Americana on the Wrist: Timex Goes Back to Its Roots With U.S.-Made American Documents Series

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.

Timex American Documents - flat
Timex American Documents combines American parts and craftsmanship with a Swiss-made quartz movement.

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.

Timex American Documents - bottom shot
The forged steel cases have a beveled top ring and a brass caseback coin.

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.”)

Timex American Documents - Crown Insert
A brass insert with relief Timex logo adorns the crown.
Timex American Documents - Caseback
The Aged Waterbury Brass Caseback commemorates the Connecticut city’s history of brass production.

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.

Timex American Documents - Dial - hands
Timex developed a new process to make the faceted brass hands.

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.

Timex American Documents - reclining
Over the grained dial is a crystal in Massachussetts-made Gorilla Glass.
Timex American Documents - Strap
The soft leather straps used U.S.-sourced cowhide from Minnesota.

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.

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  1. Mark Thomas

    Highly unaffordable in South Africa. Timex is extremely extremely expensive here which is a pity coz my dream has always been to own an Expedition. Cheapest Timex in South Africa equates to 1200 US $. Crazy price…but if I can one day save up enough I WILL OWN ONE.

  2. 86 Years old and wouldnt wear anything else. I am ready to order another one. The strap broke.

  3. Janice M. George

    I’ve worn the men’s Timex Expedition style watch since they first came out. Day of the week, date, illuminated face when stem is depressed. Can’t find one now!!! I’m switching to another brand of watch. Hate to do it!

  4. David.gall

    Used to buy expensive dive watches and having to send them back to manufacturers for $85 dollar battery change bought a less than $ 10 dollar timex expedition at Walmart and drove to 202′ with it and no’ve won me back.

  5. Arlene Dinkins

    Nicely done watch. Why a quartz movement as opposed to manual wind? Wouldn’t that have been closer to what you were trying to create?

    • Tor Schofield

      What’s wrong with an electronic tuning fork (quartz) movement, perhaps they wanted the watch to be accurate? There isn’t some great big clunky global mechanical clock somewhere pushing out universal (?) time. Besides, America has a pround history of input into electronic time keeping and development of the present electronic tuning fork (quartz) watch.

  6. The Timex is more American made than most watches that are “Made in Germany” and “Swiss Made”. There are quite a few loopholes in those claims. I purchased the gunmetal version and I am very pleased with it.

  7. Antonio Gaitan

    Beautiful watch, it just sucks when you read Made in America, since America is not a country, the name of our country, proudly is United States of America…..America by itself is a continent.

  8. Tom Eshleman

    It is good to see that they are doing this. Some of the best watches I have had were Timex. I will buy one of these just because it is made in the US

  9. At $495 a pop, the “value proposition” of this quartz offering is questionable, to say the least…

  10. Jay Myerly

    In 1978 this watch was $19.99. You can buy a transmission cheaper than what they’re asking for it now. Time(ex) to think twice.

  11. My first watch was a Timex. I got it when I was 10 or 11 and when I joined the Air Force at 18 and was issued with an aircrew watch I gave it away. Glad to know the brand is still going strong. This new range looks very inviting.

  12. Foulis Costas

    How Much of a “Made In America” is when the movement is “Swiss Made”

    • jason toms

      There are currently no reasonably priced quartz movements made in USA. The Rhonda
      6004.D movement is a fine choice. The experience gained from this project will help to further the manufacture of watch components here in the states which is the whole reason behind this project.

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