Affordable Proposition – Hands-on Review of the new Tissot PRS 516 Automatic Chronograph (live pics & price)

calendar | ic_dehaze_black_24px By Brice Goulard | ic_query_builder_black_24px 5 minute read

When it comes to owning a cool watch, easily recognizable and that will create enthusiasm for sure, a chronograph is always on the top of our buying guide. Chronographs are cool, they look usually sporty and more technical than the usual watch and they are useful (at least, that’s what owners are trying to make you think). However, a chronograph is quite a complicated feature compared to a classical 3-hand watch, especially when it comes to mechanical timepieces – but we have a solution, an affordable chronograph with a nice racing-car inspiration and a strong & reliable mechanical content. Here is the 2015 Edition of the Tissot PRS 516 Automatic Chronograph.

Choosing a chronograph is like buying a 4-door sedan car (by the way, we did an interesting buying guide to help you to choose a chronograph). There are dozens of them available on the market, starting from 100 Euros quartz watches to top-range mechanical ones like the De Bethune DB29 MaxiChrono (priced over 150.000 Euros) – and we’re not even talking about those with added complications (QP, split-second or tourbillon). Of course, there are limitations to the choice of the right watch and the first usually is your budget. If you’re like us at Monochrome-Watches, you’ll certainly go for a mechanical watch, thus requiring deeper pockets. The first choices you’ll probably think about should be an Omega Speedmaster or a Tudor Heritage Chrono but both are priced over 3.500 Euros. Some brands are however able to offer an alternative for a portion of the price asked by the aforementioned big names. The aura and pedigree is certainly not in the same league, but be sure that the Tissot PRS 516 Automatic Chronograph is not void of interest, especially when you know that it is priced at 1.850 Euros.

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How this Tissot PRS 516 can be an honest value proposition without being a poorly finished watch – remember that Tissot is Swatch Group’s middle range, But we’re still talking about a Swiss made products. For sure, don’t expect to see hand finishing however, whether it’s the dial, the hands, the case or the strap, this watch is full of details and designed to offer a pleasant wearing experience. This Tissot PRS 516 Automatic Chronograph even comes with slightly exotic materials such a ceramic bezel that is engraved with a tachymeter scale and circular-brushed. The case itself is made of satined stainless steel – there’s even a nice polished bevel that runs from one lug to another on each side of the case – and measure a (too) large 45mm. Here is maybe the main default of this watch. 45mm can be problematic not only design-wise but also in terms of comfort – the watch will potentially not be balanced on smaller wrists.

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So, the case doesn’t look or feel cheap. What about the dial? Same remarks as previously: the design is cool and full of details that create a nice looking, sporty, race-oriented chronograph. The main plate of the dial shows a Geneva Stripes pattern. The indexes are floating over the dial, as attached to the inner flange – that also shows the minute – hour – second scale. The two sub-counters – so-called bi-compax layout – are well integrated and highly legible. The hands are of the same vein: well designed, large and filled with luminova for a good readability and detailed enough not to be regarded as cheap.

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This dial shows the necessary features, meaning a small second at 9, a 30-minute counter at 3 and a date that is well integrated at 6 (indication that can be corrected via a pusher in the caseband). The dial is not overloaded with inscriptions and feels balanced, legible and well made. A hollowed rally strap complements this design. The red stitching is giving echo to the several red accents that can be found on the Tissot PRS 516 Automatic Chronograph – on the chronograph hands and on the pushers.

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Ok, let’s summarize. The dial is pleasant and qualitative, so are the case, crown, pushers or bezel. The strap is matching the design of the watch and feels comfortable and well finished. From all the visual aspects, this watch doesn’t feel like being cheap. Where is the magic trick? On the movement maybe… Not even. The Tissot PRS 516 Automatic Chronograph comes with the new ETA A05.H31, an evolution of the Valjoux 7750. The chronograph is actuated by a cam (no column wheel here. Such a feature would lead to a totally different price). It measure 30mm just like the old Valjoux and looks pretty similar when seen thought the sapphire caseback. The main difference comes when looking at the specification sheet, as this new calibre features 2 extra jewels but mainly boasts a longer power reserve (60 hours vs. 42 hours for a 7750). Visually, this ETA movement is not even unpleasant to look at. Of course its finish is industrial (you can’t have hand-finishes in such a price range) but it features circular graining on the bridges and main plate and a skeletonized rotor, exclusive to this Tissot PRS 516 Automatic Chronograph.

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It’s impressive to see such features at this price. Many watches featuring a simple Valjoux 7750 are priced over 5.000 Euros (and possibly not really better finished)? The issue of the diameter apart, this 2015 edition of the Tissot PRS 516 Automatic Chronograph is really an interesting value proposition, giving a lot to its owner for a reasonable price. Its look is pretty singular and inspired, the movement overpasses the majority of the chronograph on the market (at least those equipped with a 7750, meaning the majority of them) and the quality of the construction is more than decent and can be compared to watches priced at 3.000 Euros to 4.000 Euros. More details on Tissot.ch.

Pros

  • An inspired look
  • A qualitative constriction that can compete with watches from the upper range
  • A solid movement that has a strong power reserve
  • Plenty of nice details (the floating indexes, the brushed ceramic bezel, the pushers circled in red)

Cons

  • The diameter. 42mm to 43mm would have been more comfortable on the wrist and more discreet
  • The thickness that is due to the movement itself (an issue shared by all the watches equipped with a 7750 or one of its evolutions)
  • The buckle that feels less qualitative than the rest

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