Timex Mk1 Collections Part 1

With Such a Wide Variety, There is a Mk1 for Everybody

A small sampling of Mk1s, steel and aluminum

Besides the unisex Weekender, I can’t think of another Timex style within the Archive era that is as popular as the Mk1? There is a huge variety of colors, straps and materials in both three-hand and chronograph models. With so many different looks, I can’t believe there isn’t one that can catch your eye?

The Mk1 is take-off on the plastic-cased, mechanical-wind, Camper models of the 1980s-90s. Mk1s came in 40mm and 42mm sizes: The steel 3-hand styles are 40mm, the steel chronographs 42mm. The aluminum Mk1s were 40mm for both 3-hand and chronograph. Even though there were other special watches called Mk1, such as the plastic re-release, a mechanical and some Todd Snyder later additions, I want to cover the bulk of the collection which is the steel and aluminum, quartz 40 and 42 mm models.

If the Weekender was the all-around casual watch with a vintage flavor for the general public, the Mk1 was slanted more toward the military vintage crowd. Most of the styles are rendered in browns and greens and greys and black.

The Classic Case

The case inspiration was the 1980s approx. 36mm plastic Camper that was first used briefly for a military contract in 1982. The “civilian” Camper first appeared in a 1983 Timex catalog. I have seen a photo of a mechanical Camper with a date code as late as 1998? If you look at the side of the cases, the Mk1’s shape mimics the Camper. The shape of the lugs and the domed crystal are all Camper. The MK1 is just bigger. The other big difference is the MK1 lugs are not connected by a solid bar. They have open lugs with a spring bar. The Camper’s thick, square section molded cross bar was designed to be more secure than a spring bar for a single-pass strap. But, of course, with the spring bar and 20mm lug gap, there are endless options for straps — 2-piece, NATO, single-pass, so you can give a MK1 many looks.

Camper evolution: Top 1980s-90s mechanical 35.5mm , middle 2018 steel 36mm, bottom 2018 Mk1 40mm steel

My research on Timex models in the the Archive era revealed the popularity of the Camper in the Japanese market. Around the time of the re-release of the plastic Camper in 2016, there were also Japan market-specific stainless steel versions of the 36mm Camper (later released in the US) as well as other Japan market collaborations in metal Campers. I don’t know when the inspiration for a 40mm metal Camper-style watch for the US and European markets started, but, I think the MK1 followed the release of the SST Campers in Japan.

1980s Camper to plastic 36mm quartz Re-release 2016 to steel 36mm 2017 to a 40mm steel Mk1 2018.

So here we are; we have a bigger 40mm (more popular mass market size) aluminum or stainless version of a Camper, riding the vintage military fashion wave, with a classic field watch dial layout, domed crystal, pop-culture flavor, yet still modern in its own way. Indiglo backlighting added. The lug-to-lug length is 47mm. With its case curves, domed crystal and clean dial, it may be the most elegant Timex yet? If I could only change one thing on the MK1 it would be to scale it down to 38mm diameter and 45mm length.

Military Fashion

If Timex is the King of the military fashion (MILFASH) watch, is the Mk1 on top of the pile? Did it overtake the J. Crew Military, the N. Cabourns, T. Snyders and the Allied line? I say yes! It may have the most range and versatility in colors and finishes. If you want to go heavy towards the military spectrum you can get the Benrus/Hamilton look or you can go more classic, casual/sport, to the other spectrum of the “street” California models which are not military-like.

First and foremost, these are Style watches, not Tool watches or Vintage Military issue. Don’t do the apples/oranges thing. Don’t compare a style watch price/value with a spec watch price/value. I still catch myself doing it at times! They may look like a MILSPEC watch, or a field watch, but they are not. You can get both worlds, but not with this watch. While the MILFASH J. Crew, Allied, N. Cabourn, T. Snyder, and Mk1s may raise the ire of the military vintage and EDC crowd, they are what they are and I love them. Price, price, price…If you want a $500-1000, spec-based tool watch, this is not for you. It’s not even a $300 military-like tool watch. Maybe the closest thing would be something in the $200 MWC range? But then, it will not be a MK1.

The Mk1s cover a wide spectrum of styles

As I touched on in my post on Nigel Cabourn watches, this genre of watch is as much about the case finish, dial color and strap, as well as the vintage and military feelings evoked as it is about the watch itself. Aesthetics over specs. These are not watches bought for their complications, or movement or water resistance. Well, maybe someone might buy one for Indiglo? Or, you can get a date and timer with the chronographs or a date on the Archive Pioneer Mk1 3-hands. They are bought for a feeling, and expression of something.

What’s in a Name?

Where did the name MK1 come from? It definitely has a military ring to it? I know it as a designation of versions of military weapons or vehicles. A production release that will be updated later. Probably from British military tradition, as in WWII tanks; Churchill MK III, etc. In the watch world I immediately think of IWC models. Why did Timex pick it? Did they call the military prototype in the 60s or the 80s the MK1? Obviously they wanted the military connotation. Will there be a MK2 range?

Before I get in to all the MK1 styles I know of, I wanted to mention this review from the site Two Broke Watch Snobs as it give a lot of information about the MK1 aluminum chronograph and a link to a nice page covering the 1982 Timex mil spec watch.

The first basic MK1 Aluminum models; Case/Dial/Strap, TW2R37400 Blk/Blk/Blk, TW2R37600 Brwn/Grey/OD, TW2R37300 Blu/Blu/Blu, TW2R37500 Brwn/OD/OD


If I have my MK1 chronology right the first models out were the aluminum ones released in late 2017, I think, before the Steel models. This is important because I find it impossible to know exactly how many different Mk1s were released and when. I roughly counted up to about 30 3-hand styles and 20 Chronograph styles between Steel and Aluminum, at this point! Between 2017 and 2020, there was a flurry of case/dial/strap configurations released around the world.

I am going to discuss three main groups, then mention some additional styles. The three main groups are MK1 Aluminum, MK1 Steel and MK1 Aluminum Archive/Pioneers. This gives me a starting point. Then I can try to fit in other styles added to each in what I think was happening simultaneously? This is all happening while other Archive styles and the Allied line are also being turned out. In this post, I am going to cover the Aluminum collection mostly.

I’m not sure Timex clearly established the various series releases to the public? Maybe authorized dealers got materials, but I don’t believe there exists a document or catalog that shows every model of MK1? They do make big press releases to start, highlighting the main models, then they continuously add new variations of dials and straps, but it varies by market with no notification. I believe that with their FINS system, each market can order custom combinations depending on what is popular at the time. Also to be thrifty, Timex uses leftover components and pushes out small releases in various markets. One common routine is to release a watch a second time with a different strap, using a different model number.

I don’t think there is a system, a taxonomy for all the MK1s? Just a lot of groups on a theme coming out simultaneously. I can’t even figure out the style numbers. It seems for every combination of case/dial/strap there is a new number. Sometimes style numbers were etched on case backs, sometimes stickers are used. The stickers don’t always match the numbers on price tags and may represent a more broad category of case/dial/movement category? Sometimes strap identifiers are left off. I suspect some of my recorded model numbers represent the same watch.

Why was there an Aluminum range of MK1s? I think the Aluminum MK1s were aimed at a younger audience looking for a less traditional, casual, light weight product. The Aluminum styles included the California series as well as the styles with reversible reflective straps. More fun and stylish? Also, the subtle color palate originally signaled a more modern, towards minimalist style. This is what is so interesting about the MK1. They can be new/young/modern or more vintage military/traditional. I find the “Plain” group to be elegant, but less interesting than the more detailed vintage/military leaning Pioneers versions. I like contrasting case, dial, strap combinations.

The all-one-color look of the black, blue and brown/OD really echos the look of the 1980s Camper that was green/green/green but elevates the concept into a bigger metal product that is more sophisticated.

Three greys TW2T10500

I call these first four the “Plain” Aluminum, because they did not have the more obvious military flavor that the Archive/Pioneer models did. I believe the 3-hands were released first in four versions before their matching chronographs. There were three case colors; black, blue and brown. There were four dial colors and three NATO strap colors. Strap hardware usually matches the case color. Notice all the crowns are polished silver. The baton hand sets were light grey/white, silver or olive. The lume in the triangle hour markers was yellowish-green. Later there would be a dark grey case and a silver case, as well as a silver dial and a dark grey strap. Later there would be black hands.

Steel TW2R68000 left, Aluminum TW2R80900 right

There are lots of versions of MK1s! It can get confusing fast as to which MK1 you are looking at, especially if it is not using the original strap! It is hard to tell the difference between a silver aluminum model and silver-tone steel model, even when it is in your hand. In later models, the difference between two models might be the lume and number color. In the photo above is a steel MK1 and an aluminum MK1, neither is on its original strap. Both have date codes for 2018. Both have black numbers and hands, both yellowish lume and triangle hour markers. Both cases have a silvertone, satin finish. The Steel model’s dial is a warmer cream color while the Aluminum’s dial is more grey.

I show this to demonstrate how hard it is to identify some of these when seen in images online! I have discovered many of the Timex official press images can look very different from the same watch in-hand. With these two held right against each other one can see the slight differences in the case color and edges and feel the weight difference.

Aluminum cases TW2T10500 Dark Grey, TW2R80900 Silver/Lt.Grey, TW2T10300 Silver/Black, and Brown/black TW2T10200VQ

After those three original case colors; brown, black and blue, then came a dark grey and a silver case. It seems fewer models had the dark grey case. The silver case was put to good use with several styles including the Archive Pioneers MK1s, which are among my favorites. One of the California series had the silver case, too. I am most attracted the the Aluminum styles that used the silver color case. The dark grey case has potential, but I think it only was combined with the light grey dial and lived in the cool-cat modern realm. I would like to have seen it used with some green and brown dials in the military realm.

TW2R81000; new strap, new number?

Then there is a Black Aluminum released as TW2R81000, that, to me, is the same watch as the TW2R37400 but on a reversible, reflective strap strap, like the similar chronograph?! So, new strap creates new model number. Does Timex do this because it has excess black aluminum watches that aren’t selling with a plain black NATO, so tries a new look? I don’t know of any grey, or brown aluminum that came out with a reversible reflective straps? The TW2R80900 Silver case was on a similar strap, but its case was also a new color, so the different model number makes sense.

Brown, Silver-grey and Olive Drab, TW2R67900VQ top, TW2R37600 below

Even though there is a strong pull towards military aesthetic in watches, military fashion may be waning in the post-Iraq/post-Afghanistan world? Even I like to get away from military-inspired watches sometimes, too. To younger generations the military has different meanings. The great thing about the Aluminum MK1 styes is its 20mm lug spacing allows for freedom to put that classic, elegant design into any personality you need. Sporty, classic, or bold by adding the colors or materials of your choice. Just don’t take one swimming!

The TW2R80900 in the image above is a use of the silver case with light grey dial that came on a reversible strap that was black on one side and reflective stripes on the other. I just don’t like the reversible straps as useful as they might be for walking around at night. They just seem cheesy and out of character for a MK1? Another popular style to emerge in the Aluminum series was the TW2T10300. It had the silver case a charcoal dial with silver hands and numbers and came on a tan NATO style with hardware to match the case. Those silver hands are one of the nicest details of this style as it changes the feel of the watch completely from that of a white or polished hand. To me it feels more vintage/military.

The last 3-hand Aluminum addition that I know of, besides the California group is the TW2T10200VQ, which combines the brown case with the charcoal dial and silver hands. Then to shake things up Timex puts it on an orange NATO with brown matching hardware. It has a sporty feel as in camping/hunting. With the silver hands , again, I think this one could be nice on a brown or green strap, or leather.


While all this was going on, 40mm chronographs of these same styles were being released, but not necessarily at the same time as their matching 3-hand?!

Aluminum Chronographs: Black TW2R81400, Brown/Grey TW2R67900VQ, Blue TW2R67600VQ, Brown/OD TW2R67800VQ

I was not sure how Timex was matching the black chronograph to the 3-hand? I chose TW2R81400 even though it did not come on a black nylon NATO. I think the watch dial and hands are more alike than those of the TW2R37400 3-hand that did come on a black NATO. The other Black/Black/Black Aluminum Chronograph is the TW2R67700 below. It has red-tipped sub-dial hands and a red second sweep. There is no 3-hand Black aluminum model with red second sweep?


What I’m trying to show is that there seems to be a matching chronograph for each 3-hand style in the Aluminum collection, which, to me, is a big commitment by Timex on each colorway, giving customers a large selection.

What has to follow then is the Silver and Dark Grey case chronographs and the Brown/Orange. Timex has spoiled us with choices. You can get every MK1 Aluminum in either a 3-hand or chronograph, except the California. Oh yes, the California.

Dark Grey Case TW2T10900, Silver case TW2R81300, Silver case TW2T10700, and Brown case TW2T10600


I saved these for last because, frankly, I’ve been avoiding them for years. I was initially repulsed by them because they were nothing like the military/vintage experience I was seeking. But, as I mentioned above, sometimes the military look is not what we need. People are complex and can have a wide variety of tastes and interests that are continually evolving. This is the most I have ever thought about the California…

Bam! I have to use this Timex image. Pink TW2T25600, Yellow TW2T25700, Orange TW2T25500, Blue TW2T25100, Turquoise TW2T25400

Wait, there’s more: TW2T25300 Blue/Grey.

TW2T25300 with Silver case

If the other Mk1s are style watches that look like field watches, then the California is a style watch that looks like a style watch that looks like a field watch! We have to remember the MK1 came from the Camper that already was a pop culture icon, especially in Japan.

I only have one California in my collection. It is the orange/yellow crystal TW2T25500. I got it preowned and it unfortunately did not come with the original Grey/Orange/Yellow strap. I’ve got in on a Timex reversible strap I think cam with a Metropolis Allied model. It has a date stamp of 2019. It is the only one of the bunch that I think I can wear? In a way it reminds me of a bigger version of the 36mm N. Cabourn Survival watch.

Looking at this group is like looking at a pack of highlight markers. I don’t know where to begin?

They are interesting. I admire the careful use of color combinations. Again, the strap becomes an integral part of the whole design. Tinted crystals are a whole other experience. I have to credit Timex for the courage exhibited in going this direction — for stretching what a Camper/field watch can be.

The Strap Matters

I have to talk about straps more. Out on the vast NATO strap market you cannot find straps in these color configurations. Nobody can beat the color combinations and weaves and fabrics Timex had with its single-pass and NATO straps in the Archive era. There are better quality straps out there, and tons of color combinations on the generic strap market, but nobody combined the materials, matching hardware, and colors that Timex did to make straps for specific watches. They are also irreplaceable since Timex does not make them any more. The polished silver crowns and pushers on all Mk1s helps when fitting aftermarket straps because most have silver hardware! Because the Mk1s have a 20mm lug gap, there are endless ways to enjoy them.

If you are familiar the the Metropolis iterations of some Timex Allied and Navi Ocean models, then you can appreciate these colored crystals. It is different thing to have a yellow dial with a clear crystal than it is to have a white dial with a yellow crystal. Both end up yellow, but your interface with the watch changes markedly. You are looking through something to see your watch dial. We all know the feeling of looking at something with sunglasses on. You find yourself moving the sunglasses out of your line of sight to see what something really looks like. With the California, like the Metropolis versions, you cannot move the sunglasses. Something is always in the way.

What I keep coming back to with the dark Metropolis models (the red) is the thought, ‘why would you want to inhibit your ability to read the time on the watch?’ With these, it is not as bad, except maybe with the darker appearing TW2T25100. The watches crave sunlight, hence California Sun. They make you think of summer sun. People don’t buy this watch for a watch. They buy it to carry around some sunshine on their wrist. If you look through the sun, you can see the time, too. What happens is the dial surface disappears and the numbers, marks and hands float behind the crystal.

Notice most have very graphic contrast dials. Black hands, with marks printed on light dial covered with a tinted crystal. The pink, yellow, orange, and turquoise are more legible. The ones with the dark dials try to do the opposite with white(or silver) hands and printing through blue tints. They are harder to see and emphasize the experience of looking through something. These are hard to write about without actually having them in hand.

I’ve go to end this post. I think I have introduced the Mk1 in general and specifically categorized the 24 Aluminum models I know of. I could go into my detailed impressions of the individual models I have collected because I enjoy them so much, but that may be more that most want to know!

40mm TW2T10300 3-hand, 40mm TW2T10700 chronograph, popular Aluminums

In Part 2 I will try to sort out the Steel Mk1s.



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