It’s been a trend as of late with some of the larger brands that have been around for a while to bring back a classic model from their archives. Whether as a special edition or as a retro mainstay of their line, these reissues stand out amongst modern watches, often surpassing them in style. Tissot continues this trend with a complex watch that is a dazzling today as it must have been when it was first released; the Heritage Navigator 160th Anniversary.
The story of the Tissot Heritage Navigator 160 starts in 1953 with Tissot’s 100th anniversary. The 1950’s marked the dawn of commercial air travel. It was trendy, sexy and luxurious, so it is of no surprise that watch brands began designing for the jet-set. Famously, you have watches like the Rolex GMT-Master, with its iconic “Pepsi” blue and red bezel as well as GMT function for tracking multiple time zones. For their centenary Tissot created a very innovative World Time watch, which could be used to tell the time, at a glance, for major cities around the world, as well as jump forward time zones with the press of a button. With commercial and business travel becoming more widely available, one can see how the World Time watch took the GMT concept to next level.
For their 160th anniversary, Tissot recreated it as a modern watch. They kept much of what made the original design interesting and charming, but increased the size dramatically from 36mm to 43mm, and used modern components through out. The design of the watch mixes function and style, with a busy, but elegant dial that was as unique in the 50’s as it is now, in fact, it’s perhaps more now. The watch still functions the same way, giving you accurate time worldwide at a glance, but now features a Chronometer grade ETA 2893-3 movement, which replaces a GMT hand with the world time disk. As such, the pusher at 2 that would advance the disk is gone, and instead one uses the crown.
Fine vintage examples of the World Timer from the 1950’s easily go for 4k, which isn’t bad for what it is. World Timer’s are uncommon to begin with, and ones from that era are especially rare. The new Heritage Navigator in steel will cost $1,650 and be available this fall, which while not inexpensive, is much less than the original and a good price for a COSC certified ETA 2893. And what you will find with the watch, apart from function, is that it really is unlike other watches you’ve seen or worn. It has a very distinct personality that is fun, elegant and a touch luxurious.
Case: St Steel
Movement: ETA 2893-3 COSC
Water Res.: 30M
Dimensions: 43 x 51mm
Thickness: 10 mm
Lug Width: 22 mm
Crown: 5.5 x 2 mm
The biggest, pun intended, difference between the original World Timer and the recreated Navigator is the sheer size of it. The difference between a 36mm watch and a 43mm watch is like the difference between a Smart car and an Escalade… they are worlds apart. And while this seems as though it is in response to general trends towards larger watches (which thankfully seems to be waning a bit) I believe the size increase was functional too. This is a very busy watch, and even at 43mm you can find yourself a bit overwhelmed by information. At 36mm, I imagine you would have needed a magnifying glass to read the inner disk.
So, the stainless steel case measures 43 x 51 x 10mm, which includes the gently domed sapphire crystal. The width of the case is tempered by its thinness, which prevents it from feeling or looking bulky in anyway. The watch is actually very flat, and plate like, which emphasize the all-business topside. The design is also very simple and faithful to that of the original watch, with a wide bezel and fat straight lugs as the main formal attractions. The crown at three is also fairly small, measuring 5.5 x 2mm, which keeps it in scale with the height of the case.
The case also has very simple finishing, with polished surfaces on the topside of the lugs and bezel, and vertical brushing on the side. The watch has an “all-dial” feeling despite having a wide bezel, as the non-rotating bezel is a functional part of the dial. As such, the lack of fancy finishing or case geometry is actually to the watch’s benefit. Anything ornate would create more visual interference, making the watch too busy for its own good. That being said, what is there is well done, every edge is very crisp and the polish is nice and bright.
The display case back is a bit more decorated, with an elegant scrip font and some filigrees inscribed around the aperture. The large sapphire window gives a great view of the 2893-3 movement inside, which is minimally decorated. The most standout visual element of the 2893-3 is the large golden rotor, which is decorated with Cotes De Genève and a bit of text. Oddly, this is the only place on the watch that indicates that it is a chronometer, or has been certified by COSC.
The dial of the Navigator displays a lot of information at one time, doing so in various levels. It’s actually a very clever design that utilizes every little bit of dial real estate to indicate something. It also really stays true to the original. As I had mentioned before, the dial really starts with the bezel, which contains your typical 12-hour index consisting of numerals for the even hours and triangles for the odd. The markers are all etched into the polished steel dial, and filled in black for contrast.
Stepping in, and down, you have a brushed silver ring with a 24-hour index of applied steel markers. Once again, the even hours are indicated with numerals and the odd with small triangles. The 12th hour is missing, however, to create a gap for a vintage Tissot logo. At the very edge of this ring are small black printed lines for the minutes. This is one of the little tricky things to read on the watch, as the minutes index has 60 markers, and the 24-hour index doesn’t divide evenly into that, so you end up having to ignore one index to read the other.