Timex watches are up there with the Ford Mustang and Budweiser beer as quintessentially American products. Even folks outside the watch world are familiar with the once-popular slogan “Takes a licking and keeps on ticking.” The company is based in Middlebury, CT, and they’ve been around the area since 1854. In a way, they’ve transcended the typical role of a watch manufacturer and become a small slice of American culture. Bill Clinton was known to wear a Timex Ironman while holding office, for example.
But they haven’t produced any watches on American soil since well before the era of the quartz crisis in the 1970s. Globalization and market forces pushed (or rather, pulled) manufacturing overseas for many companies during that time. In 2019, Timex is getting involved in domestic production once again with a model that’s assembled in the U.S. from mostly domestically-made parts. The movement is the only exception, and that comes from Switzerland. This project is called the American Documents series and at launch it includes four models, all in steel, with black, white, dark grey, and midnight blue dials. Each is priced at $495.
The greatest contributions to horology from Timex, like the one-dollar Yankee pocket watch and the V-Conic, were American-made. The railroads, and then later the post-war consumer boom, created strong demand for tough and affordable watches that Timex managed to consistently provide. Mid-century executives built the company by democratizing the watch, making timepieces for the masses. And, in a way, they’ve come full circle with the new American Documents collection. The difference is in the positioning of the watch. In the past, the unique selling point of Timex was the watch’s unwillingness to die, and an entire communication strategy was based around the simple fact that these watches just didn’t break. Today, the product positioning is about tapping into the core of the American identity, and they’ve done this on a practical level and an ideological level. On the practical side, they’ve commissioned parts of the watch from industries adjacent to watchmaking, but firms that have not had any experience making parts for watches. For example, the strap supplier is S.B. Tanning out of Red Wing, Minnesota (related to the company that makes boots of the same name). There’s a very specific kind of Americana vibe associated with this watch.