Tissot Introduces the Vintage Inspired Telemeter 1938 Chronograph

If you’re new to watches or your knowledge of Tissot comes primarily from the Instagram algorithms that we’re all locked into, you might be under the impression the brand exists primarily to sell variations on their ultra popular PRX watch. It’s interesting (and maybe a little frightening) to consider how quickly a single family of watches can completely overtake a brand’s identity. Tissot, of course, has a long watchmaking history and is much more than the PRX, and this release is a great reminder of the brand’s heritage and that there’s a world outside the integrated bracelet sports watch bubble. The new Telemeter 1938 might be a bit of a niche release, but it has a striking design. 

It’s a little strange that Tissot is highlighting the sporting nature of this watch in their press materials – the release includes an anecdote about timing a ski race in 1938 – when the name of the watch itself implies a very different use case. A telemeter is a scale often found on chronographs dating from the 1940s that is designed to measure the distance of an object from an individual observing it using the speed of sound as a reference. For example, you observe a lightning strike, start your chronograph, and when the thunder hits you stop it, check the reading on the telemeter scale, and you have a good idea of how far away the storm is. There’s a clear military application here as well (substitute lightning for artillery shell fire), which explains why telemeter scales were more frequently seen in the war years. 

Regardless of what Tissot wants to call the watch, or where they claim its inspiration is from, multi-scale chronographs are a very specific type of vintage watch that feel uniquely and deeply rooted to a particular narrow window of time. They’re just not made very much anymore, and it’s tough to imagine a multi-scale chronograph ever reading as “modern,” although I’m sure commenters might have some suggestions, and I’d love to see them. In any case, the Telemeter 1938, with its combination of tachymeter and telemeter scales snailing the dial, couldn’t look more like a watch from 1938 if it tried. 

I suppose there’s one area in which it could look a little more like a watch from 80 years ago: its size. The case measures 42mm in polished stainless steel. That’s a thoroughly contemporary size, and a bit anachronistic for a watch in this style, but it should at least aid in the legibility of those scales should you actually need to time a race, or escape artillery fire (let’s hope not, though). The Telemeter 1938 is available in two dial variants: silver with red and blue accents, and a black option with gilt accents. The layout is the same on each, with the telemeter scale around the perimeter and the tachymeter within the dial’s interior. There are plenty of vintage inspired details throughout the piece, including the general shape of the case (long, thin lugs) and narrow crown that frankly looks tough to operate compared to the larger “big crown” designs we frequently see on vintage sports and military style watches. 

The Telemeter 1938 runs on the Valjoux A05.231. This movement has architecture that’s largely similar to the Valjoux 7750, but adds a Nivachron balance spring and a power reserve that stretches to 68 hours. With its 7750 roots, this movement is surely just as bulletproof and ultra reliable as its predecessor, and continues a tradition of Tissot using 7750 derived movements in vintage inspired chronographs. 

The Telemeter 1938 is available now through Tissot. Both variants have a list price of $1,950. Tissot

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Zach is a native of New Hampshire, and he has been interested in watches since the age of 13, when he walked into Macy’s and bought a gaudy, quartz, two-tone Citizen chronograph with his hard earned Bar Mitzvah money. It was lost in a move years ago, but he continues to hunt for a similar piece on eBay. Zach loves a wide variety of watches, but leans toward classic designs and proportions that have stood the test of time. He is currently obsessed with Grand Seiko.