DALLAS – Timex has launched its Pan Am Waterbury Collection to commemorate the largest international airline and unofficial overseas flag carrier of the US for much of the 20th century.
The collection, available for purchase today at Timex.com, features the 42mm stainless-steel case construction of Timex’s classic Waterbury style, channeling the precision, ergonomics, and unencumbered legibility all but required by early aviators as they took to the skies.
With a date function or chronograph movement and brown leather strap featuring Pan Am’s unmistakable “globe” accent plates, the result is a nostalgic tool watch that captures the spirit of American ingenuity.
Synonymous with the Golden Age of Flight (1940s to the early 1980s), Pan American World Airways was the exemplar of luxury travel and the top overseas carrier for both passengers and mail. The airline would be the first carrier to fly on a global scale.
Founded in 1927 by two former U.S. Army Air Corps majors, Pan Am began as scheduled airmail and passenger service flying between Key West, Florida, and Havana, Cuba.
Under the leadership of American entrepreneur Juan Trippe, in the 1930s the airline purchased a fleet of flying boats and focused its route network on Central and South America, gradually adding transatlantic and transpacific destinations. In 1945, Pan Am would be a founding member of the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
The Jet Age
Pan Am pioneered commercial air travel, introducing many of the luxuries we know today, including computerized reservation systems and jet aircraft such as the Boeing 707 and the mighty Jumbo 747.
It is widely known that the jet age began in America when, on the first of its regular scheduled flights, a Pan American World Airways’ Boeing 707-121 aircraft, N711PA, took off from New York’s Idlewild Airport (now JFK International Airport) to Paris.
On October 26, 1958, the first scheduled flight of the Boeing 707 “Clipper America” was completed and was followed by a welcoming ceremony and a speech by Trippe.
On the tail of the Boeing 707, an enormous blue globe was painted just for the flight. It was a symbol that meant Pan Am would offer travelers the world; a revolutionary logo crafted especially for the mid-century modern era that Pan Am was ushering in.
During its peak between the late 1950s and early 1970s, Pan Am was world-renowned for its advanced fleet, experienced and highly trained staff, and numerous amenities. In 1970 alone, it flew 11 million passengers to 86 countries, with destinations in every continent save Antarctica.
Until its dissolution in 1991, Pan Am epitomized the glamour of intercontinental travel, and the airline remains a cultural icon of the 20th century, identified by the aforementioned blue globe logo (The Blue Meatball), the use of the word “Clipper” in its aircraft names and call signs, and the white uniform caps of its pilots.
Established in 1854 as the Waterbury Clock Company, the American watchmaker turned a 300-year-old industry upside down with its metal gears and its assembly lines that inspired Detroit’s automakers, among other innovations.
At the turn of the century, wristwatches, until then considered more of a women’s accessory, found their way to the wrists of World War I soldiers with the help of Waterbury. By modifying one of the women’s models with a smaller dial, moving the crown, and attaching a strap, the watch was created as we know it today.
During World War II, the company was renamed The United States Time Corporation, and the main selling items were bomb timers supplied to the US military. After the war, demand for the timers fell, so the company pivoted to making accurate and durable wristwatches.
The watches were introduced in 1950 under the now well-known brand, a combination of the words “Time” and “Kleenex.”
In true American fashion, Timex’s affordable prices were achieved through a controversial innovation that was to influence the reputation of the brand: replacing commonly used rubies with Armolloy alloy. By 1962, every third watch sold in the United States was a Timex watch, four years after Pan Am led the ushering in of the jet age in America and the world.
Today, the thought of air travel conjures images of delayed or canceled flights, cramped seats, and unruly passengers—it’s the price we pay for cheap airfare. Still, we can’t help but yearn for the comforts that were common during the Golden Age of Flight and celebrate the most iconic commercial airline of the era.
Featured image: Timex. Article sources: Pan An, Timex. To read more about Pan Am, be sure to check out the November/December 2021 special issue of Airways Magazine dedicated to the iconic airline.
November / December 2021$8.99 – $13.95