The J. Crew Timex Vintage Military Field Watch

The Watch That Launched a Thousand Straps(and a thousand comments)

2008, 2010, and 2013 versions.

I can’t think of a better watch to kick off this blog! Where to start? This watch probably is the best example of the genre that is a combination of Timex, retro, military, and fashion quartz watches for the masses. It might be the watch that started a whole new category of watches that form the bulk of my collection.

I wasn’t paying attention when J. Crew released their Timex collaboration “Military” watch. Neither was I aware in 2010 that a cream dial version was available. Finally, I didn’t know of the black case with green dial 2013 version until 2020 when I was researching the original.

In 2008, when this watch was released, I was getting ready to go to Iraq for a second time and wearing a Casio digital. Though having been interested in watches at a low level for some years, I was oblivious to the flourishing military/vintage fashion market of the time.

Case backs indicate year of release

Military Fashion Watch

This little 36mm guy caused quite a stir when released and kick started a successful era for Timex collaborations in the military fashion (MILFASH) market. It came in at a price much higher than Timex Scout and Camper owners were used to paying, especially since it was a fashion watch rather than a tool watch.

It irked collectors of vintage mil-spec watches as well because its field watch dial incorporated faux aging of numbers nicked-up case finish. Original marketing copy purports inspiration from the 1940s and caused confusion with enthusiasts. It was really a swirl of elements pulled from MILSPEC watches from the 40’s through the 80’s. It’s a design that evokes nostalgia for military history as a MILFASH accessory. It didn’t have bonafide military roots, and its movement cannot really be repaired. It didn’t have the required water resistance, sapphire crystal or decent enough lume to really be a tool watch. It just couldn’t win? Researching web comments from almost 15 years ago its clear it that this watch disturbed field watch fans.

It was and is, however, a lot of fun! It had a size to fit small wrists, had military/vintage styling with its vaguely MIL-W-3818B spec features and was reasonably priced compared to a real vintage mil-spec watch. On top of all that, there was a seemingly endless supply of different straps to put it on to fit any mood or outfit.

Straps Everywhere

It was a success no matter what serious watch enthusiasts said. Most of us don’t want to and can’t afford to research, source, and maintain a real vintage mil-spec mechanical watch. Thank you, Todd Snyder.

These and other Timex watches along with J. Crew straps and fashion kicked-off a decade-long orgy of strap switching on vintage-inspired timepieces evoking preppy and military aspirations.

Timex itself, with its later Archive run and Mix turntable furthered the ability of Timex owners to try lots of strap ideas on one watch.

As of this writing, J. Crew is looking to move up on the watch side of things by offering higher-end watches by Marathon and MWC to keep the military vibe going. These watches are higher priced and have more tool watch credibility. They also offer vintage classic preowned watches in partnership with Analog/Shift.

Simultaneously, in the 2008 serious watch world, vintage/retro/military influences were trending all the way up to highest priced watch brands. Vintage/military-inspired and dive watches were sporting NATO straps as fashion demanded.

NATO straps were everywhere. The cheapest and easiest way to get a new watch without getting a new watch is to change the strap or band. All the easier if it is a NATO or single-pass strap or quick-release two-piece band.

The J. Crew strap-fest has tapered off and I am collecting some barely used 18mm J. Crew straps from online sources for much less than the original retail price. The color combinations are varied and more along the preppy line than subdued military color combinations. The standard J. Crew strap has polished chrome keepers with square corners. I don’t really like those square corners. They and look best with the case that is silver on the 2008 and 2010 J. Crew watches. With the black case 2013 version, I like a strap with black hardware. Better quality NATO straps are available from numerous sources, but the J. Crew straps are meant to be a quick change of color rather than a rugged tool watch accessory.

Let’s look at the watches because I love ‘em for what they are; a fun, inexpensive vintage military field watch aesthetic! MILFASH! A watch that I really like no matter what it is, or isn’t.

Right size, right look

At 36mm, it is small and light. It fits my small wrist and slips under shirt cuffs. It is subtle but has nice details that keep me looking at it. Being so small, any added height of NATO straps makes no difference. I wear them on NATOs, single-pass and two piece straps. The lug width is 18mm. 20mm is the most common width offered, so you have to search a bit more to find nice 18mm strap options.

2008 black dial

The fake aging is just fine with me. All three have a timeless simple field watch style dial with plain Arabic numbers and a 24-hr track. The hour markers are triangular with typically weak Timex lume that fits the price point. The hand set is syringe style with lume and a red second sweep with tiny ball back end on all versions. The lume (in daylight) on the 2010 cream dial version appears to be more yellow compared to a green on the other two. The crystal is slightly domed with a beveled edge.

The original 2008 watch, T2M901, had a black dial with off-white printed numbers and came with a black nylon NATO strap. The 2010 edition, T2N332, my favorite, has a cream dial with numbers in a dark brown or olive color and came with a olive but almost sage green nylon NATO strap. Finally, 2013’s T2P361, has a O.D. green dial seems to be cream colored numbers and came with a camouflage or olive NATO with black hardware. On the black case version, the bezel is glossy black while the case crown are a matte black.

2010 Cream Dial

This watch was and remains, just good design. It was, to me, a great idea: timeless military field watch design combined with utilitarian retro flavor in colors that make it a flexible fashion accessory that works well with casual, outdoorsy and dressier clothes with a retro vibe. The two silver cased versions can even lean toward Trad and Prep fashions with colored straps. The black case, olive dial 2013 one can’t really get away from military allusions.

2013 black case, OD dial

Each one has it’s own individual appeal. If I had to pick a favorite, its the cream dial 2010. Second is the original black dial. Third would be the black case with green dial of 2013.

One of the compulsions of the collector is to get several (or all) versions/colors of a particular design to compare and contrast. Each one exists in how it differs with the others. Together they have synergy. The first one I got was a preowned cream dial in maybe 2017 and only wore it on the original sage NATO. In 2020 I got preowned examples of the 2008 original black dial and a NOS 2013 version. They rarely see their original NATOs now as I have been enjoying various canvas, Cordura and leather straps too. Because of their simple, clean design, and vague connections to many eras, they look good with a wide range of dressing styles. The 2008 and 2010 versions were distributed through J. Crew, but I think by the 2013 version became available from other retailers.

Lume in hour triangles and hands

I feel that even watch enthusiasts that don’t want to like them, do in fact like them because they are a great design that can remind us of many watches and eras. They make you look.

J. Crew 18mm strap on a small wrist

Case diameter : 36mm

Thickness: 10mm

Lug gap: 18mm

Length Lug to lug: 45mm

Water Resistance : 50m

Movement: Quartz

Crystal: mineral



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