If you were to guess what percentage of fellow WUS members list a Timex watch as their first timepiece, what would you guess? More than half? More than 3/4? Every week—or sometimes even more often—a new entrant appears in the affordable end of the watch market, and frankly they’re mostly garbage. Aside from some of our favorite ‘microbrands’ that have been established for some time now, the entry-level price segment is wrought with poor manufacturing and overhyped nonsense, yet Timex is still alive and kicking, lately delivering more and more great budget-friendly watches that any self-respecting watch geek would recommend to friends looking for a first watch on a shoestring budget.
Though they were a bit late to the party, Timex has entirely embraced its vintage roots recently. Gone are the days where Ironman/Indiglo watches dominated any Timex related press. Instead the brand has more vintage-styled pieces in their repertoire than ever, and we’ve even seen a return to mechanical calibers here and there. Initially we saw hand-wound pieces using unnamed Chinese-manufactured movements, but soon the brand shifted gears to Miyota automatics (mostly the 8215), ensuring that their watches would still be serviceable despite their sub-$300 sticker price.
That in mind, here’s a look at some of the home runs in Timex’s current collections.
Q Timex Reissue 38mm
This faithful reissue of a 1979 Timex model is about as hot as it gets in affordable watches right now. The Q went out of stock the first time around (and also the second, if I’m not mistaken), but the brand seems to have a handle on demand/production. The pocketbook-friendly diver-inspired piece is a modest 38mm across, has a 12h timing bezel (yes, it rotates), is rated to 50m of water resistance, and even has that odd period-correct battery access port on the caseback. If you want an affordable, fun, vintage-inspired Pepsi-bezel without all the luxe premium nonsense, look no further.
MK1 Steel 40mm
A standard-style field watch for a hair over $100? Yep, Timex has that. Actually, the MK1 collection is very extensive, including both steel and aluminum cased models all floating around the same price range. 40mm makes them a touch bigger than the classic mil-spec from Benrus, Hamilton, and others, but it is by no means “oversized”. All versions are fitted with a domed acrylic cristal, and in this case we see a microblasted finish throughout its case (though there is also a brushed steel model out there if that’s your preference).
Waterbury Traditional Automatic 42mm
On the standard/dressy side of things, Timex’s Waterbury Traditional ticks a lot of boxes. Its design is clean, its dial fonts match, its date window is color-matched, and even with a Miyota automatic its price comes in at a hair under $250. The watch can also be had on a bracelet for a modest bump to $269, but I’m definitely not hating this black on black combo. Though not apparent in stock photos, the case is mostly brushed, but has polished chamfers on its lugs for a touch of contrast.
American Documents 41mm
Though pricier than its siblings, Timex has taken a page from Shinola and a few other brands with this release, bringing more of its manufacturing back stateside than ever before. The cool part about this is that Timex (unlike any of the other brands doing this) has an actual manufacturing legacy in the US, going all the way back to its founding in Waterbury, Connecticut in 1854. The case, strap, and even its Gorilla Glass crystal are manufactured stateside, whereas its caliber is imported from Switzerland. For its caseback, a stamped brass coin depicts the map of America, surrounded by inscription. This is echoed by a brass insert into the end of the crown that sports a vintage Timex logo. It’s a smart and timeless piece, and under $500 its quite fairly priced, even though it’s running a quartz caliber.
Navi XL 41mm
Unlike some of the other vintage-themed pieces thus far, the Navi XL is quintessential ’70s/’80s diving badassery un a budget package. No, it’s not a “proper diver”, but close! It has luminous material applied to all of the correct points except the bezel pip, its bezel rotates, but unfortunately its crown doesn’t screw down. That said, with 100m of water resistance, it can easily take a splash or two, and at $129 if something terrible happens to it, it will be a less decimating blow to the pocketbook too. The more I look at this piece, the more I’m considering it to be one of the best bang-for-buck beater out there right now.
Waterbury Legacy 34mm
Obviously any kind of homage is a contentious issue in watch collecting, but I don’t hate the fact that Timex has a Rollie Datejust homage in their lineup for a modest $139. They’ve gone so far as to add a date magnifying window, somewhat accurately replicated the Jubilee bracelet (in design, not finish), and even painted a dial texture reminiscent of malachite stone or this specific model. Timex is by no means trying to fool anyone into thinking this is comparable to the famed Rolex it mimics, and for the price of entry I’d wholeheartedly support it as an introductory watch, or just a fun daily beater.
Timex x Keone Nunes 40mm
Unlike the Waterbury Legacy, this piece isn’t pulling inspiration from elsewhere in the industry. Instead, you’re looking at a sleek collaboration with the Hawaii-based traditional Polynesian tattooer Keone Nunes. To this day Nunes opts for hand-tapping his tattoos rather than using modern equipment, and the common geometric patternwork his style is known for can be found throughout the watch and strap. Every Timex x Keone Nunes watch includes the koa’e ‘ula design on its dial. Usually referred to as a red-tailed tropicbird, the koa’e ‘ula is a symbol associated with safe travels. Meanings and history aside, the watch is based on the standard Timex Scout field watch, which measures 40mm across and uses a flat mineral crystal rather than the domed acrylic we’ve seen on some of our other favorites.
Timex X Peanuts Marlin Automatic 40mm
We covered this much-loved Timex Snoopy Marlin when it first launched just over a year ago, and personally the novelty just hasn’t worn off. The 40mm Miyota-powered automatic still has plenty of retro charm (including its big domed acrylic crystal), and though it’s presently listing as sold out, Timex does plan to bring the piece back online soon. In the interim, you might find something you like in the balance of the ’60s styled Marlin Automatic collection.