Tomb Raider and Timex

Blue TMX watch on a stack of Tomb Raider comics and the corner of a treasure chest with coins to its right

The year is 1996. In the geek and gamer world, pixels were being traded for polygons as gaming continued its evolution beyond 16bit into 3d graphics. One character that debuted on the shortly lived Sega Saturn would later define the genre of action adventure, Lara Croft. Rendered with, we’ll just say pixel-tight, teal top and brown shorts wardrobe along with a pair of .45s, she raided tombs for their antiquities all while solving puzzles and avoiding ‘bad-guys’ of various sorts.

For the #watchfam, a brief watch connection came to Croft in the 2000 installment of the franchise, Tomb Raider Chronicles. The partnership may not be as cool as the more recently paired up Hamilton x Far Cry, but in Y2K, Lara on here clandestine missions came equipped with .45 caliber pistols and a Timex TMX, also known as the Grip Clip. The Timex TMX “Grip Clip” was a carabiner LCD quartz watch that was intended as an adventuresome alternative to the long running Expedition or Ironman lines of watches. This played into, if you were a high schooler like me in this time, the brightly colored fashion carabiners you could see on the waists the 2000’s era denim, with keys jangling down the high school halls to homeroom class.

PS1 TR Chronicles Game Cover Art
PS1 Tomb Raider Chronicles cover art

Sporting Timex’s famous Indiglow backlight, 50m of water resistance, and being shock-resistant (more on that later), it also offered a newly developed “Mystery Answer” feature that the TMX line incorporated, which was a digital Magic 8 Ball for its wearer. The TMX made several variants later, including an analog dialed version, converting the TMX module as a sport wrist watch. During the MP3 player battle royal where Rio, iPod, Zune, and others were developing their 1000 songs in your pocket digital jukebox, Timex morphed the Grip Clip into the TMX2, turning it into their own 64GB integrated MP3 player. The TMX and its evolution through the 2000’s really does one thing very well; reminds any technologist what the 2000’s were all about. And in the case of the TMX evolving into an MP3 player that can tell the time, perhaps it was even doing some foreshadowing of what technology’s overtaking of quartz watches that was yet to come.

Do I Feel Like a Tomb Raider?

In a word, no not at all. Now, do I feel like my teenage self and the nostalgia it brings me to have a Grip Clip and remember playing the game, absolutely!

I’m a gamer and that’s really what started this pursuit at all. Even after two decades, I was curious to see why Timex and Tomb Raider came together for this watch. Admittedly, I wanted to see if my teenage watchfam and geek self missed out on anything all those years ago. Especially coming hot off the heals of trying (and not succeeding) to get the Omega X Swatch, let’s say I was having full on plastic watch nostalgia fever.

Wearing it I am immediately baffled as to why they positioned the screen the way that they did. If one is to wear it clipped to a belt loop, looking down at it the time reads opposite than you expect. Or the fact that the clip is entirely plastic, where even my teenage self would be dubious to trust it with my keys. It feels pretty strange as a clip on watch, even stranger as a reimagining of a Y2K-modern ‘pocket.’

Looking down at TMX on beltloop
Why? The screen points the wrong direction to read on a belt

But none of that matters, Timex and the Core/Eidos (the makers of Tomb Raider) advertising teams did do something right even though the entire execution of the watch itself is pretty strange. By having it in game, it made this gamer remember it some 22 years later.

Movement & Battery

The one I found works, save for the Indiglow. It needed a new battery, a 3V Lithium ion watch battery, which was a surprise to see when I opened it up. When I cracked open the four screws to change the battery out, I was also surprised to see the shock resistance design Timex used. They used a sort of rubber pad attached to two springs on each side of the movement to, I presume, hep with shock to the movement.

Tech & Time

IMG 5780
Timex Expedition pocket watch from my teenage days.

In the 2000’s, at this point of my watch-life I was a kid who enjoyed wearing pocket watches. In fact, a favorite from my childhood still is a Timex Expedition water resistant pocketwatch. Ask pretty much anyone who knew me in high school and that would be the watch by which they would remember me. The problem, unlike the Hamilton in Far Cry, is I don’t really see Lara wearing and using this as a tool for raiding tombs. While jumping around shooting her glocks in mid air, is she going to reach down to check the time? Or how about being stuck in a tomb’s puzzle, would she use the Mystery Answer button to help her discover the exit? Absolutely not. What it does do, is remind me of the funky and edgy Y2K era; a time when personal technology was racing to the next gighertz, and the watch (wrist, clip, pocket or any form) perhaps was feeling its own kind of quartz crisis. The next technological development would displace even quartz; the phone, with a screen that keeps the time.

In the end, this was nostalgic gamer trip, combined with a 22-year-mystery to me as a watch enthusiast. And, it is just fun. It is fun to see this TMX and remember playing Tomb Raider Chronicles on a newly released PSOne, and seeing on screen Lara Croft hold a watch in game that a fan could buy.

My 5-year-old doesn’t know it yet, but he now has a TMX with which his imagination can run wild with as a little adventurer. That, and scratching a two decade geek-curiosity itch as a once avid Tomb Raider fan, was worth the $8 for this TMX.

Screen grab from Lara in Chronicles handling her TMX.TMX in menue of Chronicles