They say some things were just better back in the day. Classic cars, classic movies, pinball vs. PlayStation… Perhaps the same sentiment can apply to watches. It’s no secret that vintage-inspired lines are exploding among brands, from Longines’ Avigation BigEye to Blancpain’s Fifty Fathoms, and the right mix of retro styling with contemporary engineering can become an enthusiast’s dream. Tissot has its own Heritage collection that draws on over 165 years of watchmaking. We recently reviewed the Heritage Petite Seconde, a piece inspired by a 1943 Tissot classic, and now shift our attention to the Heritage Visodate Automatic, which harkens back to the 1950s when the brand celebrated its 100th anniversary (and something that was quite innovative back in the days).
Founded in 1853 in Le Locle, Switzerland, Tissot is a real veteran in the industry. With the first mass-produced pocket watch in the 1850s and first anti-magnetic watch in 1929 (among many firsts), the company is a true pioneer as well. The 1950s was an exciting decade for watches and Tissot released its own icon in 1953 with the Visodate. Celebrating its centenary, the Visodate was the first automatic watch to feature a date window that instantaneously changed at midnight. While in 1945, the Rolex Datejust was the first automatic watch with date complication in a window, the Crown only added this feature to its watch in 1955 (and also the cyclops). From 1945 to 1955, the Datejust had a gradual date change shortly before midnight, but not an instantaneous change.
The sleek design was innovative for the time and pulled double duty as a stylish dress watch and everyday workhorse. Tissot has always enjoyed a reputation for producing high-quality Swiss watches that are both affordable and forward-thinking, and the Visodate really encapsulated that ethos. The new model adds modern conveniences to the classic design, such as a sapphire crystal and updated day/date complication, but the vintage charm remains intact. The size has grown a bit to reflect more contemporary proportions, but would otherwise fit right in on a 1950s wrist. Although the new Visodate debuted almost a decade ago, it remains a very intriguing value proposition from a storied brand and overshadows microbrands vying for the same market. Let’s take a closer look.
CASE AND DESIGN
At just above USD 500, the TIssot Heritage Visodate is a true definition of “value proposition”
The 316L stainless steel case is 40mm in diameter and 11.6mm in height, but wears a bit smaller than those measurements suggest. It felt more like a 38mm piece, which I suspect many will appreciate as this leans toward the dressy side. With the exception of the underside of the lugs and narrow ring spanning the lower case side, everything is polished for a period-correct aesthetic. The lugs are somewhat long and slender, a common trait for Tissot’s Heritage watches, with a lug-to-lug length of 47mm. Ironically, I feel this contributes to its smaller (diameter) presence on the wrist. The crown is rather flat with the brand’s “T” logo embossed and doesn’t screw down, resulting in just 30 metres of water-resistance.
The caseback is a snap-on affair with a sapphire exhibition window, contributing to the lower water-resistance, but it’s worth the sacrifice as the entire case has a cool retro vibe. And let’s not forget that this is a dress watch (with a casual side), so it’s best to simply swap it with something sportier for a prolonged swim. A domed sapphire crystal replaces the original’s acrylic but doesn’t seem to have an anti-reflective coating. Coupled with the black dial, in particular, it could almost double as a mirror, but the polished silver hands and indices keep things satisfyingly legible.
DIAL AND HANDS
The black dial contrasts well with the polished silver hands and indices, all of which complement the polished case. There are a couple of dial options, including silver and a deep sunburst blue, but this black and silver palette is the most eye-catching in my opinion. As with the Heritage Petite Seconde, there’s no luminescence to be found, but that’s appropriate for both the style and era it evokes. Faceted indices are applied every five minutes with double indices at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock. The polished and faceted dauphine-style hands are simple and retro, and really catch the light to help offset the crystal’s penchant to reflect. The seconds hand has a nice spearhead counterweight. The applied logo under 12 o’clock is notable for being in the brand’s vintage script, which is characteristic of the Heritage line. The modern Tissot logo is a simpler sans serif.
The date at 3 o’clock has been updated to a day/date complication in a single window. The print is black on a white background with an optional red numeral next to the day and Sunday (Sun) is always printed in red. Perhaps it indicates a day of rest or warning of the work week ahead. A straightforward minute track spans the outer perimeter and the overall dial aesthetic has a bit of a Grand Seiko vibe to it.
Powering the Tissot Heritage Visodate is an ETA 2836-2 automatic. Tissot has been a subsidiary of the Swatch Group since 1983, which also owns ETA, making it easier for the brand to include the revered Swiss movements. It’s an excellent and almost surprising choice for such an affordable piece.
The calibre has 25 jewels, beats at 28,800vph (4Hz) with a 40-hour power reserve. Functions include central hours, minutes, hacking seconds and day/date complication. It also features a Novodiac shock-protection system. Seen from the exhibition caseback, the movement is relatively unadorned but includes a custom golden rotor with Côtes de Genève.
The 20mm black leather strap is lightly padded with an alligator pattern, fitting the overall theme of the watch well. It features a stainless steel butterfly clasp, which I’m not a fan of, although I’m admittedly in the minority on this one. I have a smaller than average wrist and find that deployment clasps rarely sit at a good centred position, often closing at an uncomfortable angle (especially when I move my wrist).
Again, this is just a personal gripe and both the strap and clasp are well made and otherwise comfortable. The majority out there should be happy with it, but I would swap it for something comparable with a pin buckle. The Heritage Petite Seconde’s butterfly clasp was an exception and fit very comfortably, so this isn’t a hard and fast rule.
Tissot’s Heritage collection is full of intriguing throwbacks to specific watches, highlighting what made them special in their era. The Heritage Petite Seconde was inspired by a piece from 1943 and drew a little controversy with an anti-magnetic designation on preproduction models (the watch didn’t meet modern-day standards), but the faux pas was nothing more than the brand’s desire to keep the dial faithful to the original.
The Heritage Visodate Automatic celebrates the first automatic watch to integrate an instantaneous date complication in 1953. This one is free of controversy and offers an exceptional value proposition for such a refined watch with an ETA automatic and day/date complication. It perfectly represents the brand as an affordable Swiss option with no cut corners or glaring flaws. The crystal is more reflective than I’d like, although black dials can always make that tricky, and the lugs are a bit on the long side, but that’s more of a nitpick and not indicative of quality. If you’re looking for an affordable dress watch that can also hang with a t-shirt and jeans, one from a storied brand with a solid Swiss movement, the Heritage Visodate Automatic is an easy choice.
PRICE AND AVAILABILITY
The Tissot Heritage Visodate Automatic retails for CHF 525 or USD 650 and comes with a two-year international warranty. This actually undercuts many comparable microbrand offerings. For more information, www.tissotwatches.com.