Monday, 2 May 2011

Tissot Visodate 1957 Heritage Automatic--REVIEW

I’ve been selling watches now for almost ten years and Tissot is a brand that I’m quite familiar with. Admittedly, there aren’t many models that really thrill me, but I have to hand it to this brand for its build quality and innovation and  I’ve always admired Tissot’s Heritage Collection for their authentic reproductions of past models.
Their latest re-edition was released in March 2010 and as soon as I saw pictures of it, I knew I had to have it. My store received one for a customer some time back and I quickly tried it on. At 40mm, I felt it was a fraction large for this style of watch, IMHO, but a good size that is in keeping with the modern trend for larger watches. Besides, if it were 37mm or less, it would be too similar to most of my vintage pieces.
I had a closer look at it. The Tissot Visodate 1957 Heritage Automatic (Model Number is T019.430.16.031.01).
I’ve always been a fan of design from the 1920s through to the early ‘60s and I’ve often wondered if I was born about 50 years too late. This watch’s overall appearance is a nice throw-back to what has, in recent years, been termed “Eisenhower Chic”, which covers the period from around the mid ‘50s to the early ‘60s when JFK became President of the United States. The popularity and influence of the tv series “Mad Men” has only added to a wide-spread interest in clothing and design from this era. But I digress.


I took a good look at this watch- Nice, clean pearlescent-silver dial with applied Tissot logo in the older-style font with shiny steel dagger-shaped hands under a convex sapphire crystal. Attached to this watch was a pleasant brown leather strap with croco pattern embossed in it and a deployant clasp. I’m not a fan of deployant clasps, to be honest, but that’s a minor, minor quibble.

So I spent a week or so figuring out my finances and then I placed an order. I knew it would take at least 4-6 weeks for this watch to arrive. It seems that there is quite a high demand for mechanical Tissot watches and supply can tend to be a little slow. You need to remember that The Swatch Group (which owns Tissot) supplies ETA movements to all of its in-house brands, such as Longines, Rado and Hamilton so there can be a delay when it comes to fulfilment of orders world-wide.
I used to have a '60s vintage Visodate Seastar Seven;

 

I sold it about a year ago. In hindsight, I think it was a bad idea, but it too closely resembled my Omegas and Tudors and I had begun to find that my collection was getting repetitive. I hope its current owner is getting a lot of enjoyment out of it.


Sure enough, approx six weeks passed before the watch arrived. There had been a minor change made to the case design. The original model had a slight ridge on the side of the case where the lugs taper in. This ridge had been filed down.

The reason appears to be along the lines of “to preserve the flow of the lugs into the case” or something like that. I totally understand the logic behind that, but the lug shape was one aspect of this model that really complimented the overall look of this watch. Although, this Visodate oozes so much cool that this change in design was not a deal-breaker for me.

I adjusted the strap to fit my 6.5 inch 'school-girl' wrist and once again, I said “Wow!” Yes, I wish the lug design had not been changed, but the overall look and shape of the case is nothing short of fantastic.
From the thin crown to the domed crystal to shape of the hands, you can see 1950s design elements all over this watch. And yeah, the lug ridges are indeed gone.



“Sheldrake wants me to invest in something called ‘computers’. Fat chance! The guy thinks he’s Buck Rogers. Jerk. This is 1957, not 2057. He’s gonna lose everything. I’ll stick with this Personal Jet-Pack outfit out of Pasadena. Now that’s the way of the future. Gonna be big. We'll all be flying to the office in ten years. You better believe it.”
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But it’s still a nice watch. The hands are slightly faceted so that they reflect the light back at you for easy daytime readability. I say ‘daytime’ because there’s no SuperLuminova on these hands at all. But then, it’s not meant to be that kind of watch. The second hand is very long. Goes almost right to the edge of the dial and has a slight downward curve to it at the tip. The counterweight has a nice spear shape to it.

And the applied logo on the dial? Almost worth the price of admission itself. Absolutely beautiful. Tissot should have kept this style instead of the bland upper-case TISSOT font that they use. Below this is the name VISODATE in no-nonsense upper-case script and at the six o’clock end, the word ‘automatic’. Very business-like and nicely done. Excuse the color in the photograph below. It’s not representative of what this watch dial looks like, but it does give you an idea of how clean the dial looks. Some folks would say ‘boring’ when they see a dial like this. I hear it said all the time about the Jaeger-Le Coultre Master Control, the first generation Omega AquaTerra and even the Rolex DateJust. I don’t think there is such a thing as a boring watch dial. It’s not up to a watch to be exciting or interesting. It’s up to the person wearing it.
Here’s a shot of the dial in natural light, which gives a clear representation of its true color. Love that applied logo.




About the day-date function;



 Some people aren’t fans of it on a watch that has such an old-school look. But I find a day-date watch invaluable on the day after a public holiday. You know what it’s like. You get a three-day weekend and you turn up to work on Tuesday, but it feels like a Thursday. Really handy when you have to go to work with a hang-over...so I’m told. And I’m a sucker for a red SUN on the date. This date wheel also has the option of a number next to each day of the week, much like many Seiko day-date watches.

As for the movement, this watch houses the ETA 2836-2 automatic calibre. Perhaps it’s considered bottom of the range by some, but it’s still an easy calibre for any competent watch-maker to work on. Time-keeping-wise, I haven’t checked it properly, but it seems to hover around -10 to -15 seconds per day. Not a disaster, AFAIC, because I could get it regulated to a tighter tolerance if it really bugs me. I’ll give it a proper time test some day. But accuracy is not why I bought this watch. It will be worn sparingly in rotation with my other watches. Strictly business.

Notice also the see-through crystal case-back? This is something that a lot of watch companies have been doing over the last eight years or so. Makes it easier to justify the money you've spent when you can see all the intricate parts it takes to make a mechanical wristwatch. Not even the shadow of a battery in this thing. It's a real watch.

 



One thing to note about the case-back- there are no screws securing it to the case and no jeweller’s tool recesses in it. This is a press-in case back, from what I can tell, and is probably the main reason for the 30m water-resistance of this watch. The closest this watch should come to water is the ice in your double scotch.

Probably the only real thing about this watch that I’m not a fan of is the folding clasp.




While I love the engraving, I would have preferred a simple pin buckle, so that I could lay the watch down flat like this when not in use;



But again, this is a minor gripe.
Despite the change in lug design, I have to say that the finish on the case is truly exceptional.




“Cary just finished filming with Hitchcock. After all I’ve done for him, this is what he gives me. An ashtray, for cryin’ out loud! Probably stole it, the cheap s.o.b!”
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I’m not sure if my photos can do it justice, but the highly polished finish really compliments and suits the watch. There are no brushed or matte surfaces on this case. As such, fingerprints will show up easier. Again, this doesn't bug me a great deal. What concerns me more is the risk of scratching the case. Sure, they can be polished out, but this watch looks so good when it’s new that I don’t want to wear it too often for fear of putting too many scratches into it through normal daily wear. You’d be surprised how easy it can be to damage your watch when working in a watch store.
The case shape, when viewed from the side, is interesting. It doesn’t have a straight up-and-down design to it, but instead slopes down at a slight outward angle.






As for the crown, here’s a close-up. Presented to you in glorious VistaVision! Notice the use of the same font for the ‘T’ as they used on my vintage Seastar Seven above? As an aspiring screenwriter, I love continuity.



 

*GRATUITOUS SHOT OF VISODATE WITH 1950s VINTAGE DRINKS TRAY*
Who needs a reason to include this one? Apologies for the lousy picture of the watch, by the way.



“The Bogarts came ‘round for a night-cap about 1 am. My God, Bogie can still put away Jack Daniel’s like nobody else I know. That cancer's got its work cut out for it. He ain’t goin’ down without a fight. And that Betty Bacall, wow, she’s a rock! Just the kinda’ gal Bogie’s gonna need in his corner to beat this thing.”
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I have to say this is a dressy watch.





But it actually works very well in less formal surroundings.




It's a great Everyman dress watch. Understated in design, short and to-the-point in its functionality.





Here’s another badly taken photo for atmosphere.




“The commies just launched some gizmo called ‘Spuntick’ or something like that. I heard it on the radio. They’re saying it’s just a satellite. Sure it is. We gotta put a guy on the moon. And quick. Show these Rooshians how it’s done.”
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CONCLUSION

The Tissot Visodate is a great watch for the money. Looked at closely, you begin to wonder why a similar watch like the TAG Heuer Carrera automatic sells for over three times as much. Either the TAG is greatly over-priced or the Tissot is an absolute steal.
The look of the watch can be compared to something like J-LC’s Master Control, which sells for ten times as much. However, Jaeger-LeCoultre is a watch manufacture which produces its own calibres that exceed COSC specifications and I don’t think that Tissot is trying to compete with them. The Jaeger is a thinner watch, for one thing. The only real similarity shared by the two watches is in their appearance. This is something that could have been said about many watch brands throughout the ‘50s and ‘60s.


In terms of looks and build quality, the Visodate is a lot of watch for the money. A quick look on the web shows that it’s a little cheaper to purchase than something like the Hamilton Jazzmaster or Viewmatic. I haven’t handled the Hamiltons, but based on photos, the build quality appears similar. The same can be said for Oris with their Artelier range. A very well made watch, but even the Artelier series sells for almost double the cost of the Visodate.
Usually, a brand may cut corners when it comes to bracelet build, sturdiness and quality. When a watch is on a leather strap, however, this is no longer an issue and the Visodate’s strap is calf-skin (or buffalo) with a crocodile pattern stamped into it. That suits me fine. This also helps to reduce the cost of this watch.


All in all, the Visodate represents a great value for money with a watch that is a faithful reproduction of the original design from the 1950s. The main concession to modern times (aside from the sapphire crystal and movement, perhaps) is the upgrade in size from what might have been 34mm-36mm to around 40mm with this modern version.
Make no mistake. This watch is no solid white gold Chronometer on a genuine alligator strap. It’s a nice, well-made, exceptionally well-priced dress watch designed in the spirit of a by-gone era.
If I could use some other analogy, I would say this watch is like a business suit.






It’s designed to help you look a little sharper than you may already look. It’s designed to look more expensive than it really is. And I personally think that it’s designed to be a great introduction to automatic watches if all you’ve ever worn is quartz. And this is something that the Tissot brand does exceptionally well. It introduces quality Swiss watchmaking to a broad audience at an affordable price.
That’s just my 2c...but I earned it selling watches.
Thanks for reading.

Man, I need a drink.




 




10 comments:

  1. Great review, I just bought one and agree on most points. I haven't been a tissot fan but this watch definitely stood out for me in terms of the classic understated look.

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  2. Your review sold me on this watch. I bought the same silver dial but will be replacing the strap with a black leather one.

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    1. As good as this watch looks on the brown strap, I have to say that it's probably better suited to a black one. Although, the brown does tend to mix things up a little. Enjoy the watch when you get it. It's an outstanding value for money.

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  3. Hello! I just wanted to let you know that this review is part of what convinced me to buy a Visodate. A local store ordered one for me to try on (they were very nice as I was buying my wife a gift there already). They were able to find me one with the "applied" lugs with a black dial. I tried it on and couldn't believe how much I liked it. I have no doubt that it will become my favorite watch since it looks good with almost any type of clothing.

    Best regards,

    Jack

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    1. It's a great watch, Jack. AND you got the nice lug model too. Even better. Enjoy it.

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    2. I forgot to ask you the other day - would you have an independent watchmaker clean the movement on your Visodate? Five years down the line, I would like to be responsible and get mine serviced. However, I like the idea of dropping it off at a shop where they will work on it there rather than sending it off in the mail to a service center. Hopefully, I won't need to take it in for warranty service!

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    3. The Visodate houses a standard ETA 2836 movement. Any watchmaker over the age of forty would be able to service it competently. Parts for this movement wouldn't be hard to get, either. The only reason it should have to go back to Tissot's authorised service centre would be if it required external parts such as new hands or dial, etc. Otherwise, a good watchmaker can easily service this watch.

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  4. Thank you very much for this review, and in general the posts on your blog. I really enjoyed the style of your blog and your interest in classic objects.

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  5. This watch caught my eye earlier and googling it brought me round to the Teeritz Agenda! I should have suspected as much.

    Excellent review. I trust it's held up well over the years?

    Do you have an opinion on these MVMT watches I keep seeing pop up in my twitter feed? I've been thinking of picking one up, as they're inexpensive and go with a couple of short-sleeves for which my Seiko is a poor fit. Nice variety of design, though reviews are split on their actual efficiency. I like the look of a couple of them, though.

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    1. Can't say that I've handled the MVMT watches, B Mc, but I've seen similar kinds of watches during my travels. I suppose you can't really go wrong for the price ($100 approx.), but I'm of the view that one should spend accordingly for a watch because the longer you own it, the more it becomes a part of your life and your experiences. Brands like MVMT are fine if you want a watch with a limited life expectancy, but whether or not you could get a new dial or hands for a particular model in ten years remains to be seen. That's probably my main bug about all of these new low-cost brands that have popped up in the past few years. The market is saturated, and a lot of these new brands, especially much of these Kickstarted brands, don't offer anything new that hasn't already been done better by more established brands. If you like the look of the MVMT, then go for it. But I wouldn't expect it to become a family heirloom. Good for the here and now, though.

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