Style / World of Watches (WOW)

Best in Class: Tissot PRX Chronograph

One of the world’s most successful traditional watchmaking brands, Tissot raised the bar for itself with the release of the PRX in 2020. The brand turns its attention to complications now, with the PRX Chronograph, but also makes the collection richer with the addition of smaller time-only watches.

Feb 14, 2023 | By Ashok Soman
Tissot PRX Chronograph

A chronograph is a watch that tracks and records elapsed time, and it can do so mechanically or digitally, or via some sort of hybrid of the two. A relatively young complication, it depends heavily on mechanisms that are optimised for precision so it could not really get off the starting block before clocks and watches were able to measure time down to the nearest second. On the other hand, the best chronographs also exhibit inimitable character. A great chronograph is at the heart of many brands, and the complication is very desirable.

Tissot has been making great watches since 1853 so we did not have to do a double take when the PRX debuted in 2020. We cannot say that we saw it coming, and we were as surprised as anyone by the unparalleled demand for both the quartz and Powermatic 80 versions. The quartz model was the most unexpected homerun, with Tissot getting the form factor just right. Later, we were gratified to learn that the watch emerged from the conviction of the watchmakers and management at Tissot, not from market research. This is because the first thing that strikes you when you see the PRX, and then feel it on your wrist, is that it is simply beautiful. Why should this watch, the automatic version in particular, feel so like an obvious winner? We cannot tell you that, and we doubt even Tissot CEO Sylvain Dolla can. 

On that note, we must hit pause on the narrative here for a few points about the structure of this extensive article. For more details on the cover watch itself, including key differences between the two versions, please see our Cover Watch story on LUXUO here. As usual, this story presents the bigger picture, including the latest chapter in the PRX story. Read on for the tale of the development and reception of the PRX Chronograph, possible new additions to the collection, and the completely new 35mm models.

Building a Collection

Image: Tissot

The gist of this story — our proposition in a way — is that the PRX is a great way to begin building depth in your collection. We have no doubt that the PRX, starting with the quartz model in 2020, introduced large numbers of people to the hobby of collecting watches. There is a critical moment, after you pull the trigger on any one watch from a particular brand, that you will be tempted to go deep into that family of watches. When the model in question is effectively new, you have the chance to follow alongside the brand as it reveals more chapters in the story of that model as it grows into a full collection in the core range. It is history in the making and you only have one shot to get in on the ground floor, so to speak. With that out of the way, our story proceeds apace, with the chronograph leading the way. 

What is really exciting about the PRX chronograph is that it is tracking the zeitgeist in watch collecting, with one set of burgeoning collectors having purchased a time-only watch in steel to start themselves off. Now is the time to start thinking about additional functions, or adding some complexity into your life, in other words. It should go without saying that the chronograph is an enormously popular complication in traditional watchmaking (according to the FH), thus such a model from Tissot is only to be expected. Given the price segment that Tissot and the PRX specifically dominates, there was always a question of how exactly Tissot would manage this. This is especially true considering the Powermatic 80 movement that makes the automatic tick, literally. 

This is a top-end base movement so a chronograph module would have been nigh impossible, without significantly changing the price proposition. Tissot is quite firm in wanting to continue to offer unbeatable value for money in its segment, which is actually how Swatch Group brands all work. In the case of our watch of the moment, we decided to take Tissot at face value and begin our story with that number: S$2,550. 

While not an astonishing leap in pricing, the chronograph is nevertheless almost three times the price of the automatic. This is an odd quirk of the Swiss watch trade because chronographs are frequently priced at between two to three times the price of the standard model in the same collection. Tissot has paid a lot of attention to what the price of the PRX Chronograph says about the watch so you can expect a lot of added value here, which we will certainly get to. 

Finishing Strong 

Image: Tissot

The integrated automatic chronograph movement here is visible via the exhibition caseback, which is an important touch at this level because you do not always get this. It is certainly expected as one climbs up the horological ladder, with one notable and obvious exception, but movements such as the ETA A05.H31 frequently stay hidden behind closed casebacks. Here you can see how this calibre, based on the Valjoux calibre 7753, works, and even admire the perlage and satinated finishing touches. These are machine executed, to be clear, but just seeing these traditional decorations there is heartening. Again, at this sort of price, such aesthetic touches are often absent, with maintaining reasonable prices cited as the reason. Well, Tissot is not having any of it and we are very pleased about that. 

There are a few important points to note about this movement, the first of which is the escapement. It sports neither the silicon or Nivachron balance springs, but rather the good old Nivarox spring. Unlike traditional 7750 variants, this movement’s beating heart stays at a steady 4Hz but manages a 60-hour power reserve. Given what we know about the parts here, we surmise that Swatch Group has made some efficiency improvements in the barrel to enable such an impressive power reserve — plenty of chronographs do not go north of 50 hours of running power, and the base 7753 runs for 48 hours, typically. This is yet another way that Tissot is staying ahead of the competition, because plenty of brands use calibre 7753, but only Swatch Group brands use ETA A05.H31. It is worth noting as well that most watches that use calibre 7753, or related variants, are typically priced above S$3,000 

In terms of user interaction, most of the details about the chronograph are in the cover watch section, but we will say a word here about the date. The position of the date (the perception of which is highly subjective) between 4 and 5 o’clock aside, it is a bit fussy to use since it can only be directly adjusted via the recessed pusher at 10 o’clock. Tissot provides a tool for this, but you can really use any toothpick or anything softer than steel with a pointy end that is not too long to adjust the date. This is precisely what we did when we shot the watch for this story because we did not have the brand-specified tool on hand. In a pinch, if you are on the go, you could also just advance the time with the crown to get to the right date. As you can guess, the date can only be adjusted forwards with the pusher. 

Before we transition to the PRX 35, we will say something for the collection as a whole, particularly when it comes to water-resistance. The chronograph, automatic, quartz and 35mm models are all rated water-resistant to 100 metres, which we think is the final value-add in the collection as it reflects excellent robustness. It also completes the X portion of the PRX, which refers to water-resistance. For completeness, P refers to precision and R is for reliability. 

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