Timex began in 1854 as the Waterbury Clock Company in Connecticut’s Naugatuck River Valley, a region already famous for watch and clock making - so much so that it was dubbed the “Switzerland of America.” Founded by major brass manufacturing firm Benedict & Burnham - a successful purveyor of brass fixtures, appliances, hardware, and brass buttons for US soldiers in the Mexican-American War - they decided to branch out into clock making, utilizing the highly skilled, local workforce.
The Waterbury Clock Company had a simple goal: Quality clocks at an affordable price.
Adding American ingenuity to traditional European craftsmanship, workers stamped out gears from brass plates - creating mass-manufactured clocks 40 years prior to the Model T with a $6 clock that almost everyone could afford.
Continuing their pursuit of creating timepieces for everyone, the Waterbury Clock Company debuted the Yankee “Dollar Watch”. It was such an enormous success that it was called “the watch that made the dollar famous.” By 1900, over six million had been sold.
With the advent of World War One, necessity fueled innovation once again. Artillery gunners needed an easy way to calculate and read time while still being able to work their guns. To meet this need, the Waterbury Clock Company modified their small Ingersoll ladies’ Midget pocket watch by changing the stem from noon to 3 o’ clock, welding loops to hold a heavy canvas strap, and upgrading it with luminescent hands. Although there were wristwatches made prior to 1914, these were the first mass-produced and became military standard-issue.
In 1941, two Norwegian industrialists, Thomas Olsen and Joakim Lehakuhl, refugees from the Nazi invasion, came to America and acquired the Waterbury Clock Company. Intent on aiding the USA’s WWII effort, they used the company’s expertise and government contracting connections to retool a large portion of their production facilities to make timing equipment for the missilery. Three years later, the company was renamed the Timex Corporation to reflect the company’s global approach to timing technology.
After WWII, Timex set out, once again, to provide everyone with an affordable, reliable wrist watch through the combination of automation, precision tooling techniques gleaned from military innovation in making fuse timers, and a simpler design than Swiss movements. Greater durability was achieved through a new, hard alloy, Armalloy, developed through wartime R&D. Armalloy was used to produce long-wearing bearings, replacing expensive jewels traditionally used to balance gears.
After sponsoring the Ironman for years in the late 70’s and early 80’s, Timex focused their efforts on creating a reliable watch for the sporting community and debuted the Ironman series in 1984 with greater water resistance and digital features to help athletes. It was the world’s first sports watch. In 1992, Timex improved on their entire line of watches with the Indigo light to far exceed night time visibility than any watch before.
Though they’ve never been given their due as a fashion or jewelry watch, they have - through consumer demand alone - become design icons that live up to their slogan, “takes a licking and keeps on ticking.”