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Tissot Watches - Overview of the Swiss Entry-Level Watch Brand

Posted on October 12 2020

Tissot - A Brand Overview

 
Tissot is often described as an entry-level Swiss luxury watch brand. The brand’s owners, Swatch Group, class them as mid-range market watches. Expect to find them priced above most high-street brands, but below other Swiss brands like Longines, Omega and Rolex. Tissot watches are Swiss-made, powered by Swiss movements and the company has historically been a home for innovation.

The History of Tissot Watches.


Like many of the big-name Swiss brands, Tissot can trace its history back to the mid-1800s. Created by Charles-Félicien Tissot and his son, the company was founded in the city of Le Locle - a name you’ll see referenced in their collections.

Tissot’s son, Charles-Emile, soon left for Russia and sold the company’s watches throughout the Russian empire - the video below features more detail of this and the company's story.

 



By the 1930s, Tissot had merged with Omega and for a while made the highly collectable Tissot-Omega watches. The brand made a number of notable contributions to the advancement of watchmaking - the 1930 world’s first anti-magnetic watch being a highlight of this period.

They went on to produce a number of other firsts, including watches made of plastic, stone and wood. For modern watch enthusiasts, the biggest recent innovation will have been the introduction of the T-Touch line. Released at the tail end of the 1990s, these watches have touch-sensitive glass, meaning that some functions, a compass or thermometer for example, can be accessed by touching the watch face.

Like most Swiss watchmakers, the introduction of quartz watches proved to be a difficult period for the company and in 1983 they were taken over by the Swatch Group. They trade now as a subsidiary of Swatch, but remain in Le Locle.

Are Tissot Luxury Watches?


Affordable luxury’ is a term used frequently - usually by online watch brands or in Kickstarter campaigns - to describe watches allegedly providing the quality of luxury watch brands but at a much lower price-point. Understandably, a lot of watch buyers remain cynics.

I’d suggest that if any brands do deserve to use the term, then Tissot is a good contender. They are a Swiss heritage brand, that sells watches from a few hundred pounds to a few thousand. At the upper end, they produce watches in 18k gold cases that are powered by ETA’s 2892-A2 movement - a movement used by the likes of Omega, Longines and IWC.

Despite this, Tissot sits alongside one of my other favourite affordable brands, Hamilton. Their main collections are more affordable and most of the watches I really like are in the £500-£800 range.

I’ve highlighted my top picks from the brand below. Again, I’ve concentrated on the affordable models, although I have included a few pricier special and limited edition watches to show what the brand is capable of when the budget is increased.

 

Tissot Gentleman Powermatic 80 Silicium Watch

 

In a recent post about alternatives to Jaeger LeCoultre’s Master Control, I featured a variation of this watch. It’s a real favourite of mine. A classically styled dress watch that is a just a little wider, thicker and more substantial than the earlier generation of watches that inspired its creation.

It’s a good place to start with Tissot.

The design is restrained and the watch succeeds by doing the simple things well. There’s a pared-down dial, with plain indices and a minimum amount of text. If you’ve read this blog for a while, you’ll know that the Rolex Explorer I is among my holy grail of watches (more here). The Tissot has a similar aesthetic. Clean lines and a practical dial.

Like the JLC and Rolex, the functional case hides the real workmanship. The Gentleman is powered by a Powermatic automatic movement, with an 80hrs power reserve and a silicon balance spring. The decorated movement can be viewed through the exhibition back. I like it when a watch makes some of the best details a little less obvious.

Tissot Gentleman Powermatic 80 Silicium T127.407.11.051.00

  • 40mm Diameter
  • 11.5mm Thick
  • 21mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Powermatic 80 Automatic movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 100M Water Resistance

 

 

Tissot V8 Swissmatic Watch

 

This is another relatively plain model. The emphasis this time is a simple take on cars of the 1960s - hence the V8 name. I’d say that it’s not obvious that there’s an automotive inspiration behind the design, but regardless, it’s an attractive watch.

There’s no doubt that the design is sporty. A lot of the time sports watches are too busy and colourful for me, so this black and silver model, with a spartan bezel, is a great compromise. It’s not overly large or thick but is still a sturdy piece. There are the specs that you’d expect at this price-point and a Swiss automatic movement - again with a good power reserve.

There's a few additional touches that I like, including a second hand that sports the Tissot logo.

Tissot V8 Swissmatic T106.407.11.051.00

  • 42.5mm Diameter
  • 12.7mm Thick
  • 22mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Swiss Automatic movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 100M Water Resistance

 

Tissot 200 Special Edition Watch

 

This is the first special edition watch that I’d like to present. A quartz chronograph tied-in with the governing body of international ice hockey. Tissot works as an official timekeeper for a number of sports, from cycling to ice hockey. This model features the IIHF logo on the case back.

As mentioned it’s a Quartz chronograph and is therefore among the most affordable watches on this list. Still, it does have a Swiss-made ETA movement. It represents pretty good value for money - there are a sapphire crystal and 200M water resistance.

Stylistically, it has more of a motorsports feel than the previous watch, being a little reminiscent of the vintage racing chronographs I’ve featured here and here. Having just pointed out that I don’t always like too much colour on a watch, this model uses a number of colours, on a busy dial, and still doesn’t feel overwhelming.

If the colour is too much, the PRC 200 line includes a number of other less colourful chronographs.

Tissot PRC 200 Special Edition T114.417.17.037.00

  • 43mm Diameter
  • 12mm Thick
  • 20mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • ETA Quartz movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 200M Water Resistance

 

Tissot Gent XL Swissmatic Watch

 

The Gent XL has something of a field watch vibe. As I’ve stressed, some of the brands best watches are deceptively simple. Again, that is what I find appealing about this model. It is just a straightforward tool for telling the time - very much in the vein of a vintage military or aviation watch.

I particularly like the PVD coating on this variation, although noted as khaki, it could be mistaken for bronze. With the brown leather strap, it makes the watch quite informal, without being sporty.

At 43mm it’s larger than a typical military watch and is again powered by a Swiss automatic movement. And once again the movement, with its signed rotor, is visible through the exhibition back. It’s a contrast to the previous model with little more than the design of the second hand in common.

Tissot Gent XL Swissmatic T116.407.36.051.00

  • 43mm Diameter
  • 12.3mm Thick
  • 22mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel with Khaki PVD coating
  • Swiss Automatic movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 100M Water Resistance

 

Tissot Heritage 1948 Watch

 

This watch is one of the most expensive on the list. Very much designed as a collectors piece, this is a mechanical chronograph that houses ETA’s 2894-2 Automatic movement. The styling is unashamedly vintage, with everything from the hands to the twisted lugs oozing vintage charm.

At a touch under 40mm, it is a modestly sized watch, available with a leather strap or Milanese bracelet. The crystal is hesalite - or acrylic - a real vintage choice.

As for the design, it’s full of character. The off-white dial and stainless steel case compliment each other and the sub-dials are subtle. As much as I love a panda dial chronograph, it’s also nice to see a more simple colouring.

This watch is over £1000 so it’s a good example of where Tissot’s range starts merging with the lower end of the Swiss luxury brands.

Tissot Heritage 1948 T66.1.712.33

  • 39.5mm Diameter
  • 11.9mm Thick
  • 20mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • ETA 2894-2 Automatic movement
  • Hesalite Crystal
  • 30M Water Resistance

 

Tissot Heritage 1973 Watch

 

From the same Heritage collection comes the 1973 model. More retro than vintage, it is very much the 1970s racing chronograph - again with an ETA automatic movement.

It’s a popular Panda style layout. Three black sub-dials contrasting with the white dial. The dial is fairly symmetrical, as I like, with the date neatly positioned at 4 o’clock. The orange accents add a little flair and it has the almost compulsory racing strap.

This is, by quite a margin, the most expensive watch featured. The major reason for this is the movement - a high quality mechanical chronograph. It’s all high quality, including the domed sapphire crystal and the retro-inspired cushion case.

The overall effect is of a an authentic racing chronograph, a look that is currently popular.

Tissot Heritage 1973 T124.427.16.031.00

  • 43mm Diameter
  • 14.8mm Thick
  • 22mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • ETA 7753 Automatic movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 100M Water Resistance

 

Tissot Seastar 1000 Powermatic 80 Watch

 

Everyone loves a dive watch and nearly all manufacturers make at least one. Tissot are no exception. Their divers range is called Seastar and features a variety of 300M rated watches, all based on the same case style. There’s a number of different dial, colour and movement options.

This watch has the Powermatic movement that was mentioned in previous models and has a distinctive deep green gradient dial. In keeping with Tissot’s general theme, there’s a strong vintage style to this piece (more on vintage divers). This is enhanced by the bracelet and ceramic bezel.

As you’d expect of a functional tool watch, it’s highly legible, due in part to the bold markers and thick hands. I quite like the unconventional placement of the date at 6 rather than 3, again just keeping a nice symmetry. It’s a chunky watch, but in no way oversized.

Seastar 1000 Powermatic 80 T120.407.11.091.00

  • 43mm Diameter
  • 12.7mm Thick
  • 21mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Powermatic 80 Automatic movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 300M Water Resistance

 

 

Tissot Visodate Heritage 50th Anniversary Watch

 

This is the final watch I’d like to highlight from the Heritage collection. By now you're familiar with Tissot’s offerings. This is a mid-sized watch with a Swiss mechanical movement and a vintage aesthetic. Again, it’s a subtle piece that doesn’t have a standout feature, but rather a well-rounded, balanced design.

It’s a beauty.

The watch was created to celebrate 50 years since the opening of the Renault Alpine racing car factory. The design references this with a large ‘50’ on the rear case, the location ‘Dieppe’ engraved on the case side and the factories logo incorporated into the second hand.

Tissot Visodate Heritage 50th Anniversary T019.430.11.031.01

  • 40mm Diameter
  • 11.6mm Thick
  • 20mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • ETA 2836-2 Automatic movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 30M Water Resistance

 

Tissot V8 Chrono Watch

 

I’ve featured a variation of the V8 Chrono before. In this post about cream-dialled chronographs. The style is obviously influenced by the Rolex Daytona, and it’s a proven winner. Again, Tissot do it well.

The V8 is very much at the affordable end of the brands range and therefore has a quartz movement. The other features, the sapphire crystal and water resistance for example, are decent. There’s not a great deal to add. It’s a well crafted affordable alternative to the Rolex favourite.

Tissot V8 Chrono T106.417.11.042.00

  • 42.5mm Diameter
  • 11.2mm Thick
  • 22mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • ETA Quartz movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 100M Water Resistance

 

Tissot Couturier Day Date Watch

 

Closing out the list is another Powermatic 80 watch. An intriguing piece that doesn’t quite fit into any specific niche. My first thought was that it reminds me of a Hamilton Khaki King. That’s a field or military style watch.

But then I look closely. The dial has plain indices rather than the numerals and the hands are much dressier. Everything is just a little smarter than the Hamilton. It’s refined rather than rugged.

It’s a little under 40mm and around 10mm thick, so it’s firmly in the range of what I’d expect in a dress watch. If you’re looking at the Tissot range and like the Gentleman or Visodate, this could be a slightly less dressy option. A watch that may work a bit better with informal clothing.

Tissot Couturier Powermartic 80 T035.407.11.051.01

  • 39mm Diameter
  • 10.8mm Thick
  • 22mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Powermatic 80 Automatic movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 100M Water Resistance

 

Conclusion

 

Tissot is an entry-level Swiss watch brand that at its upper end releases watches bordering on luxury. It’s a Swiss heritage company that is a part of the Swatch Group along with Blancpain, Longines and Omega.

The current collection is strong on affordable, vintage-inspired mechanical watches. Most in the £400-600 price-range. I’ve given a selection of my favourites, with the dress watches and Heritage pieces impressing me the most.

Add your own thoughts below.

 

 

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