As major watch manufacturers go, it’s hard to imagine one more quintessentially American than Timex. Founded in Waterbury, Connecticut in 1854 as the Waterbury Clock Company, its mission to “democratize” timekeeping for the masses began with the manufacture of clocks that were less expensive alternatives to their European-made counterparts. It continued through the following decades with the mass-produced Long Wind pocketwatch in 1877, to World War I military wristwatches modified from ladies’ pocketwatches in the early 20th century, to the introduction of the first official Mickey Mouse watches at the Chicago World’s Fair of 1933, all the way to the famous “Takes a Licking but Keeps on Ticking” torture-test TV commercials of the 1960s.
Now headquartered in Middlebury, CT, the Timex Group USA, as it is now called, is a large conglomerate, with numerous subsidiary companies, licensed fashion brands, and manufacturing operations throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia. As a consequence of that growth, however, as with most all the historical watchmakers founded in the United States in the 19th century, Timex no longer makes the majority of its watches in the U.S. For the company’s 165th anniversary in 2019, however, Timex chose to honor its legacy by returning, at least partially, to its Made-in-America roots with the launch of the Timex American Documents collection.
The initial launch of American Documents consists of four models, all assembled by hand in Middlebury, all outfitted with Swiss-made quartz movements rather than the Asian-sourced quartz calibers that power most of Timex’s contemporary models. The movement parts are gold-plated to prevent oxidization and friction on the metal parts, making the occasional battery change the only regular maintenance required by the watch’s owner. It is on their exteriors, however, that the American Documents watches live up to their mandate of “capturing the spirit of what it means to be American-made,” in the words of Timex Group CEO Tobias Reiss-Schmidt.
The watches’ 41-mm, satin-brushed steel cases are drop-forged (a first for American watchmaking) to maintain the material’s original grain and strength and feature a beveled top ring, individually turned in a proprietary process and polished by hand to a glossy finish. On the front side of the case, covering the dial, is a crystal made from Gorilla Glass 3 NDR, an impact-resistant, chemically strengthened glass used for iPhone screens and manufactured by its parent company, Corning, in Massachusetts. According to Timex, these crystals are cut in the same highly precise process used for the lenses of scientific instruments like telescopes.
On the back side is an inset coin in “Aged Waterbury Brass,” forged and stamped in New England, with a Timex logo centered in a tiny, hand-polished relief map of the continental United States, along with raised text reading “Waterbury, CT” and “Watchmakers Est. 1854.” Another, smaller brass insert, with a “TX” Timex logo, subtly decorates the fluted crown. (During the Industrial Revolution, Waterbury was a major producer of brass, earning it the distinction of being America’s “Brass City.”)
The dials of all four American Documents watches — made from U.S.-sourced brass — are designed for classical simplicity: central hands for hours and minutes, small seconds on a 6 o’clock subdial, date window at 3 o’clock, and thin bar indexes for hour markers. Timex developed a new process to create the faceted hands, which are also made from brass and are, according to the company, the only such shaped watch hands currently made in the U.S.A. The dial itself is formed in the style of Timex’s early clocks and pocketwatches, two-layered and triple-printed on their faces for increased depth.
Finally, the soft leather straps are made by American craftsmen from domestic cowhides sourced from S.B. Foot Tanning in Red Wing, Minnesota, a company founded in 1872 — nearly as old as Timex — and which remains the primary supplier of leather for Red Wing shoes and boots. The stitched, double-layered straps are designed to conform naturally to the wearer’s wrist over time.
The packaging for American Documents is also a notch or two above that of your standard Timex. Each watch comes in a case made of solid, indigenous cherry wood, hand rubbed to a natural finish, with an inlaid magnetic closure and brass hinges. And since this is 2019 and not 1854, Timex has also included a digital component in its ticking tribute to Americana. Each purchaser of an American Documents watch also receives access to a downloadable, print-quality, high-resolution image from the American Documents gallery, a project that teamed Timex with photographer Bryan Schutmaat. To create this visual diary of America’s landscapes, people, and culture — the “documents” that lend the series its name, essentially — Schutmaat traveled from the Northeast, the cradle of American watchmaking, through Texas and the Midwest to the Montana Rockies. “There’s a sense of possibility that comes from the vastness of this country,” Schutmaat comments. “I wanted to capture the timelessness of our landscape to convey the spaces that bring us and our culture together, because American Documents, and every component of it, honors the beauty of our nation.”
The initial four Timex American Documents models are white dial/black strap, gray dial/blue strap, blue dial/brown strap, and black dial/brown strap, with a gunmetal-finish case. All are priced at $495.