Timex Mk1 Collections Part 2

Full Steel Ahead

The 1980s Camper(far left) is the origin of the MK1(far right) with new versions of the Camper in between.

In Part 1 of My Timex MK1 posts I covered the origins of the MK1 and covered the various styles of Aluminum case Mk1s. Here I will try to get my arms around the 40mm 3-hand and 42mm chronographs that make up the Steel collection.

As I mentioned in the earlier post, it can get a little confusing when trying to sort out just which MK1 is which and how many there are. The Steel MK1s have a very different character to them when compared to the Aluminum versions. With their heavier cases, mineral crystals, and leather straps, even some bracelets, they occupy a more classic space in the spectrum. While they can be different in many details, there is still a lot of common design elements and even some sharing of components. With similar straps, cases and dials, it can sometimes be hard to tell them apart.

For the longest time, I never thought of the MK1 as a spin-off of the original Camper. I thought of them as their own thing. When together you can see the similarities, but the Mk1 has transformed into a completely different experience. Its bigger, heavier and more sophisticated. The original Camper was a manual wind, the MK1 40mm is quartz. It is something a watch enthusiast can take more seriously as a versatile everyday watch.

The all-blue and all-black Aluminum MK1s on their nylon NATO straps are easier to link with the Camper. A rose gold or silver cased Steel MK1 with leather, on the other hand, seems unrelated?

You have to consider, too, that in the Timex world, the Mk1s were not alone in 2018. They occupied space crowded with lots of other Archive watches such as the Allied, the Weekender, Navi, and the Waterbury classics. Even Expedition Scouts were competing for the same buyers. A lot of people lump all these Timex collections into one pile; cheap Timexs. Each collection has its own subtle design characteristics and the Mk1s may be the most elegant and appealing of them all.

Even though a steel case and a mineral crystal may be more robust than an aluminum/acrylic combination, these are still fashion/style watches, not field/tool watches. Water resistance is still 30 meters. The luminant on the hour triangles and the hands is fun, but doesn’t last long, so the Indiglo helps when needed.

2018

My take on the development of the MK1 Steel is that Todd Snyder was motivated by a MK1 Aluminum or Stainless steel 36mm Camper and encouraged Timex to up the ante with a more sophisticated take on MK1. I think the first Steel MK1s were what I call the Todd Snyder MK1s, mostly made in 2018.

The Todd Snyder steel MK1s had brushed, black PVD, or matte silver-tone finished cases. I am not sure of the process used for the black and silver-tone, but I suspect a PVD? The crystals were mineral, not acrylic. The straps were fabric backed with leather and had metal, silver-tone grommets in the holes. These particular straps had a distinctive “split” diagonal and straight weave and were originally in black or green. The buckles had the silver-tone, or black pvd, not brushed stainless. The dial layout is still the same classic field watch look with sans serif Arabic numbers, a 24hr track inside, triangle hour markers. Baton hands and the Dot on the second sweep.

Looking back at press releases from 2018, as well as collecting and researching MK1s for a few years, its not clear how many styles were envisioned at the time of the initial launch? Like all Timex lines, things just pop up, unannounced, as the months go by. I count six initial versions. Three 3-hand and three Chronograph; two black, two green and two off-white dials. There were also additional bracelet versions, but I’m adding those later.

Silver-tone/Green TW2R68100, Brushed/Lt. Grey TW2R68300, Black/Black TW2R68200

There is an interesting mix here of Green, White, Black. The TW2R68100 has a matte silver-tone finish that I love, and looks very much like the silver Aluminum cases. The dial is a very dark olive, almost black at first glance. The hands and numbers are light grey, not silver. The TW2R68300 has a classic brushed stainless case. It’s dial is often described as “White”, but it is actually a Lt. grey or off-white. The numbers and hands are black. This dial/hand combination is the same as used on the Aluminum TW2R80900, I think. TW2R68200 comes with a Black PVD case and for the first time, a matching black crown! The numbers hand set is the same Lt. Grey as the green dial version. These are clean , classic sophisticated designs. They are something stylish you could wear into the office anytime. They have a slight vintage feel but also seem contemporary, almost military but not really? The green version could slant towards military or outdoors with is dark green dial and matte finish case. It is one of my favorite Steel MK1s. Any one of them also looks great on a vintage brown leather strap.

These sturdy quick-release straps are appropriate for the weight of the steel case. The material is unique and takes on a grey/worn /vintage appearance. They are a little bit stiff. I get the feeling they are not as generally liked as other leather or NATO types. It is common to see preowned Steel MK1s with other straps. Note that no MK1 Steel came on a NATO strap (except the one Supernova discussed later). They originally had 2-piece fabric or leather, or bracelet. Conversely, every Aluminum Mk1 came on a NATO. So, if you are looking a images online of MK1s and are pretty sure is wearing the original strap, you can quickly tell if the watch is Aluminum or Steel. If you are shopping on the preowned MK1 market, watches get a little more tricky to identify. Most owners, like myself can’t resist mixing and matching countless types, materials and colors of 20mm straps on their MK1s. I myself have purchased several used MK1s that don’t have the original strap; some have aftermarket straps or the straps from other MK1 models or even other Timex lines.

Three original fabric strap 3-hand Steel MK1s

If you like a solid, sturdy feel in a watch, you might prefer a Steel MK1 over a lighter Aluminum MK1 with a nylon NATO. It is easy to over-strap an Aluminum MK1, but with so many choices out there at 20mm, you can find the color and look with the right thickness/weight balance. Canvas straps are probably my favorite and are great with Steel MK1s. Leather single pass or heavier nylon straps on a Steel MK1 can be a good combination.

The matching chronographs to the first Steel Todd Snyder 3-hands are up next. As far as I know, they were released at the same time as the 3-hand models. All Steel MK1 chronographs are 42mm, so again, a more substantial watch than the smaller lighter 40mm Aluminum chronographs.

Silver-tone/Green TW2R68600, Brushed/Lt. Grey TW2R68800, Black/Black TW2R68700

There are no changes to the matching 3-hands as far as case/dial/hand finishes except that the crown and pushers on the black one went back to polished silver. I believe all the MK1 chronographs use the M921 movement and fall under the Timex Type 3 chronograph group.

TW2R68600 Dark Green dial and Cream dial TW2R68550

Bracelets, what?

At the release of the Todd Snyder group of MK1s there were pics of a black 3-hand and a white chronograph on a bracelet. For some reason these bracelet models did not seem to get munch mention in the press or reviews I have seen on MK1s? Again, the general public thinks of a Scout on a NATO strap when they think of Timex, and a lot of people just don’t want to mess with trying to get a bracelet to fit. I, on the other hand, think that they are fantastic and went after them right away.

Left to right Black 3-hand TW2R68400, White chron TW2R68900VK, Navy 3-hand TW2R68400B

TS was trying to elevate the image of the mK1, and these three do that – giving the Mk1 a whole other sporty personality. The finish is the satin silvertone for all three. The five-section links give a vintage feel and there is no taper in the 20mm bracelet. This 5-section link resembles some bracelets used on a few Timex models from 1978-80. This white chronograph is the only truly White Mk1 I know of. It is not Lt. Grey, or cream, like the others The blue version was not an American market release, I think, I got this one from Italy.

Navy Blue dial Steel MK1 with bracelet

After the first wave of Green/Black/Grey Steel Mk1s, the Browns started popping up. There was a matching set in 3-hand TW2R68000 and Chron. TW2R68500 that had the same unique fabric strap in tan and a cream dial. These had the same satin silvertone finish as the Green versions.

TW2R68000 3-hand, TW2R68550 chronograph, silvertone and tan fabric

Numbers and hands are black. These two fit right in with the others, expanding the options with warm tones. Again, I like the finish, and these work great on leather or canvas in green, black or brown.

After the above mentioned Steel MK1s, Timex released a new group of Steel Mk1s with vintage leathers and darker colors. Cases were a mix of brushed, gunmetal, black and a rose gold/bronze version.

Gunmetal/Black TW2R97000, Black/Black TW2R96900, Brushed SST/Cream TW2R96800, Rose/Charcoal TW2R96700

To me, this is when things started getting a little hard to sort out? Timex is not shy about adding lots of different details for more MK1 variants that were less traditional. Each of these went in a different direction. The common thing that holds these very different looks together is the type of quick-release vintage leather strap with stitching. Other than that there area lot of details that are different on each. This group of Mk1s can look very different in-hand than in online images, too.

First, the Gunmetal case of the TW2R97000 a new look. It also has faded gold lume and numbers matched with silver hands. I think the color of the leather is supposed to be Olive with a grey stitch to match the case. Crown matches the case. The TW2T96900 Black/Black uses blue lume for the triangle hour markers, silver hands and beige colored numbers; a strange combination? It has a darker brown strap with black stitching. The TW2R96800 brings back the brushed SST case then adds blue lume hour markers and black hands and numbers. It uses a medium brown leather with cream stitching. Finally, something completely different is the Rose Gold/Bronze case and hands of the TW2R96700. The hour triangles are painted a copper color and have no luminescence. The dial is dark warm grey with lighter grey numbers. Crown is polished silver. It’s strap is a reddish brown with red stitching.

The two that stand out are the TW2R97000 with the gunmetal case and TW2R96700 with the rose/bronze case. These two offer something new overall and incorporate lots of interesting details. The gunmetal with faded gold markings have a subtle aged look and the “olive” strap works with the numbers. If you have always wanted a bronze watch without spending too much, this rose/bronze case on the 96700 may do the trick? The greys in the dial and numbers are muted and contrast with the copper details. Its a unique combination that makes this one more dressy than utilitarian.

More about these leather straps: I think they are pretty nice overall. They use one wide keeper instead of two narrower ones. For my small wrist, I have enough extra strap end to put two keepers to work. For a bigger wrist it should be fine. You can identify them by the color of the stitching if you are trying to match with original watch. Trying to determine by leather color would be tough since they all are brownish. Again, don’t expect to get replacements from Timex.

Now I need to establish the matching chronographs to these four. Again, Timex comes through with a chronograph to match each one of the four 3-hands models. But they did tweak a bit, just to keep us on our toes.

Gunmetal TW2R96600, Black TW2R96500, Brushed TW2R96400, Rose TW2R96300

For some reason it was decided to change the hour markers from triangles to rectangles? Otherwise these 42mm chronographs match the 3-hands in colors/designs and straps. This confused me for a while, thinking Mk1s with the rectangle markers were another version. Just in writing this did a realize the chronographs and 3-hands each got different markers. The black case again gets black crown and pushers, and I think the gunmetal case comes with the matte silvertone crown and pushers, not gunmetal, or polished.

By this point I think the MK1 was on its way out and the last versions did not get the same design energy. There wasn’t much more that could be done with them? How about adding some Blue and new hands?

These are the only blue dial Steel Mk1s apart from the one Blue dial bracelet model. They are also the only MK1s to get this “Allied” style handset until the Aluminum Archive Pioneers MK1s appear. These also have blue lume, and like the previous group, the 3-hand gets the triangles, the chronograph, the rectangles for hour markers. They come on a brown two-piece leather straps, but with simpler, more modern stitching. The most interesting thing about these two besides the blue, is that the hand set changed. Instead of the batons, you get a syringe style like that used in the Archive Allied line. Crowns and pushers revert back to polished silver, which seems like a cost saving move? Overall the gunmetal, blue and brown is subdued. The white numbers pop more than some of the previous leather group models.

I will close out this post with the Mk1 Supernova 42mm Steel Chronographs. First out in 2019. They are black PVD finished cases with two-piece leather straps. These straps are more modern and simple with black buckles and two leather keepers. They are my least favorite of the Mk1s. Lots of people may agree with me since they seem to be readily available around the web? If not a bad idea, maybe an incomplete execution? Frankly, I have no idea where the Supernova connection comes from? There’s a trademark in there somewhere? Timex also did some Supernova Fairfield line chronographs. Why?

If the idea is to be a black-out, an exploded star? They succeeded. I know of three models. These chronographs’ sub-dials are hard to read because the hands are black on a black perforated background. The numbers also appear thin, because you are looking through the cut-out layer to the white below. Like the dark Metropolis crystals, the concept renders the watch into a less useful tool for telling time. The main feature of this watch is the layered dial treatment that looks to be a laser cut black layer sitting on top of the white dial and numbers so that the numbers appear a stencils behind it. In the dark, when the Indiglo is activated, the backlight shines through the perforations for an interesting visual experience.

TW2T29500 Black/Black, TW2T29600VQ Black/Grey, TW2T29700 Black/Blue

However, they are not very legible. Maybe a cool idea, but in daylight they need to be better? There are three versions — each a little different, but I’m not sure why? Response to slow sales? All three have a black PVD case, but unfortunately the polished silver crown and pushers. The TW2T29500 with black leather band, has black hands on the black background, so not easy to read? I suspect its battery is run down. That may be a problem with these since use of Indiglo does take its toll on battery life and the point of these is to see the the light coming through in the dark? There is lume only on the hands.

TW2T29500 close up of dial.

The second version, TW2T29600, with brown strap has some improvement with the hands! They are silver, so easier to see on black background. The third version, TW2T29700 has a blue hand set and striped NATO strap. This is the only MK1 Steel to come on a NATO strap. From images, this one appears to have bolder numbers? Maybe the cutouts are all bigger to let more of the white background show through? I need to see one side-by-side with another model.

Indiglo coming through cutouts.

That’s alI have on the Steel Mk1s for now. I have introduced 23 different Steel Mk1s in 40mm and 42mm sizes. In part 3, I will go back to Aluminum to cover the Aluminum Archive/Pioneers versions which I feel are some of the best looking Mk1s.


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