Timex adapts to a changing watch industry.
Benjamin Franklin famously said, “You may delay, but time will not.” The saying holds true in any industry where companies are looking to keep pace with technological advancements and ever-changing customer demands. Long-standing watchmaker Timex knows this and is not wasting any time in making the necessary adjustments to stay atop their industry.
Benjamin Abitbol, the Supply Chain Senior Vice President at Timex, explains that the notoriously old-fashioned watch industry is dealing with an aging vendor base as well as older equipment—many watchmakers are still using the same quartz movement technology that was invented over 50 years ago. A big problem for watchmakers is that other industries adopt technology much more quickly, and now technology is making its way to the watch game.
“It’s been a challenge,” says Abitbol, “with new players coming into the watch industry: Apple, Samsung, Sony, and many new smartwatch companies. The watch industry overall is at a crossroads at this point and from a supply chain standpoint it has major repercussions.” Abitbol stated that Timex is weathering this storm by reinvesting in innovation and significantly increasing its product speed to market. The company is more than 150 years old, so it has adapted to a changing marketplace before and is ready to do so again.
Timex is venturing into smartwatch territory with their IQ+ Movement brand which is made up of a traditional watch with analog hands that can also connect with smartphones to track activity and change times when you enter a new time zone. This is just the first step the company is taking into connected products and advanced technology.
Recently, Timex announced a partnership with SilMach, a research company that works on Micro-Electrical Mechanical Systems technology (MEMS Tech). SilMach has been applying its technology to create drones the size of dragonfly for the military; both parties are excited about the TiMach joint venture stemming from this partnership. In watches, MEMS Tech will be applied to create a new type of movements that will be much smaller than today’s clockwork which uses magnets and coils.
Smaller and simpler movements will allow Timex smartwatches to grow in exciting new directions by offering customers the traditional watch look they love with moving analog hands while getting all the bells and whistle of a digital smartwatch. Timex is betting on Hybrid watches that combine the best of both worlds : a stunning looking watch with connected technology.
According to Abitbol, “Although you expect your smartwatch to be packed with cool features and technology, you still want a decent-sized thin case. This new breed of movement will not only provide watchmakers more space to integrate more technology but will allow more design options for the watches of the future.”
Another challenge Timex has chosen to address is the speed with which they can get their products to the consumer. As a result, they have retooled factories, including their main campus in the Philippines, where assembly lines have been shortened to allow for more flexibility.
“We went from long progressive lines where we’d been making millions of Easy Reader or Ironman watches to a much more nimble manufacturing method using flexible cell lines. Instead of having 40 to 50 employees working per line, we now have one to six people per line making the entire watch, ”says Abitbol.
The newfound agility in the workspace allows the company to build the entire assortment of Timex watches, covering three distinct business units, in one day. Similarly, digitalizing all their components in an electronic portfolio has allowed them to be used in different ways and entire units to be created more quickly. Dials can now be printed on demand and customers can choose their own hands, cases, and straps.
This new advancement has led to the introduction of two new lines: MyTimex and Tribute. MyTimex lets customers browse the Timex site and design their own watches which are then shipped directly to their home. The Timex Tribute Collection was designed to help fans show their allegiance to their favorite team or college. Today, the collection includes all NFL, NHL, and MLB teams; as well as approximately 70 universities.
Such individualized watches remain cost-effective because they can be made by one person who is cross-trained across the entire production of the watch. Additionally, watches shipped directly to the customer bypass warehouses, reducing overhead and inventory.
Timex has long been a company dedicated to sustainability, employing post-consumer recycled products for much of their work. Abitbol explained that 95 percent of their packaging is made from recycled products, while 80 percent of their board paper and 30 percent of their plastic materials also utilizes recycled material.
Not wanting to rest on their laurels, Timex has partnered with Milan University in Italy to look at their production and find new ways to recycle parts. Ideally, the endeavor will eventually lead to zero generation of waste by the company.
Entering this exciting new time for watchmakers across the globe, Timex is passionate about providing a quality customer experience and continuing to grow and adapt their watches to meet customer needs. Abitbol rests assured that Timex has been through eras of massive change before and come out just fine.
He explains that the watch industry faced a major upheaval in the Seventies and Eighties when there was a switch from mechanical watches to quartz analog. During that time, other watch manufacturers struggled but Timex was able to thrive, setting themselves apart by having faces that light up when its crown is pressed using their Indiglo® technology. He has no reason to doubt that his company will continue to evolve and use this growth opportunity to once again emerge on top.
Right now, Timex is working on adjusting their products to meet consumer needs which have greatly changed over the past five or six years, while staying true to themselves. Abitbol concludes, “What sets the Timex Group apart—and has been for over 150 years—is continuing to build on innovation, and we feel that the new technology we’re working on is going to be the next big thing for us, and possibly the industry.”
Founded in 1854, Timex is part of Timex Group, a privately-held company with numerous brands and over 4,000 employees worldwide. It is one of the largest watchmakers in the world. Timex designs, manufactures and markets innovative timepieces and jewelry globally.