The world of horology is pretty stiff and staid, but there’s one novelty watch that has continually drawn adoration from the likes of both children and serious watch collectors: the Mickey Mouse watch. But of all of the novelty watches out there, what’s so special about the Mickey Mouse watch?
It was first introduced in 1933, meaning that it outlasted the Depression and World War II. Despite its friendly appearance, it has the kind of rugged pedigree (and complex history) that watch lovers adore. The design was special, too. The original Ingersoll watch was the first character watch to utilize Mickey’s arms as the watch’s hands. Of course, the watches themselves are not necessarily the most durable or complicated. They were made for children and retailed for less than $4 — not nothing in those days, but not a large enough sum to warrant high-quality construction.
These days, there are character watches for men for just about every franchise imaginable, ranging from Star Wars to Looney Tunes, but Mickey Mouse is the character that brands from Citizen to Swatch keep coming back to.
A Brief History of The Mickey Mouse Watch
In 1933, Ingersoll introduced the Mickey Mouse watch as part of a merchandising push by Disney. These watches were produced for Ingersoll by the Waterbury Clock Company. Neither Ingersoll nor Waterbury Clock Company are household names today, but the brand Waterbury became certainly is; the company is known as Timex. What set the original Mickey Mouse watch apart from previous character watches were the hands; this was the first watch where the character’s arms were part of the design, rather than just a static image.
These watches were ridiculously popular. According to the New England Historical Society, 11,000 Mickey Mouse watches sold in one day during a promotional event at Macy’s. When the United States entered World War II, the focus of pretty much anyone who made anything was on the war effort. But following the war, Mickey Mouse watches continued to be sold, and the 25 millionth watch was presented to Walt Disney in the late 1950s. These watches weren’t just collected by kids; according to Time and Tide, Emperor Hirohito of Japan was buried with his Mickey Mouse watch.
Other character watches were produced for Disney, featuring the likenesses of Donald Duck, Pluto and Bambi. Throughout the 20th century, other brands began getting in the Mickey Mouse game, including well-known brands like Seiko. The craziest of these was made by Lorus; it featured Goofy with arms that ran counter-clockwise. The numbers were also reversed, with the 1 located at the 11 o’clock position, 2 at 10, 3 at 9 and so on. So this watch was usable, technically, though it would be a head trip to try.
The Best Mickey Mouse Watches
There are frankly too many character watches to count, but it’s worth running through a few of the iterations that have featured Mickey Mouse over the years, as well as a notable timepiece featuring another beloved cartoon character.
1. Ingersoll Mickey Mouse Watch
The original is still the most iconic design, and it’s the one that other brands like Seiko and Timex have riffed on. This one features the seconds subdial with the running Mickeys, as well as the distinctive novelty metal bracelet.
2. Seiko Mens Mickey Mouse Watch
Finding a Seiko Mickey Mouse watch is no easy feat, which is why they can be quite expensive. This particular option is $795, which isn’t an enormous sum in the world of fine watchmaking but is substantial for a novelty quartz watch. Of course, this particular novelty quartz watch is made by Seiko and dates back to the 1980s.
3. Gucci Grip Disney Mickey
Gucci’s iteration is a little different, and while it’s not for everyone, it’s certainly worth including for its noteworthy design. Instead of a traditional face, this watch has a metal case with two small windows featuring the hour and minute. Rather than having his arms put to work, Mickey gets the day off.
4. Swatch Keith Haring Mouse
Swatch linked up with the Keith Haring estate and Disney on this watch, which combines Haring’s pop-art sensibilities, Disney’s iconic imagery and Swatch’s colorful aesthetic. It’s a quartz watch made with plastic and silicone, so it’s not the kind of timepiece you’ll have to be too precious with.
5. Swatch X Damien Hirst
Speaking of art collabs, Swatch linked up with Damien Hirst, one of the most successful (and controversial) artists on a clever, minimalist take on the classic Disney character. Mickey’s face and body have been reduced to colorful dots, but he’s still immediately recognizable. This pair of watches sold at Sotheby’s for over a grand. While the set is tougher to find, we were able to track down the dark gray background watch on eBay for a cool three grand.
6. Citizen Mickey Mouse
Fortunately, you don’t need to go digging through auction sites to pick up a Mickey Mouse watch. Citizen regularly collaborates with Disney on character watches, including this stylish Eco-Drive watch featuring Mickey staring up at the stars. It has a moon phase and subdials for the month, day and date. And since it’s solar-powered, you don’t have to worry about changing the battery.
7. Goofy Lorus Quartz
It’s not Mickey, but this watch is too unique to not include. The timepiece is made by Lorus, a label belonging to Seiko. The hands run counterclockwise, with the numbers being applied in reverse order.
8. Classic Mickey Mouse Watch
You can actually pick up a Mickey Mouse watch directly from the Disney store. Is it the finest the horology world has to offer? No, not really. But that’s in the spirit of the original. And at only $40, it’s easily the most affordable Mickey Mouse watch on our list.