Timex has been hitting it out of the park for the past several years: The Marlin, the Q, the S1...the flood of awesome, affordable watches does not cease. And many of said watches feature mechanical movements — a bonus, if you ask this crotchety fan of antiquated technology.
Most recently, Timex released a brand-new take on the Mk1 featuring a handwound, 20-jewel movement and a perfectly sized 36mm case. Recalling old Camper models — as well as a very rare military watch produced in 1982 — the watch and its utilitarian, no-nonsense looks pulled me right in.
Case Diameter: 36mm
Case Depth: 11.5mm
Water Resistance: 50m
Movement: 20-jewel handwound
Ever since the introduction of the Mk1 back in 2017, fans have itching for a mechanical version. (Well, at least this particular fan has been itching for a mechanical version, but it's my review, so I'm free to project.) The aluminum-bodied, 40mm field watch was lovely — lightweight, available in multiple colors, handsome, and cheap. But it was missing that last ingredient that would lend it true old-school charm: a handwound movement.
Well, here we have it. Cased in stainless steel in a very vintage-inspired 36mm size, the Mk. 1 Mechanical has been given a 20-jewel, handwound movement and a khaki green dial that lends it a military air. I can only imagine that other colors and iterations will follow, and I'm damn happy about it. If nothing else, a new generation of young, horologically curious folks will be able to get their hands on an accessible, mechanical watch for less than $200. Everybody wins.
Who's It For:
Young, horologically curious folks, as mentioned above. But also — really anyone: Anyone who appreciates a good-looking watch; a comfortable watch; a mechanical watch; an affordable watch. Fans of military gear, or outdoor types. Timex collectors. The list goes on, and that's the cool thing about a handwound watch at this price point. (One caveat is that a $200 handwound watch is not going to stand up to abuse the same way a more expensive, quartz-powered model will — if you plan on truly beating the crap out of your watch, you'll likely need to look elsewhere.)
The Swatch Sistem 51 (~$85-$220) immediately comes to mind, more for its price point and its mechanical movement than its looks (though the Sistem 51 is automatic, not handwound). Other options include, of course, quartz Mk1 models from Timex itself (frequently under $100), and the Bertucci A2-T (also quartz and roughly equal in price). The best analog is probably older Seiko 5s, which can be had on Amazon for around $100 and feature automatic mechanical movements and fabric straps or steel bracelets.
The Mk1 Mechanical ships in a grey, folding presentation box within a white cardboard sleeve adorned with the Timex Archive logo. I rarely mention the packaging of inexpensive watches, but I particularly appreciated it in this case, as it allows for easy wrapping if you're inclined to give somebody a Mk1 as a gift. As I imagine many, many of these watches will be given as gifts, the thoughtful packaging garners extra points, and gives the impression that what's inside isn't just "any old Timex."
And indeed, I do feel that what's inside is special, not by virtue of it being particularly robust, fancy or expensive, but because this is a product that gives access to mechanical watches at a relatively affordable price point.
The first thing that struck me about the Mk1 Mechanical was its stainless steel case: it's perfectly size for wear by men or women at 36mm, and features an all-brushed finish with the exception of polished under-surfaces, a polished, push-pull crown and a polished case back. The latter is a snap-back and adorned with the Timex logo upon a globe, and text regarding the water resistance, lug width, etc. The water resistance is actually stated on the dial at 6 o'clock, along with the word "Archive," and the lug width, though appreciated, seems a bit superfluous on the case back. Personally, I would rather have a largely blank case back with room for an engraving. Perhaps we're not dealing with a Rolex-type keepsake, but I enjoy the idea of a "first mechanical watch" being meaningful for many kids, and receiving an engraved watch would only cement an association with Timex in the mind of a young customer.
The case architecture isn't otherwise terribly complex, but this is an affordable field watch, and I don't expect it to have haute horlogerie-like surfaces. The canvas strap that accompanies the watch, which is an olive drab model with a vertical grey line running down the center and a brushed buckle, attaches to the watch case via a quick-change system, which is a welcome addition. The strap is slightly stiff at first, but is slowly breaking in well, and you could of course change it out for any 18mm strap of your choice.
So, we have a handsome watch case — who cares, besides we watch folk. What of the dial? I think Timex got this right, too: Beneath an acrylic crystal is an olive drab face with a strictly utilitarian aesthetic. White, Arabic numerical indices and an inner 24-hour scale make reading the time a cinch, and an outer 1/5th-seconds track increases precision. Green luminous material in the form of dot indices at the hour marks — as well as filler on the baton hour and minute hands and lollipop seconds hand — should ensure solid legibility, though of course as this isn't a battery-powered watch, there's none of that famous Timex Indiglo to light up the night.
The dial is otherwise adorned with a minimal amount of text: "Timex," "Mechanical" and, in tiny font, "Archive" and "WR 50M," which surround the 6 o'clock marker. Simple, highly legible, good-looking, and a direct throwback to the famous Timex Camper of the '80s, as well as the rare MIL-W-46374B from 1982, the Mk1 looks the part of a vintage field watch and delivers with aplomb.
The Mk1 Mechanical is simply a good-looking update to beloved product. With respect to the robustness (or lack thereof) of the movement — this remains to be seen. There's been a lot of speculation as to what, exactly, this movement is, and given that I don't have a case back opener tool with me at the moment and don't want to risk scratching the watch, I haven't opened it up. The assumption is that this nameless mechanical caliber is the same as that which powered the mechanical Marlin, which was signed only "China Mvmt" and nothing else. Further to that point, the chances that the watch is powered by even a lower-end Miyota caliber at this low price point are, well, low.
Should this be a deal-breaker? It depends. Would I actually take this watch out and beat the hell out of it the way I would its quartz-powered Mk1 cousin (at under $100) or, say, a mechanical counterpart that costs double the money? I probably wouldn't. Despite the field watch look, there are simply better options out there for actual use as a hard-wearing field watch. But as a throwback to a bygone era, a fun reference to an earlier time that looks great, wears easily and could potentially introduce legions of new fans to mechanical watchmaking? At this price, I say: why not.