of the models marketed to kids, and importantly, is powered by an automatic movement. The design is based on a 1960s Timex Marlin and the Charlie Brown art is a simple monochromatic drawing.
The overall effect is of a modest vintage-styled piece, with more than a touch of character. It’s fun and I really like it.
Timex Peanuts Marlin Automatic TW2U127007
The M79 builds on that history.
Described by Timex as a fresh interpretation, this model takes the Q’s aesthetics - the angular case and woven stainless-steel bracelet for example - and upgrades and updates the package. Rather than the quartz movement of the Q, the M79 has an automatic movement, proudly displayed through the exhibition back. The 38mm case of the original is also beefed up to 40mm, a nod to the current trend of larger watches.
The result aims to capture the best of both eras. The now retro styling of the 1970s, coupled with higher specs and modern watchmaking know-how. It’s an impressive watch that appears to have been well received among watch fans, to the point where it is mostly sold-out.
Timex M79 TW2U295007U
Powered by a Japanese Miyota movement, this watch is a step above the average Timex watch.
Not obvious from the photo above is the hollowed out case. The case has an inner section that houses the components and the outer part, with the lugs, that is cut through. It’s an interesting and attractive design that gives this watch more depth than is first apparent.
Other subtle touches of quality include the synthetic Ruby inset into the dial. The dial itself is domed and has a sunburst effect. It is simple, but not plain.
The reliable Japanese movement is visible through the exhibition back and has a cut-out rotor that compliments the case. The overall effect, with the soft synthetic rubber strap, is of a classic watch that adds enough unique design elements to really stand out.
Timex Giorgio Galli TW2U16800GO
This model has a bold, unashamedly retro styling. From the logo font and electric-blue striated dial to the two-tone case, it all feels authentic. The rear of the case even contains a battery hatch, more usually seen on military watches like the G10.
With the angular case, the modest diameter of 38mm doesn’t feel too small. It feels right for a watch you’d have worn in 1979.
Timex Q Reissue Falcon Eye TW2T808007U
This is an American made watch with a Swiss movement.
Let me explain what that means. The case is drop forged in US-sourced stainless steel and the leather strap is made with American hides by American craftsmen. Housed within this is a Swiss-made automatic movement. So the dial reads “Made in America - Swiss Movement”.
In addition, there are a series of design points that reference Timex’s American history, the most obvious being the gold coin case back. It refers to Timex’s founding, as does the crown decoration.
It’s a strong statement that has allowed Timex to work with parts suppliers in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. The case, the strap, the coin and the crown - they’re all from local suppliers. It’s worth a closer look just for that reason alone.
There are four colour variations, each maintaining that simple, dress watch aesthetic.
Timex American Documents TW2R82900OZ
Giorgio Galli noted that this line “has been designed as a tribute to the history of Timex, taking inspiration from our design heritage, as well as from the iconography of the modern American urban landscape”.
With this model that has meant a simple, clean design firmly in the tool watch camp. There’s the hint of military influence in the bold white numerals on a plain black dial. But the hands suggest an aviation-style too. It’s in that area - a classic tool watch.
There are a number of Waterbury styles and specs - chronographs, 12/24 hr dials and some women’s models. I prefer this mechanical piece, with the black rather than a white dial.
With an RRP of a little over £200, the watch represents fairly decent value for money. There’s a 21 jewel automatic movement and a mineral crystal in a watch that is available on the high street. There’s not a great deal of competition at this price point if you’re shopping for a mechanical watch in your local town. If you'd like to keep the cost down, there is also a quartz version of this design.
Timex Waterbury Automatic TW2T69800D7PF
This watch can be used to make contactless payments.
For a small budget, you can get a stylish watch, with Indigo light technology and cutting edge banking tech built into the strap.
Timex Waterbury Traditional Chronograph TWF3C8230UK
The Navi XL is another piece that was designed with an eye on the past.
The design is inspired by the brands earliest divers watches, with an automatic movement adding to the authenticity. To my eye, there’s a military aesthetic - the use of green, brown and black suggest a watch designed for the outdoors. Maybe to be worn with camouflage.
There’s also an obvious functionality in the design. A clear, rotating bezel and the 12/24 dial. The hour hand adds a nice touch by circling the hour on the 24hr scale while simultaneously pointing at the time on the 12hr scale.
Overall, the watch has a strong look, and like the other automatics, is competitively priced.
Timex Navi XL Auto TW2U098007U
The Allied collection contains quite a variety of designs, ranging from colourful divers to this basic military model. Available in a few variations, it’s the understated grey/brown version that appealed to me.
It’s clearly a modern watch - with both the Indigo light technology and quartz movement pointing to this. But there’s a hint of the vintage too, with the distressed leather strap reinforcing this styling.
The crown at 4 o’clock is a nice touch, and the orange-tipped hands add just a little flair to the design - whilst really emphasising the functional aspect of the watch. Despite the black numerals on a grey dial, legibility is clearly of concern here.
It’s another very affordable watch that is definitely worth a closer look.
Timex Allied LT 40 TW2T33300D7PF
Another of the watches designed in Milan, the inspiration is clearly the cushion case dress watches of the 1970s. In keeping with this, the watch is powered by a quartz movement.
Gone is the Indigo lighting and the rugged appeal of the military pieces. Instead, we have a degree of minimalism and simplicity. The colours are simple and the dial, with its silver indices and baton hands, keeps things minimal.
It’s a bold look, and with the 38mm diameter, won’t be for everyone. But for me, it’s a success. Like the Q models, it does a good job of capturing the design ethos of a specific period and seems like a suitable place to round out this list.
Timex Milano XL 38mm TW2U15600D7PF
The Timex company has a long history. As a brand that is well established in our high streets and malls, it’s easy to overlook their watches. Like Rotary (more here), you can often find that the most interesting models, the collaborations and limited editions, don’t make it into the big-box stores.
You have to dig a little deeper, learn a little of the brands’ history, and importantly, approach their watches with an open mind. Once you do that you can get dragged into the brands’ story and begin to appreciate the collections a little more. In the case of Timex, there are some really affordable, fun pieces that you should take the time to familiarise yourself with.