Few fictional characters are as universally loved as Mickey Mouse. This tiny titan of industry has permeated all aspects of popular culture; film, television, theme parks, video games, clothing, toys, music, and even watches. First appearing on a timepiece in the 1930s, a multitude of different brands and manufacturers have displayed this larger-than-life legend on the dial of their watches. From Ingersoll and Swatch, to Seiko and Gerald Genta—there is a Mickey watch for every walk of life. In celebration of 100 years of cherished mouse memories, Fossil is once again honoring “the leader of the club that’s made for you and me, M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E.”
As the story goes, Mickey Mouse was born in a rundown studio called “Laugh-o-Gram” in the heart of Kansas City. Now the most recognizable brainchild of the illustrious Walt Disney, he was once no more than a doodle dreamed up by a no-name illustrator. That is, of course, back in the roaring ’20s. After about a decade of appearing in comedic shorts (both film and fashion), Mickey Mouse made his watch debut on a model from Ingersoll-Waterbury. This was one of, if not the first, officially licensed character-watches on the market. The relationship between Disney and Ingersoll continued for decades and resulted in millions of sales, further adding to the prevalence of Mickey Mouse across the globe.
It was not just American manufacturers getting in on the action, however. Decades later, Seiko created a multitude of Mickey watches. In fact, throughout the 1990s, a Mickey Mouse watch could be spotted on the wrist of famed puppeteer and creative powerhouse, Jim Henson. He favored a gold-plated Seiko, where Mickey’s arms served as the hour and minute hands—a common design element implemented many times over the decades. As the originator of childhood classics like Sesame Street and The Muppets, Henson was no stranger to whimsy. It is not a surprise that when he checked the time, he wanted Mickey Mouse smiling back. Perhaps it was destiny that now Kermit the Frog, Henson’s analog for Mickey, is a part of the Disney company.
The back catalog of Mickey watches deepens as you look to market-specific releases. For example, models made for Japan differ greatly from Europe or North America. Some were made exclusively for Disney Stores, which is a rabbit (or mouse) hole that is easy to get lost in. After burrowing deep into this niche—one such oddity that was uncovered is this 1999 Limited Edition Alba-branded “Reverso”. With a design highly-reminiscent of the reversible watch made famous by Jaeger LeCoultre, the face (which features Mickey on the dial) can be flipped around to display an engraved portrait of the mouse himself.
Moving right along, the next collaboration worth highlighting (of which there are far too many to include in one article) is the Swatch x Mickey Mouse designed by Damien Hirst. Released in 2018, this piece perfectly encapsulated the simple joy of Mickey with the abstract, but immediately identifiable, design of Swatch. Made in a batch of 1,999 individual pieces, the dial is comprised entirely of circles. This primary-colored pattern is instantly recognizable as Mickey Mouse—which is a testament to design on multiple levels. Obviously, the art of Damien Hirst, but even more noticeable is the level to which Mickey has charmed his way into the hearts of the general population over the last century.
Part of the beauty of Mickey Mouse is that he is universal. He appeals to all and is one of the few entities, real or imaginary, that is liked across the board. For this reason, there is a diverse range of brands who have worked Mickey into their timepieces. The price point of these watches varies as much as the brands themselves. On the higher end is the Mickey-centric lineup designed by none other than Gerald Genta. If the name does not ring a bell, Genta is one of the most prolific watch designers of the 20th century—most famous for designing the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak. As it turns out, like many of us, Genta himself was a fan of Disney’s equally-prolific mouse. So much so that he integrated him into a number of fascinating jump-hour models. The creativity of Genta blended perfectly with Mickey’s magic to create watches that are just plain fun. Anyone who has followed Mickey Mouse over the years knows that he is something of a jack of all trades. He has been a magician, steamboat captain, firefighter and more and he is depicted in many of these forms across the range of Gerald Genta-branded Mickey models.
This brings us to modern day. The mouse with the most has been around for 100 years, and in celebration, Disney has partnered with Fossil watches to create a series of models in celebration of the momentous anniversary. Fossil is a brand that, like Mickey, is known almost universally. For nearly 40 years, Fossil has been designing and creating watches based upon everything from popular culture to classic American style. For this reason, it is a brand well suited to set their sights on celebrating Mickey’s centennial.
The result of this collaboration is a series of three models. The most traditional is a special edition, 40mm, three-hander with Arabic numerals and Mickey prominently displayed in the center of the dial. Perhaps a nod to the past, his white-gloved hands serve as the hour and minute hand and Fossil left a small cutout in the dial to allow the wearer to see the inner workings of the movement. The decision to place Mickey against a stark white dial makes him highly visible without sacrificing the legibility of the dial.
On the more limited front, Fossil has created the “Shadow Edition”, which is similar in appearance to the previously mentioned model, but in a completely stealthy design. This blacked out timepiece features the dark silhouette of Mickey in the center of the dial, with a black fume design emanating from behind him. In keeping with the theme, the case and accompanying bracelet are gunmetal in color. The best part of this model is the dimensionality of Mickey. Rather than a flat application, he is molded and placed upon the dial, which effectively brings the character to life.
The third and most unique of the new models is the numbered, limited-edition “sketch” version. Opting for a brown, paper-textured dial with a hand-drawn motif, this is an homage to the original sketches of Mickey from his creation back in the 1920s. Before all of the fame and success, Walt Disney was an illustrator first and foremost. This timepiece is, in many ways, honoring the origin story of both Disney and Mickey Mouse. While the general layout is similar to the other two models, the subtle touches are what make this piece so cohesive—most notably, the pencil serving as the sub-seconds and the printing of the outer minute track on the crystal, which makes for a more dynamic viewing experience.
Having existed for a hundred years, this collaboration marks an exciting time for fans of Mickey Mouse, along with the Disney Company itself, but more importantly, it is another piece of history in the making. Based off of this mouse’s meteoric rise over past hundred years, he will be around for many more to come, and he will continue to pop up on one watch or another. There is no telling where he will appear next—but that is just part of the fun. We’re certain he wouldn’t want it any other way.