Sometimes a watch is defined as much by what it doesn’t have as what it does. Omission, simplification, or replacement of features can make or break a timepiece, and rarely have I seen a better example of this than the Tissot PRS 516 Triple Seconds. If you had told me that there was a modern, automatic sport watch with a ceramic bezel and obvious automotive inspiration, I would have told you it had to be a chronograph. Make no mistake, however, a chronograph complication would have messed with everything that makes this watch special. As it is, the Triple Seconds is a fun, handsome weekender with an unusual twist and impressive features for $1,050. Let’s take a closer look.
Tissot PRS 516 Triple Seconds Review
The case of the Tissot PRS 516 Triple Seconds is pure modern sports watch, with slab case sides and downturned lugs featuring a sharp undercut. The latter mitigates the considerable 50.8mm length, so the watch wears smaller than the figures suggest. The undercut also adds to the personality of the side profile.
From the top down, the case is dominated by the black ceramic bezel. A ceramic bezel on a $1000 watch is impressive enough, but Tissot takes it several steps further with engraved numerals and a contrasting red under layer that really pops when observed from an angle. For as much blatant racing inspiration as the PRS 516 Triple Seconds has, however, there’s an easy-to-miss detail that puts this bezel over the top. Look closely as it plays in the light and it comes into view—the uniquely patterned brushing on the top surface of the bezel, which is similar to the pattern found on a carbon ceramic brake rotor. This is a master class in automotive inspired design. It’s not goofy or cartoonish, but a seamless natural addition to an already attractive watch that now offers something extra for those in the know.
Turning our attention to the case back, there’s a display window with the trademark PRS 516 steering wheel front and center, suspended above the 2825-2 power plant. The rotor is impressively decorated, with a Tissot signature, diagonal brushing, and Côtes de Genève. Unfortunately, that PRS 516 wheel obscures the rotor to the degree that the signature can never be fully read, but that’s a minor gripe. The rest of the movement, though lacking in decoration, is still handsome enough, and overall the view is impressive.
One final benefit of the case back is its low profile—the watch doesn’t dig into the wrist, and makes this solidly sized modern sport watch extremely comfortable to wear. Likewise, the signed pillbox crown is perfectly unobtrusive.
While the case of the PRS 516 Triple Seconds is admirable enough, the dial is absolutely where this watch comes into its own. The watch community loves to extol the virtues of minimalism, but there’s definitely something to be said about a busy, yet balanced, design. The PRS 516 Triple Seconds is a textbook example of this.
The first thing that jumps out, of course, are the three cutaways/sub-seconds dials that give this watch its name. Each sub-dial has a 20-second sweep, and as the red seconds hand disappears out of one cutout it appears in the next. It’s not exactly practical, but it is a ton of fun, and it gives a tachometer sweep effect that adds to the watch’s automotive chops. The only other watch that I can think of that is like this is the TAG Heuer Grand Carrera. The cutouts also divide the main dial into three spokes, finished with a striking effect that’s halfway between Côtes de Genève and woven carbon fiber.
Even more striking is that even with this much going on, the dial remains relatively balanced. Dial text is restrained here, with the “Tissot 1853” script at 12 weighted against the “Automatic” script at six and the markings at four and eight. The date window at four is mirrored by a PRS 516 emblem at eight, even nearly matching in cutout depth. These are seemingly small additions, but they go a long way toward visual harmony.
The handset is a squared-off duo of blunted rectangles. The hands emerge from the center of the dial as narrow polished sticks, before abruptly jutting wider at a 90-degree angle that subtly forms the Tissot “T.” It’s a bit of clever branding on Tissot’s part, and not something that registers right away.
A steep, white chapter ring flanks the outer edge of the dial, breaking up the flow of black and adding some dramatic contrast. The applied hour indices are polished lume-filled rectangles, and when viewed from overhead are nothing special. Like so much about this watch, they only reveal their true depth when viewed from a different perspective. When seen from an angle, one can see that the indices are only half attached to the chapter ring, and hang out and free over the dial like tiny diving boards over a black pool. It’s an impressive effect that further adds to the dimensionality of the dial. The lume here is serviceable, but it won’t be challenging Seiko divers anytime soon.
With a design as unique as the PRS 516 Triple Seconds, you’d expect something equally unique inside the case, right? Well, there is and there isn’t. At the heart of the PRS 516 Triple Seconds is a modified ETA 2825-2, a movement that itself is a small-seconds variant on the ubiquitous 2824. The 2824 is still the main workhorse of the watch industry, and it provides a solid reliable base on which to build. To create the triple seconds complication, Tissot removed the 2825’s small seconds module and replaced it with a custom unit unique to this watch. It’s nice to see bigger brands offer something a little more at a price point that often skimps on some of the finer details.
Straps and Wearability
The PRS 516 Triple Seconds offers one strap choice, and luckily it’s a great one–a black leather big-hole rally strap. It’s soft, thickly padded and versatile enough to work with a variety of outfits while still playing up the watch’s sporty, racing side. The real kicker here, however, is the butterfly deployant. Lightweight, polished, and deeply engraved with the Tissot “Square T” emblem, it’s a complete joy to use and adds to the luxurious feel of the strap.
In terms of wearability, it’s certainly got wrist presence at 42 x 50.8mm, but the sharply downturned and undercut lugs along with the nearly flat caseback make it easy and comfortable to wear for those with smaller wrists. It never felt oversized on my 6.75-inch wrist, instead giving off a modern, masculine vibe. That said, I couldn’t go much bigger than this without veering into ridiculous territory. Naturally, this is a more casual watch, a perfect weekender for the backyard or the bar, but in the right circumstances it could push to light blazer duty. Just please don’t try to wear it with a suit.
I mentioned in the introduction that the Tissot PRS 516 Triple Seconds is defined as much by what it doesn’t have as by what it does, and I stand by that statement. If a sporty, racing-inspired casual watch like this were made under any other circumstances, it’d almost certainly be a chronograph; in fact, Tissot makes several: the PRS 516 Bi-Compax Chronograph, the PRC 200, and the PRS 516 Quartz Chronograph. All of these are fine watches and all fill very much the same niche as the PRS 516 Triple Seconds, but none of them are nearly as special. The dial cutouts, the sweeping tachometer seconds, the stunning trilateral symmetry–all of that would be lost if a chronograph were shoehorned in here. As it sits, this is an incredibly fun watch, and a perfect companion for these long, blazing SoCal summer days. Between the finish, material quality, and unique features, it’s a whole lot of watch for $1,050, and one I hope Tissot keeps on the roster for a long time to come.