Quick note: for some reason I still receive emails asking why I cover watches on McGST and not just tech, despite the fact that I mentioned a few times that this is not just a tech site. Well, I do not care much for traffic or to earn money from this site, but I decided to have a quick look at the stats over the past year and the results were surprising; out of the top 10 articles for traffic 8 of them were purely watch related (mechanical or quartz, not smartwatch). The top 5 were watch related with two anomalies appearing at 7 and 9 respectively- the A3 pro quick review and the 1970s Moulinex Electric Carving Knife review. I have no idea why these two were so popular, but the fact remains that watches dominate in terms of traffic on McGST and while I may not post so much as I used to, I will continue to do so now and then.
The Tissot PRX caused a minor stir when it was released very recently because of its ‘Genta’ attributes and so I made moves to get the chance to review the T137.410.11.051.00 model in black. Gérald Genta was a Swiss artist and watch designer who created, amongst others, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and the Patek Philippe Nautilus. As you can see below the Royal Oak bears more than a passing resemblance to the Tissot PRX, or should that be the other way around?
When it comes to watches the rules do not quite follow what you would see with other products. The fact that they are designated as tools muddies the waters when a watch looks similar to another and from my understanding it is extremely difficult to win a case based on similarity rather than, for example, a fake watch bearing the same logo. This gives brands a lot of flexibility in how they can design their watches and it would be a reasonable argument to say that Tissot has not exactly hidden their inspiration when it comes to the design of the 2021 PRX.
The vintage PRX offers a sense of evolution, but I would argue that the 2021 version is more blatant in terms of what the brand is trying to do.
It would be easy to dismiss the new PRX as a copy of a Royal Oak, as lazy design or as jumping on a financial bandwagon to boost profits, but that is kind of how the watch world works. For example, Timex have had recent success with their Q range and I reviewed the Q Timex HODINKEE Limited Edition here. As you can see it has a similar vibe to the PRX which as discussed is like the Royal Oak which is no doubt like other watches and so it goes on. The answer is to not worry too much about design similarities because a watch is a very small space to fit a lot of parts and design aspects into and unless it is a blatant and poorly made copy just buy what you like and enjoy it.
The PRX certainly ticked the box of ‘like’ the first time I saw it and there are a few reasons for this. The design is something I do like and not just because of the Royal Oak vibe. In a world where so many watches follow very similar circular forms it is good to see something different, even if this difference is technically decades old. At £295 it is not expensive in the wider watch world, even if it appears expensive to anyone who has a more ‘normal’ approach to watches. And it is made by Tissot, a Swiss brand that has been around since 1853. It is now part of the Swatch Group and it sells watches ranging from approximately £150 all the way up to £4,200. These start at simple quartz models and within the range there are varying mechanical movements which has ultimately led me to be confused by the brand and where exactly it sits in the watch brand ladder.
I would put Tissot in the mid-range purely on the basis that such a huge range of models are sold and I am continually perplexed by the term ‘luxury’ which is often used to describe the brand. As it happens, my first watch costing more than £200 was a Tissot quartz and I was impressed by the box, the included books and the overall packaging that came with it. It felt impressive to me and this was, bizarrely, enhanced when I called Tissot to ask about a leather strap replacement because mine was uncomfortable. The snotty attitude I got back and the crazy price for a replacement strap made me presume that this was how ‘luxury’ watch brands worked. It was only over time and following many other watch purchases that I realised Tissot was some way lower down the ladder than the presentation of the watch may indicate.
And when I opened the box that came with the PRX and saw the same book (a history of Tissot) included many years later alongside the exact same packaging it was a negative experience for me. It almost feels deceptive and an attempt to make mass produced mediocrity feel special, but I suspect it works on many new customers every year just as it did for me once. The thing is that the packaging and extras are actually well made and a nice touch for watches that are at the lower end, but when you know more about the industry it is easy to become cynical about such things.
Anyway, the box will sit on a shelf somewhere and so it does not really matter. The watch is what counts and that is what I will concentrate on. I will cover the technical bits first to see if they add up to £295 in terms of value.
Tissot lists the movement in the PRX as a Swiss Quartz ETA F06.115 with EOL functionality, which signifies ‘end of life’ and means that the second hand will skip when the battery is running out. It uses a Renata 371 battery running at 40.0 mAH which according to the ETA site gives a life of 68 months before it needs to be replaced. The ETA F06.115 part signifies the exact movement powering the watch and this appears to run at about £40 standalone. To some of you this will seem cheap in a watch costing just shy of £300 and if that is the case you will not want to know the price of a quartz movement running in many fashion watches. Below £10 is far from uncommon.
A sapphire crystal is a decent addition and not always present at this price point and the 316L stainless steel case should withstand life most of the time. What is surprising is not the 100m of water resistance, but the fact that this is achieved with a push crown rather than a screw down crown. No matter though because 100m is more than enough for most people.
The dimensions feel right for me (7.25″ wrist) at 40mm diameter and a depth of only 10.4mm. Tissot claims that the lug to lug is also 40mm, or rather the length is detailed with this measurement, but that is not the case. The way the integrated bracelet is attached to the watch means that they do not slope straight down and with my callipers I measured a true lug to lug length of 51.2mm. This is big when compared to most watches and on my wrist it is at the outer limit of what would work. It does work for me because there is some slope on the top links and so I would suspect the real world lug to lug to be approx 48mm. It should be easy to work this out, but strangely it is not.
With the specifications above it does seem as though Tissot is not overpricing the PRX and the 2 year warranty is also a useful addition, if somewhat standard in the world of watches today. Overall, however, in an industry where it is virtually impossible to understand ‘value’ the PRX feels more simple to guauge and I have no complaints about the pricing here.
The main bonus with the PRX is not the price, but the fact that it manages the trick of looking special without shouting about it. It is different enough to stand out when noticed yet familiar enough to not make you look like you are trying too hard. That may not sound important, but far too many watch brands have trouble with this balance and the further up the ladder you climb the more garish and ‘manly’ some watch designs become. Tissot has got something that even most of the rest of their range cannot achieve; understated, subtle and with a touch of class.
Once sized for my wrist I admit to being much more positive about it than I expected. I was kind of expecting a cheap feel to the watch, but this never happened and on the wrist it looks amazing, it really does. The dial is clean, I chose the black one, and it is extremely easy to read when you need to quickly check the time. The only watch that feels more obvious for time telling is my Mondaine Stop2Go which cannot ever be beaten in this regard.
It is very comfortable, but I would suggest that you spend time fitting it perfectly (half-links are included). You will not be wanting it to be too loose because the occasional hair will be snagged from time to time. The bracelet is very flexible from the start and it tapers starkly from 27mm to 18mm. That is a very steep taper, but it does work here and offers a vintage feel to the overall look with only the widest part at the case occasionally looking slightly dominating. Again, however, I think Tissot got this part right and you simply cannot understate how important the design of an integrated bracelet is on such a watch because it forms one of the two most important aesthetic areas. The clasp at the bottom is almost invisible, but does feel secure enough to avoid accidental drops.
My Omega Geneve from the early 1970’s has an integrated bracelet and it also has a steep taper (26mm down to 16mm), but again it is the bracelet that makes it what it is. I tried to make a leather strap for the Geneve, which came out very well, but when attached the watch lost all of its personality and looked completely ordinary in an instant. Watches like the PRX and Geneve are made by their bracelets and both Tissot and Omega did this very well indeed. Of note is the fact that the Omega bracelet has suffered very little droop compared to Rolex bracelets from the same era. It’s not important, but I like to believe that it means my Omega bracelet is superior to a hugely overpriced Rolex from the same period, and likely the rest of the watch as well. Final side note, I believe that these vintage Omegas will continue to rise in price over time and I am seeing movement already. As an example my Geneve has more than doubled in price over the past 18 months.
The dial is very clean with slim hour markers and a double marker at 12. The 3 o’clock marker has been cut to allow the placement of the date window which is sadly way too small. I see this time and time again with many watches, Citizen is especially bad at this, and it makes the date window close to a pointless addition. I am a firm believer that if you are going to add a function do it properly and in a way that is easy to use. If you are half-hearted about it and spend too much time trying not to dominate the dial you may as well make it as clean as possible and not include a date window at all. A positive is the way the ‘TISSOT 1853’ and ‘PRX’ have been printed. They are often obscured indoors, but you still know they are there. On the black dial they offer the most subtle branding I have seen compared to almost any other watch.
The hands are very simple indeed and add to the clarity of time telling, but there is a sense of cheapness to their appearance. It is not particular noticeable to be fair and I am perhaps being overly critical, but I did notice it. One other thing I noticed was that the crystal is not completely clear, unusual for a sapphire, and I found myself wiping it a few times to remove fingerprints and smudges. This may change over time though.
With a quartz movement you should not need to adjust the time often which is useful because the crown is quite small. This does, to be fair, suit the form of the watch and I would take a more restrained look over size on a quartz movement any day.
Finally, the case back is largely open which means that it can be engraved if given as a gift and this tops off the main aspects of the PRX.
I am in more than two minds about the Tissot PTX, but my overriding feeling is that it is very impressive for the money. You can actually pick it up for £250 with the right promo codes and that makes it even better value for a watch that really does look much more expensive on the wrist.
How expensive a watch looks is not important of course because no one notices what watch you are wearing anyway, but looking down at your wrist to tell the time and feeling a ping of positive emotion most certainly is.
And that is what the PRX does so well. It feels positive throughout and so simple that its core job of telling the time is accomplished with ease. It is likely that I will keep this watch because it has grown on me in a very short space of time and almost feels like the modern successor to my beloved Geneve. I did not expect to be so enamoured by a mid-range quartz watch, but I genuinely am and I am now waiting for a mechanical version to appear because watch guys need to know there is a lot happening under the dial and quartz will always have a sense of compromise about it.
More information at Tissot.