Tony Stark’s technology can certainly take a licking and keep on ticking. Knowing his character in the MCU films, he’d probably have something clever (and borderline crass) to say about that old watch ad phrasing. But before beloved film darling Robert Downey Jr. donned the title of Ironman, Timex took up the namesake—and it was a successful venture. Netting millions of dollars in revenue for the brand annually, the Timex Ironman is still their biggest seller globally. With a history that kicks off in 1984, it’s kind of amazing that Timex has kept this style thriving for over 30 years. Especially considering that it started out as a one-off sponsorship watch designed for the Ironman Triathlon.
Naturally, the history of this watch is tied to the history of the Ironman Triathlon. The premiere Ironman Triathlon took place in 1978 on the island of Oahu. Back then it was a much more private event. By 1981 it moved to Kailua-Kona—which is where it still takes place currently. It has been regulated by the World Triathlon Corporation (WTC) which is owned by the Wanda Group—a Chinese conglomerate—that has been producing the event since 1991. Regarding this global reach, the name Ironman Triathlon changed to the Ironman World Championship in 1981 (a decade before the WTC took over). In order to meet the specifications required for true triathlon status the Ironman had to have three events at specific distances. As it stands, the Ironman triathlon is a 2.4 mile swim; a 112 mile cycling portion; and a 26.22 mile run. So, you basically have to be an Avenger to win this thing. Due to the growing success of the event, businesses and sponsors increasingly advertised at the triathlon as the years went by. This is where Timex steps in—offering an Ironman level of performance at the same calibre as any Stark invention.
Ironman Watch Release
Original development for the Timex Ironman received input from world-renowned runners Alberto Salazar and Decker Slaney, as well as a group of folks writing for the publication “Runner’s World”. Historically, Mario Sabatini—Timex’s product manager for digital watches and eventual vice president of marketing—wanted to get Timex into the running market to have a competitive niche against other digital watch competitors. So in 1984, Sabatini took 1500 of the first Ironman watches down to Hawaii to get a feel for the market. Of the 1500 of them he took to sell to runners, all 1500 sold out rapidly at $34.95 a pop. By 1986, due to how well the first Ironman watches were received, Timex began full production on the tri-athletic watch. Because of its simplicity and toughness, with a light price tag to boot, the Ironman took off like a rocket.
Timex Ironman and Indiglo
In 1992 the first major update to the Ironman was implemented. Indiglo—replacing the old single LED backlight—was a true upgrade to the design. The Indiglo Ironman was originally a K-Mart exclusive (wowee) in 1992. By 1993 it hit a much wider market to industry fanfare. From there, the ladies’ version got the indiglo treatment in 1994. Glowing like an arc reactor, the Indiglo does the name Ironman proud. In 1996 blue-green or “all day” Indiglo was introduced. This more reflective Indiglo was abandoned after the rest of the watch market began to copy it in the early 2000s. Reliable and durable for years at a time on a single battery, the Ironman itself—combined with Indiglo tech—is understandably a go to for millions of consumers every year.
Bill Clinton and Onward
A particularly famous Timex Ironman fan is the 42nd U.S. President, Mr. William Jefferson Clinton. During his time as the Governor of Arkansas (1979-1981) all the way up to the Whitehouse, Billy loved wearing his Ironman watches. As his political career skyrocketed and he took over the Presidency, Clinton got flak from luxury watch greats like Rolex and Omega for wearing this affordable piece. He was also criticized by publications like the Washington Post for wearing what they considered an ugly plastic junker watch (paraphrasing). Eventually Bill dropped his Ironman watches in 1994, around the anniversary of D-Day. To give them a fitting presidential retirement, he had some of his early Timex Ironman watches donated to the Smithsonian.
Though most Timex clientele isn’t as socially prominent, the Timex Ironman itself is just as ubiquitous as any famous name or politician. Its popularity is based on its true ability to perform under Ironman level conditions. Unfortunately, Timex has yet to strike a deal with Marvel to give us a comic book themed version of these watches. Until then, if you’re fighting intergalactic enemies, dominating the sport of triathlon racing, or simply living your day-to-day, get your hands on a Timex Ironman. They’re incredibly affordable. So there’s no need to be a President, a billionaire, or a world class athlete to enjoy their qualities.
Times Ticking has been in operation for more than 30 years, since 1982. We have performed watch repair for customers both locally and internationally. If it Ticks! We KNOW it! Our team of watch repair technicians have a combined experience in watchmaking of over 120 years.