2021 sees American Timex finally revise its longstanding Expedition watch collection with a neo-vintage range of military/field-style watches that currently tops out with this special limited-edition reference TW2V26100 collaboration model. Presented with everyday carry (EDC) company The James Brand (that produces handy things like folding knives that fit in your pocket), this new timepiece is the first in a while from Timex to feature a titanium case. It also includes an automatic mechanical movement and has a pretty nice-looking instrument-style design that is sure to appeal to many tool watch lovers, in addition to the EDC crowd. After my review of the watch, check out an exclusive interview with The James founder Ryan Coulter.
The Timex Expedition collection has for the time being been rebranded as “Expedition North.” My guess is that this is due to legal reasons, as today, many companies are more concerned about other companies not using their protected terms. Timex has to navigate this issue a lot given that some of its historic product names cannot be as easily used today. Consider that there are a few watches out there with “Ironman” in the name, even though Ironman is a legacy name of Timex wristwatch products. In any event, Timex’s field watches may now fall under the Expedition North name and are taking a few forms as new products for 2021.
Timex re-enters the serious field watch category with an impressive hitter in the Expedition North x The James Brand limited edition that we have here. This is the first modern titanium Timex watch, and it also contains a Japanese automatic mechanical movement in a slick package for just $350. Timex continues to lean heavily on value while it releases products with a high level of design fluency. The James Brand produces everyday-carry items with an emphasis on folding knives. The purposeful, minimalist appeal of these tools is very nicely manifested in this fun, tactical field watch from the major American watchmaker.
In addition to the appeal of the lightweight 41mm-wide titanium case, the dial of the Expedition North x The James Brand watch is easy on the eyes, as well as all about business. The trick here was to use applied markers for the first 12 hours and then use printed Arabic numerals for the rest of the markers up to 24 hours. This is a subtle nod to actual military watches but done in a fun way that I suspect many fans will miss. The high-contrast dial is very easy to read, especially given the broad lumed hands that pop off the black dial. Note the modern take on the date window frame, as well.
The titanium case is paired with a flat AR-coated sapphire crystal and is water-resistant to 200 meters. As a tool watch, the luminant is rather good given the volume and use of C3 (the green color) Super-LumiNova. Many of these are standard features on higher-end watches, but the point here is that Timex is able to package all this into a really strong price point. Attached to the case is a 20mm-wide black nylon NATO-style strap that has matching sandblast-finished titanium hardware. Timex got the little details right even here by having loops large enough to put the strap effectively, as well as having properly branded hardware.
The James Brand’s added touches are simple but effective. This includes the James logo on the dial, as well as the logo graphic printed on the crystal over the rear of the watch that has a view of the movement. One more added The James Brand detail is the green lume-colored insert in the crown that also features a James logo graphic. Inside the watch is a mechanical Japanese Miyota automatic movement that operates at 3Hz with about two days of power reserve.
The style, price, and specs on the Timex Expedition North x The James Brand watch should immediately impress a large swathe of the watch buyer demographic. Timex shows that, once again, it can meet the standards of a seasoned enthusiast even at lower price points when so much of the watch space is at the above-$1,000 price point. That said, the limited-edition Expedition North x The James Brand is among the more expensive of the new Expedition North models, so it is still a bit of a halo piece. Collaborating with a company like The James Brand helps emphasize that fact more quickly with generally helping Timex promote its relaunched Expedition North collection.
Below, you can read my interview with The James Brand founder Ryan Coulter about his collaboration with Timex. Price for the Timex Expedition North x The James Brand Automatic Titanium reference TW2V26100 watch is $349 USD. Learn more at the Timex website here.Ariel Adams: I first learned about the everyday carry (EDC) community through other watch lovers. That might be the same with other people on aBlogtoWatch. How can you explain what “EDC” is and its draw to people?
Ryan Coulter: EDC stands for “Everyday Carry” and it represents the things that people carry with them day in and day out to help them do what they need to do. It shares a lot in common with the watch community, in that it is there to celebrate and explore these products from multiple points of view: what works best? What looks good? How do these things work together? There’s an important emotional component to the EDC concept. The things that you carry with you are a reflection of your values, in multiple ways. We hope to follow along more in the model of the watch community, as I think that the watch world has done a good job of recognizing where watches fit in culturally, not just functionally.
Ariel Adams: How does a watch or watches as a category fit into one’s everyday carry? Is a watch just like all other items, or is it treated as being more important or reverent because it is not carried but worn?
Ryan Coulter: The foundation of everyday carry is often said to be “Watch-Knife-Pen.” The watch plays a primary role in this realm for two reasons: it’s worn, and so the connection is more personal. Secondarily, it’s visible nearly all the time. The watch is often considered the foundation, with the pocketknife in second position, and then the pen and other items.
The pocketknife is very different from the watch in some key ways. First of all, the pocketknife is hidden most of the time. You can occasionally see the pocket clip (and the clip is very important to us for that reason). When you get a pocket knife out, it looks very simple, but it’s complicated inside. The blade steel of a pocket knife is the equivalent of the movement of a watch. It can be difficult or impossible to tell blade steels apart from each other visually (they are usually marked via laser on the tang of the blade) but the blade steel makes all the difference. This is the biggest difference between a $20.00 gas station pocketknife and one that may cost hundreds (or thousands) of dollars.
A pocket knife can also be dangerous. It demands some respect in how it is carried, used, and cared for.
Ariel Adams: Tell me a bit about The James Brand. What do you do there and what is the company known for?
Ryan Coulter: The James Brand was founded in Portland, Oregon back in 2011. We now have offices here in Portland and in Carlsbad, California, as well as representation in Europe. The main idea behind The James Brand was to make everyday-carry products that better represented the values that we and our friends shared: a minimalist design approach, premium materials, attention to detail, a focus on packaging and overall experience, and the ability to apply that approach across a few different categories so that they can be better coordinated.
This was a very different approach to the category when we started. It’s taken hold, and there are other brands that have since taken a similar approach, but back in 2011, this was a pretty different way to think about the category. It clearly borrows from the long-term successes of the watch world. We are known as the modern, minimal EDC brand, and that’s all good with us. We are a lifestyle brand, meaning we want to actively tell the stories of the people that depend on our products day in and day out. People are at the heart of everything we do, from how we start our design process to who we work with to help tell our stories.
I’m officially the founder and the Chief Creative Officer, although the majority of my time is spent on marketing activities, these days. I work with the product team and design teams to help bring TJB gear to market.
Ariel Adams: How did your relationship with Timex start, and what led to the development of this particular field-style watch?
Ryan Coulter: The Creative Director for Timex, Giorgio Galli, had come across our brand somewhere along the way. I think he appreciated our minimal visual approach and our design-centric POV. That message had gotten to a friend of mine that worked at Timex, and she reached out to see if we could work together on a project. I think Timex had an interest in the EDC community but wasn’t really sure how to approach it. We can be the bridge. We were very excited to take this on, as we don’t want to be a watch brand (we will not be a watch brand), but we want to work very closely with watch brands and the watch community as we continue on. It’s a critical component of our EDC story.
Ariel Adams: Is any watch a good piece of EDC, or given how you value EDC, are some types of watches better than others?
Ryan Coulter: Any watch is a good piece of EDC, in my view. The beauty of the category is that it has great flexibility. You can have an amazing EDC that costs less than a hundred dollars or you can have one that is hundreds of thousands of dollars. The stories behind the products and the person who owns them are what matters. Why did this person choose these products? Where did they come from? How do they help this person get through their day? How do they reflect his or her values? How do they work together? How do they sit as a set? I don’t think any one type of watch is better or worse as a part of an EDC. I think that the context is king. It’s the story behind the watch that matters.
Ariel Adams: What do you think the watch industry, in general, might learn about people such as yourself who not only make tools but also make tools within a particular tool use lifestyle as part of the EDC community? What are some lessons you may have learned from the watch industry so far?
Ryan Coulter: I’m hopeful that the watch community can expand its passion to include other products. It’s an easy stretch to take your love of watches and expand that to other products that you also want or need to carry along with you. Taking that passion for the details and stories around your watch and applying to new categories can bring a lot of energy into the equation.
I think we’ve learned a lot from the watch industry. TJB, in particular, have tried to leverage the long term successes of the watch culture to influence how we operate: attention to detail, good packaging, stories and histories of products and where they came from, the idea of heirlooms and passing things along, the value of patina, etc. All of these things are important to us. We hope to be more like the watch culture. This was always our goal, and the watch world is our inspiration.
Ariel Adams: What are your favorite details about the Timex x The James Brand watch that you want anyone interested in this product to know about?
Ryan Coulter: There are 3 things that I personally love. The first is the use of titanium. We love titanium at The James Brand. It has such a special finish, and the overall performance of the material is hard to beat. That said, my favorite part of using Ti here is how it now seamlessly coordinates with the other products that we’ve put together with the watch: The titanium Chapter and the titanium Mehlville carabiner. That kind of cross-categorical coordination has always been our goal; that’s what an EDC brand should do: think about how things work as a daily set, across a few key categories.
I love the automatic movement because, to me, that’s still analog magic. It’s mechanical and visual. You can see it working. It makes so much sense, and it’s fun to be able to see it through the case.
I also love the crown, which, in the watch world, may not feel extremely special, but that kind of detailing is almost unheard of. It represents some of the ways we hope to take things happening in the watch world and bring them to the EDC community. Learn more at The James Brand website here.