The Timex X Nigel Cabourn Survival Watch
Nigel Cabourn has worked with Timex, the historic American watch brand, for the third time—once again creating a time-piece paying tribute to a story close to his heart.
Inspired by the survival equipment worn by the British Royal Air Force during WW2, the collaboration tells the story of the brave pilots who were forced to eject from their aircraft into the bitter Atlantic Ocean, and also celebrates the history of one of Nigel’s favourite fabrics… Ventile.
Using the same tried-and-tested shape as the ’Nam’ watch (Nigel’s first collaboration with Timex), the Survival Watch is a military field watch which features a highly-visible yellow dial—a nod to the life-vests worn by the RAF. The classic ‘Broad Arrow’ insignia, which was used to denote military or government property, takes the place of the ’12’ symbol on the face, and the blue and black strap is made from Ventile and backed with leather.
A fixture in Nigel Cabourn’s outerwear output, Ventile is a densely-woven water-resistant cotton which was developed in Manchester in the 1930s. Originally designed as a hard-wearing fabric which could be used to make firehoses, Ventile was soon put to use by the RAF, who harnessed the fabric’s qualities to make all-in-one immersion suits for pilots.
With many pilots losing their lives due to exposure to the icy waters, these Ventile suits helped save to save countless lives, extending survival time from around two minutes to 20.
As well as the Ventile strap, the Survival Watch also comes with an interchangeable leather strap, and to continue the military theme, the 36mm stainless steel casing features an issue-stamp on the back. To round things off, the watch is presented in a survival-yellow cotton drill case which features printed text inside explaining the inspiration behind the collaboration.
Like Ventile, Timex themselves have long been associated with military design. Starting out as the Waterbury Clock Company in Connecticut back in 1854, they were amongst the first to combine European clockmaking techniques and modern methods of mass production. Thanks to their well-oiled production line, they were able to make high-quality clocks for less money than ever before, meaning more and more American families could tell the time in their own home.
This affordability stretched into pocket-watches too, and partnered with the Ingersoll Watch Company, they managed to produce a time-piece that could be sold for a single dollar (around 30 dollars in today’s money).
At this point, wrist-watches were still viewed as jewellery, and were seldom worn by men, but in 1914, with the outbreak of the first World War, things changed fast. Function, simplicity and ease-of-access have long been key features of military design, and during battle having to reach for a pocket-watch in a jacket pocket was too time-consuming. The wristwatch was the obvious solution, and Waterbury were one of the first companies to help fill the demand.
Taking their smallest pocket-watch design, an unassuming women’s timepiece called the Midget, they made a few simple tweaks to inadvertently create the military field watch as we know it today. Metal lugs were soldered on and the crown was moved around from the ’12’ position to ‘3’ to make way for an easy-to-replace canvas strap. Like many designs born on the battlefield, the field watch soon filtered into everyday life as servicemen returned home.
During WW2 the brand, which had recently changed its name to the United States Time Corporation, continued to play an important part—this time expanding their work to make timers used on bomb fuses. They also supplied pendant-watches to nurses working in military hospitals—the first time the Timex name was used. Anticipating the demand for uncomplicated, well-made wristwatches which would continue to this day, in 1944 they released an ad for their new line of civilian watches, stating, “You can’t buy yours yet. Be patient, we’re still at war work. You’ll find them.”
Luckily there’s no long wait this time, and the Timex X Nigel Cabourn Survival Watch will be available from Friday the 12th of June online at www.cabourn.com, at www.timex.com, at Cabourn stores in Japan and Asia and at select European retailers.