How to start a budget watch collection with Timex classics

One of the greatest ways to begin a vintage watch collection without breaking the bank is to scour the internet for pieces from companies that made mechanical watches in their millions and few brands fit the brief better than Timex.

One of the greatest ways to begin a vintage watch collection without breaking the bank is to scour the internet for pieces from companies that made mechanical watches in their millions before the quartz crisis hit.

Few brands fit the brief better than Timex. You can while away hours on eBay searching for watches from your birth year and find examples costing well under £100.

They may take a bit of work to bring them back to life, but that is just another treat along a watch collecting journey.

One such collector is Mark Rushworth, who has developed such a passion for vintage Timex watches, he has created, an online museum packed with pictures and information.

Along the way, he has become a historian for the company, and provided WatchPro with the following potted history up the the 1970s quartz crisis.

The Timex brand we know and love today was founded in 1854 as the Waterbury Clock Company (WCC) in Connecticut, Mr Rushworth writes.

The company revolutionised clock manufacture by replacing carved wooden components with mass produced metal stamped wheels and gears. This is claimed to have been the inspiration for a similar revolution in Detroit’s automotive manufacturing processes.

In 1901 the WCC was commissioned by another brand, Ingersoll, to mass produce pocket watches. At the start of WWI a woman’s watch was repurposed, converting a pocket watch into a wrist watch and branded as the Midget as their first production wristwatch. The success of this new form of watch was short lived with Ingersoll going bankrupt in 1922.

WCC now rebranded as the United States Time Corporation (US Time) purchased the Ingersoll brand and continued watch production.

In 1933 the first Disney watch was produced featuring Mickey Mouse.

1941 saw the formation of Timex Corp, a subsidiary of US Time. This went on to become the Timex brand we know and love today.

Off the back of military technology such as armalloy and V-conic escapements that were used in WWII ordinance, the Timex range of wristwatches started small with a Nurses watch being the first in production.

Timex waterproof marlin
1953 Timex Waterproof.

In 1953 the model W (Waterproof) evolved into the Marlin, a name synonymous with Timex and durable watches.

These were popularised throughout the 1950s through TV torture test commercials featuring celebrity Cameron Swayzee.

Timex southampton
1958 Timex Southampton.

In 1958 Timex produced their first Chronograph, the Southampton. This was the last chronograph Timex produced until the quartz wristwatch in the 1970s.

In 1962 every 3rd watch produced was a Timex and the brand made in-roads into what would become the quartz-crisis of the late 60s and early 70s with their hybrid battery powered mechanical range called Electric.

1967 timex skindiver
1967 Timex Skindiver.

Timex produced their first dive watch in 1966. Featuring an all steel construction and a depth rating of 600 feet or 180m, the Skindiver became a popular line that ran for another 8 years.

Timex electric
1975 Timex Electric.

1975 saw Timex’s first quartz powered watch. This signified the slowing of mechanical watch popularity with Timex producing their last mechanical watch in the mid 1990s.

This didn’t mean stand out mechanical pieces were not still being produced as 1982 saw a very limited run of the mil-w-46374b, the only true military spec watch ever produced by Timex.

If that has whet you appetite for your own walk through the mid-20th century Timex archive, take yourself over to

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  1. Most watch repairers have a set price for a service which is between £150 and £230. Most of these Timex models had pin pallet movements which were not high quality. To spend money on repairing them is not economically viable though if you can service them yourselves all well and good.

  2. And it’s a great place to start your DIY servicing “just don’t split the plates on day one”. Timex movements of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s were mostly based on one movement and interchangeability between parts is vast. You do still need to take a little care to get it right but the basics are simple. Start with a dip clean and oil, like the Timex manual suggests. All the information and support is out there for the taking, just have a go. If you mess it up the worst thing that will happen is that you may have lost the price of a beer or two, but gained spares and experience for your next attempt.

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