“Takes a licking and keeps on ticking”
The famous slogan that put Timex on the map after the various “torture” tests they put it through in the 50s surely stirs some curiosity of the origins of this brand. Ever so often, we come across a sense of ambiguity regarding the origin of this brand that is an integral part of the American culture. Timex was founded in the United States in the mid-1800s as the Waterbury Clock Company, eventually becoming one of the country’s largest manufacturers.
The Beginning of Timex
In Waterbury, Connecticut, the brand that we now know as Timex began as a clock manufacturer. Benedict & Burnham, a significant and successful brass manufacturer, eventually ventured into the clock-making business. It had progressed from producing brass buttons for soldiers to becoming the largest producer of brass fixtures, appliances, and hardware in the United States. B&B couldn’t help but notice the tremendous rise of the American clock business, despite being based in Connecticut’s Naugatuck River Valley. As a result, Benedict & Burnham founded the “Waterbury Clock Company” in 1854 and began producing brass-movement clocks.
What was it that made Timex tick from the start?
Waterbury Clock Company’s principal goal was to provide high-quality clocks at more accessible costs, similar to European-made timepieces. As we’ll see, Timex carries its consumer-friendly business philosophy through to its contemporary operations.
We caught up with the CEO of Timex India, Sharmila Sahai, to get her insights on TIMEX – the brand.
“We always ticked a little differently than most watch brands. In 1854, as the Waterbury Clock Company, we took traditional European watchmaking and layered American industrial ingenuity on top to disrupt a 300-year-old industry and make quality timepieces attainable for millions. We democratized timekeeping with innovative craftsmanship and thoughtful design. And over 100 million people have made Timex theirs.” Sharmila Sahai.
“In the era of electronics, Timex made powerful new technologies personal. Our watchmakers crafted proprietary new quartz analog movements, keeping us on the groundbreaking always. We invented the first sports watch, the first smartwatch, and the best way to light up the time: our unique INDIGLO® back-lighting. As the next century arrived, our watches continued to adapt, making technological advancements smoother and more attainable”, she further added.
Timex timepieces keeping the Indian consumer behavior in mind
The Ingersoll Yankee, introduced in 1896, was the company’s greatest breakthrough. The Yankee was the cheapest pocket watch on the market, priced at a mere $1.
However, the low cost did not imply poor quality. WCC proudly offered consumers a one-year warranty on Yankee watches, ensuring that they would survive the test of time. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, $1 was worth roughly $30 at the time of the Yankees’ debut. It was a prodigious deal for a must-have item.
The Ingersoll Yankee was a tremendous success, becoming known as “the watch that made the dollar famous.” Over 6 million Yankee watches had been sold by 1900.
Coming back to the Indian market, Sharmila adds, “We had to understand the consumer behavior of the nation well; because India, being such a diverse country, offered us a lot to learn. We instantly knew that we had to incorporate those lessons into whatever we were going to put out. The India subsidiary is the only subsidiary that has its local design team. Giorgio Galli Labs, based in Italy, supervises the design team.”
From the Pocket to the Wrist
Wristwatches were safer and more practical for soldiers than pocket watches. Keeping hands free for handling firearms and equipment is critical during warfare. Any additional time and effort spent locating a pocket watch could spell the difference between life and death.
Waterbury Clock Co. cleverly innovated to meet the sudden, overwhelming demand for men’s wristwatches that erupted during WWI. And then began the upward journey of Timex. From the Mickey Mouse collection to The Indestructible Timex, stardom soared for the brand. To elaborate- Timex watches were jack-hammered, thrown into a dishwasher, etc. Yet standing strong reiterating John Cameron Swayze’s quote – “Takes a licking and keeps on ticking”. By the 60s TIMEX had captured nearly 25% of the watch market, taking its stand as an accessible yet reliable timepiece.
Growing demand and swift nature of contemporary trends
Sharmila says, “With the ever-changing new fashion trends and our associations with e-commerce platforms, we have observed a rise in demand for affordable fashion. Young and rising middle class majorly led consumption with growing aspirations and willingness to spend. There is a trend of premiumizing across categories as the income levels rise and readiness to spend increases because of the following reasons:
- Rising middle/high-income households leading to increased disposable income
- Favorable demographics (Millennials & Gen Zs) – Young, digital savvy pop with low median age (30 years)
- Growing aspirations for greater willingness to spend vis-à-vis save – Distinct consumption behavior vis-à-vis Baby boomers/ Gen X
Timex India is working on sharpening its product portfolio in the ₹8,000 plus segment. Launching the global collections of Marlin, Q Reissue, and now the Coca-Cola collection is our endeavor in this direction. Also, we plan to augment our portfolio in the ₹ 10,000 – ₹ 25,000 price points with International brands like Ted Baker, Furla, Adidas original.”
How do we see Timex today?
The watch industry, as we’ve seen, can be quite volatile, sensitive to economic upheavals and shifting trends. So how does Timex, a brand founded before the turn of the century, stay relevant in a market that is always changing?
“It is always very nice to see the consumer reactions to the products we put out. It also makes us understand them better. We have a long and wonderful history. The journey started with an ambition to create watches for the American people and create a legacy. By the 1960s, everyone knew Timex’s ‘Takes a licking and keeps on ticking’ slogan when we featured watches under-going various ‘torture tests’ to test their durability.
This has created a niche of fans that have stayed with the brand, and the Timex Q Reissue and the response we are getting from it shows their loyalty as well. Timex continues to keep history in mind to pave the path for the future. It has almost been three decades since we have created a market space for ourselves in India and the people have embraced us and given us a chance to provide them with what we offer”, she further added.
Known for their various collaborations, there will always be that one TIMEX watch you will connect on some level, the most recent one being the psychedelic colors and retro illustrations on the newly launched Timex x Coca-Cola Limited-Edition Capsule Collection (full review here). Keeping their DNA intact on serious sustainability, accessibility, customization and celebrating history, Timex watches will always remain timeless.