Timex Waterbury Chronograph

At some point in your life, you are going to own a Timex. Maybe it's the first watch you own as a kid (like me), or that dirt cheap Weekender you buy on a whim (I did), or maybe you want a fitness tracker that doesn't look like a prop from Logan's Run (this one doesn't). They produce so many watches for so many purposes for such low prices, buying one is almost inevitable, and yet, whether because of their ubiquity or in spite of it, they are frequently overlooked by many watch nerds. That is a shame because they are missing out on some charming watches like this Timex Waterbury Chronograph.

Timex designed this collection to honor the company's 160-plus years in Waterbury, Connecticut, and in doing so, stayed truer to the vintage spirit than many luxury brand reissues. The line consists of a mid-century modern model, two Explorer variants, and a few military-inspired three-handers and chronographs. Timex gave me a TW2R24900ZA chronograph on a steel link bracelet, which retails for $139. Retro cues include a tall mineral crystal, muted dial printing, and the Waterbury logo in an old-fashioned script with decorative swashes looping from the "W."

Measuring 42mm wide, 13mm thick, and almost 52mm long, the chronograph is the largest model in the collection yet I still found it to be a nice fit on my smallish 6.5" wrist, thanks in no small part to slim tapered lugs that hook below the case. If you prefer a more traditional look, you can look you can choose a 40mm or 38mm 3-hand model instead.

Unlike many Timex models, the Waterbury's case is all stainless steel. It is water resistant to 50m and displays an impressive level of fit and finish. Radial brushing atop the lugs offsets the otherwise polished surfaces. There no unpleasantly sharp edges to be found, even between the lugs. Case sides are ever so slightly rounded, softening the overall appearance. Its chronograph buttons have broad, flat heads that extend beyond their shafts for more comfortable operation, and the crown is coin edged and proportionate. Neither the buttons nor the crown are signed but I wouldn't expect them to be at this low price point; however, the case back bears deep stamping that includes the early-American Waterbury logo. 

Timex does not provide any details about the movement except to say that it is an analog quartz. It is a three-register chronograph: 30-minutes, 1/20th of a second, and small seconds. The first two are recessed, textured, and set high in the dial so the 30-minutes cuts off a bit of the 10 o'clock numeral. The small seconds is a printed partial crosshair at 6 o'clock with the model script below. The needles are polished and orange-tipped, including the sweep hand. Operation is straightforward. Pressing the top button starts and stops the timer. When stopped, the 1/20th is indicated. A push of the bottom button resets the 1/20th and the sweep hand to zero. The chronograph function will run for a total of four hours, after which it will automatically stop and reset. As is common on lower-end quartz chronographs, the buttons were mushy, lacking positive tactile feedback or crisp engagement, but I was pleasantly surprised to see the sweep hand hit its marks dead-on every time. I should also note that this is a quiet movement. Anyone who has ever owned a Timex Weekender knows its characteristic high-volume tick. Not so on the Waterbury, which went about its business without raising its voice.

The dial's layout combines Arabic numbers, blocks, a central triangle, and a bracketed 4 o'clock date window, lending the watch a military appearance, particularly when presented in this muted black and taupe color scheme. Timex also offers a beige face model as well as a vibrant blue for those seeking something more sporty. Polished sword and pencil hands underscore the vintage military look. They are filled with green-white lume, as are the four primary markers. It does not produce a particularly long lasting glow, but don't worry, the trademark Timex Indiglo pops to life with a push of the crown. You've just got to love Indiglo. 
My only complaint about the dial is that the print quality is imperfect. It looks fine at a normal distance, but once I really pressed my nose into it, I could see voids and thin spots. It's not a deal-breaker, but certainly worth noting.

And now, we get to the bracelet. It tapers from 22mm end links to an 18mm clasp and looks nice enough with its brushed and polished links and signed bi-fold clasp. There are no micro adjustments, but plenty of removable links. Dropping five of them gave it a proper fit on my 6.5" wrist. Even so, I couldn't get it off the watch fast enough. I'm not going to sugarcoat this; it's awful. There is excessive play in the links and while I didn't expect the end links to be solid at this price point, I was disappointed to discover the center links are hollow as well, producing an unpleasantly tinny sound as they rattle together. It was easy enough to size, but one of the holes stripped and the pin promptly fell out. I would say it is of similar quality to the bracelet on a Vostok Amphibia, which is to say, junk. 

The bracelet really lets the rest of the watch down. While die-hard watch nerds will no doubt ditch it for a strap and move on, most casual consumers will not. They will have the stock bracelet sized at the mall and as the flimsy piece wobbles on their wrist, it will tarnish their view of this watch in particular and Timex as a whole.

Of course, there is an easy solution to this problem, just buy a version on a strap. In fact, if you don't buy a strapped model, you might have a hard time getting replacement leather from Timex. The 42mm case takes a 22mm strap, but the widest strap on the Timex.com accessory page is only 20mm. Fortunately, Timex offers the Waterbury Chronograph on tweed and leather straps for the same price or less than the bracelet versions. For a $20 premium, you can even opt for a model on Red Wing leather. I did not have a Timex strap on hand, but a quick rummage through my strap drawer yielded a brand new, $14.95 Kvarnsjö leather two-piece from Cheapest NATO Straps. It seemed like a fitting choice given the budget nature of the watch, and indeed, the dark brown leather and white minimal stitch looked right at home.

I wore the Waterbury for the better part of a week, with watch nerds and civilians alike, and all commented on how cool it looked. Even seasoned watch idiot savants paid it complements. Personally, I enjoyed the heck out of it. It is a truly handsome piece, brimming with retro charm. For $139 direct from Timex it represents an excellent value that gets even better when you factor in the frequent discounts and sales the company runs. A quick Google search turned up several Waterbury Chronographs on leather for just under $100 shipped. Would I buy one myself? Absolutely.

If you haven't owned a Timex, or just haven't had one for a while, I highly recommend a Waterbury. Just forgo the bracelet. ⬩

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