The flair of the 1970s, fairly-priced, now automatic and greatly executed
The trend for 1970s-inspired sports watches with integrated bracelet doesn’t seem to slow down. In fact, multiple brands are entering the race, whether in the entry-level segment or all the way up in haute horlogerie. One of the latest contenders in this very highly prolific segment is coming from Tissot, with the PRX watch. While already presented (but not here… more on that in a few) with a quartz movement, today the Swatch Group-owned brand unveils a more desirable mechanical version. And we have a closer look at this new Tissot PRX 40 205 Powermatic 80 in the metal.
If you’re a web-surfing, social-media-connected watch enthusiast, you’ve probably already seen the quartz edition of the Tissot PRX. While some fellow watch blogs/magazines jumped on the occasion, we at MONOCHROME decided to wait before having a look at the PRX. Call us posh if you want, I’d call us true to ourselves and to our love for watchmaking… Mechanical is our passion, battery-powered watches are not. But as the automatic model is presented today, we see no reasons anymore not to talk about the PRX 40 205 Powermatic 80 (let’s call it PRX Powermatic for simplicity reasons), as it does have a lot to offer, and at a very fair price.
A REISSUE OF A VINTAGE DESIGN
Tissot has a long tradition of designed watches, including 1960s watches with bold shapes, oversized cases, colourful and psychedelic dials or even pop-art watches that stood out from the norm. The 1970s saw the arrival of a new trend, that of the luxury sports watch, initiated in 1972 by the AP Royal Oak, which will be followed by a multitude of other brands, already back then in all price segments, from accessible Seikos to high-end Patek Philippes. The trend for the slender and shaped steel watch with integrated bracelet spread all over the industry and, while only a few will remain today known as true icons, there are some watches that deserve to be reminded.
So is the story of this Tissot. In 1978, the brand launched a quartz watch – batteries were popular back then – characterised by a slender barrel-shaped case, a prominent bezel, multiple sharp facets, a simple time-and-date display over a classic brushed blue dial and, most importantly, an integrated bracelet with large flat links that blended with the thin case. First unveiled under the name “Seastar,” Tissot later registered the name PRX, where P stands for Precise, R for Robust and the X, here a Roman numeral, refers to the 10 bars water-resistance.
In 2021, Tissot is bringing back this cool design in a new collection of accessible steel watches with integrated bracelets, first with quartz movements, and today with a more desirable automatic movement – as well as a few updates on the habillage to differentiate it from the battery-powered model.
THE TISSOT PRX POWERMATIC 80
Now that you’ve seen the past edition, which served as an inspiration, the design of the new Tissot PRX makes a lot of sense. Not only the watch strongly plays on the 1970s trend but it also is directly modelled after an existing vintage watch. Good point, as this adds some legitimacy to the new PRX, plus the original watch was actually pleasantly designed.
A first look at this new Tissot PRX Powermatic 80 (or any model in this collection) leaves no doubt on the brand’s strategy; this is clearly a watch to catch the attention, and a model that is surfing on the current trend for luxury sports watches. We can’t blame Tissot for that, the PRX is simply answering the demand for such watches, in a price segment that isn’t yet too crowded. As such, the PRX features all the required elements: shaped case, brushed surfaces with polished facets, raised bezel, textured dial, (relatively) thin case, bracelet that is integrated into the overall design… And to be fair, the result is pretty satisfying.
The Tissot PRX mechanical comes with a barrel-shaped case, at 40mm in diameter. Nice point, the proportions are pleasant, with a 10.8mm thickness and a lug-to-lug measurement of 44mm. As such, the PRX is a compact watch on the wrist. As you can see on my rather skinny 16.5cm wrist, the watch doesn’t sit on top but wraps around nicely with a bracelet that is angled and not just falling down straight. This does not mean that the PRX is a small watch, it does have the required presence, but it is simply well proportioned.
Classic elements of a 1970s steel sports watch are there. The central case has a flat top surface, finished with brushed decoration. On top sits a raised bezel, with a discreet round shape. While the sides of the case are also brushed, multiple polished facets are applied on the casebands and the edges of the bezel, bringing a more dynamic style to this watch, as well as a feeling of luxury. Tissot has designed the case in such a way that the thickness is virtually reduced (it is partially absorbed by the caseback), a nice trick that makes it visually thinner than expected.
What comes as a surprise from a watch in this price range is the overall execution… Being used to see watches from far more luxurious segments of the industry, I sometimes tend to be slightly disappointed by entry-level watches, just to remind me afterwards to take the price into consideration. With the Tissot PRX Powermatic 80, I must admit having been impressed by the precision and attention to detail – and that would have been true, even without considering the price. The case is precisely assembled, it feels solid and the execution of the brushed and polished surfaces are certainly neat. In addition, the edges of the case aren’t too sharp. A nice work that is in line with more expensive watches from the Swatch Group. For the rest, specifications are classic, with a comfortable 100m water-resistance and sapphire crystals front and caseback.
We can’t talk about such watches without paying attention to the bracelet. Of course, Tissot for its PRX has opted for a classic “integrated” style where the lines of the case extend directly into the bracelet without recourse to the traditional lugs. Finished in the same way as the case, with brushed surfaces and polished accents, it relies on large links. Again, comfort is great with a thin profile and good flexibility. The bracelet makes for an ergonomic feel on the wrist and a soft contact with the skin. The bracelet is closed by a concealed triple folding clasp. The two elements that remind of the entry-level positioning are the absence of fine adjustment and pins to size the bracelet – but this is forgiven knowing the price…
Let’s now talk a bit about the dial, which is the main difference between this mechanical version and its battery-powered sister. Well, yes, it certainly feels familiar. While the quartz models are equipped with a vertically brushed dial, this Tissot PRX Powermatic 80 features a waffle-like textured dial, named “raised honeycomb” motif by the brand. This pattern, obtained by a stamping process, is certainly recalling the “tapisserie” motif found on a certain 1972-launched watch, even though Tissot mentions that such dials were used in the past… Surely, it looks good and participates in the appeal of the watch. We’ll leave it up to you to decide if Tissot should have gone for something different…
The rest of the dial is classic and nicely executed, with thin faceted applied markers and hands with polished and brushed surfaces. The date, classically positioned at 3 o’clock, is also framed by a metallic element. Luminous paint has been applied on markers and hands and legibility is very decent, day or night. For this hands-on session, we had the black dial model, however, the steel Tissot PRX Powermatic 80 will also be available with a blue dial. Finally, a third model with a silver dial is available, yet with a gold PVD bezel and gold-coloured indexes and hands.
Inside the case is Swatch Group’s calibre Powermatic 80, the idea was to start from the Swiss industry’s best-known movement, the ETA 2824-2, and to improve its chronometry, its reliability, its efficiency and its comfort. Most of the critical parts (kinetic chain and regulating organ) have been improved, resulting in this Powermatic 80 movement. This means an 80-hour power reserve (more than doubled compared to an ETA 2824), obtained thanks to a revised frequency of 3Hz and a stronger mainspring.
No debate, the Tissot PRX 40 205 Powermatic 80 offers a lot for the money. The overall quality is above suspicion and almost unusual in this price range. The attention to details for the case and bracelet is impressive and, to make it even better, the design is pleasant and the proportions are just right. In the same vein, the Powermatic 80 is a great entry-level movement that gives the Swatch Group brands a clear competitive advantage. The only question that I have is about this dial. Sure, it does look good, but there’s a reason why it is appealing, being associated with another (far more iconic) sports watch with integrated bracelet. Personally, I don’t mind but I’m sure some on social media will have a word to say about that…
The Tissot PRX 40 205 Powermatic 80 retail price will be RM 2,800 for the black and blue models and RM 2,900 for the silver version with gold PVD accents.