When I was about eight years old, my dad decided it was youit’s time for me to start wearing a watch. He bought me a digital Timex with a rubber strap, an ideal watch for an irresponsible young boy. It was waterproof, durable and, above all, inexpensive.
These were the defining characteristics of Timex men’s watches in the 1990s. The once prestigious American watchmaker had become a purveyor of reliable but disposable timepieces sold everywhere from department stores to pharmacies. Their function was purely utilitarian, designed to keep track of time in the simplest way possible. Many of their digital watches offered alarms, calendars, and other rudimentary “smart” features. It was an important niche that Timex filled admirably, but it wasn’t always that way.
Timex has always provided affordability and reliability, but for most of the brand’s long and esteemed history, it has also provided style. From the 1920s through the quartz revolution of the 1980s, Timex sold eloquently designed and reliably constructed wristwatches that were affordable to the mass market. In fact, the company was one of the earliest innovators of the wristwatch when it designed one for American soldiers during World War I. In the 1950s, it used advances in wartime metal alloys and bomb fuses to create more durable automatic watches that could be mass-produced more cheaply. For most of the 20th century, Timex sold more watches in America than any other company.
Over the past decade, Timex has reclaimed its heritage as the people’s stylish American watch brand. Even with the huge financial resources and market share it already enjoyed, it was no easy task. Fifteen years ago, when the watch market was booming, Timex was an afterthought. The athletics market it was known for had been overtaken by smart watches, and Timex’s quartz analog watches were considered bland plastic. It took the support of a beloved fashion designer, the hiring of a prodigious watch designer, and a few savvy creative choices to make Timex a player in menswear again. The story of how it happened can best be told from the perspective of the six Timex watches that lead the way.
Apple was not the first company to put apps on a watch. Hamilton invented the digital watch, but Timex, Casio and Seiko made them smart in the 1980s. They put calendars, alarms, calculators, dates and other digital functions on the wrist for the first time. Timex took the feature a step further in the 1990s when they released the Ironman line. The partnership with the famous triathlon competition gave Timex the respectability to conquer the sports watch market. They were waterproof, dirt-, scratch-, and shock-resistant, and they tracked your performance. The Ironman line has become the best-selling sports watch from the 1990s and remains a favorite of runners, cyclists and swimmers to this day.
When Todd Snyder was creative director of J.Crew Men’s in the early 2000s, he chose Timex as the only watch brand to be sold alongside his designs. At that time, Timex offered a very limited line of vintage-inspired watches that matched the J.Crew aesthetic. Although they looked the part, they were all quartz and had some plastic parts, so they didn’t intrigue watch aficionados.
After Snyder went solo and launched his eponymous brand in 2011, he continued his partnership with Timex. After a few years of selling vintage models with quartz movements, watches specially selected by Snyder, Timex decided to fully revive its most iconic watch from the 1960s. Initially an exclusive for Todd Snyder in 2016, the Marlin line has was built with the same size and look as the original line and even featured a hand-wound mechanical movement. This was Timex’s first step into the world of mechanical watches. Since then, the company has expanded the Marlin line to offer a variety of face designs and case sizes, and it’s even added fully automatic movements.
Veteran watch designer Giorgio Galli is the guiding spirit in Timex’s style overhaul. The Milan-based designer was creative director of the Swatch Group in the 1990s, one of the largest watch companies in the world. As a result, he was very experienced in designing watches that looked good and worked well while remaining affordable for mass production. Galli began working with Timex in the early 2000s as a design consultant before taking on full-time creative direction. Among Timex wristwatches, its iconic models stand out for their unique elegance and modernity. The Giorgio Galli line also offers the highest level of quality in materials and production while selling for just under $500, placing watches in this line among the most profitable in the watch world.
Galli’s influence goes far beyond his signing. He has also created an ever-growing range of elegant and robust timepieces. It cleverly drew aesthetic inspiration from Timex’s vast portfolio of 20th century designs while following the micro-brand’s blueprint of outsourcing mechanical and automatic movements. As varied as the micro-brand watch community may seem, almost all of these watches are powered by Japanese and Chinese movements. Timex was able to relaunch its automatic line without driving up prices by relying on automatic movements from Miyota, a subsidiary of Citizen, and mechanical movements from Seagull. The scuba-inspired M79 Automatic, first relaunched as part of the quartz Q line, offers a retro submariner vibe for a fraction of the cost.
While it’s nice to see Timex back in the automatic game, it’s still fundamentally a quartz watch company. The company was an innovator in quartz movement in the 1980s, which remains what it does best. So it makes sense that the Q line of retro reissues has become Timex’s most popular line among watch enthusiasts. His longtime partnership with Todd Snyder has proven to be an inspiration for timeless designs. The newest addition to the Q line, the Q Chronograph, surpasses all of its predecessors in universal beauty and rugged functionality. It’s clearly inspired by chronograph classics like the Rolex Daytona and Tag Heuer Autavia while still featuring enough fundamentally Timex elements to make it your own.
We are well over a decade after the time when men started to care about watches again. What started as a fascination with vintage pieces for the few who could afford them has morphed into an entire generation of men who want something on their wrist that they love to look at and can count on forever. tell the right time. There are countless options for those who can afford to spend a thousand or several thousand dollars on a watch, but the choices remain slim in the sub-$500 range. Many micro-brand startups are trying to scratch that itch, but Timex is the only historic American brand to bring beautiful, high-quality watches to the public. You could hardly be ashamed of mistaking the new Waterbury dive chronograph for a $4,000 Swiss automatic watch, and ultimately, isn’t that the point?
There are certainly a lot of guys who care about the innards of their watch as much as they care about the look, and good for them if they can afford it, but most guys just want a watch that looks good and that won’t shit on them. Timex has certainly regained its role in appealing to this latter demographic.