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
* This article was first published on July 14, 2018 at Why I Bought It: Timex Marlin Re-edition, you may find the comments under the original article interesting.
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Great article Gary.
I think everyone considered this when they saw it. I didn’t buy because of suspicions about the movement. I really wish they’d used a base Miyota. But it looks… well very small, but a bit better than I imagined. At least it doesn’t look too fragile.
The brass holder is a great idea.
I still think my “play-piece” will be a Shanghai, but fair play.
Oh, my own first watch was a manual wound Timex in ’78. It didn’t last long! 😁
Didn’t Gene Hackman wear one of these in the film French Connection 2?