The last decade saw the rise of a trend for reissues of vintage pieces. We also saw an increase in the popularity of military-style and field watches.
So, here’s the question – for how little can you get all three features in just one watch? Well, if you get lucky in catching one on sale for $35, or thereabouts.
- Diameter – 36mm
- Thickness – 10mm (without the strap)
- Lug to lug – 43mm
- WR rating – 30m
- Case material – Resin
- Crystal – Hesalite
- Movement – Japanese quartz (no further information provided by the manufacturer)
Timex doesn’t need an introduction. If you need the bulletproof thing, and you’re on an extremely tight budget, Timex has everything you need. Ever since the company made their first “dollar watches,” cheap pocket watches with pin-lever movements, they’ve provided to those who need a watch, and can’t or won’t spend a lot.
So, they’ve perfected the art of making affordable watches. In recent years, Timex became something more of a WIS thing. Their recent reissues, including the 1960s Timex Marlin, keep flying off the shelves.
Vintage Timex collecting is also a thing. Not many people are willing to buy, say, pin-levers, yet some have 50-60 pin-lever Timexes. As the forum slang has it, the “Timexicans.”
The MIL-W-46374B and the MK1 series
A few years ago, Timex created the MK1 line, which was intended as a reissue of the MIL-W-46374B specification milwatch, produced for the US Marine Corps in 1982. Well, not precisely of that – the milwatch was a failure, but the civilian version – the non-disposable Camper – was a commercial success. This is more of a reissue of the original Camper.
The original watch was made as a disposable item. If malfunctioning, they were meant to be thrown in the bin. Note that it wasn’t Timex’s initiative to create a disposable watch. Uncle Sam asked and Timex delivered. The idea of a disposable watch has failed, though. The watches were made for only two months in 1982. The concept was quickly dumped, and the military returned to using serviceable watches built for a longer period.
The MK1 line generally sticks to the design of the 1982 milwatch. However, it’s been expanded with models that are only loosely inspired by it. No less, all of them feature the very same fixed-lug case with a hesalite crystal. So, most – if not all – of them have some vintage feel to them.
This particular reference was the most faithful reissue of the MIL-W-46374B. Like the original, it measures 36mm in diameter and features a resin case. All the other MK1s have been upsized to 40mm or more. They are available in either an aluminum or steel case, with or without colored coating.
The Timex website doesn’t list it with the rest of the MK1s. It’s part of the Archive Series, which has a section of its own.
As mentioned before, it’s a 36mm case in black resin, topped with a high-dome hesalite crystal. Polished throughout, matte case back. Nothing fancy, but it doesn’t appear to be poorly made. The case back is a gasketed press-in one, with a protruding “lip” to facilitate opening it for a battery change.
It has fixed 18mm lugs, with thick bars. They certainly do an excellent job of making it feel solid. The only downside – you’re pretty much sentenced to using NATOs and other one-piece straps on this one.
The TW2R13800 has a basic WR rating of 30m. Still, I’m inclined to trust Timex with the water resistance. I still have my old Timex Expedition, which, while rated to 50m, has a gasketed press-in back just like this one. Never leaked – and I’ve put it through. Swimming, windsurfing, snorkeling, etc. It managed to survive it all.
The dial and hands
I must say that the dial of this one is appealing. It’s a beautiful, deep black color in a matte finish. The print and the finishing on the hands are glossy white, which contrasts well with that.
The 24h scale is typical of any American milwatch, except for perhaps the WW2-era A-11. While some deem it redundant, I kind of like the slight factor of clutter that it adds.
All in all, it’s what tool watch dials are meant to be – simple. By extension, there’s little to say of it. If you’re looking for anything sketchy about it, you won’t find it. That’s because there’s nothing shoddy there.
Frankly? It’s weak. Well, it’s not as weak as in my Dan Henry 1970, but it’s not strong. Timex never seemed to care much about lume, ever since they introduced the Indiglo dial backlight. This watch, though, unlike all the other MK1s, doesn’t have Indiglo. In that respect, it’s perhaps a little bit too faithful to the original. It doesn’t bother me, although I can imagine that it would bother some.
Still, the watch remains legible in low-light conditions. This probably has something to do with the gloss white of the hands and scales that stands out against the matt black of the dial.
The specs from Timex don’t mention what the used movement is. Well, that’s the case with the specs for all Timex watches.
Timex is known to use movements of its own. As indicated by the case back markings, these are made in Japan. The rest of the watch… China? Malaysia? It’s the mass-made thing anyway, I wouldn’t presume that the machinery knows where it’s located.
It’s the typical, stuttering quartz thing. Nothing more. Then again, there’s nothing else I could expect here.
The watch comes on a one-piece, black fabric strap with a single, broad loop and a “frame” pin buckle in black plastic (or whatever it is…). To be honest, the strap is the part I like the least in this watch. Actually, I think that the strap isn’t that great. OK, it’s not uncomfortable, but it feels thin and flimsy. Who knows, maybe it’s more durable than it looks. I’ve had it for way too short to determine that.
The buckle of the original strap is a case study in cutting corners. It’s the only genuinely horrible part of this watch. The pin just won’t stay in one place, flies from one side of the bar to the other, making buckling it up an exercise in patience.
For now, I’ve replaced the original strap with the olive green NATO supplied with my Sea-Gull 1963 chronograph. It feels way more solid and as a bonus, it also gives the watch that field/military look.
A black strap gives the watch a more “stealthy” look, but also seems more boring. And it really isn’t a boring watch.
The watch is unbelievably light. Resin, hesalite, fabric. There’s not a lot of mass. It’s easy to forget you’re wearing it. OK, the slightly “scratchy” original band won’t let you easily forget that you’re wearing it, but once you replace it with something better, that’ll no longer be the case.
In all that lightness, it feels firm and well-made. It’s not what I expected but here it is, living up to more expectations than I had of it.
The watch has an MSRP of $79. However, I bought it at an AD on sale for roughly 30 euros, so you can find it for well below the retail price. It’s available directly from Timex, or via their authorized retailers.
Is the Timex MK1 a good watch? Except for the strap, I think so, yes. It delivers in a variety of aspects.
If you simply need a watch – any watch – it’s more than enough. If you seek a cheap way to get a vintage-style field watch, it’s perfect. If you want a daily beater, it’s more than fit for the role.
Whether you’re a non-WIS or a hopelessly addicted watch collector, this one’s good in either case.