Yep, my fellow Hunters of Horological Happiness, it’s that time of month again, where I pay special attention to one of the great watchmakers whose pieces from our times past now grace my current collection of what are now considered vintage watch treasure. Citing those vintage pieces and those who built them – thus transforming their names into household words throughout the interwebz – is just one of the ways I get to say thank you to those who built them, not to mention gaining an opportunity to show off one of my favorite vintage pieces in my ever-growing collection of excellent ‘oldies.’ And they don’t get much more excellent than this particular maker, a company that advertised its products with the phrase, “It takes a licking and keeps on ticking.” (I can almost hear John Cameron Swayze’s voice, can’t you? You can? Would you like some of my new medication? It really tones things down quite a bit…) Yep, the good old, All-American Company known as Timex, a manufacturer that produced literally millions of timepieces before most of us here were even born…
As it was for so many kids from the “Baby Boomer” generation, my first watch was a Timex ‘wind and grind,’ as my dad called it, an all-mechanical watch with a white dial, silver numbers and hands, and a dark grey-green leather strap. I wore that little (25mm case) watch every day for the better part of five years, until it finally gave up the ghost from too many over-windings, pick-up games of hardball and rag-tag games of ‘Army’, played on those same San Pedro oilfields where Cagney’s last words, “Top of the world, Ma!”, rocked across the screens during the country’s 30-year, on-and-off again affair with what has become known as “Film Noir.” Of course, these were the days before playing ‘Army’ became a thoroughly evil, testosterone-fueled exercise that turned otherwise good little boys into murdering little ‘pretend’ Navy Frogmen, Marine Marauders or Army Rangers, bent on destroying the enemy before they could sneak up on us and draw first blood… Actually, it was Union Oil’s hapless security guards we were avoiding, but hey, an enemy’s an enemy! And everywhere my imagination took us on all those Saturdays and Sunday afternoons – places with names like Guadalcanal, Mt. Suribachi and Midway Island – my rugged little Timex came along for the fight, and was often the watch that was the guide when the call was made to ‘synchronize watches’ before our raids took place.
At any rate, I hadn’t even thought of my old Timex in many a year when I came across the picture of a beautiful silver-tone automatic Timex, under the heading, “Other Things You Might Like,” at the bottom of an eBay page filled with all manner of watches and watch accessories. It had a silver-tone “Twist-O-Flex” ™ bracelet, the ones the older kids, like Carey Hanchook and Jimmy Puckett used to wear on ‘the battlefield.’ All these years later, and there it was, only this time it was in a far more appropriate size, with a 40mm case and a 20mm bracelet. And damned if it wasn’t ‘born’ the same year I was! (And, no, I won’t tell you the year…but I will tell you that at the time I was born, there were 49 states in this marvelous country of mine, a situation that did not last for very long, truth to tell. So feel free to go off and use your trusty Google programs; I’ll be waiting right here when you get back…
So, now that we’re together again, let’s have a look at our Mort’s Monthly Moldy for October 2014, a beautiful Timex Viscount Self-Winding Watch from (go ahead and enter the year you found right here, please): ________.
Age: Early- to #mid-19____. (Sorry, but I did tell you to go and look it up…)
Condition: Pre-owned, working
Band: Period-original silvertone Speidel ‘Twist-O-Flex’ (see the picture above and the two immediately below); replaced with NOS, after-market grey-green leather strap
Dial: Original signed, very light brush-textured white
Case: Original, 10-kt white gold-filled / plated stainless steel
Crown: Original unsigned
Crystal: Original acrylic
Case Size: 40mm w/o crown, 42.5mm w/crown
Movement: Timex In-House (Model 29) Automatic / “self-winding”
Functions: Hours, minutes
Power Reserve: ~15 hrs.
At first glance, it’s tempting to dismiss this watch as just another simple piece of ‘cookie-cutter design appearance’ from five-plus decades ago, but a genuine, detailed look allows you to really see the beauty of its ostensibly simple design:
The gently brushed, almost sunray-styled white dial is both simple and beautiful, serving as the perfect background for the steel hour markers and hands. The numeric (or, if you must, Arabic) figures at 12, 3, 6 and 9 are deceptively simple-looking, but a closer examination shows that they possess a three-dimensional design; there are no hard edges, but rather gentle, curved sides and angles that allow the light to strike them at constantly changing angles, thereby enhancing their brightness and 3-D appearance. They are of the same shade – and low-shine polishing – as the case and bezel. The remaining markers are of the ‘arrowhead’ style, with the same, curving 3-D effect and limited polishing as the numerals. The arrowheads are longer (or, if you prefer, taller) than their numerical counterparts, but this gives the dial a very pleasant visual balance that works quite well.
The hour/minute hands are of the alpha pleines style, which is simple enough to complement the numerals and arrowhead markers, but detailed enough to add a sense of high style, with the ‘blade’ portion gently curving first outward, then inward to a point. The ‘blade’ is also stamp-folded in the middle to give it an almost sword-like appearance. The seconds hand is long and graceful, extending all the way up and into the minute markers; it’s balanced on the other side with a short, wide stem and a larger, oval-shaped ‘weighted end.’ The total effect is to join all of the dial components together into one complete unit that looks as if it tracks the time flawlessly (which it pretty much does).
The Timex signature, just below the 12 o’clock position, uses a simple typeface and is executed in a manner that resembles black ink. This same effect is used in the chapter ring for the minute markers, and the look is both classic and low key; using anything else might have made things too busy. Nonetheless, it’s good to remember that, at 40mm (or ~42mm with the crown), this was a very large watch for its day, so ‘busying up’ the dial might be a little harder than I’m thinking it is.
The watch came with a Speidel Twist-O-Flex™ bracelet in silvertone, but it was both too narrow and too short for my 7.75” wrist. While I’m not normally an anti-Speidel ‘purist’ (read: snob), my hope was to come across a leather strap in the same grey-green color as that on my first boyhood Timex. Surprisingly, it didn’t take as long as I thought it would to locate and purchase one; within just a few days, I was happily installing a NOS Timex leather men’s strap in that very self-same, grey-green shade I remembered so fondly from my childhood.
I’m not much on pulling the back’s off my watches for the purpose of taking pictures or gathering other info from inside the case, so in terms of this watch’s ‘engineering status,’ I can only tell you that it loses about six to eight seconds per day, runs very smoothly, and manages to keep up with the dead guy quite well. It is, after all, one tough watch, built to “take a lickin’ and keep on tickin.” Of course, I don’t dress up in Dad’s old Marine Corps fatigues and play ‘Army’ in the San Pedro oilfields these days, nor do I typically have to evade fat and hapless security guards sent to detain me…well, there was this one guard – whose nametag bore the moniker “Rumpus,” of all things – at the Starbuck’s Coffee shop in Solano Beach, but that’s another story for another time. The bottom line is that this Timex continues to earn its reputation for toughness under all of the unique, day-to-day stressors that are beset upon the everyday collector. Or, put another way, it’s aged a lot better in its 55 years than I have in mine.
In wrapping things up for this month’s edition of Mort’s Monthly Moldy Mechanical Machinery (?), I’d like to point out that only a very lucky few people ever get the chance to revisit their childhood past and relive some of those old memories from back in the day when parents could – and very often did – tell their kids to get out of the house “and don’t let me see you back here until dinnertime!” I glance down at my wrist, and it’s like that little old watch is back with me again, ready to take on those evil ‘sons-of-beached whales,’ as we called our imaginary enemies back in the day, out there in the Solomons, or some such place. Of course, this is a different watch – and, for that matter, a far different wrist than I used to see all those years ago – but I still smile broadly when I see this old Timex, waiting amongst the other vintage watches, to see if it’s gonna get picked out from amongst all the others for a day of wistful smiles and warm memories. And, of late, that’s exactly what’s been happening on more days than not.
Because this watch, unlike any of the other watches in my oldies collection, can go deeper into my heart and much farther into my cache of wonderful memories, and help me relive each and every one of them, just by being there on my wrist and waiting for me to glance down at it and smile. And that’s what collecting vintage watches should be all about. (And, yep, you heard it here first…)
Many, many thanks for taking time out of your day to share some old memories and endure my sometimes-ponderous philosophical rattling. As always, I’m in your debt for dropping by…