11 Tissots that prove you can have a nice Swiss watch without spending big
And one that will encourage you to
Everyone without a watch thinks they’re okay without one. They’ve got a phone. It’s better. It’s evolution.
Unfortunately, I’m here to tell you that a man who takes out his phone to look at the time instead of flicking his wrist, instantly loses 500 coolness points. Jeff Goldblum wears a watch. James Bond wears a watch. Steve McQueen wore a watch – in fact Steve McQueen made a watch famous. Cough, John Coleman wears a watch.
Okay, I didn’t get away with that.
The point is, though, you should wear a watch. And while there's certainly watches that cost more than a house and takes months to craft ('make' seems a crass word to use there), an excellent Swiss watch is more attainable than you might think.
I spent a bit of time last year wearing Tissots on my wrist while looking for an automatic watch under $1K. In the end I settled on a Seiko Presage, because the face was inspired by a Japanese garden and that’s the kind of nonsense that appeals to me - but not before developing a deep appreciation for Tissot.
They’re a brand of often-utterly elegant, Swiss Made watches that are expensive enough to make you consider them “a nice watch”, but affordable enough for you to actually get one, if you're not doing it every week.
The brand was founded in Le Locle, Switzerland, in 1853, by father-son team Charles-Félicien Tissot and Charles-Émile Tissot. Today it’s one of many brands, including Longines and Omega, under the Swatch Group umbrella, and while Tissot might lack the James Bond connection of Omega, it's worth remembering Hammond wore one in the Burma Special.
Interested? Good. Here's 12 to gaze at.
1) THE AL-PEEN FAN'S ONE
This is the Tissot V8 Alpine, the quartz chronograph child of the long partnership between Tissot and Alpine. It’s a compelling piece with a carbon fibre dial, and lovely blue stitching on the leather strap.
2) THE INEXPENSIVE BUT GENTLEMANLY ONE
Offered in white, black, white, or ideally, blue, the Tissot Gentleman is suave, yet probably the best-value way of putting a Swiss watch on in the morning. It’s quartz, and as with all Tissot quartz watches, features an End Of Life indicator – which means the second hand will behave erratically while still keeping time, to let you know the battery is on its way out.
Unlike cheaper watches, the dial is sapphire crystal, which means not much will scratch it.
3) THE UNDERWATER ONE
No watch list is complete without a divers watch, and as Patrick Jackson points out, divers are good for drivers. Most people get a Seiko Turtle in blue and red. This exactly why you should get a Tissot Seastar 1000 Chronograph in green.
It’s chunky, at 45.5mm, with an anti-clockwise rotating bezel, and a screw-down crown, case back, and pusher.
4) THE INCREDIBLY ELEGANT AUTOMATIC ONE
The Le Locle Powermatic 80, named after the hometown of Tissot and with a face inspired by the church tower of said town, is the automatic I nearly bought, mostly because it’s so beautiful on both sides.
At 39mm, it’s also the size that looks good on anyone, and the power reserve (the amount of net winding you’ve given it during the day through natural movement) is a generous 80 hours. For contrast, the Presage I ended up buying saves 40 hours.
5) THE ARMY GREEN ONE
If you’re not a fan of silver on watches, because it glints and may attract the attention of the enemy, even though there is no enemy, then the Chrono XL is that Tissot. It’s utilitarian but classic, like a last-generation Defender.
As the XL suggests, it's not small, at 45mm.
6) THE SKELETAL ONE
Personally, I prefer an elegant face to the world, with a window at the back for peering into the workings of the watch, but there’s no denying how impressive skeleton watches are.
At around 1.5K pounds, the Tissot T-Complication Squelette Mechanical is far more expensive than all the other watches here, and is in TAG Heuer territory, but it’s probably the most affordable in its fascinating genre.
7) THE OPEN-HEARTED ONE
If the skeleton is too expensive, or just too skeletal, there’s Tissot’s offering in the Open Heart class, the Tradition Powermatic 80 Open Heart. You get an elegant dial with a little porthole into the Powermatic movement.
It’s beautiful, and at 40mm, a good size.
8) THE CLOSET CYCLIST'S ONE
Tissot is the official timekeeper of the Tour De France, so it’s natural they have a Cycling Chronograph range in their T-Race collection, which manages to be robust and sporty and boast a silicon strap without being hideous.
It’s quartz, and will probably take a few tumbles from a roadbike in its stride.
9) THE ART NOUVEAU ONE
A re-issue of a Tissot from the early 1900s, the Heritage Porto Mechanical is one of the quietly classiest things you could wear, let’s be honest.
While the Porto Mechanical is obviously a mechanical movement, with a gauge showing how much of the 42-hour power reserve is left, if you want the style for a bit less, it’s available as a quartz piece.
10) THE MOTORSPORTY ONE
Tissot's offering in the motorsport chrono segment, the PRS 516 Chronograph, is apparently particularly inspired by 1960s racing. As a result, the caseback features a '60s-era steering wheel engraving - something which, admittedly, you don’t get from any TAG Formula One.
12) THE SPECIAL AUTOMATIC CHRONOGRAPH ONE
Named after the street in Le Locle where the Tissot factory has been located since 1907, the Chemin des Tourelles Chronograph is more expensive than a lot of Tissots, at around 800 pounds.
It's a bit of a watch cliche to say 'you look up, and realise you didn't actually get the time' but it's a breathtaking face. Not least because it's 44mm.