After numerous campaigns run in newspapers and magazines featuring the likes of Mickey Mantle and Ben Hogan, sales for the durable Timex watch were disappointing. So, in 1956, Timex Corps and its agency Hirshon-Garfield turned to TV in the hopes of taking things up a notch.
Hirshon-Garfield hired John Cameron Swayze, a former NBC news anchor, as the spokesman for a series of live, dramatic spots that put Timex watches to the torture test. The watches survived tests against paint mixers, jackhammers, washing machines, dishwashers, water skiers and even an 87-foot dive off of the La Quebrada Cliffs in Acapulco, Mexico. And after every test, they reiterated the Timex slogan, “It takes a licking and keeps on ticking.”
Continuing their celebrity endorsement tradition, the torture-test commercials were released alongside advertising featuring Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Jerry Lewis, Dean Martin and Mae West. By 1960, the Timex brand had captured nearly 25 percent of the watch market, and that classic line has been an integral part of American culture ever since.