Tissot PRX Powermatic 80 (Mechanical)

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TISSOT Powermatic 80 on wrist
Photo courtesy monochromewatches.com (click on image for link)

The new automatic Tissot PRX Powermatic 80 is a bargain. At a hair under $800, the Swatch Group’s 40mm entry into the Gerald Genta-inspired luxury steel sports watch genre has everything you’d want in a mechanical watch: 100m water-resistance, sapphire crystals front and back, an upgraded ETA 2824-2 movement (including an anti-magnetic Nivachron hairspring) and an 80-hour power reserve. There’s only one problem. Well, two . . .

First, the design is unremittingly dull. There is nothing interesting, exciting or dynamic about the Tissot PRX Powermatic 80. It looks like what it is: a dumbed-down distillation of every other Genta-inspired luxury steel sports watch ever made.

While most if not all upmarket manufacturers sell a slew of models conforming to the Audemars Piguet-birthed aesthetic (e.g., the Chopard Alpine Eagle, Bell & Ross BR-05 and Girard Perregaux Laureato), they all bring something new to the game.

Tissot Powermatic 40 bezel

At the very least, they play around with the bezel. Oh wait! Tissot does too! (Quartz Powermatic 40 shown above and below.)

Thin, curved and carefully polished, the PRX 40 205’s bezel defines its design as much as the case and bracelet do. It creates a salient, perfect circle at the heart of a watch that’s really oval.

Oval? Who knew? Who cares?

Tissot PRX vs. original

Tissot calls the PRX a “throwback to a flagship design from 1978.” Audemars Piguet unleashed the Royal Oak in 1970. Patek Philippe’s Nautilus hit the streets in 1976. Which makes the Tissot PRX Powermatic 80 a throwback to a Tissot watch that was a downmarket homage from the start.

Clock the comparo above (new left, old right). The only thing that’s really changed in the intervening 43 years: the logo, dial colors and textures, and the technical advancements within. That and the market’s hunger for steel sports watches with an integrated bracelet.

Tissot PRX Powermatic 80 dial
Photo courtesy monochromewatches.com (click on image for link)

To be fair, the mechanical Tissot PRX Powermatic 80 has a waffle textured dial. The $375 quartz versions do not (the silver gray model adds railroad track minute indices).

Regular readers know I have an aversion to cheap steel bracelets. I don’t know how the Tissot PRX’s satin (outside) and polished (inside) bracelet feels, but the price point doesn’t fill me with hope.

OMEGA Aqua Terra AMG

As the proud owner of Rolex, OMEGA and Vacheron luxury steel watches, as someone who’s tried on the aforementioned Genta-a-like trio, I can assure you that the weight, construction and feel of the steel bracelet accounts for a large part of the integrated bracelet genre’s appeal.

Let’s admit it: so does branding. Which brings us to the second problem: Tissot.

Tissot HQ

Don’t get me wrong. Tissot’s as Swiss as you wanna be. Its history dates back to 1853. In 1903, OMEGA bought Tissot. From that point on, the brand was restricted to mass market, little brother status.

Nothing wrong with that. Except that 118 years after joining OMEGA, the Tissot brand doesn’t carry much weight in the watch collector world (TTAW reader texastimex aside). In fact, I reckon Tissot is the Timex of Swiss watches.

TISSOT LE LOCLE POWERMATIC 80

More than that, the day of the mass market three-handed traditional watch is done, staked in the heart by the smartwatch. Tissot’s bottom line might not show it yet, but it will. The only way Tissot, Victorinox, et al. can survive in a rapidly collapsing market: create something visually compelling. Jewelry, if you will.

Not to beat dead horse (much), the Tissot PRX isn’t it. Nor are the Swiss watchmaker’s metric sh*t ton of sub-$1000 quartz models. They’re all very plain indeed, many riffing (as the PRX does) on design cues from upmarket brands, adding zero in the way of panache

Tissot Memphis

The new $395 Tissot Limited Edition (2500 pieces) Heritage Memphis Gent is the exception that proves the rule. I’m no fan of its brutal demeanor, but it’s different. And, I might add, sold out. Meanwhile, Tissot makes its living selling quality watches for value-minded buyers who can’t afford the “real thing.” And/or don’t know about it.

In that sense, the Tissot PRX Powermatic 80 makes perfect sense. It’s a value-driven integrated bracelet steel watch with an unobjectionable design running a movement that watches at twice the price could harbor with pride. As such, again, the Tissot PRX Powermatic 80 is a bargain.

What it isn’t is Memphis Gent bold. Nor the future of mechanical watches. As you’d expect from a timepiece that unabashedly mimics a glorious past without a trace of originality or élan.

34 COMMENTS

  1. The thing about the other AP Royal Oak and Nautilus influenced watches (e.g., Chopard Alpine Eagle, Bell & Ross BR-05, Girard Perregaux Laureato, Vacheron Constantin Overseas, A. Lange & Söhne Odysseus, Maurice Lacroix Aikon, etc., etc.) is that they cost a lot of money. For an also-ran. Without the clean minimalist design of this Tissot.

    If one is not going to get the real deal from AP or Patek one might as well pay under $1,000. And the reviews on the fit and finish have been strong:

    https://www.watchcollectinglifestyle.com/home/budget-watches-tissot-prx-blue-sunburst-dial

    Swatch Group has the manufacturing resources and scale to make an inexpensive watch that still has a sapphire crystal, well made automatic movement, and good fit and finish.

    Sure Tissot may not be a strong brand name that anyone outside of watches recognizes, but the same is true of Chopard, Bell & Ross, Girard Perregaux, Vacheron Constantin, A. Lange & Söhne, and Maurice Lacroix, yet they have the nerve to charge well into the thousands for their Royal Oak and Nautilus influenced watches.

    Given the obnoxious above retail pricing that the legitimate Royal Oak and Nautilus are going for there is something a bit punk rock about paying under $1,000 for a well made Swiss integrated bracelet watch.

    My only disappointment is that Tissot is not using its silicon balance spring version of the Powermatic 80, but I will still likely pick this up once it hits the grey dealers.

      • The comparison with Timex is interesting. Timex is a strong brand, at least in the US. However it makes pretty crappy watches. Folded link bracelets, acrylic or mineral glass crystals, chinese or unregulated, non-hacking Miyota movements. Poor fit and finish. Tissot is a pretty unknown brand in the US, although globally Tissot sells more watches by revenue than every Swiss watch brand except Rolex, Omega, Cartier, Longines, Patek, and AP. But it makes very high quality watches. Sapphire crystals, solid link bracelets, ceramic bezels, some watches with silicon escapements and free-sprung balances, some watches with true/traveller GMT movements, all in-house movements. Not very many brands in the $1,000 – $10,000 range are making better watches than Tissot. The quartz stuff does hurt the brand. If I was Swatch Group I would stop selling basic quartz watches except for the Swatch brand.

        • And I’d back that play. But then there’s a LOT of money involved. And risk-averse, short-term minded shareholders.

  2. Lacroix Aikon and the Frederique Constant High Life bring the bracelet game up without being too expensive; these are solid options under 2k with a discount.

    • Maurice Lacroix and Frédérique Constant are good examples of watch brands that Tissot makes better watches than for less money.

      I have a mono-pusher flyback chronograph from Frédérique Constant sister brand Alpina, and while the mono-pusher flyback functionality (by La Joux-Perret, la-di-f-ing-da) is pretty cool, especially in a watch I bought for ~$790 grey, the fit and finish on my Tissot T119.405.16.037.01 is better.

  3. Tissot (and Certina) are basically the high volume brands for the Swatch group. Still, they are quite above entry-level in terms of both price and quality. Suprisingly, the step change they’ve made with developing the Powermatic 80 has gone surprisingly unnoticed!

    • For some reason only monochrome has its hands on the watch. Nothing on the Tissot website. No HoDinkee!

  4. I have to agree with those who defend Tissort – and this watch in particular. I have a few different Tissots that cost me about $500 each on the grey market. All feature silicon balance springs and 80 hours of power reserve. I own a number of different watch brands – some quite expensive. But Tissot and Hamilton offer solid quality and fabulous value.

  5. I’m sort of mystified by why Tissot is so overlooked. In the late 1980’s or early 90’s, I remember Howard Stern doing live read ads for them (and Rado too). Does marketing exist for them outside the US? I blame their publicity machine.
    You’re stuck with the vintage bathroom floor mini-tile dial? That is too overt of a Royal Oak knock-off move, and I just don’t like it. I maintain that bland is good, but more on that later.

    • Also, does anyone know why Jeremy Clarkson, in 2009, wrote “…I couldn’t have a Tissot because I’m not eight…”? Is that just a dig at their lower cost offerings?

      • I believe it’s every kids “starter” watch who comes from a bit of money. I remember in high school, hamiltons were this way and some tissot’s.

      • Tissot gets a reasonable amount of marketing here in Australia… Nothing compared to Longines, however.

        Will’s on the money re the Clarkson quote. Tissots are a very popular choice as a starter ‘nice watch’. I remember a kid in my year at school got a Tissot Supersport Chrono for his 14th birthday and being very jealous of it.

    • I would have preferred they kept the sunburst dial from the quartz model instead of going with a tapisserie dial, but Tissot actually does the tapisserie dial nicer than AP.

      AP just uses big flat rectangles where text is printed on its tapisserie dials, while on this Tissot every single letter is elevated above the tapisserie pattern to receive printing. Pretty nice detail.

      • I just assumed that the branding was applied, but you are right. Zooming way in on the Monochrome photos it can be seen that there is printing on a raised integral surface, which is really a neat trick. It certainly beats that ink in the grout seams look.

  6. At first glance, I thought it looked pretty good. But then I focused in on those hands and… yeah, not for me.

  7. I think it’s actually a really nice watch. If it had heft to it and I weren’t so vapidly brand conscious I’d actually consider this one. I like it’s clean, elegant look.

  8. I bought a Rolex in 2016 ( Air King) and sold it just a year later because it didn’t live up to my expectations for the money, casing and bezel scratched really easily and.. just how much did I pay for that thing retail? The Tissot Le Locle I wear for work everyday (and already had three years before the Rolex) is still on my wrist today with less scratches on it than the Rolex acquired in the short time I had it, and still keeping good time.The only thing that impressed me about the Rolex was the bracelet but the watch itself was nothing special beyond the brand name.I would honestly spend my money on this Tissot PRX rather than buy another Rolex.That’s my experience of owning both brands.
    Do not underestimate the quality of Tissot if you haven’t owned one.I completely disagree with several of the author’s comments above. Tissot have survived a long time ( It says 1853 right there on the dial! ) and likely will continue to do so. As for smart watches, they will go the way of the iPod sooner than you think.
    They are the present not the future.It’s worth remembering that one of the first high tech smart watches was called the T-touch. You can still buy one. It’s made by …Tissot.

    • The 116900 Air King is a very nice watch. The Joker to the GMT-Master II’s Batman, and the coolest non-GMT pilot watch on the market. But the 904L steel it uses is a scratch magnet (although it does have a nice feel to wearing it). The 316L steel that companies like Tissot and Patek Philippe use is more scratch resistant.

      • As I discovered.
        Still wearing the Tissot and replaced the Air King with a Grand Seiko which has exceeded my expectations.

  9. Not commenting on the watch, but I do like the verbiage, “from a timepiece that unabashedly mimics a glorious past without a trace of originality or élan.”

  10. Rather vapid review. “As the proud owner of Rolex, OMEGA and Vacheron luxury steel watches…” uh oh, you know where this is going. Why the flex? I don’t care what you own.

    Sure, five-grand watches do bring something to the party, but that is one of the reasons they cost five grand. This watch costs five hundred, and is aimed at people who’ve never heard of Genta, couldn’t care less about “Royal Oak” unless it’s the name of a good pub, and just like an angular, retro-ish watch. It isn’t for wealthy people with high-dollar branded products, so TBH I don’t know why you even bothered reviewing it, especially as if it was a five-grand watch.

    • I listed the high end watches as a reference for the integrated bracelet concept. Not as a flex.

      Imitation is the sincerest form or flattery but in this case it made for an extremely full homage. IMHO

  11. Another review of a watch the reviewer hasn’t held or worn. BS really isn’t it…how anyone can have a strong opinion about a watch that they haven’t seen in person or got hands in with is beyond me. This is a dreadful watch “review” site.

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