Timex Expedition Field Chronograph Review

by Baird Brown

If you grew up in America at any point in the last 165 years, there’s a strong chance that you probably came into possession of either a Waterbury Clock Co. timepiece or a watch by Timex. Yeah, the company known as Timex has been around that long. And while their watches are now made in the far east (with the exception of the American Documents), the company headquarters is still in Connecticut. For years their motto was, “Takes a licking and keeps on ticking.” That still rings true today.

I’ve still got a Timex watch I was given as a young boy that will still run if you put a battery in it. They’re known for ruggedly built timepieces that can stand up to our day to day lives, and for being affordable watches that the “Everyman” can buy. If Citizen is the watch of the people in Japan, Timex is the watch of the people in the United States. For the last few weeks I’ve been wearing a watch that is the epitome of Timex. It’s rugged, durable, functional, and steeped in American watch design. I’m, of course, talking about the Timex Expedition Field Chronograph T49905ZA.

The Case:

The Timex Expedition collection has been around for quite some time and seems to be one of their most popular collections (aside from the Easy Reader or the Weekender) and, in my opinion, turns out some of their most appealing watches in terms of design. This Timex field chronograph watch is no exception. The case measures 43mm across and 51mm lug-to-lug. It’s a full-size watch, of that there is no doubt, but I think if it were any smaller, it might not be as usable in terms of its legibility as the dial is pretty packed. At 12mm in height, this may also be a watch that could be worn with a long sleeve shirt without bunching the sleeve. Some smaller-wristed readers may be closing their laptops, but the watch doesn’t feel that big. I know it’s cliché to write that it “wears smaller” but the rounded bezel, paired with the black case, did make it seem smaller to me. I actually thought it was 40-41mm before I looked up the specs.

The case material itself, like almost all Timex watches since the days of the Pharaohs, is made from brass and then coated black. Brass keeps the costs down and it’s also just how Timex has always done things. Waterbury, Connecticut was once the centerpiece of brass production in the United States and Timex has just always used brass. While it’s light on the wrist, it can present a problem down the road. I like the look of a black watch, but I’ve never liked that it can be worn off, and after just a week or two, I acquired a mark near the reset pusher. No big deal on stainless steel, but on brass any compromise to the coating can lead to corrosion or pitting down the road. You see it on many old Timex watches or any “base metal” watch you find.

While it definitely gives the watch a story, people who like pristine watches may shy away. All the surfaces, aside from the bezel, are brushed and the brushing is what you would expect on a watch at this price point. It’s there. The edges aren’t particularly sharp and at closer inspection the brushing doesn’t look quite done. The lugs shoot straight out from the watch and curl at the end. They serve the purpose of holding the strap more than they do hugging wrists; and since the stainless steel caseback is a good millimeter thick, they do produce some gap. Rounding out the case are the chronograph pushers and the crown. The crown is easy to grip with responsive clicks to each position. The same can’t be said for the chronograph pushers as the start/stop pusher on my watch gave no indication that anything had been pushed until the chronograph hand began to move.


 

The Dial:

While this is called a “field” watch, the dial also has hints of a pilot’s watch, namely the large skeletonized altimeter hands. The Expedition Field Chronograph hands are dipped in white and easy to see on the black and sand dial. To me, the face of this watch looks more like an airplane instrument than a field watch. It’s simple and black with all the markers printed in a sand color. There are no hour markings, only the big minutes like you would find on a field watch, and the three big subdials at 10, 2, and 6 o’clock.

Around the dial is a beveled chapter ring for the tachymeter and second markings. All are finished in the same sand color as the dial markings. The only color on the Timex dial, besides the white hour and minute hands, are the orange tipped running second hand and the orange tipped chronograph second hand. The minute totalizer hand and the 1/20 of a second hand are white like the hour and minute hand. This makes for a very visible and cool looking watch. If you recall my article about the Citizen Avion, I stated that I thought it was cool to see only the orange tip floating around. The same applies here for the Timex Expedition Field Chronograph. I like the black hands with the orange tips over the black dial.

However, with all this said, there’s a strange thing about the hands. The orange tipped second hands are not lumed at all, but the white hands are. In the dark, you only see the hour, minute, and totalizer hands. No big deal, I guess, but they don’t really need to be lumed at all. It’s a Timex, which means it has Indiglo. Timex still, in my opinion, has the best illumination system in watches thanks to Indiglo. With the push of the crown, the whole dial lights up in a light green (like a night-light) allowing you to see the whole dial, even if the watch has been in complete darkness for hours. It saved lives during the Trade Center bombing of ’93. I feel that it’s neat that the hands are lumed like a traditional watch, but I just thought the choice of which hands to lume and which hands not to lume was a little strange. Finishing the dial is the date window at 4 o’clock. Not 4:30, or 4:15, but at 4. The date wheel also comes in black with sand colored numbers to keep the look going. It really is a cool looking dial at this price point that will evoke feelings of a wearing a military instrument on your wrist.

The Strap:

I’ve been nit-picking up to this point, I know, but this watch strap is gold to me. I love it. I may be cheap in the long run, but I love it. This watch comes with a 20mm suede leather strap in a gorgeous dark brown with contrast stitching that just looks and feels right on this watch. There is no break-in period for this strap as it’s flexible out of the box and ready to go. In the couple of weeks, I’ve had it, it’s taken on normal makings and oils from my fingers and looks even better than it did when it arrived. It doesn’t taper at all, and doesn’t need to on this watch, giving it a rugged adventure watch look and feel. The clasp is signed with the Timex Expedition E and most likely also made of brass. It will probably get beaten to death over time, but I feel like as far as Timex brown leather straps go, this one is in it for the long haul. It really does look great on this black, military themed watch and has a more pilot than field feel about overall. Personally, I want to steal it and put it on something else.

The Movement:

Powering the Timex is their “quartz analog” chronograph that I can’t seem to find any information on. I could have opened the watch up I guess, but Timex’s pressure fit casebacks just about need a hydraulic press to refit. With that said, this is an old-style quartz chronograph movement. What I mean by that is the chrono seconds beat at 1 beat per second like a normal quartz movement. There’s no new age sweep second hand here. The 1/20 subdial stays still until the chronograph is stopped at which time it will quickly sweep around to its count. Minutes will be counted at each minute for 30 minutes total. Unlike some other quartz movements, this chronograph measures beyond 30 minutes, but unless you checked the time before you started it, you won’t know how long it’s been beyond the 30-minute mark. When reset, the hands must sweep all the way around to their starting position.

Setting the time on this movement requires some time as the gear ratio seems to be quite low. There seems to be very little hand movement per turn. Thank goodness it’s quartz and you won’t have to do it often. A pretty standard old world chronograph. However, this movement has a trick up it’s sleeve.


I’ve been comparing this to an aviation watch more so than a field watch, and the movement has a secret that really drives that comparison home. If you pull the crown to the normal date setting position, you’ll notice that turning it jumps the hour hand forward by an hour at a time, and if turned in the opposite direction, backward! That’s right, you can literally jump from time zone to time zone with no issue and with no need to stop the running time. Jump it 10 hours forward or 10 hours back with ease. I found this to be quite neat even if it’s not that useful to me. Now, with all that said, it’s also how you must set the date, so once a month you’ll have to advance the watch 24 hours to jump the date number up by one. It’s a hidden gem that Timex doesn’t advertise on this chronograph watch, and those are always cool finds.

Final Thoughts:

Timex.com advertises the Expedition Field Chronograph watch at $69.99, but it can be found for just over $50 on Amazon. For all my nit-picking, that’s a really good price for a good looking watch that doesn’t try to hide that it’s an inexpensive watch or try to load you up with bullcrap about how the company “changed the watch game,” or some other bs.

Timex is pretty straight up with you. This is a black coated brass watch that is inspired by military timepieces that you can beat the tar out of and wear everyday without having to really worry about it. Like the Timex watches of old, if you screw it up beyond repair, you just get another one. It might not impress people who are beyond the scope of super affordable watches, and at a close glance, the cut corners begin to appear. The text printing has some rough spots, the hands aren’t perfectly aligned, and the case finishing is pretty much what you pay for.

However, Timex stays true to what it does best. They make a watch that can be worn in any situation and most environments, including wet environments, as this chronograph rated to be water resistant up to 100M. My experience with these watches is always positive and, personally, I prefer a Timex over a Casio for their traditional watch designs. Timex has come a long way in the last few years and has started to reach into their back catalogs and even make watches here in the US. But at their core, they still make a durable, affordable watch that looks great and can give many years of great service with very little maintenance.

I know a guy who wore one of these while he worked on cars. The watch was years old and looked like absolute hell on earth. The strap had to be replaced at some point as the chemicals finally took their toll and it rotted off his arm. The black case was rough but probably not as worn as you might think. The crystal definitely had its marks. There had been a few battery changes, and I’m sure the gaskets had never been touched. It still worked. He probably still wears it.


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