The “Triathlon” in your Timex Triathlon Watch explained

Most of us, when we look down at our wrists, will be staring at a watch-face with a very famous caption: “IRONMAN” which signifies that you have a Timex Triathlon Watch on your wrist.

Timex’s company flagship sports watch is the world’s largest selling sport’s watch and arguably one of the first products ever to be sold based on sports marketing. So significant a part of our culture is the Timex Triathlon watch that it was added to the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History.

The origins of the famous watch, serve to explain it’s fast rise to the top of the sports watch market.

Every fall in the US city of Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, 1500 enlisted athletes can be found battling it out, against extreme opposition on the Kailua-Kona Bay in Hawaii.

I am not referring to competition amongst peers, although that too is fierce, but to three extreme endurance activities and the harsh environmental conditions they are conducted under; a 2.4 mile (3.8 km) ocean swim in Kailua-Kona Bay, a 112 mile (180 km) bike ride across the Hawaiian lava desert to Hawi and back, and a marathon (26.2 mile, 42 km) along the coast of the Big Island (from Keauhou to Keahole Point to Kailua-Kona) finishing on Ali’i Drive.

Of course I am refering to the world famous annual “Ironman World Triathlon Championship” or “Ironman Triathlon”, which is still regarded as the most honored and prestigious triathlon event to win worldwide.

People completing such an event have come to be recognized as “Ironmen”, a true symbol of sporting mettle and athleticism.

While people from all walks of life appreciate and enjoy the benefits of the Timex Triathlon watch, not everyone is aware of the product’s origin.

For it was the struggle for supremacy against man and nature on the bay of Kailua-Kona that inspired the thinkers at Timex, as well as the challenge of the sweltering Lava desert, the grinding battle of attrition along the Big Island coast all served to spark – what was to become, one of the greatest success stories in the arena of sports technology.


Photo courtesy of Indywriter.

The original Triathlon watch design can be attributed to John Houlihan and was developed with considerable input from runners, along with writers and editors from Runner’s World magazine, but it was Mario Sabatini, former worldwide SVP of Marketing for Timex who originally steered the company’s digital watches towards endurance sports.

To see how good the response to the Timex triathlon watch would be, Sabatini arrived in Hawaii with 1,500 of the Timex Triathlon Watch pieces. The response was nothing short of astounding!

He sold 1,500 watches at $34.95 as fast as he could take the money from eager athletes clamoring to get hold of one.

Sabatini then realized he didn’t want to just sponsor the Ironman Triathlon World Championship. He wanted Timex to license a Timex “IRONMAN” Triathlon Watch. Fast forward to today and “Timex” and “Triathlon” is one of the most recognized associations of words in the sports watch arena and Timex Ironman watches, the longest running Ironman licensee.

It was at this time that the standard Timex Triathlon Watch features we’ve come to know and love were designed and tested for the very first time: the symbolic “D” shape with two buttons on the top, a case with a rubber ring and four bolts and large, clear liquid crystal display.

When released in 1986, Houlihan’s Ironman design was an instant hit. I think you know the rest…

Our information page has much more information about the Ironman Watch, including great buying tips. Check it out here. Timex Ironman Watch.

Preparing for your next Ironman? Check out these Triathlon Wetsuits.

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