Delving into one’s archives to find inspiration for new models is common practice in the watchmaking world. It’s been done for years and will likely remain a go-to strategy in the future. And while simply regurgitating past designs might be boring to some, it can be extremely satisfying, when done right. In recent years Tissot has been quite successful in capturing the essence of historic watches and giving them a modern makeover. Just think of the immensely popular PRX collection, or the colourful Sideral for instance. A little over a year ago Tissot released the rather handsome Telemeter 1938. Now, the brand introduces smaller and simpler versions with the Heritage 1938 Chronometre, expanding the 1938 line into a full collection.
This new addition is available in three distinct styles, with either a time-only or a time-and-date configuration. We are taking a closer look at the two central seconds models specifically. The style is typical of the pre-WWII era of watchmaking, which remains popular to this day. Plenty of watches look at the 1930s and 1940s for inspiration, and so do these. There’s a hint of ‘Calatrava’ to both of them, which is very lovely.
The cases are nice and compact, at 39mm in diameter and 11.1mm in height. Although the design is fairly simple, the finishing is nice. The bezel and caseback are polished, while the side of the case and the lugs are brushed. The onion-style pull-out crown has a slim profile, a knurled edge for extra grip and a vintage Tissot ‘T’ logo on top of it. A modern sapphire crystal covers both the dial and the movement.
Two dials are presented in this time-only configuration. One has a matte salmon colour while the other has a slate grey tone, although Tissot lists it as black. Typical of the 1930s style of design, the dials look fairly simple but have some rather interesting details. The fine minute track, the raised indices and the vintage Tissot logo, for instance, radiate that beloved retro flair. The dial is also signed ‘Chronometre’ (albeit it is a touch on the large side), hinting at what is ticking away below it.
The indices and hands are of simple design too, but this is where the watches go in opposite directions. The slate grey dial has beige-coloured numerals and hands, for a lovely gilt look. The top surface of the hands and numerals on the salmon dial are blackened and provide a strong contrast. Whether it’s intentional or not, the exposed sides reveal a subtle hint of gold, which is a nice touch. And that’s why the matte salmon dial wins it for me.
You might expect the Powermatic 80 to once again make an appearance, but not this time. Tissot opted to use the ETA 2824-2 instead. Although this lacks the 80 power reserve and only provides 38 hours of autonomy, it is regulated within Chronometer specifications and COSC-certified. The traditional construction also fits well within the retro design of the watch so the choice makes at least some sense. The finishing is basic, but the gold-coloured rotor does add some pop.
The Tissot Heritage 1938 Chronometer comes on a very supple brown or grey leather strap fitted with a steel pin buckle. Conforming to Tissot’s standards, the price is extremely sensible, at just EUR 875.
And while we all lust after the fascinating complexity of a perpetual calendar, split-second chronograph or even a tourbillon, it’s dead-honest watches like these that are the hardest to nail. It’s incredibly challenging to balance the design of a time-only watch without putting in too many frills and details. Tissot has once again done an excellent job in creating great entry-level mechanical watches with tons of charm!
For more information, please visit TissotWatches.com.