TIMEX Camper Watch magazine ad, Italy, 1983

In the September 1983 issue of Topolino Magazine. (Also appeared in L'Intrepido and/or IL MONELLO magazines, 1983, but month for those magazines is uncertain.)
This 1983 ad features two watches, titled THE MARINES WRIST WATCH. The larger one is the same as the one called the Camper Watch in the United States. The smaller watch to my knowledge has no other name. I have reviewed both watches extensively, and I encourage you to read more about the watches themselves if you are interested:

Mechanical Camper Watch: review of three watches.

1983 Camper watch, proven by date code on dial. Taiwan assemble, early TIMEX dial logo.

Mini-Camper. Identical to the watch pictured in this ad, but with a black case. [Here is a pic of green one.]

The entire ad will be shown at the bottom of this page, or you can click here to see it fully.
The lower third of the ad shows THE MARINES WRIST WATCH in bold lettering, with the MARINES part themed to the American flag. The watch sold for 29,500 lira in 1983.
The ad copy reads roughly, "The type of horological equipment used by the American Marines. Waterproof/impermeable, noncorrosive, washable strap."
Here is a closeup of the mini one. Nothing luminous on this one. Orange-y seconds hand. (The larger version has a white seconds). Dial is otherwise pretty much identical to the larger one, just smaller. Strap seems green-brown, black, white.
Closeup of the larger one. Most Camper watches you see will have a different logo for TIMEX, slanted to the right. This older straight logo I think was just 1983-1985 Campers, and Camper was made to about 1994, so majority will have slanted logo. That yellow thing to the right of the picture is some kind of device held in the pocket of the soldier. Grenade? Gas? [ADDED NOTE: I've been told by someone that this is an M18 SMOKE GRENADE.]
Here is the solider. Maybe 21 yrs old at the most? Maybe younger. Reminds of that song that said the average age of the combat solder during the Vietnam war was 19, by Paul Hardcastle. I wonder where this guy is, now? I'm sure anyone who knows him would recognize him from this picture. He probably has no idea he was in this TIMEX ad. Do we know for certain if this soldier even was a US Marine? I can't tell what branch of service he was in from his uniform.
Beginning in 1960s, TIMEX products were marketed and distributed in Italy by a company called MELCHIONI. I don't know if this is still the case, but this 1983 ad bears their logo alongside TIMEX

Below is the full ad. Below that, a bit more, and my thoughts and discussion about this ad.

The ad is in full resolution. If you click here, it may look even larger.
This is a very useful and interesting ad, in many respects. Firstly, even prior to identifying the hidden 1983 date code on an early TAIWAN-made Camper, this ad proved that this consumer watch -- whether you want to call it THE MARINES WRIST WATCH, or CAMPER WATCH -- existed at least as far back as 1983.

These small data points are helpful. As I explained in the article linked just above, there is a kind of mystery about the early days of the Camper Watch. It seems clear that the consumer, "civilian" product that was the Camper Watch had its origins in an earlier TIMEX prototype watch built for a potential military contract, which itself was based on DoD specifications that were drawn up in 1964. What is not known is when and how the transition took place (the transition to scrap the military contract, and move into a production plan for a civilian watch, the Camper Watch aka the MARINES WATCH.​)

We do know that the last known example of the military prototype watch is from March 1982. This Italy-marketed MARINES watch was advertised in September 1983, 18 months after that last known prototype. 

(My own example of a Camper from 1983 is without a known month; the dial date codes are year only.)

I know of no proven retail/consumer Camper Watches from before 1983 (though that does not mean one does not exist.) 

But assuming 1983 was the earliest consumer Camper, it's possible, then, that it came out less than a year after the last March 1982 prototype. That's a pretty short time frame for the the development of a new watch. Development/discussion, designing, production, marketing, distribution, and more: this process could take longer than 12-18 months. But of course, the Camper Watch was not a new watchIt was a modification of not just an existing watch, but a watch that TIMEX had been working on and perfecting for some time, and therefore the time it would take make a watch modified for civilian use, and bring it to market, would be significantly compressed compared with a "new idea" watch.

So, TIMEX maybe never originally intended on making the Camper watch. But they had made several "military style" watches in the 1960s and 1970s, and the "military style" was popular not just with TIMEX, but with many other watch makers who made watches in that style. So it would seem to make sense that rather than totally waste the considerable time/money/effort that went into the bid for a true military contract watch, why not use almost everything about that watch, modify the parts that needed modifying, and market it as a non-issued wristwatch. 

That does not mean it was never worn by people in the armed forces (and the articles linked above provide examples of how the Camper was purchased by service members at the "PX,"  no different from soap or cigarettes, at military bases in the US). But this was "informal," rather than formally through a DoD contract. It seems, as best as I can tell, that TIMEX marketed the Camper Watch to soldiers through the PX system, as well as to ordinary people through regular retail outlets, in the US. And in this case, rather amazingly with a photo of a solider and "THE MARINES WRIST WATCH," to readers of Italian comic books. 

I wonder how many of the full-size MARINES WATCHES, and how many of the mini-size MARINES WATCHES were sold, in Italy, and for how long they were marketed?
I want to visit now some of the semiotics of this ad, and comment about how I believe the ad might have been effective in 1983 Italy, but not in the United States of 1983. It shows a helmeted soldier in a jungle setting (is this an archival Vietnam war image?) carrying a rifle in his left hand, with two cylindrical smoke grenade cannisters secured to the chest, and other items in a sort of satchel in the front. 

Maybe to Italian magazine readers of 1983 this meant mostly to be representative of the watch being tough and resilient, able to hold up in jungle and/or combat conditions (and this is a very tough watch, very few seem to be non-running 35 years later, more on this below...). "If this watch served this soldier well, imagine how well it could serve you?" But there is probably more to it than this. Maybe the soldier is meant to appeal to individuals who see him as embodying features they desire; power, strength, victory, etc, and like much of advertising and marketing, it maybe less about the watch, but about how you feel about owning the watch. If a certain number of people will associate an American solider in the jungles of Vietnam with toughness, victory, power, strength, etc, maybe that is the overarching message.

Also, the movie Rambo came out in 1982, about John Rambo a Vietnam veteran, who was initially enlisted as a Marine, but later became part of the US Army Special Forces. This movie, I believe, was hugely popular worldwide, probably including Italy, and maybe by September 1983 when the ad was created, they thought to try to exploit MARINES WATCH in the wake of Rambo. Maybe this seems far-fetched, but I think it's worth considering. At least the timing is quite right.

In the US, I'm sure the ad would have resonated the same with many people. But for others, possibly many as well, there may have been less favorable connotations and vibes. The Vietnam war ended in September 1975. "The draft" of calling up soldiers to go to war, also ended around that time as well. 

The US soldiers who served in Vietnam (who were drafted and required to go to there) came home not to a "hero's welcome," as in other wars, but to a highly conflicted and often deeply troubling response from the country, which the country still sometimes struggles with today.

Then, in July 1980, Proclamation 4771 was signed, ("Registration Under the Military Selective Service Act"), retroactively re-establishing the Selective Service registration requirement for all 18- to 26-year-old male citizens born on or after January 1, 1960. This appeared to be largely as a result of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. I was sixteen in July 1980, and I distinctly remember in conversations and on the news, that "there has never been a selective service registration, without a subsequent draft." This sat with me, as I was myself required to register, which I did, within 30 days of my 18th birthday in the summer of 1982 (I did it at the local post office, and I still have the receipt they gave me, haha.)

I don't remember in any way "being scared" about being drafted, but I do remember the feeling of occasional uncertainty, and sometimes unease, especially as you'd see from time on evening news about some conflict here, another conflict there, and I'd sometimes remember that I was registered for the draft, if it ever came to that. Well, it never did, there was never a draft again.

But I wonder, looking at this ad with the soldier going through the jungles of Vietnam, if this ad would have resonated in a positive way with someone like myself, making me feel favorable towards buying the watch, or would it it have made me feel unfavorable. I'm not sure, actually. Regardless, this is in no way as a "rebuke" of the pictured solider, or of any soldier who served in Vietnam, or any repudiation of his dignity, character, integrity, bravery and disciplne. Not at all. But it would have been 100% about how it made me feel, giving the circumstances in my country at the time, and with advertising and marketing, it is sometimes those "instantaneous feelings" that tip you toward or away from buying something, right?

I think this ad is amazing. I would love to hear other people's opinions on it.

I believe it highlights how different markets vary, often considerable, and how the creative departments of ad agencies can often very effectively tap into certain "moods" of "feelings" of their target audiences that they know will yield results.
Above, my 1983 TIMEX Camper Watch
Thank you for reading.

I hope you will like it.





Website: Alan's Vintage Watches
The MINI GREEN CAMPER. This is not mine. It belongs to Instagram user timex_collector who kindly sent me this photo, next to a 22.5 mm one pound coin (Great Britain,) which is almost the same size as a US 5-cent piece (the pound coin is larger than the US coin by 1.3 mm). You can see the case is definitely not black, but green, esp noted along the upper lug near the Queen's nose, where the image is lighter. I have the one like this with a black case. This green one, which appears to be the one in the ad, appears to be extremely rare.