The word "Timex" is synonymous with the watch, and "Timex Takes a Licking and Keeps on Ticking" is the decades-old, well-known slogan for the brand. Although Timex is not a top brand among the rich and famous, it's a favorite for those who want a timepiece with a reputation for being reliable and affordable. Whether you're a serious collector or just someone who loves the brand, it helps to understand the history and value of antique and vintage Timex watches.
Timex Watch History
The Waterbury Clock Company in Waterbury, CT is where it all began in 1854, according to the Timex Group. The first wristwatch made in the 1920s was designed for soldiers of the Second World War. Waterbury flourished and sank during the Great Depression, and in 1930, a partnership with Walt Disney put them back on the map when the Mickey Mouse watch was born. The company experienced highs and lows but always managed to survive.
A few noteable time periods that may prove helpful to you include:
- 1945: Timex became an official brand. During this period, wristwatches were sent to nurses serving in World War II.
- 1952: The unforgettable ad campaign launched, which appeared in Life, Look, and The Saturday Evening Post, to back up the brand's claimed durability which was proven over and over as popular athletes that include golfers Ben Hogan and Babe Didrikson Zaharias, and boxer Rocky Marciano put Timex to the test. It passed every time.
- 1960s: The first women's Timex, the Cavatina, hit the market.
- 1969: The company became the Timex Corp.
- 1974: Timex released its first LCD with all the frills.
- 1982: The company launched the thinnest quartz analog calendar watch in the world.
The memorable marketing slogan "Timex takes a licking and keeps on ticking" was unleashed in the 1950s and is still recognized today. It was first broadcast by John Cameron Swayze, famous NBC newscaster and official spokesperson for Timex. One well-known print ad pictured a Timex strapped to the bat of legendary baseball giant, Mickey Mantle, who repeatedly swung his bat, never missing a hit. That Timex took a beating, but there was no damage; it ran perfectly. Numerous ads published and broadcast put the Timex through rigorous feats, but it always endured.
Value of Vintage Timex Watches
In order for a watch to be considered "antique," it must be at least 100 years old. Because the first Timex was made less than 100 years ago (25 to 99) it classified as "vintage." Most vintage Timex watches do not command a high ressale value, especially when compared to a vintage Rolex or Movado. The Timex was made with the cost-conscious consumer in need of a reliable watch, a tradition that is still in place today.
Value Range of Most Styles
The value of most Timex watches is relatively low. Recent eBay sold listings range from around $10 to upwards of $250 or more, with a couple exceptions. Many of the pre-1989 watches sold went around the $40 price point. Keep in mind that while a seller may ask for a particular price, it doesn't mean that it will eventually sell at this listing. Learn the true value by checking similar watches that have been recently sold.
Hopalong Cassidy Timex: A True Treasure
One of the few watches that command a high price in the market is an authentic Hopalong Cassidy Timex from their Character Line. Timex had a vast selection of character watches, but this particular vintage TV idol, seems to be the most popular in the line.
- Another version listed was imprinted on the back with "Good Luck From Happy" and valued at $1,750.
- The Girl's version is valued at $60.
Is Your Timex Real?
Before you shop, arm yourself with information to help you determine whether the watch is real.
- Only purchase from reputable auction houses, stores, dealers or estate sales. The National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors (NAWCC) has a large listing of dealers.
- Online fraud is abundant. Before you begin, have a watch or brand in mind; find photographs and markings that will help you identify the watch. There are some collectors who have created an online show and tell, which can be helpful.
- If possible, look inside the watch to make sure the parts match and that the caliber number is identical to the watch back.
- If the watch is scratched, rusty or has nicks, it will detract from the value and watch restoration fees can be costly.
- The Timex Corporation has given permission for the Timex Watch Forum to list several vintage brochures including part number manuals, catalogs used, and more. You need to sign up for a free account to access this information.
- Talk to a Character watch specialist, someone who repairs these watches. He or she is sure to know more than the person selling the watch, especially since most sale listings you see will be devoid of specific details.
Buying through private sellers on eBay is common. If you purchase from eBay, be aware of a few things before you buy:
- Check out the seller: At the top of the listing beside the seller's handle or name, you will see a number and a star. That number should be high (in the thousands), which shows that the person has been selling for awhile.
- A red star next to his name is equal to top seller status, although there are excellent sellers with lower grades of stars.
- The satisfaction rating should be close to 100%; if it's very low, it may be due to poor service, returns from customers or other factors. You should also be able to see comments from buyers. However, keep in mind that eBay protects the seller more than the buyer, and will handle a fraudulent or misrepresented transaction on your behalf and, if necessary, refund your purchase price.
Where to Buy Your Ticker
Places to consider buying your vintage watch from include:
- Invaluable online auctions represent a handful auction houses, fewer than LiveAuctioneer.com. They have several men's and ladies' Timex watches that are up for bid, with pricing starting between $50 and $200. You can also opt for a "lot" or group of items that may have a couple Timex watches in the group.
- LiveAuctioneers.com is an auction clearing house and selling hub for many auctioneers. However, practice due diligence and investigate the seller, or auction house. On occasion, you will find vintage Timex pieces that range in an asking price from $42 to $100.
- Yard sales, garage sales, flea markets and estate sales: Note that estate sales mark up the contents of the home for which they represent to supplement agents' commissions. Some of the greatest and most valuable merchandise can be found at yard and garage sales and flea markets. The steadily increasing number of Baby Boomers are downsizing their living space or are downsizing their parents' homes.
- You can search eBay. Enter "Vintage Timex Watches" in the search field. In the left hand column, click on "completed items." This will give you a list of what sold, in green and what didn't sell, which is helpful if you plan to buy or sell. If you click on the listing, you will find more information about the item, additional photos, and seller information.
- Timex Watch or Watch Forums can offer advice and valuable information and links.
The number one most important thing you should do before buying is your homework; research the watch and check out the markings and numbers you find.
How to Decipher Serial Numbers
Serial numbers appeared on Timex watches beginning in 1963. The last two numbers are the year in which it was made, the first two or three numbers, depending on the year, represent the catalog number, and the two or three numbers before the year represent the model number.
A Reliable Vintage Time Keeping Option
Vintage Timex watches have a good, solid history of being one of the most reliable and affordable timepieces, that still exists today. As a collector, you can't expect the value of these watches to fund your retirement, but the character and sentimental value they may hold for you, cannot be valued in dollars and cents. As in any collection, before you buy, do your homework. Even though value of a vintage Timex does not tip the scale, you still may find people who misrepresent items they sell. Be prepared; know your stuff and as always, have fun!