Timex Marlin Automatic California Dial – $186.75 w/ SAVE25 ($249)
Note: At post time, Timex is running a 25% off select watches sale, and the Marlin California Dial happens to be one of the models up for the code. Code expires quick though, as in today… 4/13/21.
Timex has been on a roll lately, churning out watch after watch that checks all the right boxes for a lot of folks. There are dive watches, an almost endless variety of field watches, and a fair number of dress watches. Many of those dress watches are in the Marlin line, which started as a single manual-wind model, but now includes a dozen watches with automatic mechanical movements as well. One of the more interesting offerings in this batch of automatic Marlins is the watch we have, here, with a California dial — I’ll just refer to it as the Marlin California. It’s certainly a looker, but is it worth your time & money?
Roman numerals up top, Arabic numerals down below.
First things first, what the heck is a California dial? A California dial on a watch refers to the Frankenmongrel hour indices seen on this watch, which combine Roman numerals on the top half (I, II, X, and XI) and Arabic numerals on the bottom half (4, 5, 7, 8). Usually the cardinal indices use a triangular marker at 12 and non-numeric dashes at 3, 6, and 9. How did such a strange dial combination come to be? Well….nobody knows for sure. Rolex filed a patent for the design in the 1940s, but it’s possible the layout had been in use by other brands in the 1930s. The ‘California’ moniker likely originated due to the popularity of a Californian watch refurbisher which used the dial design a few decades later. Regardless, the name has stuck and can now be found on watches from a variety of manufacturers — even the Apple Watch has a California dial option.
Blue sky and palm trees reflected in the domed acrylic crystal.
Timex is the latest to take California with this Marlin, which to be fair, is a slightly casual dress watch. I don’t imagine many would consider a California dial appropriate in full dress watch territory, but with the “rose gold-tone” stainless steel case, handset, and indices, along with the deep black dial and dark strap, Timex has done as much as they can to dress this watch up. The end result is definitely a looker. The watch is extremely attractive in person, with the rose gold-tone color and black providing a lovely contrast, and the minimal dial text letting the mixed numerals do all the talking. Capping off the 40mm diameter, all-polished case is a domed acrylic crystal, which looks perfectly at home, here, given the vibe of the rest of the watch. Thin lugs, with a 20mm width, support the acceptable leather strap, which is fine — while not great, it’ll do the job, and does feature quick-release spring bars.
Miyota automatic movement. Exhibition caseback.
Powering the Marlin California is an automatic movement from Miyota. While neither a peek through the transparent casebook nor Timex’s own website specify the exact movement, the internets report that it’s a Miyota 8215. The movement doesn’t hack but can be hand-wound and provides a 40-hour power reserve, per Timex’s description. Despite no visible date complication on the dial, there is a phantom date position for the crown, which would make sense for an 8215, which has a date complication. By most accounts, this is a low cost, workhorse movement found in watches from a variety of manufacturers. While the Miyota obviously doesn’t play the Timex quartz “TICK TICK” soundtrack, the winding rotor can be a bit loud (which I’ve experienced with other Miyota movements, and even some Orients). (Note: while the seconds hand motion isn’t buttery smooth, likely due to the lower frequency of the movement, this particular watch didn’t have a stuttering seconds hand, which can be seen in some indirect drive watch movements, like the Miyota 8215.)
Taken in isolation, we’ve established that this watch looks pretty great, but how does it hold up in the value department? The Marlin California sells for $249, and while that’s not an unreasonable price, it’s a decent amount of money, and there are a lot of other watches in the $150-$350 range which would make fine alternatives.
The CA’s competition. The Bambino. Which is noticeably cheaper.
As a point of reference, let’s compare this Marlin to a mainstay in The Dapperedhood: the Orient Bambino (and all its various design iterations). On paper, the watches are rather similar and likely competing for a lot of the same wrists given their prices. But there are some differences which affect how the watches wear. The Bambino’s diameter is only 0.5mm more than the Marlin, but because the Bambino’s bezel is nearly nonexistent, more of that already-larger diameter is filled with the watch dial, which makes the watch appear even bigger. From the side, the Marlin is over 1mm thicker, and it shows. With a dress watch, thin is in, and while the Bambino’s nearly 12mm thickness isn’t particularly svelte, it does best the Marlin’s, particularly since the Bambino hides some of its thickness in its caseback. On the wrist, this makes the Marlin California look much taller. I’d like the best of both worlds, really — I quite prefer how much smaller the Marlin California’s diameter appears to be, but that thickness increase is noticeable.
Thickness ain’t always “the business.” The Timex is beefy when compared to the Bambino.
For some, a date window can make or break a watch. The Bambino hacks and has a date complication, whereas the Marlin does not. For a dress watch, I think the clean, no-date look is best. But what about the overall appearance? While the Bambino does have some Roman numeral variants, there isn’t a Bambino that quite captures the uniqueness of a California dial. Finally, the Bambino has been available for under $200 for a long time ($150-$175 from Orient Watch USA at the time of writing this review, and as low as $110 on Amazon if you want to go that route), while the Marlin California is $249.
All told, I’m a bit torn with the Marlin California. There’s a lot to like about what Timex has done here, but a few things still bug me. I really wish Timex could have kept the thickness down. I think the price is a bit too high, particularly when a stiff competitor, the Bambino, can be had for a lot less. At $200, I’d be very tempted to pick up a Marlin California, perhaps even the plain stainless steel variant with the salmon-color dial (seen on the Timex site), which leans more casual. But at $249, I don’t know if it’s for me. For around the same money, I’d be tempted by Seiko’s more versatile ‘DressKX’ SRPE57 (Seiko’s dressed-up version of their SKX replacement). Or, to stay with a dressier watch, I might spend more and get Seiko’s gorgeous ‘Cocktail Time’ SRPB43 (despite the changes Seiko made to this latest model).
To each their own, however, so while the Marlin California might not make it into my watch box just yet, there are plenty of compelling reasons to consider adding a bit of California dial magic to your own. I know that I’ll be keeping an eye out for any Timex sales or coupon codes that drive the Marlin California’s price into gotta-have-it territory. It’s certainly another compelling release from the American watch company that keeps on ticking.
About the author: Aaron K. was first brought to Dappered by his love of watches, but has found it to be a great resource for so much more. When not reading Dappered, he’s usually relishing being a dad, spending time with his family & friends, learning about most anything that can fly, or taking photographs.