So, here we are in the first week of 2018 and Fratello Watches kicks off #TBT with a look at a vintage Timex Marlin. We’ve never featured a Timex on our site, so why are we showing a watch from a brand that’s known as an affordable (read: cheap) maker of utilitarian and reliable timepieces? Well, it isn’t entirely due to the much-ballyhooed recent re-release of a 1960’s handwound Marlin, but it certainly means that interest in Timex is at a relative high and that the collector watch world may be more open to hearing about older variants. As mentioned, though, there’s a stronger reason for featuring this watch, so let’s continue.
Yes, the recently reissued Timex Marlin has caused quite a stir. At 34mm, most initially complained. And a Chinese movement? Gasp! But, at a price of $200 and with the blessing of most stylish sites, the watch has sold out multiple times. For certain, some people welcomed the return of a smaller, affordable mechanical dress watch while I suppose that others simply needed to be told they wanted it. Whatever you think of it, I’d say it’s nice that Timex, after offering mechanical watches for so long and then losing the plot in the 90’s, is back to offering non-quartz watches and that we have another interesting and affordable retro-inspired piece on the market.
Today’s Timex Marlin is a slightly different kettle of fish, though (oh the puns). First of all, it’s an automatic and it offers a slightly different take on the dial. But first, let’s talk a little about the Marlin name itself. Now, if you’re like me, you hear names of fish and you instantly think of a dive watch, but what you see here is about as far from a diver that could possibly exist. The Marlin line, as it turns out, was simply the name of the waterproof, err resistant, assortment from Timex. Like other brands, it was introduced in the 1950’s when higher priced competitors like Omega and others were advertising watches that see a bit of moisture. From what I can tell the line extended onwards for decades and ultimately was offered in electronic versions, gold-plated, and with dates. Style-wise, it seems that Timex generally kept to a simple dial theme typically consisting of a white/silver dial adorned with numerals and/or markers. Oh, and sadly, there’s no fish anywhere to be found. The Marlin, it seems, was born to be a simple, straightforward watch for every event, everyday and for the everyman – and one that could take a drizzle and not go fizzle (now that was a good one!).
What makes this Timex Marlin special, at least to me, is that it came from my wife’s Grandfather. I’ve probably mentioned it, or perhaps you can infer from some of the pictures, but my wife is from Slovakia – born and bred. After we married, during a family visit to the country, my mother-in-law handed me a small pile of watches that she had been keeping somewhere in the house. All were generally Czechoslovak-made such as Prims and in a non-functioning state, but there was one oddball in the group: the Timex Marlin. Now, if you know anything about Slovakia (other than Czechoslovakia hasn’t been a country since 1993 – yes, this faux pas is more common than you may think), you’ll know that it was a communist country, when it was linked to the Czech Republic, up until 1989. So, how did a watch made somewhere in the non-communist world make its way to a very small town in the Banska Bystrica region of Slovakia? More on that in a minute.
As you can see, the Timex Marlin is rather simple. Its domed white/silver dial features black painted Breguet numerals inside of a hashed minute track of the same color. The text is simple and painted telling you the brand, that it’s automatic and that it can handle moisture. The hands are basic black lines and the watch does feature a sweep hand. There’s a large, scratched, domed crystal (12mm high in total) that definitely sports some dirt at its edges – I’ll leave it as is.
A simple chrome-plated case coming in at a very wearable 37mm (43mm lug to lug) boasts few details. It’s all one piece, but the lugs start their flow a bit below the top of the case to give the impression of a removable bezel. As good as the case looks, the chrome-plated crown has lost most of its color and the backside shows a decent amount of pitting. The simply adorned stainless caseback tells us the composition of the case, caseback, that the Marlin is automatic and water resistant. That’s about all.
My wife’s Grandfather turned 50 in 1983 and for this important milestone, his family gave him this Timex Marlin. It actually made its way to Slovakia via my mother-in-law’s Aunt. During the Communist era, there were organized trips to the West, but bringing back articles wasn’t really allowed. So, yes, this Timex was actually purchased in France and brought back as contraband – by bus. Now, I’m not going to get political here or pretend that everyone was in awe of Western culture, but having a watch from the west was apparently a big deal – even a Timex Marlin that likely retailed for about $15 new in the USA (and $15 wasn’t an insignificant amount in Slovakia). It was different and a rare luxury for a man who worked in a mining environment. I think it also shows how, while many of us don’t see an inexpensive or straightforward watch as special, a timepiece, when given, has long been a true sign of accomplishment no matter the brand – no matter the culture.
I dated this watch to 1978 and that’s rather easy to accomplish on a Timex Marlin because all one needs to do is to look at the bottom of the dial to find two sets of numbers, 40651 and 10778. The first set tells us the catalog, or model, number. The second set tells us the movement, 107, and the year of production as 78. But researching the movement, even lightly, was fascinating. Heading over to Ranfft (what a great resource!) shows us some pictures of this jewel-less movement. Yes, the watch contains a simple pin-lever escapement but it is highly serviceable. What’s more is that the watch can be hand wound, runs at 18,000bph and has a power reserve of 38 hours. And like so many old Seiko’s I’ve come across, this Timex runs smoothly and keeps great time – and likely has never been serviced.
Admittedly, I don’t wear the old Timex Marlin so often as I prefer to keep it preserved in its worn state. Still, I generally wear it on a NATO – Slovak flag colors for these pictures, but it would look good on about anything that’s 20mm wide. Strangely, I measured the lug width at roughly 19.5mm, so there’s some wiggle room here. As you can see, it wears well; it actually reminds me of some older simple Seiko dress watches I have in the areas of design, quality and ease of use.
Old Timex Marlins are out there in droves on eBay. Despite the influx of doofuses trying to sell the reissued pieces at some lofty prices (seriously, why would anyone indulge these sellers?!?!), you can sort through and find genuine vintage examples for prices that often fail to break the $30 mark. Of course, gem mint specimens can cross into three-figure territory, but I’d suggest making an adventure of it and holding out for a well-bought bargain. As mentioned, these watches are serviceable enough – if not, just grab another and decide whether or not to cannibalize the movement. For a forum, yes Timex has its well-deserved place on the web, head here to a long-running site with a dedicated community.
Thanks for taking a look at a Timex Marlin with a personal story. It’s a neat little watch that does exactly what John Cameron Swayze famously stated, it “takes a licking and keeps on ticking.” Plus, it’s a marque that so many of us had as our first watch, but one, in no small part due to the brand’s offerings over the last 20+ years, that has left most collectors cold. Now, perhaps they’ll get some due. As mentioned above, this example certainly shows us that significant watches aren’t always about the flashy brands.
Michael was born in South Florida in the USA. As a full-time role, he works in the Automotive Industry. He's lived and worked in many locations and when he's not cruising at 30,000 feet, he calls Germany home. Michael became... read more