A legendary watch company is once again doing what it does best in the state of Connecticut. Timex is rolling out its first American-made watch in decades, and News 8 was the only TV station allowed in to see how it is made.
It is not happening in some big factory with assembly lines, either. Each one of these watches is put together by hand, from parts made almost entirely in the United States. Timex is turning back the hands of time and making watches in Connecticut, just like it used to.
“We started out in 1854,” explained Timex President & CEO Tobias Reiss-Schmidt. “We are celebrating our 165th anniversary this year.”
It started as the Waterbury Clock Company, using brass from the brass city to make mantle clocks. The name changed to Ingersoll, and the clocks kept shrinking.
“Ingersoll was famous for the Yankee pocketwatch, which was a dollar pocketwatch at the time,” said Timex’s Director of Product Management Craig Thompson.
Then they put a strap on a pocketwatch, and we’ve been wearing wristwatches ever since. Eighteen years ago, Timex moved its headquarters out of Waterbury to a modern, sprawling campus in Middlebury, but it was mostly offices.
Watches got much easier to make overseas. A truly American watch became hard to find, until Timex decided to return to its roots.
That created a challenge because, while Timex the company never left Connecticut, the American watchmaking industry did. Nobody in the nutmeg state knew how to make watch components anymore. Timex had to create its own supply chain from scratch.
Connecticut companies make small precision parts for miltary hardware and medical devices, but were lacking in one other skill.
“They have no experience making small beautiful precision parts,” said Timex engineer David Quinlan, with the emphasis on “beautiful”.
Suppliers had to learn the proper aesthetics, like the Wallingford company that now makes watch dials.
“They have other customers, as well, but their big, proud point they were explaining to us, was medical.,” Quinlan said. “They love challenges, and I said, ‘I’ve got a challenge for you.'”
The result is what they call the American Documents series. Every part except the swiss quartz movement comes from the United States.
The watch case is made in Connecticut. The hands are made in Connecticut, too. The leather strap is from American cows. The buckle is made in America.
Embedded in the crown, and all over the back of the watch is aged brass, a nod to those roots in Waterbury.
“So it was kind of a natural thing to really make use of the know-how we have here in Connecticut and bring watchmaking home to America,” Reiss-Schmidt said.
American Documents watches are all assembled in Middlebury, then they are shipped out in an American cherrywood case that was made in Rhode Island.
“This watch really and truly is a work of art in every single part,” said Quinlan.
With almost every part made in America, it is aimed at a certain kind of customer.
“They have an appreciation for history, for heritage, for what this country stands for, ingenuity, craftsmanship,” Reiss-Schmidt said.
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