Timex x Coca-Cola 1971 Unity Collection

Collaborations and co-brandings usually miss more than they hit. They’re inherently more challenging. Retro or socio-political themes are rarely safe bets either. Imagine if an egomaniacal committee chose to tackle all these hurdles at once? You’d end up with the Timex x Coca-Cola 1971 Unity Collection . . .

Timex x Coca-Cola isn’t the worst starting point. Both are iconic American brands with a history of worldwide sales domination. Name recognition counts, and they both have it. The Timex Co_Labs page is filled with less equal pairings. They are typically obscure one-store fashion brands of the “Literally who?” variety.

This type of May-September relationship makes sense. Established corporations and fledgling trendy designers complement each other. The former has a familiar name, excess manufacturing capacity, and exposure. The latter lacks all these, but has fresh ideas, a cool factor and a small but fervent customer base.

Cuba libre is best Coklaboration.

You’ve got the brawn, I’ve got the brains. Let’s make lots of money. Both parties bring something different to the table. Problem: Coca-Cola may dwarf Timex, but both are big old companies that have seen better days. Are they grasping at the same straws?

Innovate or die! Timex’s last surefire hit was Indiglo almost three decades ago. The last few years have been little more than cartoon characters on dials of plain Jane watches or safe reissues. Coca-Cola similarly throws new things at the wall but hasn’t had much luck with anything sticking.

So what the hell 1971 is about? Why commemorate that crappy year? As if this wasn’t crass enough already, it’s all about a commercial. Apparently that stupid “I’d like to buy the world a Coke” commercial is a half century old. Like Timex and Coca-Cola, the so-called “Hilltop” ad was a really big thing at the time.

It’s before my time, and I don’t get it. I may have conflated it with Woodstock, as the imagery doesn’t really ring a bell. Spoiler alert: the then most expensive ad to date is also the closing scene of Mad Men. It’s a pretty transparent hippie pipe dream of world peace, a world without lawyers.

They assembled a global sampling of young soft drink consumers in native garb and spaced them out in formation as they held their bottles like rifles and lip-synched a schmaltzy jingle. It pans out, and they have to spell out that this is about UNITY (not to be confused with U.N.I.T.Y, which is more recent and more tightly-focused). The obvious subtext is to buy Coke.

I guess it worked. Furthermore, I bet Timex is hoping this works and they can move some more watches. Wait, I mean the sales pitch worked, not that unity thing. Peace, love, and understanding are never more funny than when being used as a commercial gimmick.

Timex x Coca-Cola 1971 Unity limited edition is not the best timed release. A few months ago Coca-Cola chose diversity over unity. In case you missed it, they have a race hustler pushing identity politics on people that just want to do their jobs. Many Fortune 500 companies seem determined to invert the saying about how wanting people to “not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Let’s just say that this racial scapegoating was not received well by those expected to be left holding the bag. The “be less white” message destroyed any goodwill many had for the sugar water company. However, the bigger problem may be the watches’s designs.

This is subjective. I think they’re ugly, tacky, and cheap looking, and not in a good way. Shockingly, the social media shows that there are people that claim to love them. Perhaps they’re all women, as the color scheme is pretty femme.

There will always be fans for any piece of garbage. If you need proof, head to IMDB.com and look up reviews for the worst movie you’ve ever seen. Not only will there be people loving it, they will claim it’s their absolute favorite movie ever! Yech.

Timex x Coca-Cola on band

The best of these is the Timex Standard. It’s just a three-hander with that signature Spencerian logo in disunified, inauthentic colors. Presumably this is a nod to varying skin tones, but it looks like an attempt at trademark infringement.

They also give you the bird. As I mentioned last week, pale blue on white is bad contrast. But there is a little dove there. As a symbology expert, I know that this denotes peace. Maybe it means more. More importantly, that eponymous band is not saying 1971 to me at all. It looks almost like carbon fiber with racing red stitches because they didn’t use enough of the proper color on the dial.

Timex x Coca-Cola close up

Slightly worse is the Timex Q with a more colorful dial reading PEACE. I see a theme here. There’s a wee Coca-Cola logo in a singular proper red color underneath. If you like oddly colored rainbows, there is that too. I quess it’s okay if you’re into that sort of thing.

The splashy tutti-frutti graphics use all the real estate allowed on the little 34mm Timex T80. I guess this is a nod to psychedelia. Like the others, it does look like a promotional item attained by sending in bottle caps.

Timex x Coca-Cola peace!

Digital watches in 1971: does not compute! The first production Hamilton Pulsar model was released on April 4, 1972 and cost more than any Rolex. Gotta sell watches to the kids that can’t tell analog time. They like this hippie revival stuff, right? Right? Anyway, the cheapest of the triumvirate got the most effort. The chime plays a low-res sample of that “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing (In Perfect Harmony)” song. That’s the most compelling thing here in my book.

These are all a limited edition, but I suspect the demand is more limited than the supply. There are surely Coke and Timex completists that just gotta have everything with the respective name on it. Timex x Coca-Cola 1971 Unity LE proves the peril of putting too much on a plate or having decisions made by committee.

10 comments

  1. Comrade, enough with the Paul Fussell. You need to put down your dog-eared copy of “Class” and read “The Conquest of Cool” by Thomas Frank to fully grok the advertising revolution of the late sixties and early seventies. Expand your mind, and your consciousness will follow!

    On a more serious note, choosing 1968 after the dumpster fire that was 2020 might have been a little tone deaf, but I don’t know what was so specifically terrible about 1971. The late sixties through the early eighties had a very distinct design language (and it was a fantastic time for American cinema), so I’m not surprised Coke and Timex want to ride the coat tails of that period.

    I’m not crazy about the price point. Coke memorabilia is a thing, but if I’m going to be a billboard for somebody’s product, I want to do so at a discount.

    I’m looking forward to your review of the Casio Ripley.

    1. There was a Fussell allusion? I honestly have very little knowledge of the time period, but you have a point on the “legible clothing” thing (ha!)
      My review of the Ripley? I never saw the source movie. Anyone with a better background can e-mail the publisher at robertfarago1@gmail.com and maybe he can arrange for an A100 or something to arrive at your door and your article published too!

      1. Interestingly enough, the Timex digital watch isn’t the only anachronism in the collection. The Timex Q (or at least the version they are selling here) made its debut in 1979.

        You probably wouldn’t have to have seen Alien to review the A100, although the film trivia associated with it is a nice hook for any review or article. It’s a forerunner of their classic F91 digital watch, but the buttons are on the front rather than the side.

  2. “Coca-Cola chose diversity over unity.” That sentence needs some work to clarify what you might be overlooking (before your time) in the tensions that plague the American culture. The pursuit of diversity intends inclusion (not disunity), and inclusion at least tries to bring people together, which is exactly what was at stake in the late 60s and early 70s as cities simmered or burned with racial tension after the courts and Congress tried to end segregation, voter suppression, lynchings, Jim Crowe laws (and Vietnam). Of course, it’s obvious buying a Coke or a Timex won’t matter to suppressing white supremacy or bringing partisan enemies together in 2021. But in terms of social marketing, the brands seem to recognize we are in a viscious chronological circle with the1960s.

    1. You have a very fashionably trite viewpoint, but we disagree. You seem to think those in power have good intentions in which they are failing. I see those in power having evil intent and having wild success.

      Modern American racial tensions are a manufactured crisis going back to at least WWII. In cities, those arose when southern rural blacks were deliberately imported to cities as cheap labor and to break up ethnic conclaves that were seen as political threats to the WASP ruling class. The use of minorities as pawns in power ploys by the rich and powerful is deplorable and needs to be recognized as such.

      If you see “white supremacy” as anything but a disingenuous bugaboo, please step outside your chattering class neighborhood. This is an artificial construct to allow the wealthy to feel virtuous in their disdain toward the working poor, and to dismiss their arguments.

      I try to remain apolitical here, but I see this as a nonpartisan issue.

      1. Viewing those in power as having evil intentions is as unhelpful as assuming good intentions. Those in power are self-interested and flawed, particularly with regard to myopia. For sure the easiest way for an older, wealthy white person to keep their power and wealth is to hold back young, poor white people. I see it every day from the inside. Same for Coke – any pesky threats of environmental, food safety or labor related regulation can be dispersed by denigrating poor whites.

        What an entry level white person with some nerve should do next time an old white partner or executive is going off about the importance of diversity in a group setting is ask, if diversity is so important, why don’t they exit their leadership position and open it to a “diverse” candidate. That is a particularly powerful question because on its face value it is “woke”, but underneath it undermines a cynical coward trying to cling to power by throwing less fortunate people under the bus.

        What gets labelled “white supremacy” is just the tribalism to which every successful group around the world has adhered throughout history. The truly insidious “White Man’s Burden” white supremacy is that practiced by globalist and progressive whites. That idea that everyone in the world needs white people to save them through interventionism and immigration.

        The idea that everyone around the world wants a shitty corn syrup and 4-methylimidazole Coca-Cola, and just needs a white person to buy it for them.

      2. Well, partisan politics saturate the writing at TTAW. I usually try to listen to an alternate POV on the site, if disagreeing, because I’m a middle-class low-end collector about to get a $33k pension, and I enjoy the well-crafted satire about the pretensions of the watch industry. I’m stunned to learn that “Modern American racial tensions are a manufactured crisis going back to at least WWII.” If willing to engage a different perspective, for very well documented histories of the modern American problems with race in politics and business, check out “Democracy in Chains” by Nancy MacLean (Duke history professor), and “The Soul of America” by Jon Meacham (presidential historian). Meanwhile, of course, let’s get back to political satire about watches.

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