Sunday, April 01, 2007

Timex Maratac Compass AQC-Watch Review

On an aftermarket nylon Mil type band

On a 4-ring Rhino band.

Not the prettiest of movements but it is what it is. Movement is stamped TMX, 301, Philippines

On the Maratac strap

Face Detail

Crown & Compass controls

Fixed Lug Bars

Caseback Detail

When I sat down to write this review I realized that I was feeling a bit nostalgic. The last time I had a new Timex, they were still running those ads with the elephant. I remember mine pretty well. It was a stemwinder with a white face, black Arabic numerals and a black leather band on a chrome-plated case. It wasn't an expensive watch (what Timex ever really was) but it was my first new watch and I really loved it. I wore it from grade school through high school and it ran like a charm. Things have changed somewhat since those days at Timex but the one thing that's still the same is that you get a lot of watch for your money.

You might think that Timex needs no introduction as brands go. They've been around for a long time, after all, and they are available everywhere. That pretty much sums up how I felt about them until recently. What made me take more notice of them was a big article about the company in the August 2006 edition of IW magazine (whose archives are generously available on their website). What I learned is that Timex has been around since the 1850's, is headquartered in Connecticut and uses movements that are designed in Germany, built in France and cased in the Philippines. A very international entity, to say the least with a long and interesting history. Timex's German facility is what remains of the old Laco and Durowe watchmakers, which Timex (then called US Time) bought in the 1950s. In addition to the Timex brand, the Timex group also includes Guess, Nautica, Timberland, Ecko, FCUK, Reebok, Liz Clairborne and Versace brands. The article in question stated that it is estimated that Timex is the fifth or sixth largest watch manufacturer in the world. In an effort to enter the luxury market, Timex is now releasing a new high-end brand called the TX, which includes an attractive flyback chronograph among other models.

The Timex Maratac being reviewed here is an interesting model. Maratac, the maker of extremely tough watchbands, had Timex make this model for them to market to American military forces. The watch has a matt finished stainless steel case with a bi-directional bezel (that has an embedded luminous marker). The watchcase measures 43mm in width (including the crown), 47mm lug to lug, 13mm in thickness and has a 20mm band lug width. The crystal is made of mineral glass and water resistance is rated at 100 meters. The watch has fixed spring bars (non removable) like many watches meant for military use and ships (not surprisingly) with a nylon Maratac band. There are two lume systems on this watch. The hour and minute hand are coated with what appears to be superluminova that lasts for a few hours after exposure to light. Also included is Timex's Indiglo lume, which is essentially a very fancy electric backlight for the whole watch face. Pressing in the crown activates it and it illuminates the dial for a few seconds before automatically shutting off. It should be noted that this watch is really a modified version of the Timex Expedition model. The differences are the fixed lug bars, a sterile watch face (easier to read without any words written on it) and a straight instead of tapered lug shape. That and the included Maratac band and the Maratac name on the case back.

In terms of performance, The Maratac Timex is typical of many quartz watches in most respects. Accuracy is excellent as is to be expected and the watch includes a date function. This model does have one very unusual feature, however. It also includes an electronic compass. A long fourth hand on the face is, in fact, a compass needle that is activated by pressing either of the buttons along side the crown (They look like chrono pushers but that's not what those buttons are for. The reason for having two of them is to allow you to set a local declination angle instead of just letting the needle point to magnetic north. One button advances the needle, the other retards it). The compass has to be calibrated before being first used, a process that takes less than a minute. Once done, the watch will give a compass reading when activated on a flat surface. It isn't hard to see why Maratac thought this watch would be useful to soldiers.

The Timex Maratac seems as nicely made as any mid-level watch I have encountered. Nothing about it says cheap or disposable. If the overall quality I see on this model is indicative of what the TX line will be like then Timex should do well with them. This watch is, in the final analysis, a nice solid field watch and, if the idea of having a compass with you at all times is appealing, this one's for you. It would make an excellent daily wearer too.

P.S.-I picked this one up here.
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