Tissot Watches : History, Sports - The Ultimate Guide
Swiss watchmaking advances
Germany and Holland led the way in watchmaking in the 17th century with inventions such as the fusee chain and balance spring, respectively. The 18th-century saw the domination of English watchmakers, whose technical innovations are still found in today’s mechanical movements.
Then Switzerland came to the fore. Swiss master watchmaker Abraham-Louis Breguet was an inventor extraordinaire, whose achievements included the tourbillon, a rotating device to counteract the effects of gravity on a pocket watch; the pare-chute, a shock-absorbing mechanism; and the flat balance-spring with one or two terminal coils, which is known as the ‘Breguet overcoil’. Peasants and farmers in Switzerland occupied their winter months by making watch components for watchmaking companies firms based in Geneva, which allowed Switzerland’s watchmaking industry to grow enormously in the 19th century.
But Switzerland in the mid-19th century was not the rich country that it is today, and was a country in social and economic flux. In the 19th century, poverty and a lack of job opportunities meant that many Swiss sought their fortunes elsewhere, particularly in North and South America. Watchmaking would prove to be a pivotal industry during that time in establishing economic stability and eventual prosperity in Switzerland.
The Jura: Heart of Swiss Watchmaking
The Jura (Celtic for ‘forest) is a rolling mountain range in the northwest of Switzerland and occupies about one-eighth of the country.
For more than a century, 90% of Swiss watch production has been concentrated in the Jura Arc. This region has become known as ‘Watch Valley – the Land of Precision’. The approximately 200km-long Watchmaking Route heritage trail in this region was launched in the early 2000s. The 38 stages of the route form a type of horological pilgrimage that takes in the most famous watch manufacturers and specialised museums, and where unique masterpieces are on display.
The birth and growth of Tissot
On July 1st, 1853, Charles-Félicien Tissot, a fitter of gold cases, founded Ch. Félicien Tissot & Fils in Le Locle in the Jura, with his son Charles-Emile Tissot, a watchmaker. Tissot began life as a comptoir d’établissage, which consisted of a network of independent workers who were highly specialised and who produced the different watch parts, to then be further assembled and sold at the comptoir. Tissot’s timepieces focus was on pocket watches, luxurious pendant watches or complication watches, at that time mainly destined mainly for the United States market. In 1858, the founding son, Charles Emile Tissot, left Switzerland for Russia and successfully sold Tissot ‘Savonnette' pocket watches across the huge and influential Russian empire, starting off by selling hunter watches to the officers guarding the Tsar’s palace.
Tissot went on to gain a highly coveted Grand Prix award in 1900 in Paris, the same year in which the city would host the 2nd Olympic Games. At the same time, Tissot pioneered a long history of collaboration with its ambassadors, with one of its wristwatches being worn by the iconic actress Sarah Bernhardt, the most successful stage actress of her day. At the end of 1917, the limited company Chs. Tissot & Fils SA was created and became a manufacturer with the introduction of movement-blanks production. Within a few years, Tissot was able to create a formidable presence in the worldwide horological market.
Mergers and the turbulent 20th century
In 1930, Tissot and Omega merged to form the first Swiss watchmaking association, the SSIH (Société Suisse pour l’Industrie Horlogère). Watches from the Tissot-Omega era are highly sought after by the collectors. Quartz, the 20th century’s greatest revolution in the watch industry, passed Switzerland by. Although the first quartz watch was developed at the Centre Electronique Horloger (CEH – Centre for Electronic Watches) in Neuchâtel in 1967, Swiss watchmakers did not capitalize on this innovation. By the 1970s the Swiss watchmaking industry was in serious crisis, arising from the advent of highly successful quartz watches, dominated by the Japanese.
The Swiss watch industry would be saved when the watch was reborn as a fashion accessory - enter the Swatch. This analogue quartz watch, which combined high quality and exciting designs with a low price, was first released in 1983 and became a pop culture sensation and enormous global success in the 1980s. There is no doubt that the Swatch saved the Swiss watchmaking industry from its slump and helped boost it. Thirty years after the ‘crisis’ in the Swiss watch industry, it has now once again become one of the most prosperous economic sectors in Switzerland, and once more synonymous with Swiss quality and prestige.
In 1983, Nicolas G. Hayek of Swatch, and who had been mandated to audit the Swiss watchmaking sector, recommended the merger of the main groups of watchmakers at the time: the SSIH (mainly Tissot and Omega) and ASUAG (a holding of the manufacturers of movement and component blanks). The group, which was then named SMH (Swiss Corporation for Microelectronics and Watchmaking Industries Ltd.), would become The Swatch Group in 1998, of which Tissot has been a part to this day. The Swatch Group is today the world's largest watch producer and distributor.
“Tissot - more than a watch.”
Heritage, Innovation & Global Prestige
Tissot is defined by its well-known slogan - 'Innovators by Tradition'. The company has proudly had its home in the town of Le Locle in the Neuchâtel area of the Jura Mountains since 1853, with a highly visible presence in 160 countries, including many luxurious Tissot boutiques and point of sales in high-end department and jewellery stores worldwide. Tissot's distribution spread is unmatched by any other Swiss watch company.
Tissot’s enviable and groundbreaking innovation has enabled the development of high-tech products, special materials and advanced functionality. It has a broader, more versatile range of high-quality timepieces at an attractive price than any other Swiss watch brand, Tissot is also committed to making excellence that is affordable and accessible.
We have such a strong creative streak because we are a true multi-specialist.”François Thiébaud (President of Tissot)
It's the Swissness at the very heart of Tissot that makes the brand such a distinguished one. The + in the Tissot logo is the same as that on the Swiss flag, symbolising the quality and the reliability that Tissot has proudly demonstrated since 1853. That is why this innovative brand remains in its home in Le Locle in the Swiss Jura Mountains, keeping its Swiss identity at its very core.
Tissot the watchmaker
Tissot’s watches are offered in several technical variations, so there are many models with both automatic as well as with quartz movement, and occasionally also with solar cells as the power source. Most models are also offered in various designs, such as optionally with a case in stainless steel, gold, titanium, platinum or combinations of several metals (bicoloured), with differently designed dials and various types of bracelets.
Today the Tissot collection is divided into a total of seven product ranges:
Multifunction tactical watches, where functions such as chronograph, altimeter, compass, alarm, thermometer, barometer, date and time can be accessed by touching the sensor-equipped sapphire watch glass. Collections include T-Touch Export Solar and T-Touch Lady Solar.
The T-Sport range from Tissot includes their sporting and divers watches. Within the range are famous and loved collections such as the PRS 516, V8, Seastar 1000, T-Race and many more. The collection is mainly men’s watches, but there are also a few sporty ladies’ models.
The T-Lady range is where we will find some of Tissot’s most iconic ladies watches. Such as the Flamingo, Lovely, Generosi-T and Cera collections. Some models are even equipped with real diamonds and mother of pearl dials.
The T-Classic range includes mostly classical, discreet and timeless designs. It is the home for the Luxery, Bridgeport, Couturier and Tradition collections. But also models such as the highly praised T-Complication Squelette is included in this rage, which makes it very versatile.
The Heritage range from Tissot, includes watches from Tissot’s earlier days in remade editions. First launched on the occasion of the 150-year company anniversary in 2003. We will today both find the Heritage Navigator and one of the absolute bestselling automatics from the Swiss watchmaker. The heritage Visodate.
Staying true to its heritage. Tissot still makes pocket watches, like when they started out in 1853. They are not only proof of the fine craftsmanship of the brand but also of its expertise. The collections include the Lepine, Savonnette and the very special Musical Seasons pocket watches, that can play music via mechanical parts.
The T-Gold range include all gold watches from Tissot. It is a vast collection the only grows each year. Some of the latest and most elegant timepieces in this range is the new 18 kt. Gold Vintage collection, available in both men’s and ladies’ versions.
Tissot watches have moved what was possible, both in shapes and materials. Some of the main highlights was the Tissot Astrolon, which was introduced in 1971. It was the first mechanical watch in the world, made in plastic. The iconic Tissot Rock watch as released a decade later in 1985, the watch case was made of natural stone from the Swiss Apls. In 1988 Tissot once again truned to nature when they made a watch in wood.
The commitment to innovation and technological advances within the watch industry, is at the very heart and soul of Tissot. One just has to look at the timeline of innovations below to see how innovation has set Tissot apart over all these years. Not all innovations resulted in success, but even with an occational flopp. Tissot has keept innovating through the centuries and pushing the limits for what we expect from a wristwatch.
1853 TWO TIME ZONES pocket watch, a mass-produced wonder of its time that launched the Tissot name to the world
1878 PENDANT WATCH made in gold with diamonds and enamel for the Russian market
1916 TISSOT PRINCE ‘BANANA’ watches incorporated a curved case and Art Deco styling to the delight of European and Russian customers
1929 TISSOT HERMETIC, a watch and clock in one featuring a movement with a lever escapement with automatic adjustment when subject to changes in temperature
1930 TISSOT ANTIMAGNÉTIQUE, the world's first non-magnetic wristwatch.
1951 TISSOT NAVIGATOR, the world's first self-winding wristwatch with 24 time zones displayed without manipulation.
1954 TISSOT VISODATE, wristwatch with date display.
1965 TISSOT PR 516: Particularly Robust (PR) with the world's first registered bracelet with holes - inspired by the steering wheel of racing cars.
1968 TISSOT CAROUSEL, a watch with interchangeable bezels, with an advertising campaign very much inspired by the Olympic Games in Mexico City that year.
1971 TISSOT ASTROLON (aka IDEA 2001), was the world’s first plastic mechanical watch.
1985 TISSOT ROCKWATCH, the world's first wristwatch with a watchcase made of natural stone (granite and other stones).
1986 TISSOT TWOTIMER, the world's first wristwatch with analogue and digital time and seven functions operated via a single crown.
1989 TISSOT WOODWATCH, wristwatch with a case made of wood
1991 TISSOT CERATEN, with a scratch-resistant ceramic case
1999 TISSOT T-TOUCH, the world's first tactile (touch) watch with new instrumental functions - the first real touch-screen technology in the market, almost a decade before mobile phones would adapt this as a standard
2009 TISSOT SEA-TOUCH, a high performance watch for divers with water resistance to 200 metres.
2011 TISSOT LE LOCLE wins first prize in the International Timing Competition.
2014 TISSOT T-TOUCH SOLAR, the world's first tactile watch powered by solar energy.
TISSOT THE SPORTSFAN
The high calibre of the brand has been repeatedly recognised in global sports. In its illustrious history Tissot has been named Official Timekeeper and Partner of the NBA, FIBA, CBA, MotoGP, FIM World Superbike, AFL, RBS 6 Nations Rugby and the World Championships of cycling, fencing and ice hockey.
Tissot has always been drawn to sport.”François Thiébaud (President of Tissot)
Tissot has had a brilliant global sponsorship strategy in which it harnesses the brand power of top professional sports. These create a selling point for its watches by pinpointing the right vehicle for each unique market. A recent case in point is China’s CBA (basketball) League, which was identified as an ideal sport in which to reach and appeal to the upwardly mobile, middle-class Chinese consumer, as well as improve Tissot’s brand recognition in the world’s most populous country and largest economy. The achievements of this sponsorship were tremendous for Tissot and included the brand becoming the best-selling Swiss watch brand in China.
Tissot watches channel the brand's passion for sports which are used as a key design aesthetic in many of their luxury watches.
Tissot is one the world’s most prominent official timekeepers for sports. Being the Official Timekeeper means that Tissot has the privilege and enormous responsibility of actually timing each of these sports.
The appeal of sports is in the competition, and timing is such an integral part of this that getting it exactly right, time after time, is imperative. Tissot has demonstrated its ability to provide absolute accuracy and that is why it has become a trusted partner of some of the world's biggest sports.
Timing is all about precision. Timing any of these sports is no easy task, when one considers that motorcycles can be separated by only thousandths of a second at the finish line, or fencers touch a mere millisecond apart. Timing, scoring and statistics in modern competitive sports is not simply a matter of counting down seconds and tallying positions. Analysis and statistics are tremendously important for all the analysis by fans, coaches, athletes, commentators and the media. Tissot provides this all with perfect precision, every time.
Some of the sports for which Tissot is a proud Official Timekeeper include:
Motorcycling is speed in motion.
After having been involved in the fast world of race car driving, Tissot further strengthens its ties in motorsports by identifying itself with MotoGPTM and became its Official Timekeeper in 2001. Tissot’s association with the prestigious world events in the technological world of motorcycling reflects the nature of the company and its products, as well as the beauty behind its movements
Cycling is endurance in motion.
Tissot has distinguished itself once again in the world of cycling by becoming the official timekeeper of the Tour de France and all cycling time trials run by the Amaury Sport Organisation (A.S.O.). In 2016 the Swiss watchmaker will lend its expertise at a large number of major time trials, from Paris-Nice to Paris-Tours, La Flèche Wallonne, the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España. In a sport where every single second counts, relying on an extremely high-quality timekeeper is essential. This sponsorship means Tissot can draw in a large number of cycling enthusiasts committed to endurance and performance.
Fencing is finesse in motion.
In 1996 became a partner of the Fédération Internationale d’Escrime (FIE). Fencing is a beautiful example of time-honoured tradition and total precision, which are the underlying pillars of the Tissot brand. Fencing is one of the oldest of sports where timing is crucial. Fencing is an obvious choice for a watchmaking company and a perfect illustration of Tissot’s adage of “Innovation by Tradition”. Fencing champions need great dexterity and the ability to constantly surprise their opponent, to the delight of spectators. It is the beauty and grace of gesture and movement which makes fencing so unique and such a special partner for Tissot.
6 Nations Rugby
Rugby is power in motion.
In 2013 Tissot becomes the Official Timekeeper of the RBS 6 Nations Championship, the greatest annual rugby championship in the world. Rugby demonstrates many of the core values which are shared at Tissot, such as teamwork, respect, discipline and a love for sports. These Championships are therefore the perfect platform for Tissot to be showcasing its timing expertise in an exciting, international environment, which at the same time represents the brand’s powerful and assertive spirit.
Tissot is proud of its sports ambassadors, and chooses each one very carefully. These Ambassadors include:
Danica Patrick is the most successful woman in the history of American open-wheel racing, breaking many records. Her third place finish in the 2009 Indianapolis 500 is the best finish ever achieved by a woman in the race. As the official timekeeper of NASCAR, it makes sense that one of Tissot’s Sports Ambassadors is Danica Patrick, the most successful woman in the history of American auto racing.
Nicky Hayden is the 2006 MotoGP World Champion, making him the first ever World Champion ambassador of Tissot watches. Also in MotoGP, Thomas Lüthi is a particularly valued ambassador for Tissot as the brand loves to support homegrown Swiss talent. Stefan Bradl became the youngest racer to ever claim the Moto2 World Champion Title, and claimed the Rookie of the Year Award in MotoGP the following year.
Virat Kohli is a brilliant cricketer, who mirrors the Swiss brand's mastery for breaking new ground and its uncompromising commitment to excellence. He is an outstanding batsman who has broken many cricketing records, and won the 2011 World Cup for his cricket-mad country. He now leads the Indian test cricket team and is a trendsetter, both on and off the field, and is today considered one of India’s leading youth icons.
ARTS & CULTURE AMBASSADORS
Tissot is duly proud of its ambassadors in arts and culture, and chooses each one very carefully. These Ambassadors include:
Deepika Padukone's partnership with Tissot began in December 2007, shortly after the worldwide release of the major Bollywood film Om Shanti Om. Along with her debut venture on the silver screen, her partnership with brand has also been equally successful. As a brand ambassador for Tissot she has the perfect glamour needed to wear her Tissot watches with elegance and panache. Deepika is known to love being able to find just the right watch for a given occasion and mood, every single time.
Huang Xiaoming is a popular actor, singer and model who is highly popular in his native China. He has appear in a number of TV dramas and films, and has released two music albums. Huang is well known for his charity work, adopting twin panda cubs at the Giant Panda Breeding Centre in China’s Sichuan Province after it was hit by the 2008 earthquake, and is also a UNICEF ambassador. Huang is considered to be the ideal Tissot ambassador because of his versatility, commitment and for being a dynamic star.
Liu Yifei is the latest women to join become a Tissot ambassador. She is a Chinese actress, model and singer. The movie she is most famous for in the western world is The Forbidden Kingdom.
Here are some interesting factoids about Tissot:
- Tissot watches were worn by Sarah Bernhardt, who famously chose Tissot as her signature watch in 1900, and was Tissot’s first celebrity endorser
- What do Elvis Presley, Grace Kelly and Nelson Mandela have in common? They were all fans of Tissot watches.
- 1940s Portuguese-Brazilian singing sensation Carmen Miranda was also known to love her Tissot watches
- James Stewart famously wore a Tissot watch in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1954 classic Rear Window
- Alec Guinness wears a Tissot in the 1955 British classic The Ladykillers
- Angelina Jolie wears a Tissot as the heroine in 2003’s Lara Croft: Tomb Raider
- Various characters wear different Tissot watches during the long run (2003-2013) of the hit comedy series Arrested Development
- Both Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie sport Tissot watches in the 2005 spy caper Mr and Mrs Smith
- Simon Pegg can be clearly seen wearing a Tissot T-Touch Expert Solar in the 2015 action film Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation