April 16, 2019
by Ariel Adams
While most people will not notice, there are a lot of interesting little innovations in the way the Timex American Documents watches are constructed. Timex didn’t just emulate existing production techniques but did a few things differently. For example, the strap buckle is one piece, and it doesn’t require a spring bar. This reduces the number of parts and allows Timex to produce them in the U.S. — though the downside is that you can’t easily remove the buckle in order to put it on another strap. The straps themselves are produced in Red Wing, Minnesota by S.B. Foot Tanning (probably the only supplier Timex is mentioning by name) and are 20mm-wide. The straps are also a nice quality, being soft and supple enough to wrap around your wrist comfortably without having to “wear them in,” as is the case with other, stiffer leather straps.
Timex engineers also developed a new type of movement ring holder that allows for not only a secure fitting of the movement, but also its proper alignment. The caseback of the watch also seems to have a bayonet-style twist action to it, which is another thing I’ve not seen before. In all, these are minor things but, as a timepiece enthusiast, I find that these details add American character to this American watch. It isn’t enough for me that the American Documents watches are made in America; what really gets me interested are the personality quirks or differences that actually make them feel American.
The American Documents watch cases are 41mm-wide in polished drop-forged steel. The cases are about 10mm-thick and water resistant to 30 meters. Over the dial is a Gorilla Glass 3 crystal — selected because it is produced in the U.S. I believe sapphire crystal can be sourced from American suppliers but the cost of doing so would be untenable for Timex’s target price points. I do agree that most consumers would rather have a better price than probably too-expensive American-made sapphire crystals.
Many people will not notice this detail, but my favorite part of the Timex American Documents case is the crown. The grip-friendly texturing around the crown is actually produced by a machine that makes tiny gear teeth for extremely precision parts. This is unlike how most crowns are constructed because the teeth on the crown don’t actually need to be that precise. Nevertheless, for American Documents watches, the crown is actually the product of a machine designed to make really precise gears — that feels very fitting for a timepiece.
Timex will produce a rather small number of American Documents watches on an ongoing basis at their Connecticut headquarters. Production could be as few as 1,000 units per month, maybe fewer. Timex has every reason to keep American Documents watches more exclusive in availability, as opposed to very high-end in price. The emotional impact of Timex American Documents watches on consumers is difficult to predict. How consumers in the U.S. and abroad will respond is, of course, an unknown at launch. While Timex has a lot of confidence in this new collection, the market will ultimately decide the trajectory on which American Documents goes from here.
With enough marketing effort, I think Timex will have no problem getting a lot of consumers excited about a Made in America timepiece — even if those same consumers aren’t traditionally watch buyers. The story is real and, in a way, Timex is doing what Shinola was trying to do, only in a manner that I think is several times more gratifying and practical. Shinola was slapped for being too liberal with its “Made in Detroit” messaging (given that there was no actual production in Detroit) and heavily pushed the American theme of the Shinola brand. Its wrist watches are mostly more expensive than Timex American Documents, while at the same time not being all that American. While Timex can’t say it, I feel similarly with regard to watch industry context: American Documents is a far better answer to making an American watch, as compared to what Shinola attempted to do — and also at a far more reasonable price.
So what are your thoughts about Timex’s “Made in America” American Documents watches? Are they good examples of American manufacturing history and current abilities? Do these products evoke the right feelings about American watches? Where do you think Timex should take the American Documents story next? Price for the Timex American Documents #001 ref. TW2R82700, Documents #002 ref. TW2R82800, Documents #003 ref. TW2R82900, and Documents #004 ref. TW2R83000 is $495 USD. Learn more or order via the Timex website here.
>Model: American Documents #001 – #004
>Price: $495 USD
>Size: 41mm-wide, approx. 10mm-thick, and about 49mm lug-to-lug distance.
>When reviewer would personally wear it: As a casual to dress timepiece anytime when a lot of American spirit is needed (or present) in the room.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Fan of Americana or American Made products who is interested in the effort and story Timex presents in its American Documents watch collection.
>Best characteristic of watch: Excellent value given all the time, effort, and focus on this project. Attractive design and almost universal wearing suitability.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Gorilla Glass not as clear or ultimately as durable as sapphire crystal, but that’s minor. Design of dial and case might be simple for a lot of more seasoned watch collectors. Hands still a bit too polished for my taste, but it’s not a big deal.