Tissot Harnesses Heritage and Innovation for 2017

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As much as Basel is about debuting new watches, it’s just as important as a platform for brands to showcase new technological advances and highlight their heritage. Tissot exemplified that approach this year with their updated Ballade line and worn&wound’s inaugural “Most Amusing Watch Name Award” winner, the Tissot Heritage Banana Centenary Edition. While the Ballade breaks new ground in affordable movement technology, the Banana digs deep into Tissot’s archives to spotlight one of their very first-ever wristwatch designs.

Tissot Ballade Baselword - 9
Introducing the value-driven Tissot Ballade, a COSC-certified watch with a silicon balance spring for under $1,000.

First up, let’s take a closer look at the Banana. In order to do that, we need to go back a full century to pre-revolutionary imperial Russia. At some point in 1916, a wealthy Russian collector purchased a gold curved-case, rectangular Tissot, a popular model in Russia at the time. The following year, in August 1917, the collector had the watch shipped back to Tissot’s Le Locle factory for regular maintenance. Two months later, the Russian Revolution began, the Romanovs were killed, and the Soviet Union began to take power.Tissot Banana Baselword - 1

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As the Bolsheviks began to build their regime, one of the myriad rules they implemented was a restriction on the importation of gold watches, presumably as tools of the bourgeoisie. By the time the collector’s piece was ready to return, the country it had been shipped from had ceased to exist. The watch in question, nicknamed the “Banana” for its golden curved design, became a legend as the unclaimed piece sat in storage at Le Locle never to be returned.

Throughout the past century, that one unclaimed watch has been a wellspring of inspiration for Tissot, and this year they’ve returned to it yet again with the Heritage Banana Centenary Edition. This new interpretation promises to be a fun take on the classic at an easy, accessible price point. The case is suitably retro sized at only 27mm wide, and maintains the same tank-style proportions. The dramatic continuous downward curve of the case sides that earned the Banana moniker is present here, too, and allows the watch to wrap comfortably and easily around the wrist without relying on lugs.

Tissot Banana Baselword - 2
This profile photo shows why the watch is nicknamed Banana.

The dial is another example of smart pre-Art Deco design, with oversized, stylized numerals filling the distance between the case edges and small interior minutes track. The hands for the Heritage Banana Centenary Edition are ornate pears, in blued-effect for the white and gold-dial variants, rose gold PVD for the two rose gold models, and polished steel for the black-dialed steel case. Inside the Heritage Banana Centenary Edition is a simple ETA 901.001 quartz movement, but as this one doesn’t have a running seconds it’s at least spared the stuttering seconds hand. With the quartz movements come other unsurprising price-point features as well: both the yellow and rose gold variants are PVD plated. Overall, however, it’s a unique look into Tissot’s extensive and oft-overlooked brand history, and one that shows the brand’s design versatility.

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That said, Tissot’s truly big news for Basel came in the form of an update to their flagship Ballade line of dress watches. Through the manufacturing might of the Swatch Group, Tissot is offering the Ballade with a first for a watch under $1000–a silicon balance spring. Tissot Ballade Baselword - 1

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Silicon has been the material of choice for high-end manufacturers for several years now, and offers several major advantages over a traditional metallic spring. For example, silicon is far more wear resistant that iron alloys (obviously important in a part that can move several hundred million times a year), completely oxidation-proof, nonmagnetic, and resistant to a far wider range of temperatures. Tissot has added this new silicon spring assembly to their already impressive Powermatic 80 movement to achieve another impressive goal: a COSC certified chronometer at a three-figure price point.

Tissot Ballade Baselword - 7
There is a beautiful level of detailing on the dial of the Ballade.

Of course, the package surrounding that chronometer isn’t half bad either. The case is well proportioned at 39mm without the crown, and its soft rounding along the case sides adds some adds some unique personality to the basic beveled lug shape. The bezel is a standout element as well, finished with fine Clous de Paris knurling that plays with the light in unexpected ways. This knurled surface continues through the central area of the dial, adding some cohesion to the overall package while the outer sunburst ring leads to dynamic reflections from any angle. The dauphine hands and applied rectangular indices are a classic touch as well, although the use of Arabic numerals at 12 and six o’clock is a confusing touch. Tissot Ballade Baselword - 5Around back, the improved Powermatic 80 is on display through a sapphire case back and wears a newly decorated rotor for the occasion. This signed rotor, ornately etched with a sun and its rays, along with “Silicon Balance Spring” in bold capital letters. The waving ray pattern continues to the movement plates as well. The new Tissot Ballade Powermatic 80 is now available in four different colorways: stainless steel with white and black dials, as well as white dialed two-tone variants in both yellow and rose gold. With a starting price of $870, it’s clear Tissot has a new winner on their hands.


For more information, visit Tissot.

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Hailing from Redondo Beach, California, Sean’s passion for design and all things mechanical started at birth. Having grown up at race tracks, hot rod shops and car shows, he brings old-school motoring style and a lifestyle bent to his mostly vintage watch collection.
seanpaullorentzen
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  • rfortson

    Nice! I like that Ballade, nice movement features, beautiful look and a civilized size. Great price, also.

    I’d love to see that Banana with a manual wind movement one day.

  • chenpofu

    An update on Tissot but no mention of that new chronograph?

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