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Review: Timex Q Timex Reissue

What’s the most tempting thing about Timex’s Q Timex Resissue? The striking good looks? The hit of nostalgia? The $179 price? Or all of the above? These three things have made it a bit of an industry darling in the last few years, and now the dust has settled, there’s only one question left to ask: was it worth the hype?

What Is It?

I don’t know about you, but as a kid, even before I really knew about watches, I knew about Timex—and what I knew wasn’t all that great. Timex was the brand you bought at the local market, that was fitted with those springy bracelets that looked like a bit like the recycled elastic from a pair of robot’s underpants, that did everything it could as cheaply as humanly possible. You know: the kind with a battery.

The first thing I learnt when I discovered watches was that battery equals bad. Batteries are the mechanical antichrist, the technological poison that infected an industry that had stood proud for hundreds of years. In fact, everything about the American watchmaker Timex appears to be in complete contrast to what people who buy watches to enjoy and not just to tell the time with want. It’s a brand that boasts about stamping wheels out of sheet metal, making movements for just a dollar, undertaking televised torture tests of its products. You know, junk.

So, naturally, I was sceptical of the Timex Q Timex Reissue. When this watch came out originally in 1979, every third watch sold in America was a Timex. The brand’s simplest and most unrecognisable model, the model I saw decorating market stalls sheltered from the pouring rain by old tarps, has sold over 100 million units. A brand either sells quality or quantity. Timex had very much put all its eggs in the quantity basket.

But you know what? That’s an unfair outlook. It should be impossible to be interested in the time-telling journey we’ve evolved with as a species and ignore a watchmaker that’s kept people on time in such enormous volumes. Either one third of America was always late for everything, or Timex was the backbone of the people. Mark Twain had one. Bill Clinton had one. Dr Fauci wears one. It is the great American workhorse.

And here it is, the Q Timex, the watchmaker’s leap into a new world of electronic timekeeping, back as an almost millimetre-perfect reproduction. For many Americans, this watch was their introduction to quartz technology, a quiet revolution overshadowed by the war between Switzerland and Japan. If that’s not worth taking a closer look at, I don’t know what is.

Is It Any Good?

The first thing you notice about the Q Timex is that is has a very familiar style. You can’t place it as a whole, but break it down into its component parts and it soon becomes clear that this is a mish-mash of iconographic styles and features that mimic the watches its owners likely wished they could afford. The GMT bezel, for instance, the GMT hand that would typically accompany it notably absent. The Mercedes hour hand, minus the bit in the middle that makes it a Mercedes hour hand. The distribution of simple shapes across the dial that recalls similar, more expensive alternatives. Even the case and bracelet shamelessly borrow from the style book established almost a decade before.

I mean, it’s obvious when you think about it. Between selling a watch that looked like the illegitimate child of every popular watch of the previous ten years and one that had no distinguishing features whatsoever, the former was always going to do what Timex did best and move more units. Although, given how iconic and short-lived 70s style was, the reality is that the more forgettable and universal style had better staying power.

But we’re not here for forgettable. We’re here for the definitive moment this watch represents, and who it represented it for. You won’t find a flash, expensive bracelet here. It’s thin and flimsy, just like the original. The case back still has a coin-operated compartment through which the battery can be changed. The bezel slides freely, not a solid click to be found. The crystal is as plastic as an aging Hollywood actor’s face.

And that’s a good thing. It doesn’t pretend that a Q Timex was anything more than it was, an affordable alternative to the watches that cost the big bucks, and how that continues to be oh so relevant today. If Timex had squeezed in a Swiss, automatic movement, switched the crystal to sapphire and beefed up the bracelet, the watch wouldn’t be an acknowledgement of the role its ancestor played, it would just be … another watch. And we have enough of those already.

Instead, it looks cheap, feels cheap and goes cheap. It doesn’t sparkle or shine. The 38mm steel case doesn’t sit heavy on the wrist and doesn’t give you any more than enough water-resistance than you need to get by with, 50m. The dial hasn’t been updated to rethink quartz now the dust has settled; it continues to double down on what appeared at the time to be a bright new future for the brand. The watch doesn’t try to rewrite history to pitch Timex as anything more or less than it actually is: a working class American hero.

The great thing about the Q Timex is everything that was great about it 1979. You don’t have to be a fancy dancy man about town to buy one and appreciate it. You don’t have to insure it, worry about servicing costs—you don’t even need to take it to a jeweller when the battery needs changing. You can just wear it and forget about it, only to remember it and enjoy it in those flashes where the time has escaped you. It’s about as pure as watch ownership gets these days, free of the pantomime that we, the frogs, have slowly succumbed to in the hot pan of the 21st century. For $179, you get a watch. And that’s it. Perfect.