Timex Camper x Stranger Things (2)

Timex Camper x Stranger Things Review

Running Up That Hill into Trauma

Note: There may be spoilers for the show “Stranger Things” in this review

It seems every brand has collaborated to release a product in the last few years. As a result, the novelty of these collaborations has long worn off, and for good reason. The cartoon series Snoopy alone has collaborated with everyone, from Omega, Swatch, Timex, Seiko, and even LMVH’s Bamford. Pac-Man has even collaborated with competitors Timex and Casio at the same time. One would be forgiven for losing interest in such releases as they happen, for most of them are forgettable. Besides having some design flourishes that belong to the intellectual property being collaborated with, there is rarely any spectacular offered.

However, Timex released three watches that collaborated with the Netflix blockbuster Stranger Things last year. One of those releases proved to be a case study on how to collaborate well, and it went largely unnoticed.

Well, a year later, we are here to explore what makes a collaboration successful, how the Stranger Things edition of the Timex Camper succeeds, and why the effort is well worth it, even if nobody notices.

Timex Camper x Stranger Things (8)

On the Wrist

The Netflix show Stranger Things is set during the 1980s, and its heavy-handed nostalgia helped every one of its seasons become a cultural talking point. Songs, Walkmans, and fashion from the era saw a spike in popularity as viewers binge-watched entire seasons repeatedly before converging toward their virtual water coolers. They discussed the trials of the children of Hawkins, Indiana, as they fought off pure evil with preternatural resolve. This evil was encroaching on our reality from its own dimension. Its realm became known as the “Upside Down,” for it mirrored our reality but was desolate, dark, and terrifying. However, the joy centred on a fantastic cast of affable child actors such as Millie Bobby Brown and adult actors like Wynona Ryder helped the audience empathize and cheer for the repeated hardships and traumas they encountered.

Timex Camper x Stranger Things (5)

The loud ticking of this collaboration between Timex and Stranger Things will always remind you that you are wearing an inexpensive watch. While on your wrist, the watch looks and feels like it is made of cardboard. The supplied passthrough nylon strap screams “just good enough,” the steel buckle falls out of place next to the black case and grey crown. As a novelty watch, this is not a bad thing. One of the lead characters, Lucas Sinclair, wears a Camper in the series, and this watch feels like a timepiece that a parent would buy their child in the 1980s while in a department store. It is sporty, oversized for a period piece at 40mm, and light-hearted, but the twist on the regular camper makes this watch a joy to wear and, more importantly, a successful collaborative work.

Timex Camper x Stranger Things Specs

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Case Thickness


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The Details

This special edition differs from its on-screen inspiration by being taken over by the series’ nightmare dimension known as the “Upside Down.” Our reality is mirrored in this dimension, but it is desolate and populated by monsters such as the terrifying Demogorgon. This monster’s outreaching tendrilled mouth leaps out at the wearer when the crown is depressed, and the red Indiglo illuminates the opened jaw of the first season’s antagonist. The Indiglo is pretty weak, but it makes the effect more ominous. Telling time in the dark is further aided by some luminescent material on the hands, triangular indices, and Arabic hour markers.

Timex Camper x Stranger Things (6)

The indices of the Camper are changed to triangles that point toward the Arabic hour markers, which, you guessed it, are flipped upside-down. Like Omega Seamasters, these triangles resemble the open jaw of a predator and its teeth, thus reinforcing the menacing presence of the watch. The simple hands do their job of not detracting any attention from the dial’s changes, and the second hand hits all of its markers without fault.

Timex Camper x Stranger Things (9)

a Successful Collaboration

The Camper is a triumphant project because they didn’t just add a logo or change the colours. They made specific design decisions relevant to the show’s characters and their shared trauma. What made Stranger Things the darling it became for audiences was not simply because it hit all the correct nostalgia buttons. Sure, the audiences’ hypothalamus would go into overdrive whenever songs such as Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” or the Bangles’ “Hazy Shade of Winter” in the episode “The Weirdo on Maple Street” in the second season.

Timex Camper x Stranger Things (4)

The particular brand of nostalgia that the 1980s represents proved to not only to be effective with those who were alive during that period but also with humans born long after. This is due to the decade having an aesthetic that, to put it bluntly, is cartoonish. With the introduction of computer-aided design, synthesizers and other forms of digital processing in music, and a sense of fashion that rebelled against the smooth flows from the 1970s with brash colours, big hair and dance in popular music (save for break dancing, of course) that best resembles a meerkat mating ritual GIF on endless repeat, the usual senses of a decade long gone being foreign are blunted when it comes to the 1980s.

The Timex Camper does not play on any of these design and colour motifs, yet it is effective. This has come down to how the audience connects with the characters of the show, and in particular, that of Lucas Sinclair.

Timex Camper x Stranger Things (1)

When All Roads Lead to Empathy

The show’s main cast is made up of children, and even the mother figure of the show, whom Wynona Rider plays, is very childlike herself. David Harbour’s character Jim Hopper, Hawkin’s Chief of Police, comically plays counter to this throughout the series, both as a father figure and lover to Ms Rider’s character. By repeatedly placing these children in harm’s way, the audience leaves viewing every episode with a stronger bond with them. Humans naturally bond and gravitate toward vulnerable people, and this show takes full advantage of this.

Timex Camper x Stranger Things (7)

The types of harm the children of the show are subjected to are overwhelming and otherworldly. They frequently see other humans gruesomely die. Some of those who perish in front of them are their friends, family members, and classmates. This repeated form of trauma has a distinct impact on a person’s mental and physical well-being, and the audience knows this.

The character Lucas Sinclair is an interesting case study of how he processed his repeated traumas and attempted to cope with them in the series’ most recent season. Lucas also wore a Timex Camper, thus making any direct correlations between his character’s struggles and the watch released in collaboration with the show an obvious one.

Traumatic Cycles and the Camper

Note: for those who do not have a background in counseling or psychology, many concepts and terms have been simplified for clarity and ease of reading.

While a lot of attention is rightly given to post-traumatic stress disorders, the nuance of the impact of how frequent and potentially ongoing these high-cost negative events (traumatic events) usually gets lost in the conversation. When these events, such as witnessing violence or being a victim of violence, are unpredictable and impossible to forecast, this creates a multitude of issues for those suffering from such experiences.

If the patient, or one of the show’s main characters, for instance, suffered from a singular traumatic event in the year 2023, with the help of a mental health professional, they could build a plan on how to cope and eventually get past such an event. Stimulis that are identified as triggers could be planned for and the risk factors for developing any psychopathy could be intervened and regulated. In the 1980s, these forms of therapy were not as readily available, and the acceptance of going to therapy carried a heavy stigma that it does not currently. We will focus on three primary phases when it comes to dealing with trauma and how it applies to the character Lucas Sinclair and the Timex Camper.

The first is the pre-trauma stage, where certain demographic, prior psychological, and neurological factors are considered. The second stage, peri-trauma, takes the severity and duration of the trauma into consideration and is typically when the high-cost adverse event is perceived to have ended. Lastly, we have the post-trauma stage, when, hopefully, the patient would deal with the trauma through access to social support and mental health services.

Timex Camper x Stranger Things (10)

All the main characters’ suffering is ongoing, even during seemingly peaceful moments. This makes their peri-trauma phase hard to pin down, for they are forced into varying states of hypervigilance. This is reinforced as they continue to experience severe trauma, and there is no place where they can be safe. The characters can be seen dissociating from society in their ways as the seasons progress. While most of them band together, Lucas has an avenue open to him that the others were not afforded. He was given the option to exit the social circle, which was filled with the stressors that were familiar triggers for his trauma, and he took it. Throughout the show’s most recent season, Lucas tried his best to avoid his old friends, old circumstances, and old environments and move on. He could only do this to a point, and his efforts were ineffective. The nature of the trauma he was avoiding may strike at any point, regardless of what life he leads.

The changes to his watch reflect this. The flipping of the hour markers is a constant reminder of the threat that always surrounds him. The menacing maw of the Demogorgon is always present and ready to attack. Even the strength of the relatively weak Indiglo highlights the predatory nature of his trauma and how it is always in the background. No matter how hard he tries and how muted his reactions to various triggers may seem to others, they devastate him. This watch represents his worldview, the context from which he derives all of his decisions, and his mental health at all times. Places that may seem normal and even beautiful to most people can be terrifying for those who have experienced trauma at that location or a similar place. His hypervigilance resulting from his repeated traumas can be seen in his behaviour, and this prolonged state results in elevated blood pressure and heart rates along with the avoidance patterns mentioned earlier. In this lens, the artistic representation of Lucas Sinclair’s mental anguish could not have been better depicted than on this Timex Camper.

Final Thoughts

We had returned from our walk, and though we were relieved to be outside again with others, the passing of the COVID-19 pandemic’s first wave cast an eerie shadow on the city’s mood. People were re-establishing old bonds and trying to mend frayed social circles with outdoor gatherings. As we walked past all of them, our ominous sense and unease were shared by many as their awkward glances of suspicion were directed at strangers outside of their immediate group. Even those familiar with their social groups were treated with suspicion, as long periods of isolation led to detrimental changes in the personalities of many. We sat in front of my coffee table, and I opened the prints from the last roll of film I had shot, and I felt another wave of uneasiness as I looked at the photographs.


“Those shots look really cool. How did you get them to look like that,” asked my close friend as we settled in for the evening.

“I really didn’t do anything in particular. The film was a motion picture stock with a layer called Remjet that was removed. This layer is used in motion picture uses to protect the film, but it is removed for use in cameras like this 35mm camera,” I said as I pointed to my camera on the table. “The effects that you are seeing are called helation,” I said as I pointed out the red blobs of light. “This happens when this layer is removed, and the overall colour is due to the film being balanced for tungsten lighting.”

“It looks like a scene from our childhood,” she remarked. “This shot reminds me of how violent big cities were back then.”

“It truly does,” I agreed. “And that is why I do not like this film stock.”

That was the last roll of Cinestill 800T that I had shot.

Besides the collaboration between Timex and Stranger Things resulting in this surprisingly effective feat of artistic representation of the trauma that Lucas Sinclair experienced, why are the Demogorgon and its lurking presence so effective in the series and, in particular, with this watch? It can simply be summed up by the decade of the 1980s and how life differed back then. Children and teenagers in North America lived very different lives from those of the following decades. There was no internet, no mobile phones, and, most importantly, the hovering parental style which has taken over households in the last two decades was absent. Children were encouraged to go out and play until supper time. With this came a sense of adventure distinctly missing in modern childhoods. Armed with an enormity of free time, kids could be seen on their bikes riding to various neighbourhoods and trails in the mornings, only to return dehydrated and with scraped knees from spending the entire day outside.

Today’s helicopter parents resulted directly from their experiences as children in these free environments and the risks that came with them. Shows such as Dateline and news headlines of adult predators, gang violence, and kidnappings were at the forefront of everyone’s consciousness. The Demogorgon represents our fear as children while we were out fending for ourselves. We were taught to keep an eye on the perimeters of society to get away if anything felt off and to do so discreetly. The older audiences are watching the show for the positive nostalgia that we usually associate with the decade and for the memory of the freedom and fear that is absent in the childhoods of most middle-class children these days. We are continuously compelled by the otherworldly strength of the on-screen characters and their abilities to live with continual violence. Where, in reality, humans break down and have trouble integrating with society, the characters of the show manage to endure. The audience’s empathy muscles are fully activated while watching this show, which carries over to this watch.

Other Timex releases celebrated Stranger Things, but none captured how one of the main characters would feel like this Camper. Lucas Sinclair managed to fit into society with groups that lived outside of his immediate friends who took part in his trauma. In choosing to subtly alter this character’s watch to have the constant menace of his past on his wrist, this watch directly taps the wearer into the state of concern of a vulnerable child under duress. This is especially true as they tried to evade anything that would remind them of their troubled past.

This is an example of a collaboration done right, and Timex should be applauded here. The next time Timex releases a collaboration with a brand or show that you care about, look closer at the watch and its design cues. Some of them may surprise you, as this watch has for me, and it may find a permanent spot in your collection.

Check out more Timex reviews at The Watch Clicker here

Check out the Timex website here

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