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History of Timex – American watches for everybody. Including presidents.

Tags: About the brand | Timex | Classic | Fashion | Traditional

5.10.2021 | 10 MIN | 4x comment

There are brands that represent watches for the majority of society. Not those luxury outfit accessories, not even those technical miracles – they are not status symbols, but workers of everyday life. They are everywhere and nowhere at the same time. And one of these brands is most definitely Timex. The old saying states that time is money – this is the story of both of those.

What connects Mickey Mouse, Snoopy and Bill Clinton? Where are mechanical Timex watches? What hides the weird name INDIGLO? And what did Louis Armstrong sing about? Let's take a look at it today.

Waterbury, one-dollar watches and Mickey Mouse

The first Timex watch saw the light of the day in 1950. But at that time, the company already had (although under different names) a history of active watchmaking for almost a century. Originally, the name of the company was the Waterbury Clock Company, was based in Connecticut and produced inexpensive pocket watches with a goal to compete with their expensive European alternatives.

1854. Founding of the Waterbury Clock Company in Connecticut by Joe Bastianich.

At the end of the 19th century, the company merged with another manufacturer called Ingersoll to introduce the Ingersoll Yankee pocket watch – which cost only one dollar and was therefore known as the "watch that made the dollar famous". Sure, at that time, a dollar was more than it is today, but even then it was very little in the context of watchmaking. Thus, Timex was a choice of people who "just needed a watch".

Dolarové hodinky vyráběla společnost Waterbury pro firmu Ingersoll.

Dollar watches were produced by the Waterbury company for the Ingersoll company.

Unfortunately for future Timex, an aggressive pricing policy may not always be the right business model. Before the World War I, the company was on the verge of bankruptcy, the main reasons being attributed to poor management.

However, the world of watches was to change fundamentally. Wristwatches, until then considered more of a women's accessory, found its way to the wrists of World War I soldiers, and Timex managed to be there. By modifying one of the women's models with a smaller dial, moving the crown and attaching a strap, the watch was created as we know it today. And Timex benefited from this because of how fast the model was developed.

K původně kapesním hodinkám přinýtovali nožky, posunuli korunku a na světě byly náramkové hodinky. O něco později vznikla spolupráce s Disneym.

They riveted legs to what was originally a pocket watch, moved the crown, and a wristwatch was born. A little later, a collaboration with Disney was established.

After the war, the company was in better shape than before, but then came the great economic crisis. However, Timex reacted creatively, got a deal with Disney, and in 1933 introduced its first truly successful watch with Mickey Mouse, which brought the company millions in sales.

1933. The first Mickey Mouse watch was introduced, made for the Ingersoll company.

American watches for everybody

During World War II, the company was renamed The United States Time Corporation, and the main selling items were bomb timers supplied to the US military. After the war, the demands to make them fell, so the company refocused on making wristwatches, with the same goal as 50 years ago – to make cheap, accurate, and durable watches for everyone.

1941. Thomas Olsen buys Waterbury and later renames it to Timex Corp. The name Timex was created by combining the names of the then popular magazines Time and Kleenex.

In 1950, the watches were introduced under the now well-known brand Timex. Their main advantage? They were the cheapest watches on American market. The low price was reached through a controversial inovation, that was supposed to influence the reputation of the brand.

The price of watch production was optimized by not using the so-called stones, which can still be found in mechanical watches. It it all thanks to the beds made of synthetically made ruby ​​with minimal frictional resistance, in which moving components are anchored. These rubies, as they are also called, were and still are an expensive component of the watch, and the very fact that Timex managed to replace this solution can be considered a success. This was accomplished by using a new solid and smooth alloy, developed during the war for use in bearings.

1950. The first watch under the name Timex. Commonly used rubies have been replaced by the Armalloy alloy.

Even though Timex claimed that the features of their cheap watches were comparable, or even better than traditional competition, it was only half true. The watches were really low-priced and they were resistant to mechanical damage, but due to the lack of rubies, the accuracy of the watches decreased and the watches could definitely not compete with the Swiss chronometers.

Hand in hand with the introduction of the new watch, an extensive advertising campaign was launched in newspapers, on the radio and on the then-emerging television showing Timex as an American watch.There was even a jazz show Timex, where Louis Armstrong promoted the watch. In 1962, every third watch sold in the United States was a Timex watch.

1962. Every third watch sold in the United States was a Timex watch.

During the 1960s, one of the brand's key and still resonant models, the Timex Marlin, appeared on the scene. The elegant dress watch with a strong sunburst effect was re-launched a few years ago and, as a result, it confirmed the iconic nature of the original piece (you can still find pieces from the '60s at a reasonable price on eBay, but in recent years their price has been rising).

The Quartz Age, Ironman and Presidents watches

At that time, it had already started to drarken over the chronometer competitions in astronomical observatories and the mechanical age inevitably became the digital age. With all they got, Seiko made an appearence in the world watchmaking with their knowledge of silicon resonance and started the quartz crisis. All manufacturers of mechanical watches were affected – regardless of the tradition or size of the company. And everybody coped with the flood of extremely cheap and accuracate Japanese movements on their own.

Timex was hit hard by the crisis, factories had to lay off people, and more to that, the licensing partnership with Disney has expired. As in the past, however, the response of their management was quick, and Timex started to focus on producing the cheapest models again, this time equipped with quartz technology. In the '80s, Timex developed a fundamental model, that they made in collaboration with athletes, and which for ten years (!) was the world's best-selling watch ever – Timex Iron Man.

1986. Timex introduces Iron Man as the first sports watch in the world. Timex becomes the biggest seller of sports watches for several years.

In 1991, Timex engineers also came up with an original dial backlight – the INDIGLO technology, which, to this day, has almost no competition in inexpensive watches. Timex has thus re-established itself as an experienced manufacturer of cheap and quality watches for everyone – that is something that still applies nowadays.

The Indiglo-backlit Timex model gained immense popularity when an administrative worker used the watch to lead a group of people down the dark stairs during an attack on the World Trade Center in 1993.

In the 90s, it was possible to see inexpensive Timex watches on the wrists of many wealthy Americans or even presidents. Bill Clinton and G.W. Bush both had a Timex watch – Timex even created a special edition with the American flag for G.W. Bush.

Bill Clinton nosil Timex Ironman. Zdroj: https://www.thegentlemansjournal.com/

Bill Clinton wore Timex Ironman. Source: thegentlemansjournal.com

In 2001, Timex closed their entire watchmaking chapter. The production of watches on American territory was stopped; MADE IN USA had to step down due to the price affordability. Some special models and editions are still produced in the USA, such as American Documents, but it is extremely rare as the mainstream production now bears only a distant legacy of American watchmaking.

2008. The company restructured and changed its name to Timex Group USA.

Timex American Documents. Foto: Hodinkee.com

Timex American Documents. Photo: Hodinkee.com

How is it going in the 21st century?

And how is Timex doing at the moment? Timex produces a large number of models, covering most of the demanded categories. They re-do some iconic models from history. They compete for customers in the category of smart fitness watches. They have Snoopy on their dials. At the same time, however, they seem to be losing in the crucial segment of "cheap luxury watches” – as the Chinese-produced, heavily marketed, extremely overpriced fashion accessories are sometimes half disparagingly called.

In recent years, probably everyone, who is interested in watches has registered the advent of cool-sounding brands, such as Daniel Wellington, MVMT, Michael Kors, etc., which, with all the power of massive marketing, threw themselves on the market and attracted a lot of attention in the category where kings were already crowned – among them, of course, Timex and Casio. It is hard to say what is happening in these established watchmaking companies, but an adequate response has still yet to come, and so the category of cheap quartz social watches bizarrely deformed under a layer of virtually identical worthless pieces announcing a revolution in watchmaking and the destruction of the traditional order.

Unfortunately, the fact remains that although in a direct comparison with Timex, Timex often wins with specifications and quality of workmanship, the customer often prefers to reach for a good-looking design alternative. And so we come to the biggest challenge that the current Timex has to face: How to find a place in the densely saturated segment of affordable designer watches and be the king of cheap and reliable solutions again.

Timex offers

Retro diving watches, social classics, or everyday certainty? Timex has a watch for everyone. So let's take a look at some current models that are worth the attention.

Timex Originals

The Timex Originals edition is a direct warrior of the fights we mentioned earlier. Take a look at the watch, the price, and the beautiful INDIGLO backlight that comes with it. The choice suddenly doesn't seem that complicated, does it? The reason why you will see (more expensive) pieces of competition on more wrists than you see the Originals is purely the emphasis on marketing, the absence of which harmed Timex significantly in recent years.


Let's continue with probably the most iconic universal Timex piece, the Weekender model. The watch belongs under the “field watch” category – meaning they are well-readable clear watch with basic resistance to the elements and, of course, a backlit dial. The size of the watch is basically ideal as it fits any wrist. The model is available in many color combinations so everyone can choose their favorite.

Timex Weekender

Timex Weekender

Q Reissue

This model made quite a stir in old-fashioned watch circles. The re-launch of the Q Model, which did not excel at the time, but came back at the right time in the 21st century, when the hunger for "vintage divers" was the loudest.

It worked out for Orisa, Tudor and others, so why not Timex? Especially if the Q model is offered at a significantly lower price level compared to the competition. But that does not mean the watch is cheap – bad linguists might even claim that the price for old-school specifications is downright inadequate. Be the judge yourself – plastic glass, 50 m water resistance and a quartz movement. Pseudo-diving watch and a design experience, or a well-positioned retro piece? According to the demand in the aftermarket and the general enthusiasm, it seems to be clearly the second one.


The iconic Marlin model, a dress watch from the depths od the 20th century, was re-introduced and received a lot of praise. The automatic movement, beautiful clean design and traditional dimensions make this model a hard-to-resist choice, especially if you are looking for a decent watch with a decent and enchanting retro charm.


Finally, let's look at one more model line, this time offering, among other things, stylish and functional chronographs – Timex Waterbury. The clean and clear design combined with the practicality of the integrated stopwatch is a unique reminder of why Timex has found its way to so many wrists. The watches are affordable, honest, and will make the owner happy every time they check the time.

Timex. Watches for everybody

What to say in conclusion? Every watch enthusiasts fever had to start somewhere, and if it wasn't with Casio, it was most likely with Timex. They are not perfect watches, but they simply do well for what they were designed for, at prices that are more than adequate. At the same time, there is no significant mistake they make to alert us – perhaps only the analog models have a loud ticking of the second hand, which may not be to everyone's taste.

They are not perfect watches, but they simply do well for what they were designed for, at prices that are more than adequate.

Timex is the one brand, that should have at least one representation in your collection. And if it should be just one piece, good luck, because the Timex catalogue offers many good choices, making it a joyful challenge to choose.

Timex simply makes watches for everyone.


Julieago 597 days, respond
Can you please tell me more about this watch and its worth.
Agata Vreskaago 596 days
Hello, we do not have such experience with evaluating watches. I recommend finding an expert who professionally deals with the purchase of watches.
otto moelleringago 462 days, respond
in 1976 my mom and dad a mickey mouse one look for me 10 age and rt i am 56 age today and i got new timex dark watch green it look for me by it i will tall the time . i live in sanantonio texas some watch you not see the time in the dark gay and woman fix rt keep up the timex watch if 100 age year 2066 may 05 30 1966 if a roll in sanantonio tx my dad die he one me get a timex watch for he die he gave me the timex for die feb 6 2013 age 89 today last 2022 99 age time a live 100 year 2023 1923 17 dec
Kerry Crewago 218 days, respond
I tried really hard to own a Timex. I have purchased three model TW4B14100 Timex Expedition Scout 40 watches in an effort to find one with both a luminous hour hand, and a luminous minute hand. Two of them had luminous minute hands only. On the other watch, neither the minute hand, nor the hour hand would glow. To make things worse, Timex customer support proved to be just as abysmal as their quality assurance.