On November 18, 1928, Mickey Mouse made his debut in a black and white cartoon called “Steamboat Willie.” Created by Walt Disney (1901–1966), over the years Mickey has acquired an adoring public. It is not surprising that along with T-shirts and Mickey Mouse hats, the cartoon's fans would want to wear Mickey's smiling face on their wrists. Mickey Mouse watches have evolved over time with the popularity of the cartoon character.
The First Watch
Mickey Mouse turned out to be the unlikely savior of the Ingersoll-Waterbury Clock Company. Walt Disney Productions teamed up with the watch manufacturer and in 1933 the first Mickey Mouse watch was produced. Promoter Herman Kamen, who had an impressive track record for introducing new products, launched the watch at the World’s Fair in Chicago, Illinois. The original price was $3.25, later reduced to $2.95. The first watch had a round bezel with a standing Mickey depiction and the words "Mickey Mouse Ingersoll" written on the dial. His yellow-gloved hands kept track of minutes and hours. At the bottom of the bezel, three little Mickeys went round and round on a tiny disc that served as a second timer.
Early English Ingersoll Watches
Mickey Mouse was a global phenomenon, so it is not surprising that the watches would start making their appearance overseas. In 1934, the Ingersoll Company’s London division started manufacturing the watches for the British market. The first watches were sometimes called the “Balloon Trousers Mickey” watch because of the seriously inflated pair of red shorts on the bezel. When the 1936 edition of the British Mickey Mouse watch came out, the shorts were of more normal size and the hands and feet were larger to compensate. The original watches sold for roughly 15 shillings, a considerable amount for that time period.
Time Flies Backwards
The Ingersoll Company continued to make the Mickey Mouse watch for the next three decades. The name changed to US Time in the 1960s, eventually to become Timex. Mickey had company on his watch faces. Minnie sometimes shared the bezel face with Mickey, at others she was on her own watch, effectively being marketed to girls. In 1972, Goofy ended up being on the most unusual watch of all. The numbers were put on in backwards counting order and Goofy’s hands went round counter clockwise. Even though one had to in effect learn how to tell time all over again, these backwards timepieces were a hit. Once sold for $19.95, if you are lucky enough to find an original, you can expect to pay up to $700 for the timepiece.
Mickey and the Mod Watch
In the 1970s, things that were bigger were in many cases considered better. The Mickey Mouse watch was no exception. After popularity seemed to decrease during the 1960s, Mickey’s smiling face was back on the latest fad of the times, the Mod Watch. The oversized bezel and extra wide wristband were the height of fashion on both sides of the Atlantic. A full-figured Mickey was featured with wristbands of every color and varying materials. Ingersoll/Timex also introduced the water-resistant and electric battery-powered watches during this time period. The company would produce its last Mickey Mouse watches in 1971.
Today’s Mickey Mouse Watch
Bradley Watchmakers, part of Elgin National Industries Inc., took over the making of the Mickey Mouse watch and other Disney watches in 1972. Their premier watch had Mickey’s rotating hands in bright red gloves and an enviable Swiss movement design. The Bradley Company continued manufacturing the watches until 1987, when the Lorus Company took over. Several well-known watchmakers now make Mickey Mouse watches, including Seiko, Colibri, Fossil and the Disney Time Works company brand. They can be found with the familiar white dial with a colorful Mickey smiling in the center or in more upscale versions encrusted with Swarovski crystals or diamonds. Mickey can even be found in silver silhouette with the Mickey Mouse March ready to signal the passing of the hours. Senior citizen Mickey Mouse has had no problem changing with the times.
Monica Wachman is a former editor and writer for FishersTravelSOS, EasyRez.com and Bonsai Ireland. She has an AA degree in travel from Career Com Technical and is an avid RV buff and gardener. In 2014, she published "Mouschie and the Big White Box" about an RV trip across North America.