In a world where the vast majority prefer low-end watches that can be replaced after a few years and where the vocal section of the watch community like to dote on and shout about their Rolex, Omega or other luxury timepieces there is this lesser talked about middle ground which just may represent the best compromise, and value, of all.
This watch may be my 50th birthday watch, but I have another contender which may knock it off its perch. To cut a long story short I was given an Oris by my wife and son last year for my 50th, but over time I lost interest in it and it started to feel too big for me. My recent bout with Covid and the subsequent weight loss (my wrist size dropped by 0.25”) made up my mind and so it had to go, but only after I had promised my wife that I would replace it with a similarly valued watch. I felt bad about selling a present, but the Oris was £1,300 and I do not like that amount of money sitting on a shelf doing nothing.
Unusually for someone whose interest and understanding of watches has grown, my taste for expensive timepieces has wained. I tried a Tudor Black Bay 58, a Black Bay GMT and a red Black Bay, but they were all sold after a few months. I have also tried more expensive watches, but I appear to have a psychological issue with luxury watches; for starters I don’t feel that I deserve own a watch that is so expensive and secondly I am still struggling to see the value, and practical benefits, in the extra £1,000’s they require to own.
Ultimately, I want one watch that I will wear 85% of the time and I want to feel that it is a very good quality product, verging on luxury, and I need it to be practical enough and aesthetically conservative enough to never stand out (look like I am trying too hard) no matter what I am wearing.
Lets start with the main specifications-
None of the above stands out for the price and of course they won’t because they are just words. A watch is much more than specs and in this case that is particularly true.
An elephant trots into the room…
This is admittedly a generic and simple design, but it initiates the trick part of my mind as I consider both the Rolex and the Tissot in terms of their form factors.
What I need to do, however, is forget the fact that this watch has a similar design to some other legendary watches and instead consider it for what it is. If I took 50 watches and I had a lot of time I would likely find that 45 of them looked very similar to other watches that came before. A watch is a watch to a point and there is a limit to how much they can be styled to stand out before they look silly, and we have many decades of tradition and design behind us to prove that only so much can be done.
Also, I mentioned that I do not want to stand out and so a traditional design, to a point, will likely work better for me.
When I received the Tissot Gentleman I was initially surprised by how heavy the box was and knew immediately that it was substantial. This is standard for some sports watches, it could easily be classed as a dress watch, and once I picked it up and wore it I discovered that it had presence and a slight sense of heft rather than an annoying top heavy weight to it.
And then I spent some time with it and I was blown away. The finishing is much finer and more detailed than would usually be found in a £600 watch, possibly more than any other model at this price point, and the sense of consistency throughout the case and dial is immediately obvious. The brushing on the sides of the case is a real surprise and the more you look at it the more impressive it is, but ultimately it is dial that takes the prize as the star of the show. There is a negative though- the finishing of the hands could be a ‘lot’ better as you can see below.
From the hours markers (Grand Seiko anyone?) to the bordered date window which is actually big enough to read (hooray!) to the sunburst blue backing, it is such a clean design which is complemented further by the hands which also have a ‘Grand Seiko’ feeling to them in my eyes.
Using the crown is another ‘blown away’ moment; it is buttery smooth, the date clicks audibly and firmly when adjusted and it is not difficult at all to be ultra precise with the minute setting. The only minor setback is that rotating the crown causing the hands to move quite slowly and it may take some time if you are adjusting the time by more than a few hours.
Then again, after 48 hours the Tissot is currently 1 second slow. Yes, 1 second. It could obviously be pure luck, but this is a very good start. It has been difficult to find the recommended service interval for the Powermatic 80 movement and there are discussions online, some heated, regarding the expected durability of these particular movements. The fact that it is a modified ETA 2824-2 movement should mean that any watchmaker can service it, however, and the only question remains as to how this modification will affect longevity and the ability for independent watchmakers to do their thing. I was somewhat surprised by the fairly reasonable servicing pricing available from Tissot, but the potential for extra parts costs leaves a question mark hanging there. The 80 hour power reserve is a big advantage; leave it on the side after work on Friday night and it will still be running on Monday morning which is huge and all that has been done to allow this is a slow down of the movement. The majority would never even notice that change.
I have to say that after 2 hours I was left scratching my head at how beautiful this watch is to look at, how readable the dial is and how bulletproof it feels when worn. I couldn’t understand how this can be done for £600 and truth be told I still can’t when I consider what the competition offers. When I compare it to the Tissot PRX (reviewed here) it feels 4 times the quality for 2 times the price.
The only aspect I would change is the bracelet. It is very well made and it suits the watch perfectly in terms of form, but the polished centre links make it a little too dressy for me. This is a sports watch, in my mind, and it brings back thoughts of the jubilee bracelet on the Rolex GMT Master II- neither quite work as a set. The GMT Master is supposed to be a tool watch, but it is quickly morphing into a dressy overly flashy abomination which is completely inconsistent. The Tissot is obviously far from that, but to me the centre links have quite an impact on the look and so a replacement would be on the agenda for me were I to keep it. Alas, a 21mm lugged replacement. I also suspect that they will scratch quite easily alongside the bezel so be prepared for this watch to look worn at some point in the future. This is rarely a bad thing, but on a watch with a bezel like this one it make look slightly odd. Remember, this is not a tool watch.
The butterfly clasp is excellent and in terms of quality the bracelet only adds to the Tissot, but the inclusion of half-links (while welcome) do not make up for the fact that you will have to wear it a little loose for it to be comfortable. Fortunately, the height of the case is surprisingly low at 11.5mm and on my 7.5” wrist it wears incredibly well, to the point that it could have been made for me and it reminds me of the Hamilton Khaki King in that regard. It is also a world away from all of the Tudors I owned which were top heavy and far too high on the wrist to not be noticeable, for £2,000 more.
And so I come to comparing this watch to others that I have owned in a similar price bracket. The Longines Hydroconquest (automatic) was uncomfortable, inaccurate, sharp edged in the wrong places and generally a poor watch for £1,000. The Tissot kills it in almost every area.
I have also never owned a Seiko even close to this watch for a similar price, and that is after they were checked for misalignments and other factory errors. The fact that the brand is pushing into the higher end and increasing prices on mid-range watches with few discernible improvements doesn’t help. Some Citizens, even though they are mostly quartz, are fantastic when you go above £500 and the sheer consistency of their overall build quality is superb.
Bulova is almost impossible to compare because of the haphazard nature of their range. From cheap, really awful, quartz watches to innovative(?) Case designs to overpriced automatics it is hard to know where to start. The Accutron II range was impressive a few years back and without doubt the new Accutrons are stunning although they are no longer branded Bulova, and they are in the £1,000’s now as well.
The Powermatic 80 is a substantial watch and not in terms of bulk. It catches the eye, it feels solid and there is a sense that it is one block of finely polished metal that just happens to tell the time. As an example of its size here you can see it next to my Mondaine Stop2Go. My son gave me the Mondaine when he left for University and it is an exceptionally comfortable and useful watch. It means a huge amount to me and whenever I see the second hand pause at the top waiting for the hour hand to jump forward I think of him every time. That is why it will be at a minimum my 15% wear to compliment whatever becomes my 50th birthday watch.
It leaves me pondering if the Powermatic 80 is the best watch I have worn under £1,000 and I genuinely believe that it is. For the price it is exceptional, for double the price it would be impressive, but no matter what the cost this is a solid and beautifully understated watch that could easily be my 85% daily wear.
More details here.
Categories: Watch Reviews