The Damned Story: Waterbury is currently emblematic of much of Connecticut: A blue-collar burgh whose glory days as a global manufacturing mecca are well behind it. Yet, among the empty storefronts and abandoned factories of the Brass City stands something that every other town in the state can only dream of having — a 40-foot-high Easter Island head.
Of course, the replica “Moai” (as the distinctive and mysterious giant stone statues are called) isn’t just randomly standing in town — it’s a key part of the Timexpo Museum.
As you may (or may not) have guessed, the museum showcases the history of Timex Watches, which is headquartered in nearby Middlebury, and presents the development of the company from its start as the Waterbury Clock Company in 1854 through the present. Throughout the museum there are dozens of historic timepieces, from century-old grandfather clocks to Mickey Mouse wristwatches. Also on view are classic John Cameron Swayze Timex “It takes a licking and keeps on ticking” TV commercials and prototypes for the next generation of personal timepieces, including one that may even be fitted on an eye. The Timexpo Museum is also home to the largest Indiglo clock face in the world, which is housed in a tower atop the former brass mill.
As for the Easter Island connection — the Olsen Family, who owns Timex, was close friends with renowned Easter Island researcher Thor Heyerdahl, and helped to fund his exploits aboard his famous ship, Kon-Tiki. Consequently, when the museum was created, it was decided to dedicate part of it to chronicling the work of Heyerdahl, and the subject of Easter Island.
Our Damned Experience: We visited the Timexpo Museum in April 2010, and in person, that Easter Island head really is impressive. And for the record, it truly is bizarre to have such a genuinely foreign-looking object sitting a few yards from the highway and Chili’s Restaurant.
The museum itself is well-organized and the exhibits are presented in easy-to-understand fashion. The majority of the place is devoted to watches and clocks, with lots of historic timepieces on display, including classic grandfather clocks and giant Mickey Mouse watches. (Apparently size matters at Timexpo!) There’s some cool classic commercials, and the Indiglo area is a bit trippy.
All the information about Heyerdahl, the Kon-Tiki and his research is in a large exhibit area on the second floor. Here you will find maps, interactive displays, small exhibits and another fairly large moai, although it’s not nearly as big as the one out front. Essentially, if you’re looking for information about Heyerdahl and the Kon-Tiki, you’re probably not going to find a better source on this side of the Atlantic. Or is that the Pacific? In North America? You get the picture — and if you don’t, you can check out some pics down below.
In Disney style, after you’re done touring the museum you pass through a Timex watch shop, where it seems that you can get a decent watch for a ridiculously discounted price. A bargain as big as the head out front!
If You Go: The Timexpo Museum is at 175 Union Street in Waterbury, in the Brass Mill Commons. It’s open Tuesday-Saturday, 10-5, year-round, although you can see the giant tiki head from Route 84 at any time of the day.