Vintage Eye for the Modern Guy: Timex Marlin

Timex has never been a luxury brand, nor has it ever attempted to be. It has simply remained, at least since its modern debut in the 1950s, as an inexpensive and reliable option for those seeking out a watch capable of the two most basic requirements: to tell the time and not break. This is an ethos so ingrained in the brand’s history that one of its first advertising campaigns featured numerous “torture tests” of Timex watches, as narrated by the famed news anchor John Cameron Swayze, alongside the now-iconic slogan: “It takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin’.”

Timex Marlin - vintage ad

Among the first of the brand’s watches to display this ethos was the Marlin, first produced in the 1960s. Like most of Timex’s other watches, the piece’s primary purpose was to handle the shocks and exposure to water one might encounter in daily life, while maintaining the time accurately. It was priced at about $10 (a little more than $80 today, when accounting for inflation), looked clean and presentable for a variety of occasions, and could last for years without much servicing besides a daily winding of the manual-wound movement. Last fall, Timex revived this watch in one of its rare, explicitly vintage revivals, and it made a big splash in the press both for being the first mechanical watch Timex had produced since 1982 and also for its impressively low price of $200.

Timex Marlin vintage ad - side view

This new watch is, by all accounts, a faithful re-issue of the original. Housed inside a 34-mm polished steel case, the size of the watch is period-appropriate, as are its vintage-style, almost detached-looking lugs and slim, embedded crown. Taken as a whole, the case is nearly identical to the 1960s version, excepting only the higher-grade finishing seen throughout the modern collections and the small “Circa 2017” stamp on the solid caseback.

On the watch’s simple dial, you’ll notice the silver sunburst background with a black outer minute ring, and most prominently the alternating stick indices and stylized Arabic numerals popular during the decade (see Glashütte Original Sixties Iconic collections, for reference). Toward the center, there’s a subtle Timex corporate logo, and straightforward black sword hands for the hour and minute indicators. Inside the case is a Chinese-made, hand-wound movement, though some debate exists as to the exact manufacturer of the caliber. If I had to bet, I’d guess it’s likely a Seagull movement, with about a 40-hour power reserve, but I would resist quoting me on this.

Timex Marlin - side - crown

The Marlin began production in the early 1960s and from that point went through countless designs during its tenure on the market. Timex, to its credit, chose one of the most attractive of these many designs, and produced a modern watch that has a classic appeal and a low price — opening up the vintage-inspired trend to many more consumers than just those willing to spend hundreds or thousands more for such pieces. This modern Marlin, considering all its attributes, is basically a straight re-issue: it offers to consumers a piece of history made through modern manufacturing practices. Best of all, it won’t break the bank in offering a good value.

Timex Marlin - vintage ad - dial CU

If I haven’t mentioned it enough in this series, 2017 really was the year for the vintage-revival trend. I say this for two reasons. First, almost every major brand labeled at least one watch in their collections as “vintage-inspired” or as a “re-issue.” Secondly— and I think more importantly— even Timex has begun to jump in with mechanical, albeit Chinese-made, watches. This second event is more significant primarily because it shows that this trend, which has been seen in the mid-range and luxury markets of horology for years, is beginning to impact even the mass market. There have been some hints that this was coming for a while — notably from Bulova, with its Chronograph C “Stars & Stripes” and Moon Watch, from Casio, which pushed an older style of its classic G-Shock, and from a number of smaller independent brands such as Nezumi with its Baleine and Voiture watches — but none more significant than Timex’s Marlin, which enjoyed a historic popularity in its original production run, and is now being offered, with a mechanical movement like the original, for $200. If you need more proof, note that Timex has recently created a dedicated “Archive” collection, so in all likelihood the Marlin re-issue will be the first of many vintage revivals carried out by the brand in the months and years to come.

Timex Marlin - soldier

For the most recent article in the “Vintage Eye” series, in which we compare the Longines Avigation BigEye historical predecessorclick here.

Caleb Anderson is a freelance writer with a primary focus on vintage watches. Since first learning about horology, he has garnered extensive knowledge in the field and spends much of his time sharing his opinions among other writers, collectors, and dealers. Currently located near New York City, he is a persistent student in all things historical, a writer on many topics, and a casual runner.

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  1. Adam Barnes

    I recently purchased a 1950s Timex with a date code of 4L56 I’m assuming that means April 1956, it looks like the marlin but it’s extremely thin

  2. Finally landed one after many visits to the website only to discover it was oos. It was an OF member who sounded the claxon that Todd Snyder had a few for sale. I’m very impressed with finish and function. I have a lot of vintage and modern watches and I’m sure this will work well in rotation. Timex hit a cord with this because they cannot make them fast enough.

  3. Bill Swan

    Is the crystal mineral glass or plexi-glass?
    I looked-up the TIMEX spec. but the crystal’s material is not shown.
    I think it is a perfect, attractive, classic design, size and proportion and I wish TIMEX success in sales of this affordable piece.

  4. jason toms

    I can’t believe that WatchTime is just now mentioning the Marlin reissue. I know you’re geared toward collectors of fine time pieces, but the reissue of a Timex mechanical piece has resonated with millennials who would not normally care about horology in general. Anything that causes the humble time piece to trend should be of immediate interest to this publication.

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