Tissot, already well known for creating remarkable T-Touch timepieces, has recently become popular for sponsoring notable sports personalities and particularly those involved in racing, such as Danica Patrick. However, not only have they achieved tremendous success in pioneering the tactile watch technology, Tissot also has a history so rich it makes up its entire legacy. Founded in the middle of the 19th century and selling watches before the first World War Czarist Russia, Tissot took part in the Omega merger that established the Pre-Swatch Group SSIH.
The merger and the effects more than 5 decades later are what has made Tissot flourish as a successful watch brand and paved the way for it to become even more innovative through time.
In 1853, Chs Tissot & Fils was founded in Le Locle, in the Jura region of Switzerland, by local father and son Charles-Félicien Tissot and Charles-Émile Tissot. Similar to other Swiss watch makers at the time, Tissot started as an assembler of parts obtained from various manufacturers in the region. At that time, Tissot was able to produce about 1100 and 1200 watches within the Le Locle area.
In 1858, the younger Tissot, Charles-Émile, went to Russia and was given permission by the Czar to sell Tissot brand pocket watches across the Empire. Through 1860 and 1875, the brand produced spare parts and watch making tools, together with finished watches.
Already making waves in watchmaking, Tissot remarkably received a number of awards and prizes in a number of industrial exhibitions throughout the late 1800s. Some of them were Diploma of Honour in Zurich in 1888, the Grand Prix and Gold Metal in Antwerp in 1890, the Grand Prix in Paris in 1900 and First prize for Chronometers and for Marine Chronometers in the Neuchâtel Observatory Competition in 1907.
By the late 1880s, Charles-Émile’s son made a name for the firm. In 1890 and 1897, younger Tissots were born - Paul and Marie respectively, who became instrumental in managing the company. Paul worked side by side with his father, Charles, and looked after the brand's business affairs, while Marie took charge in managing the business on a daily basis.
By 1928, Tissot decided to make changes in their ébauche workshops. They were able to mass produce watches by shifting the ébauche workshops from a mere factory to a manufacturing company.
As time went by, ownership of the company changed hands from the older Tissots to their offspring, hence the changes in the company name were imminent. The company was named Charles-Émile Tissot & Fils in 1865; while it changed again to Chs. Tissot & Fils – SA in 1917.
Their newly established partnership with Omega in 1930, which brought the brand under the SSIH flagship, led them to change the name once again to Tissot Marché Suisse SA. The final name change came in 1982 when they formally did business under Tissot SA.
A year later, a merger between ASUAG and SSIH took place, leading it to be SMH (Société de Microélectronique et d’Horlogerie), under the direction of Nicholas Hayek.
Omega, through its directors in Bienne, Louis and Gustave Brandt, had established a partnership with Tissot in 1925 - the original partnership that made the Société Suisse pour l’Industrie Horlogère (SSIH) happen. Charles and Paul Tissot agreed to the partnership to ward the effects of the economic crisis of 1929. SSIH eventually merged with ASUAG (Allgemeine Schweizerische Uhrenindustrie AG ) 53 years later, paving the way to the emergence of the Swatch Group.
In the post-war era Tissot continued to thrive. Between 1945 and 1975, the company saw the advantages of the benefits and perquisites that were coming their way. Tissot became a major employer in the Le Locle region, and retirees take pride in being pensioners by Tissot.
Tissot introduced its first mass-produced pocket watch in 1853 and in the same year they released the first ever pocket watch that had two time zones.
In 1904, Tissot delivered a watch to Russian Czar Nicholas II.
In 1916, The Tissot "Banana" watch was released. An elongated, curving tank with graduated art deco numerals on the dial, it became popular in Russia. But with the events that led to overthrowing the Czar of Russia in 1917, shipping of anything to Russia was prohibited by its law; hence a single Banana watch returned to the Tissot factory in Le Locle for service never came back. An homage to the model was created eventually, the Tissot Heritage, which has become tremendously popular in modern-day Russia.
In 1919, the Art Deco era of jewellery and accessories were foreshadowed by the styling of a tonneau shaped Tissot Porto.
A revolutionary Tissot Antimagnétique was released in 1930, making it the first antimagnetic watch.
The Tissot Navigator was the first mass-produced 24-time-zome watch that came about in 1953.
In 1971, the first plastic mechanical watch in the world was released by Tissot: the Tissot Astrolon, or also popularly known as IDEA 2001.
Two of the most iconic Tissot watches were released in 1985 and 1986. Made of Granite from the Alps, the Rock Watch came first, followed a year later by an analogue-and-digital-display-in-one, Two Timer.
Tissot had an inclination to a certain theme in the late 1980s. Coming after the iconic fame of the Rock Watch, they released the Pearl Watch in 1987 and the Wood Watch in 1988.
In 1974, to expand the household name, Tissot started sponsoring racing cars. The Tissot logo was seen on cars in the Ron Howard film, Rush, following the lives of Formula 1 racers James Hunt and Nikki Lauda as the events took place in the late 1970s.
To make one further step ahead of their game, Tissot started sponsoring other sports events like cycling and ice hockey in the 1990s.
To date, Tissot has been the official timekeeper of the International Fencing Federation, the International Basketball Federation, the FIM Superbike Championship, NASCAR, MotoGP, the Ice Hockey World Championship and the International Cycling Union. In September 2014, the brand became the Official Timekeeper of the 17th Asian Games.
Tissot Ambassadors (from left to right) - Thomas Lüthi, Stefan Bradl, Danica Patrick, Huan Xiaoming, Deepika Padukone, Nicky Hayden, and Tony Parker
Tissot's popularity across the world has become even more remarkable since they started taking in popular sports (racing) personalities to be their brand ambassadors. Danica Patrick, for instance, has been campaigning for Tissot for several years now. Their tandem seems to be invincible, making waves not only in the world of sports, but also in promoting time precision that Tissot has always been about. To date, Tissot ambassadors include MotoGP racers Nicky Hayden, Thomas Lüthi, Stephan Bradl and Bradley Smith. In basketball and hockey, Tissot is represented by legendary names like Tony Parker and Steven Stamkos.
Of course, the film industry will not be overlooked and Tissot made actors Huan Xiaoming and Deepika Padukone their ambassadors, too. This goes to show that Tissot watches are not stereotyped to be just sporty watches, but also timepieces that speak of versatility.
Because Tissot is known to pioneer a trend in watchmaking technology, they have lived up to their name. In 1999, they became the first to manufacture and release a tactile-faced watch in the T-Touch model. It is a six-function timepiece that combines an analogue and digital display in a tactile screen. At present, the T-Touch series has become popular with the new generation of watch collectors and the new 2014 T-Touch Expert Solar model is no exception.
Since pioneering the T-Touch line, Tissot has created a wide range of other tactile-faced models. We have seen the emergence of the Sailing Touch, Sea-Touch and T-Touch Expert, among others.
Having celebrated its 160th year in the business at Baselworld 2013, Tissot made another remarkable launch, the Tissot Heritage Navigator. Inspired by the 100th anniversary Navigator model in 1953, the Heritage Navigator was made to keep track of time in 24 different cities across the globe.
Through the decades, Tissot has never failed to expand its empire, and is now visible in five continents. Today, the brand is known to have been distributing exquisite watches in over 160 countries around the world.
Tissot consistently shows watch aficionados a wide range of watch models that meet every functional need and taste, while never compromising excellent quality. This kind of excellence and precision never went unnoticed when it bagged the grand prize in the 2011 Concours International de Chronométrie in the “Entreprise - Classique” category.