Tissot might be coming up for its 170th birthday next year, but it has always known how to keep pace with the times. As one of the first brands to court the exciting world of car racing in the late 1950s, Tissot and sporty chronographs have become natural allies. One of the brand’s earliest watches inspired by the race track was the PR 516 of 1965; a novel steel sports watch with a perforated steel bracelet to simulate the holes found on the steering wheels of race cars. Earlier this year, Tissot revamped its PRS 516 Automatic Chronograph but didn’t go down the vintage path. In a departure from the brand’s Heritage collection with compelling remakes of vintage models, the PRS 516 is a thoroughly contemporary chronograph with a bold attitude, plenty of motorsport details and an aggressive price. Let’s take a look at the black and blue versions of the PRS 516 Chronographs launched in March 2022 with a beefed-up Valjoux movement.
The brand’s first association with motorsports dates to 1958, when Swiss driver Harry Zweifel sent Tissot a signed photograph of himself behind the wheel of a sports car and the message: “My Tissot is by my side at every race”. In 1965, Tissot launched the Tissot PR 516, a racing-inspired steel watch with holes in the bracelet to evoke the holes of the steering wheel of sports cars. With its suspended movement and lateral protection against axial and lateral shocks, the PR in the name stood for Particularly Resistant. Rally pilot Henry Bradley was so fond of his Tissot PR 516 that he wrote the name of the watch on his Ferrari.
Sporty Tool Watch
The latest PRS 516, which now stands for Precise, Robust and Sporty, comes through on all its promises. Let’s start with its robust case made of 316L stainless steel with a diameter of 45mm and a thickness of 16.3mm. Yes, it’s a whopper of a watch, and despite the short lugs, it has a commanding presence on the wrist, as you can appreciate in the photographs taken on Brice’s 16.5cm wrist. Combined with the stainless steel bracelet option, you can really feel the heft of this watch (the watch weighs 140g on a leather strap and 219g on the steel bracelet). For many, a heavy watch is synonymous with sturdiness and resilience, and the PRS 516 comes across as a strong, sporty chronograph with a cool tool watch vibe.
The two piston-style pushers flanking the crown are perhaps the only retro element, a contrast to the sleek modern black ceramic bezel with its engraved tachymeter scale filled with white lacquer. Unlike some ceramic bezels that are polished to a high gloss, the ceramic is brushed for a sportier matte effect. Ceramic is ideally suited to the external parts of a watch that are exposed to scratches and impacts and will never oxidise over time. The surface of the lugs and case flanks are also brushed with a sharp polished bevel running across the entire case middle that features a red ring separating it from the ceramic bezel. Given the 100m water-resistance of the case, it’s odd that the large knurled crown is not screwed-in. A domed scratch-resistant sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating protects the dial, and the caseback offers a view of the movement.
Black or Blue Dials
Compared to the earlier (2015) version of the PRS 516, the dial has changed quite radically and looks more technical and contemporary. Available in sunray-brushed black or blue with black sub-dials, the dial now has large Arabic numerals for the hours and a highly legible white railway minute/seconds track for precision chronograph readings with the sporty red central chronograph hands and its T-shaped counterweight. All the chronograph indications are picked out in racing red, making them easy to consult and adding a cool motorsport touch.
The two slightly recessed sub-dials – small seconds at 9 o’clock and 30-min counter at 3 o’clock – have black interiors and sharp white markings and are identified with the words Seconds and Minutes. The central hour and minute hands, as well as the Arabic numerals and four arrows placed at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock, are treated with Super-LumiNova. Although it always provokes controversy, the date window on this PRS 516 has been discreetly integrated at 6 o’clock with a black background and white numerals.
Another interesting departure from the earlier PRS 516 Chronograph and the original 1965 model is the new rally strap accompanying the blue dial chronograph. Instead of the large perforations found on the 1965 bracelet and the leather strap of the 2015 models, the latest PRS 516 is presented on a more discreet rally strap with smaller perforations, a design choice probably made to downplay the vintage card. The black dial PRS 516 Chronograph comes on a stainless steel bracelet and, like the leather strap, is fitted with an interchangeable quick-release system.
A chequered pattern, evoking the black and white flag used to indicate that the race is over, is engraved on the caseback with its see-through window on the movement. Powering the chronograph is the ETA A05.H31 based on the older Valjoux 7753 and seen in other Tissot models like the Heritage 1973 Chronograph and other Swatch Group brands like Rado and Mido. The chronograph is activated by a cam instead of a column wheel, which would considerably increase the watch’s price. If you’re interested in learning how Tissot improved the iconic Valjoux 7750 chronograph movement, Xavier’s technical article explains it.
The movement has 27 jewels, beats at 28,800vph (4Hz), and an upgraded and beefy 60-hour power reserve. Functions include central hours, minutes and chronograph seconds, 30-minute counter, small seconds and date. The movement is industrially finished with perlage and features a customised openworked rotor designed to look like the steering wheel of a vintage sports car.
The latest Tissot PRS 516 Chronographs deliver what they promise: precision, robustness and sportiness. By minimising the vintage card, they position themselves as contemporary styled chronographs with an injection of race car sportiness thanks to the vibrant red accents and ceramic tachymeter scale on the bezel. They are legible, easy to operate, resilient and come with a powerful tank of 60 hours. And best of all, they are genuine value propositions.
The Tissot PRS 516 with a blue dial, ref. T131.627.16.042.00 is delivered with a grey leather rally-style strap and retails for EUR 1,925. The model with a stainless steel bracelet, ref. T131.627.11.052.00, retails for EUR 1,995. Please consult the official Tissot website in your location to obtain updated prices in your currency.
For more information, please visit TissotWatches.com