Why I Bought It: Timex Marlin Re-edition
I’ve said it many times: there are great watches to be had at every price point!
But as the “resident collector” here at Quill & Pad, it’s not enough for me to express my admiration in some abstract form; at the end of the day the question is whether I’d spend my own money for a watch or not.
Enter the Timex Marlin re-edition of 2017, a watch that I own, wear, and love.
If we’re nitpicky about it, I didn’t actually buy it for myself as I asked MrsGaryG to purchase it for me as a Christmas gift. But given California’s community property laws and the opportunity cost associated with asking for this as opposed to some other present, I’m willing to declare it close enough if that’s okay with you.
How the Timex Marlin Re-edition fits in my collection
In my friend Terry’s taxonomy of watch collecting, this is pretty clearly a “fun” piece for me; at its $199 retail price I think that the same would hold for the vast majority of watch enthusiasts who are eager for a bit of a vintage look but who don’t want to break the bank to attain it.
The great thing about “fun” watches is that you own them, not the other way around.
No concerns about getting hurt financially on your purchase or obsessional guilt about every hairline scratch. And as we’ll see in a bit, with the Marlin I was actually bold enough to remove the case back carefully with a case knife to see what was inside and compare it with a Timex from another era.
Why I asked for it
I’m not the only enthusiast who wanted the Marlin as soon as I saw it; the first set of watches sold out before I could dash off an email to my wife, and it was with some relief that I learned that Timex was going to produce a second tranche.
As the success of this watch and the somewhat similar Sixties pieces from Glashütte Original make clear, there’s great visual appeal to what I’ll call the “clean retro” vibe that includes the use of elongated, stylized numerals.
In addition, Timex was faithful to not only the spirit of the original watch but to its original dimensions: the 34 mm diameter of the case and the domed Plexiglas crystal, among other features, provide a feeling of authenticity that I think would have been missing in a re-sized or extensively refreshed design.
And, of course, it has a mechanical movement! The Marlin is the first Timex since 1996 to feature a manually wound mechanical movement.
All those elements factored into my choice, but more important was the shock of recognition that went through me the moment I saw the watch: it is a very close facsimile of the very first wristwatch that I ever owned, given to me by my parents for (if memory serves) my ninth birthday.
Despite several searches I’ve conducted for it, it seems that my Marlin may have been lost to history, but it looked like the one in the image above, a Model 2014 manufactured in 1964 with numerals at 12, 3, 6, and 9 and with slightly straighter case sides and larger dimensions than the Model 2024 re-created in 2018 by Timex.
My dad had an older Longines that he wore when I was quite young, but for the last 50 years of his life he was a Timex man. As a growing boy owning my own Timex was an important rite of passage for me and an important connection to him. And while I’m sad to have lost the Timex he gave me I’m very pleased to have not only the Marlin re-edition but also one of his old Timex watches from the early 1970s, which I wear on occasions when I want to experience the feeling that he is close by.
It’s a bit hard to describe just how pervasive a part of popular awareness Timex was in the 1960s as “the largest selling brand of watches in the world.”
Mass manufacturing and distribution methods, affordable pricing, and relentless advertising of Timex as the watch that “takes a licking and keeps on ticking” kept Timex at the forefront of demand.
A popular advertising series featured veteran commentator John Cameron Swayze in mock newscast segments in which Timex watches endured various forms of torture. At the end of the video below you can see the Marlin Model 2024 featured in one such stunt.
I was hoping to find a photo of myself wearing my original Marlin, and I’m guessing that somewhere in my boxes of old family photos there exists at least one. But at least so far, no luck, although I did find a high school yearbook photo of me wearing the first watch I ever bought for myself (and still own): a Bucherer chronometer that you can see in A Watch Collection Begins: GaryG And His Bucherer Chronometer.
And given the rigors of the photo search figured I could at least share that!
Why I love it
Clearly, the personal connections associated with this piece made it a no-brainer for me, but at the same time the watch itself has substantial aesthetic and functional appeal.
On the front side, the combination of the silver-colored sunburst dial, the raised numerals (which look almost like applieds but are actually stamped through the metal surface from behind) and blackened hands provide lots of visual interest, as does the central sweep second hand as it makes its way around the dial.
One particularly nice touch is the inclusion of a printed reference designator at the lower edge of the dial that is identical to that on the original watch. In the image below, you can see the indication “20242465” signifying model 2024, with movement Number 24 from 1965.
While this re-edition is a faithful recreation of the original, it surpasses the vintage watch in several ways. For example, not only the case back but the entire case is in stainless steel, rather than using the steel-plated brass bezel and case band of the original.
The grooved inner case back is a nice touch. And while the surface finishing of the clasp on the embossed leather strap is nothing special, the metal piece is at least signed with the brand’s name.
When I pried open the case, I was pleasantly surprised to be greeted by a movement that had some thought put into it, from the shock-protected balance to the blue-colored screws to the rudimentary but nonetheless not-so-bad curlicues inscribed on the bridges.
Functionally, the movement keeps good enough time for me as a wearable piece (under my definition that if I wear a watch for the five weekdays I don’t have to reset the minute hand during that period), and the movement also hacks, making accurate setting easier.
And if you’re inclined to be critical of the look of this movement, take a gander at the original Number 27 movement in my dad’s watch: no jewels, pin-lever escapement, and completely unfinished surfaces on metal pieces that are riveted rather than screwed together – meaning that when this one “stops ticking” its destination will be the scrap heap, not the repair shop.
The plastic ring surrounding the movement is a bit of a bummer, but thanks to watchmaker pal Nathan Bobinchak I’ll soon be able to replace it with a custom-made brass surround, adding both a touch of class and a bit of additional heft to the watch.
One final reason I love this watch: it’s fun to wear! At 34 mm in diameter it’s not super-imposing on the wrist, but the straight lugs, visual contrasts, and open look of the dial make it wear bigger than its actual dimensions. And for me, of course, there’s the added benefit of having a true “time machine” on my wrist that whisks me back to the days of my youth every time I take a peek at it.
Is the Timex Marlin Re-edition right for you?
I wanted the Timex Marlin Re-edition enough to make it my Christmas request, but is it right for you? You might want to click over to the Timex website and order one up if:
- You like the vintage persona of this watch and place some value on its increased mechanical robustness relative to the original version
- The retro look of the piece really catches your eye
- You’re looking for a hand-wound daily wearer (or even occasional wearer) that’s a bit different from others you have and wearable for work or fun
- A Timex like this one played a role in shaping your original love of watches
On the other hand, you may want to direct your attention elsewhere if:
- You have a strong preference for true vintage watches rather than modern re-creations
- You are saving up your “fun” watch budget for something that speaks to you in the same way that this watch spoke to me
- The 34 mm size is just not right for you
Clearly, I made my choice! I’ll look forward to hearing your thoughts (and experiences of others who also own this piece) in the comments section.
Quick Facts Timex Marlin Re-Edition
Case: currently available in stainless steel, 34 mm
Dial: silver-colored or black
Movement: manual winding, Chinese-made 20-jewel movement
Functions: hours, minutes; hacking sweep seconds
Production years: 2017 onward
You might also enjoy:
Sixties Iconic: Glashütte Original’s Richly Multicolored Homage To Vintage East German Style
A Watch Collection Begins: GaryG And His Bucherer Chronometer
Why I Bought It: Jaeger-LeCoultre Tribute To Reverso 1931
Trackbacks & Pingbacks
[…] • “One final reason I love this watch: it’s fun to wear! At 34 mm in diameter it’s not super-imposing on the wrist, but the straight lugs, visual contrasts, and open look of the dial make it wear bigger than its actual dimensions. And for me, of course, there’s the added benefit of having a true “time machine” on my wrist that whisks me back to the days of my youth every time I take a peek at it.” — Gary G, Quill & Pad […]
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Well, noone can accuse you of showing off all the time with your super-expensive watches! I can’t say I’m a fan of this (though I do rather like the GO you refer to) and that movement looks like it won’t outlast many of your readers.
I don’t know about the movement longevity! After all, my Dad’s piece still runs well after all these years…
As always, thanks for taking time to comment! Best, Gary
Great article but I do want to make one important correction.
I have collected Timex watches since I got my first as a child in 1972.
The biggest error people make is that the old Timex mechanical watches are riveted together and this cannot be serviced.
This might look like it’s riveted but the movement was designed from the outset to be serviced and serviced with the minimum of specialist tools.
The movements can be easily disassembled, cleaned, oiled and put back together again.
In the days of the old Timex forum one could access all the pdf scans of the official Timex service manuals.
I have some scans saved of the basic movement that is the basis for all the old Timex mechanical watches thankfully.
So, these watches were never intended by Timex to be throw away watches.
The main reason you won’t get a watchmaker touching them is that they are so simple to service there is no money in it for them!
Thanks for the correction, Ian! I’m clearly no expert on those movements but the research I did in writing the article turned up frequent (apparently incorrect) references to riveted movements.
Glad you enjoyed the article!
I think this is very cool, and think I want one. I had several low end watches as a young guy in the 1960’s, and some were Timex. For 8th grade graduation, (1971,) I got a Hamilton, and still have that and wear it occasionally. It takes me back, to look at this watch! Thank you!
Very pleased that you enjoyed the article, Tom! I think this piece takes a lot of us back to our earliest watch owning days, and for me it doesn’t hurt that Timex has done a faithful job recreating a handsome piece at an attractive price.
I bought the Merlin the day it came out because it was the watch I wore in college and law school. It got a mill due face. The law school graduation present was a Rolex Oyster on a jubilee. Still have it and wear it 4-8 times a year. The chance to be nostalgic was great. I got a plaid cloth band like the one I used to wear. It is a private joy for me. First it was on a young arm that served me well to get to class. Now it is just gramps being an old nostalgic guy. Life is a circle. Thanks Timex.
Plaid straps — that does take me back! Agree with you that Timex has done a great job with this one — hope you continue to enjoy wearing yours!
Excellent article and enjoyable read Gary. I love some of my least expensive watches every bit as much as my “best” ones!
There really are “great watches to be had at every price point!”
Thanks, Bruce! If it makes you smile, who cares what the price was, right?
On movement, it looks like a modified Seagull ST16 hand wound movement. ST16 movement was developed based on Miyota 8200 series movement. Also similar to Mingzhu DG2813 movement. The basic ST16 manual wind movement is fairly accurate and robust. And has a lot of variation with additional modules to make it automatic, day date, big date, even full calendar (with year display). Because of the smaller size of the movement, it was used to a large numbers of Seagull models and other brands. The ST16 movement is gradually replaced by newer ST17 movement which improves design and with a longer power reserve.
Sorry, I made a mistake, the movement is a modified Seagull ST6013 (automatic 21 jewel). The automatic module is removed to make it a pure hand wound movement.
Thanks for the details, Bill, and for taking time to comment!
Just wondering whether that sweet brass surround is competing that’s commercially available? Would certainly be interested in one for my Marlin.
Just wondering whether that sweet brass surround is something that’s commercially available? Would certainly be interested in one for my Marlin.
I read your article on why timepieces matter, especially so during the CCP virus induced lockdown, and came to this article as I found the Timex Marlin visually compelling. What a lovely description of the emotions triggered by a childhood experience!
Now, I would like your opinion on the following points that I am considering for a reasonably distinctive (for me!) everyday watch :
1. Case diameter upto 39 mm ( my wrist diameter is 16 mm)
2. A leather strap
3. No components, movements, escapements – nothing – from China
4. A stainless steel case preferably
5. A manual or automatic movement
6. A well tested, rugged outsourced movement or made in-house
7. Sapphire crystal with scratch resistance and anti-reflection coating
8. Clear readability of the dial; good luminosity in the dark will be a plus
9. Water resistance – 100 m, more a plus
10. Two time zones a plus (GMT)
11. A price range of £750-1500
Please let me know.
Regards and take care!
I am sorry but this article is yonks old, not only that your bigotry is shameful. CCP induced virus, don’t want a Chinese watch. If you want a non Chinese watch with Lume there is always a Stowa Flieger but that lacks a GMT complication. Another option is Baltic.
It is bigoted to criticize one of the most totalitarian, horrible governments on earth? I do not think so… There is nothing wrong with not wanting to buy things made in China, especially if you actually care about buying things from companies that consider workers rights and anti-slavery principals. Shame on you. Open your eyes.
I enjoyed it, interesting how common mechanical watches were up until the late 70’s
Thanks — mechanical watches were pretty much universal as otherwise it was necessary to find a table or wall clock to know the time! Of course there were people who didn’t wear a watch — these days, though, the question “do you have the time?” is pretty much never heard!
That brass surround looks like something I didn’t know I needed. Any information on how I can get one?
Thanks for asking — sorry to say, I don’t know how to get another one. It was made as a favor by a watchmaker friend who has now moved on to other employment.