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Review: Tissot PRX

It’s not often that buying a luxury watch makes sense. Sure, you might think it seems like the right thing to do to splash hundreds, if not thousands on a watch—but let’s face it, it’s not like you won’t know the time without it. Sometimes, however, a watch comes along that blurs the line between want and need so much that it becomes hard to tell. Welcome to the Tissot PRX, and it is an utter bargain.

The Tissot PRX

Where do you begin with this thing? The looks? The quality? The price? I feel like a five-year-old trying to comprehend a day at a theme park. It’s almost overwhelming. If this sounds like hype, it is, because this is a watch worth hyping. Well, let’s start with the brand itself, because despite the PRX’s diminutive $375 starting price, Tissot is actually a pretty big deal. Founded in 1853, Tissot watches were lauded with honours galore, across international expos and observatory trials alike.

So, what happened? By which I mean, if Tissot is so great, why are we here talking about a watch worth several hundred and not several thousand? Well, really, the era this watch represents is the one that signalled the beginning of the end for Tissot, at least in its former glory. The battle against cheap, quartz watches coming from overseas rendered the brand, like it did many others, irrelevant.

But don’t shed a tear just yet because what we’re looking at here as a chance to feast on Tissot’s misfortune. If you’ve been thinking yourself, “Boy, I really do like that 1970s design but I can’t afford a Rolex Oysterquartz, Audemars Piguet Royal Oak or any of the other watches that look just like them,” then you’re in luck, because there’s a much higher chance of the PRX being within budget.

And like the Oysterquartz, the $375 PRX is powered by a battery. The case back on the 40mm steel case, therefore, remains closed, but where perhaps a ticking hand might feel like an affliction on any other watch, here it kind of makes sense. There’s no need to resent its battery-powered innards. They’re suitably appropriate.

Overcome that aspect and what you’re left with is a $375 watch that could square up to some ten times the price. The brushed surfaces of the case and integrated bracelet are neatly broken up by polished intervals. The gleaming bezel frames a deeply sunburst dial. The hands, faceted along the edge, are interesting without being fussy. Truth be told, this watch does everything right enough that it feels like it’s been sat in a drawer since the seventies, without being so overly crisp that it quite obviously couldn’t have been.

Take a look at any vintage Royal Oak or Oysterquartz from the period and you won’t see the same level of machine-like perfection you do today, and that’s where the PRX really benefits. It’s good enough to feel quality, but just imperfect enough to feel human. All for $375.

The PRX Powermatic 80

Let’s say for a moment the idea of a quartz watch just doesn’t tick your tock. No problem; Tissot’s got you covered. For $275 more, your prayers have been answered with the very seventies-sounding Powermatic 80, which ditches the ETA F06 series quartz movement and swaps in a—no, not the ETA 2824 you might have expected, but something altogether more … interesting.

You see, the PRX Powermatic 80 gets its name from the movement inside it, the, er, Powermatic 80. It’s based on an ETA 2824, but it’s otherwise very different—for a start, offering 80 hours of power reserve over the basic ETA 2824’s 38. How does it do this? A slightly slower 21,600 bph beat, and by using the highly automated process developed with the Swatch Group’s Sistem 51 experiment. This means the movement is almost entirely made by machine, right down to the laser-setting of the balance.

If this all sounds like gibberish, know this: it’s a pretty sweet Swiss movement in a great watch for $650. But that’s not the only benefit you get for choosing the Powermatic 80; there’s also a dial upgrade to a very familiar and very fetching tapisserie pattern that, really, feels like it’s way too well-executed here to be in this watch. Fans of keeping things clean might think it’s overkill, but once you’ve seen it glint under a seventies disco ball, it’s a hard upgrade to ignore, especially with the added bonus of the polished frame around the date window.

And, really, that summarises this entire watch, be it the quartz or the mechanical. It shines for its quality, simplicity and tactility. It surprises in the details as well as the overall. For instance, it gets a superb clasp and a quick release strap. You can get it wet thanks to 100m of water-resistance. It gets a sapphire crystal for optimum scratch resistance too. In short, it’s a watch that makes not buying it seem like it was never an option. It’s an effect apparent in the Tudor Black Bay 58 as well, as so many collectors of varying affluence have discovered, where it seems almost like the collection simply can’t not have one.

That factor becomes even harder to ignore at the PRX’s properly entry-level pricing. Yeah, there are cheaper watches, but this cheap and this well-made and well-considered? You’re going to be hard pushed to match it with anything else from this side of the globe. Unless your wrist is a little too small for the limited curve of the bracelet, it’s quite simply one of those put-your-hand-in-your-pocket-and-buy-it-and-ask-questions-later kind of watches. In fact, the only real question that needs asking is should you get it in quartz or mechanical?

Tissot proves above all else here with the PRX that being a watch collector needn’t be prohibitively expensive, that mere mortals can also enjoy fantastic watches from great watchmakers without needing to put their children to work in the coal mines to afford them. The PRX offers a refreshing balance between quality and approachability that stops it feeling like an overblown, overdecorated pastiche, like some has-been Hollywood celebrity that’s more plastic than person. This is how it was. This is how it’s done.

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