Timexpo Museum and Easter Island Statue
A giant Easter Island head, visible from I-84, woos travelers to investigate a brick edifice labeled "Timexpo." It's the old Scovall brass mill manufacturing building, transformed into a museum of clock and watch history by the Timex corporation. The company traces its timepiece-making heritage back to the 1850s. Timex Headquarters has always been further west, in the small town of Middlebury, CT, but this location, opened in 2001, is probably better for visitor traffic.
We normally run screaming from anything that might turn out to be a collection of clocks (unless it's a crazed assemblage like Iowa's House of Clocks), but Timexpo's 40 ft. tall Easter Island head is inviting. Were those ancient heads really just a bunch of primitive wristwatches?
Inside, Timex offers three floors of exhibits. Most stick to the timepiece theme, but then the museum takes an odd turn (more on that later).
There are rooms filled with wall-mounted antique clocks, many acquired from yard sales and donations (someone has the job of winding them all at least once a week; the old fellow who used to do it moved too far away.). Displays trace the history of Timex, back to when it was the Waterbury Clock Company in the 1850s.
One exhibit, "The Mouse That Saved The Company," describes how licensing with Disney in 1929 and marketing of the Mickey Mouse Wristwatch revived flagging sales and created a pop culture staple for many decades. A wall with silver mannequin arms sticking out of it presents other licensing triumphs: Snoopy, Donald Duck, Barbie, Superman.
American company museums always chronicle any role played in winning World War II, and Timex is no exception. A glass case displays "precision defense products" that used Waterbury Clock antiaircraft fuses and gyroscopes to down enemy aircraft.
In a special darkened room, "Indiglo" is explained -- it's the eerie technology that makes Timex watches glow in the dark.
The company shows off its Torture Test TV commercials from the 1950s and '60s. Timex watches are subjected to all manner of novel abuses -- they can take "a licking and keep on ticking."
Timexpo is laced with its share of interactive exhibits. Visitors can design a Timex watch, or watch an old-timer on certain days perform watch and clock repairs.
A curving "Time Tunnel" pulsating with lights and clashing sound snippets leads to a change in theme -- segueing from art montages of clocks and watches, to the Moon -- colliding with Earth? -- and finally to a row of solemn stone faces. The Easter Island head (called a "Moai") now should make more sense, sort of. The "Gallery of Exploration" ponders the Mysteries of Easter Island, where 800+ mysterious monolithic heads still reside, and how ancient seafaring techniques were rediscovered by author Thor Heyerdahl on his Kon-Tiki expeditions.
What does this have to do with watches? Heyerdahl was friends with the Timex owners; his Kon-Tiki expedition was partly funded by them. Just goes to show that even an ancient corporate sponsorship can keep on tickin'...
Back on the ground floor, a newer exhibit -- up for several years now -- shows the most creative entries for a student competition to design the watches of the year 2154 -- "The Future of Time." In that distant decade, people will still love their global warmed, super-storm resistant wristwatches, if Timex has anything to say about it.
Side Note: On the top floor, not open to the public and unrelated to Timex, is the preserved office of the late Malcolm Baldrige, a name familiar to anyone who survived (or didn't) America's corporate quality pogroms of the late 1980s-1990s.