The date, July 17th, 1955, was magical, for California’s Disneyland. Their opening day saw joyous children throughout the theme park. And a parade, with participants—including Minnie, Mickey and Donald Duck— in full costume for the televised grand opening. An immediate success!
However, like most things, success takes time. (pun intended) Originally named Disney Brothers Studio, brothers Walt and Roy Disney launched their vision in Missouri, on October 16th, 1923.
To begin, initial sketches of cartoon mice, literally surrounding Walt Disney’s head, were first drawn up by an animation partner—Hugh Harman of UB Iwerks—in 1925. This original spark would later inspire Walt Disney to create America’s most famous mouse. Originally slated to be named Mortimer Mouse (later changed to “Mickey” at the behest of Walt’s wife Lillian), this steamboat riding rodent had a humble start. With the success of Mickey’s brother Oswald the Lucky Rabbit in 1927, Disney and his Iwerks animation partners began working on Mickey Mouse the following year. Since Walt had lost money on selling the rights to Oswald, he decided to make Mickey a more profitable venture for both himself and his partner—Roy. Being initially strapped for cash, the first merchandising deal Disney made (4 years before any watch) was with a Mickey-struck stranger in a hotel lobby. This gentleman was crafting writing tablets for schoolchildren and bought the first licensing rights from Walt Disney for just $300 (worth ~$5,200 today). After the general success of Steamboat Willie from 1928-1929, a few more syndication and marketing deals were struck—but a key partner came into the picture in 1932. This partner would fundamentally change Disney’s marketing game in the coming decades.
As it were, the Mickey Mouse Watch branding was devised by a marketing guru named Herman “Kay” Kaymen. In 1932, Kaymen signed a 50/50-split deal with the Disney bros. for all licensing profits. Effective immediately, “Kay” Kaymen put himself to work on what would be one of the most successful merchandising enterprises in history. With an extensive marketing background, charismatic demeanor, and business savvy mind, Kaymen was able to make connections with plethora companies on behalf of Disney.
With multiple takers already in tow, the first major success in marketing Mickey Mouse came from a horological licensing deal. As it were, “Kay” Kaymen struck a deal with Ingersoll-Waterbury Watches within the very first year of his partnership with Walt and Roy Disney. Mickey’s marriage to timekeeping helped keep Disney from the brink. And yes, you’ll still find licensed Mickey Mouse watches, pocket watches, and clocks throughout the park today.
Ingersoll (later named Timex) stopped making Disney watches, in 1971 as the licensing deal moved to Elgin’s Bradley division. In 1987, Lorus took over the task which eventually led to several brands including Colibri, Seiko and Fossil producing them. However, today, throughout the park – you may notice – the branding on all watches and clocks labeled Citizen or Bulova. (Citizen purchased Bulova in 2008)
In 2018, Citizen Watch Co. marked its 100th anniversary and to celebrate they established a long-term promotional partnership with The Walt Disney Company. Vice President of Disney Corporate Alliances, Carlos Castro, stated, “At Disney Parks, every minute is magic. So, it’s appropriate that our guests will have access to one of the world’s greatest names in timepieces, as they celebrate their time together creating memories with friends and family.”
Citizen now hails as the official timepiece of Disney which includes Walt Disney World Resort, Disneyland, and California Adventure. Clocks around these resorts, as well as Disney’s Magic Kingdom, amongst other places, now display the Citizen logo. These clocks are anything but basic; Olive green 19th century-style standing clocks with ornate golden filigree details, they’re eye-catching.
October 2023 marks The Walt Disney Company’s 100th anniversary, and Citizen is celebrating this achievement by collaborating with Disney to launch what they’ve named the Wonder of Time collection. With this celebration, Citizen is featuring a year-long tribute to the Wonder of Disney with all new Disney themed Citizen watches, plus releasing exclusive watches that mark each decade through the years of Disney.
Starting with the 1920’s, Citizen launched an Eco-Drive (solar watch) with Disney’s Steamboat Willie on the dial. They currently have over 40 Disney themed watches available for purchase with a plethora of favorite characters. From Sorcerer’s Apprentice Mickey; who’s dial hides a magical glow in the dark feature, to Gardening Minnie; with her colorful plants and everything in between.
In June 2023, Citizen will also unveil another Disneyland 19th century-style clock – this time in Disney’s hometown of Marceline, Missouri, to help celebrate Disney’s 100th anniversary and honor the brand’s past.
Are you planning to celebrate this 100th anniversary with Disney? If so, be sure to stop by a Citizen clock, snap a pic and tag us here at Times Ticking, we’d love to see your memories as you explore the magical world of Disney – whether it’s on Main Street, Disneyland, or you find Julius Katz & Sons at Disney’s California adventure– a fictional ‘watch and clock repair’ store based off Disney’s first major cartoon ‘Alice in Cartoonland’ where her sidekick was a cat named Julius. The story goes like this: Julius Katz owned a watch and radio repair store and wanted to expand his family business to include his two sons, so he opened “Julius Katz & Sons” next door to the original shop.
While this store is great for finding Disney novelties, they’re not in the repair business – the idea is a storefront. Not to worry though, we at Times Ticking are passionate about Disney watches and are prepared to restore any of your beloved Disney timepieces, whenever needed.