This may be one of the earliest examples of the Camper Watch.
Watch is in pristine condition. Appears that it was never used.
It is possible (likely?) that Timex Corp is not aware of a 1983 Camper.
I'm giving this watch its own page, as it appears to be a very early example of the Camper, possibly from the first year it was made, has a different TIMEX logo than most other Campers, and for me at least represents new knowledge that some Campers (possibly many, possibly even most or all,) have date/data codes stamped onto the dial at the bottom in very small lettering, but hidden by a metal stabilizer ring. This will be referred hereinafter as "the code." This code is very well seen in the above pic, along with U.K.
I'm speculating that Timex Corp did not know the Camper went as far back as 1983. In 2016, Timex issued a 30 yr anniversary commemorative watch package for Camper, presumably thinking the watch began in 1986. Seems unbelievable? Not really. Read at the very bottom of page for pics and info.
First, let me list a few features about this particular watch:
1. Date of manufacture: 1983
2. Model number: 29912
3. Movement number: 116
4. Dial manufacture: United Kingdom
5. Case manufacture: United Kingdom
6. Movement manufacture: unknown
7. Assembled: in Taiwan
8. Purchase (by me) November 2018
9. Location when purchased, Florida, USA.
10. Provenance: "The woman there said she remembered it belonging to her son-in-law, and he was in the Air Force. She added that the watch had been in a drawer for as long as she could remember."
11. Condition: running, in pristine condition, appears unused.
12. Likely sat in this drawer in Florida for 35 years
Please have a good look at the above photo. The crystal has been removed. Notice that between the black dial and the green case, there is a dark grey ring. This is a metal ring that fits into the "slope" at the edge of the dial, between the dial and the case. This is a movement stabilizer / spacer, that when the crystal is in place, places a kind of "tension" that holds the movement, and keeps it from rattling around (it moves quite freely when it's not there.) Crucially, this metal ring almost completely covers the code in this watch, and appears to cover it completely in most other Campers. Notice that in the above photo you really can't see much of the code at all, but when the crystal was in place, I think the ring was pushed in more, allowing a tiny bit to be seen (below).
Here is a closeup of the bottom of the dial before removing the crystal. You can see that maybe 20% of the top of the code can be seen, the rest obscured the the ring, the inner edge of which is shown sharply right where the numbers are hidden under. "U.K." is in larger lettering, and shows a bit more. I'm making a bit of a fuss about the code for a reason: it's unknown, it seems, exactly when TIMEX began sale or "distribution" of the watch known as the Camper Watch.
More on this later, but this shows that the watch has been manufactured as far back as at least 1983. This is interesting, in that this is just one year after TIMEX made a small batch of what you could probably say is the predecessor of the Camper, a military-specification TIMEX that was submitted to the US military for review, but that was ultimately not manufactured for any military contracts.
The above two images show the differences between the TIMEX logo on the very early Campers, and all the rest of the Campers. The top image is on the dial of my 1983 version, and the bottom image is from a 1991 Camper I own (and on many of the other Campers that are out there.) You can see the "old school" logo as I'm calling it on the 1983 Camper has no slant or lean, while the other logo slants or leans to the right. The old-school logo is only found on the earlier Campers, from their beginning to what I'm estimating "around 1985 or so," but I'm not certain.
Here is the ring, mentioned above, that sits between the dial and the case. It's metal, dark grey nearly black. Maybe iron, but not sure the exact composition.
The above pic (and the below mag of same) are not from my watch, but from an ebay auction picture. The Camper Watch has a single piece, molded plastic/resin case, fixed lugs as are clear from this pic. This means the "caseback" is integral, cannot be removed. The watch is therefore assembled from the front, and thus all parts must be removed from the front as well. Very interesting to me that parts of the Camper are made in the UK. The case is stamped CASE UK TIMEX in the center. The pics of the dial above also indicate manufacture in the UK. This was almost certainly made at the large TIMEX works in Dundee, Scotland. More on this later...
I believe this watch was never worn, sat unused for 35 years in a drawer in Florida. The case has no nicks, scratches, crystal wear, or any other wear in the usual places you see them on a Camper. Have a look at the HONG KONG made buckle. Zero wear to a part that often has missing black coating, scuffs, fading and more. The nylon strap is in perfect shape.
None of the holes in the strap show any widening, stretching, fraying or other signs commonly seen with use.
This watch was likely purchased at Patrick Air Force base, along the east coast of Florida. The seller was in Sebastian, Florida, less than an hour's drive away, and told me that she bought the watch at some kind of sale, where the seller told her that it belonged to her son-in-law who was in the Air Force, and that the watch sat in a drawer for as long as she can remember. Of course I have no way of knowing for sure, but I suspect this watch was purchased at the Patrick AFB PX. I know someone who was in the Marines, and he bought his Camper at the PX of his base at Camp Pendleton, California, in either 1982 or 1983. More on this below, but I believe that after the watch that TIMEX had developed in a bid for a military contract didn't materialize as a contract product, they went ahead and modified that watch into a "civilian" version, the Camper Watch. While not an official contract watch, nothing would have prevented TIMEX from marketing the Camper Watch to the various military agencies for sale through the PX, just like toothpaste, or a bar of soap. This way, their efforts in creating a watch for a military bid was not wasted; as it was still had a "military style," and shared many features with actual contract watches from other companies, and probably would sell well through the PX stores on military bases. But the Camper was NOT a military contract watch. It sold mostly in ordinary retail places...
Most of the 1980s and 1990s mechanical Campers will have ASSEMBLED IN PHILIPPINES on the back, along with a two letter/digit code on the back, which indicates the month and year of production. That two character system originated in 1985, and can be found here.
The very early Campers have ASSEMBLED IN TAIWAN, and do not have the date code on the back. (I wish to point out that I am not referring to the longer code on the dial of the watch, but I'm referring to a two-character code that is stamped onto the plastic of the back of the case that this Camper is lacking.)
The light-activated luminous material on the dial and hands is still pretty strong 35 years later.
I'd like to revisit the code on the dial, and the metal ring. The number are very small. I am estimating them to be 0.5 mm tall, possibly even smaller than that. This is as good a pic I can get, using my camera's phone (Samsung G8) and a 15x loupe, holding the loupe up against the phone's lens. It's clear that the ring has "cut" an arc across the uppermost aspect of the code, and also through the U.K.
The code shows that the model number is 29912. I have searched for any catalog, repair guide, advertising material or any other ephemera making reference to this model number, and I come with absolutely nothing. Zero. There is a Camper with a model number that *off by one,* 22911, shown in the below "time capsule" pic I found on the internet (cont below).
You can see this is called Camper Watch, sold for $19.95, and has model number 29911 (mine is 29912). It mentioned washable, adjustable strap, water resistance, and luminescent qualities. This watch looks used. See the scuffs in the crystal at the top. Some green stain on the strap, wear to the strap, etc. Likely the owner had used it like anyone would use a watch, and when selling it, managed to have held on the box.
Notice this 29911 Camper also has the old-school logo.
Back to my '83 Camper. Pic with crystal removed. On every Camper from any era, the dial is matte black. The font for the numbers, as far as I have been able to tell, had no variation over the years. Outer 1-12 hours, inner 13-24 hours. The WATER RESISTANT stamp, as well as the "wave" symbol were present on almost all of the Campers ever made; the last few years or so of mechanical Camper production, maybe 1992-1994, the wave was present, but WATER RESISTANT was no longer written. Also, small detail, but the triangle hour marks at 12, 3, 6, and 9 were slightly longer than the others, on all Campers.
Large view of the watch with the ring removed. The only thing that would prevent the movement from flopping out if you tipped it forward is the stem of the crown. If you did want to remove everything. you need to get a very small needle-nosed forceps into that gap near 3, grasp the stem and unscrew the crown while the stem is being grasped. Then, with the crown no longer present, the step slips through the case and the movement can come out.
The above-pictured watch is not a TIMEX, but a watch made by "Belforte" in 1965. It is probably the "mother of all Campers," manufactured based on a 1964 specification. Much has been written about the US government's MIL-W-46374 specification of October 1964, a specification designed to define the requirements of a simple, inexpensive, and disposable field watch, for soliders. The "Belforte" watch above is from August 1965, written about at this site where the above photo is from. The MIL-W-46374 spec went through numerous revisions over its long existence. TIMEX manufactured a watch under the "B" revision of the spec, in 1982, complete with all the requisite military-issue caseback markings, lacking TIMEX on the dial, and including the rad haz symbol on the dial, along everything else up to the B spec. But this watch now is exceedingly rare, as it appears that only a very small number of watches were actually made. There has been a lot of speculation, intrigue, and mystery about this 1982 TIMEX. Here is that watch, a watch I bought for about five dollars in ~ 2000 or 2001. The luminous material is powered by tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen. This the H3 and the radiation hazard symbol on the dial. Note the lack of TIMEX, and the lack of any manufacture codes on dial. The caseback has many of the usual requisite military markings, including manufacture FEB 1982. (I have seen others MARCH 1982). If you want to see a page dedicated to this watch, with more pics, see this link.
I was curious about this watch, and wrote to the historian at the Timexpo Museum (now closed) which was an official museum, run by TIMEX. His reply is pretty much self-explanatory.
I am making the argument that TIMEX thought, why should we waste all the effort and expense that went into this military-contract bid that never happened. Why not transition this watch into a consumer product, but also try to market it as a "non-official" watch on military bases for general purposes. This may have been near the end of "official military issue wristwatches," anyway, at least for the US. As people have commented in this post, there is no longer any official issued watch, except for a few very specific purposes in the US military, and service members are free to purchase whatever watch they see fit, often "steeply discounted" in the PX. 1982-1983 may have been around the transition toward this "buy and wear what you want" concept.
With this in mind, even thought TIMEX didn't get a military contract, it might not have really mattered, if they cleverly converted the watch to a "generic but well-recognized military" style, and sold it to service members anyway, through the PX!
Resembling other actual military issue watches, it makes sense that it would have been very well-received by service members both for it's design/features, as well as the TIMEX price point, given that the members would have paid out of their own pockets for such a watch during training.
(Just a pic of the full-view image of the dial code, taking with my phone and the loupe. You can see the rounded borders of the loupe housing. Even though it looks pretty small, the phone's image matrix must be very good, as all the above images are from zooming in to this image.
The hash marks on the dial I am estimating at 2 mm in length. From this, I am estimating the the numbers of the code are less than 0.5 mm tall. Super small, almost unbelievable to me that something was printed so small while retaining quite good resolution of the individual number elements. In 1983.
The above ad is quite useful. It is confirmed to be from 1983, from an Italian magazine. I'm not sure from what month in 1983 the magazine is from. If you want to see the full ad, click here. (Notice in the mag pic below, the dial has the old-school TIMEX logo.) So, we know it was marketed *in Italy* in 1983, it was almost certainly sold through the PX of a US Air Force base in Florida, and was also sold through the PX of Camp Pendleton (US Marines) in 1982 or 1983 according to my friend who bought his there. (cont)
Trying to put together some of the information surrounding the somewhat mysterious origins of the Camper, it's helpful to list some facts.
1. TIMEX made the contract-bid watch in February and March 1982. There is also evidence that in November 1981 the same watch was made, and this example appears to be exceedingly rare.
2. The contract-bid was never fulfilled.
3. Watches modified from the contract watch, were marketed in Italy as "Marines Watch," in 1983.
4.Watches that were identical to Marines Watch were sold in the US, as "Camper Watch."
5. This Camper featured on this page, purchased in the US, mostly likely Florida, was manufactured in 1983.
When exactly the first Camper/Marines modified watch first went on sale is uncertain. 1983 is the first proof that we have, but could it have been earlier?
I'm pretty grateful for having found in pristine, virtually unused condition, this 1983 Camper Watch from TIMEX, 35 years old at this writing, but running perfectly like it was made yesterday.
For me, the date code on the dial is new information. I have another TAIWAN old-school logo Camper, and I can barely see the top of UK above the ring. I'm tempted to open it up and see. Could it be from 1982? 1981, even? Or 1984. I'm glad that my amateur watch skills didn't screw up this watch, going through the motions I did to get to that number, and I'm not sure I want try my hand on this other one. But I'm curious! Even if it is not earlier than 1983, it could help determine up to what year the old-school logo existed.
Thank you for reading. I know there is a lot of hyper-focused detail here, maybe more than many people are interested in. But I wanted to document here for myself, and for others, as much as I have been able to find out about the early origins of the mechanical Camper Watch of the early 1980s. If anyone has more information, pictures, catalogs, ad material, or other info, please do share with me. I'd be glad to update this page. [NEW Jan 2018: I took another Camper fully apart. Total disassembly. Have a look.]
I hope you will like it.
Two pics, above and below: Timex Camper 30th Anniversary Edition, released in 2016, with the quartz-driven "Original Camper." This is very interesting. This assumed that the Camper Watch originated in 1986, if the 30th anniversary was in 2016. But we know from my watch here, that the Camper Watch existed as far back as at least 1983. How can this be reconciled?
One explanation might be that by the time the Timex Corporation decided to do an anniversary watch (remember, the Original Camper by Japan TIMEX was only in the fall of 2015) it was already past the 30th anniversary, but it was one of those "who's really counting?" things; it may have just seemed convenient to call it the 30th anniversary, for the sake of it, and for the sake of the project. While this is possible, I think there is another more likely explanation. And that is that TIMEX actually believed that the Camper Watch began in 1986, and therefore 2016 was truly the 30th anniversary. How can this be, you might wonder? The watch on this page is clearly three years older. Well, I believe that TIMEX no longer has/had records of the Camper Watch project, and so in determining "1986" as the index year, they used the date codes stamped on the back of the cases, as reference. These date codes were said to have started in 1985, and differ from the dial date codes, in that both month and year were encoded in two characters (either two nuThese date codes were said to have started in 1985, and differ from the dial date codes, in that both month and year were encoded in two characters (either two numbers, or a number and a letter. For example, B6 refers to June of 1994. See this page for all the more modern codes.
We also know that when Japan TIMEX wanted to revive the Camper Watch, and successfully did so in November 2015 as "Original Camper," they discovered as part of the process in creating Original Camper that TIMEX no longer had in its possession any of the technical specifications and/or drawings for the Camper! There was no blueprint! Presumably, as in any company, only so much records can be maintained, and somewhere down the line, the records were expunged. (In order to revive the Camper, actually, a pristine example of a Camper Watch was obtained, and it was optically scanned to capture every detail of the case, crown, everything, on order than Original Camper could be created.)
So, I am arguing that if there is evidence in this example that TIMEX has expunged some material related to the Camper Watch, maybe much or even all of it was expunged. The Camper Watch seemed to have ended production in 1994, is my estimate. TIMEX went on to make other "military style" watches, smaller case size and different case proportions (and with springbars instead of fixed lugs), using a quartz movement. It's likely that TIMEX felt they had "moved on" from the Camper Watch, to other models, never to go back, and figured why should we keep all this paperwork anymore? I believe it was all discarded, with the thought that it never would be useful again.
So, finally, I am arguing that TIMEX went with the dates on the BACK of the watch, in making the 1986-2016 "anniversary," not having any internal records to say otherwise, and without ever having seen a dial code. The argument goes that if they did encounter one of these early TAIWAN Campers with no date codes on the back (pre 1985, no dates on back) they simply didn't include that in any calculations. It was an unknown, and therefore didn't factor in. I think nobody took off the crystal and removed the ring to see that a teeny tiny date code was stamped on the dial, and available all this time, to anyone who were to look!
This is not a criticism of TIMEX or anyone involved in the projects or development. Not at all. I think if you look at many legacy companies you'll find that much of the "ephemera" from years and decades past is no longer maintained. People retire. Memories fade. Information is lost. Sometimes lost forever. Nothing can be kept forever.
This is why it's exciting to me to make the occasional discovery like this, almost like a form of "horological anthropology," as it hopefully adds to knowledge and data points that might have been lost otherwise.
Sometimes when all records and memories are either lost or fading, all that there is left is the object itself, to tell us whatever we can learn from it, by deep examination and sometimes some luck.