80s Power Ballade: The Tissot Ballade Powermatic 80

The Tissot Ballade Powermatic 80 is an excellent watch. It has an 80 hour power reserve and a silicon balance at the lowest price I’ve seen for a watch so equipped. There’s a lot to like here, and a few criticisms.

Silicon Balance Spring Chronometer – this is engraved on the rotor

Silicon Balance spring. Silicon hair spring. SILICON BALANCE SPRING. I want to shout these words from the street corner while standing in front of a wacky inflatable arm flailing tube man, spinning an arrow sign. It’s madness to find a silicon balance at this sub-1000 USD price. These words are usually reserved for thing like Tissot’s sister brand, Omega, or the rarified air one breathes when mentioning Girard Perregaux’s Constant Force Escapement, or the Ulysse Nardin Silocon Flying Anchor Escapement. Omega employs the Si14 silicon balance in the 9300 movement labeled Master Co-axial on the dial. Rolex started using Syloxi silicon hairsprings in the 2236 ladies’ movements, although that’s the only movement they use it in – the new 3255 uses their metal parachrom spring. Patek Phillipe deserves a mention for their Oscillomax silicon escapement as well. None of these would normally be mentioned in the same breath as Tissot.

Tissot previously used the Powermatic 80 movement on the Tissot Luxury Automatic watch. The Ballade as reviewed is the first collection from Tissot that add the silicon balance spring to the Powermatic 80. So what have Tissot done that attracted me to review this watch? I’m a sucker for the silicon balance spring. They’ve taken an ETA movement design, changed the mainspring barrel, slowed the movement from 28800 vph to 21000 vph, and reduced inefficiencies along the way to increase from a standard ETA’s 38 hours power reserve to the 80 hours power reserve. The silicon spring is a part of that, but also reduces susceptibility to magnetism. It’s very impressive that the old ETA design that has been reliable for years was able to be improved upon in this way. Tissot is sending these with a COSC certificate, and could end up dethroning Rolex for the number of certified chronometers shipped if they produce enough.

The rest of the watch involves a stainless steel case, bracelet, and sapphire crystal and exhibition caseback. That’s oversimplifying it a bit. The case has polished lugs and brushed sides. The bracelet is a 5 link jubilee style, with brushed sides and polished center links. The clasp is a butterfly deployant type, and is signed TISSOT 1863. Aesthetically, I’m not a fan of the knurled Clous de Paris bezel, but the dial is very well executed, having a very tight Clous de Paris center portion, raised platform for the signing on the dial, and an outer ring under the hour indices with sunray brushing. The dial has quite a lot of three dimensional elements to it, with the outer minute track slightly stepped down from the hour ring. It’s a classic look that would be at home on a Breguet. I do like the 12 and 6 numerals as well. The hands are beveled, so they catch the light nicely, and the length is perfection, with the hour hand reaching the hour indices, the minute hand reaching the minute track, and the counterweight of the second hand just as long as the counterweight of the dauphine hour hand. That is to say, there’s a lot right here.

Look at those hand lengths – perfectly meeting the hour and minute tracks.

However, as I mentioned on the Hourtime podcast, there’s a few things that disappoint me. This is a Swiss watch that retails for just shy of a thousand US dollars. I was a bit shocked to learn that the bracelet adjusts with the split friction pins that push out from the links, rather than using screw-in bars to remove links. I can get over that, although it’s worth noting there are many watches that are more affordable that use proper screw-in bars.

Even more disappointing is the design error where the lugs and bracelet join. The lugs curve ever so slightly around the wrist, but instead of finishing in a point, or rounded end, are cut back like a Christopher Ward watch does. That would be fine, and it is for the three models in the collection that ship on a leather strap. However, the bracelet end link is a nicely molded solid end link, that is both longer than the lugs, and ends in a rounded profile. This means, you see the side of the end link where the lug has been cut back. It’s a very jarring mismatch, and looks for all the world like the person in charge of the watch case did what they wanted, without checking to see what the person in charge of the bracelet was going to pull out of the existing Tissot parts bin. These things don’t work well together, and it’s a shame because it’s not hidden at all – I can’t unsee it. In the end, these transgressions make it a watch that isn’t appealing to me to wear, although I do love the movement.

The end link curved bit is visible where the lug cuts away. This is awkward.

 

The handstack is nice and evenly spaced. I do like that the hands are evenly spaced vertically.

It’s a brilliant watch. It’s well-made, even if I have a few disagreements with the decisions made. The movement is the star here. If you want to be a man in motion, and all you need is a pair of wheels, Tissot’s silicon balance spring can take you where the future’s lying, for as little as $975 USD. http://us.tissotshop.com

Watch Overview

  • Brand & Model: Tissot Ballade Powermatic 80 T1084081605700
  • Price: pricing starts at $975 USD as reviewed
  • Who we think it might be for: You like a dress watch that’s comfortably large and has an excellent movement.
  • Would I buy one for myself based on what I’ve seen?: Not at this point.
  • If I could make one design suggestion, it would be: Fix the lugs, fix the bracelet, change the bezel. It’s regrettable.
  • What spoke to me the most about this watch: The excellent time keeping ability and efficiencies gained in the years-old movement design.

Tech Specs from Tissot

  • Case size: 41mm (46mm lug-to-lug)
  • Height: 9.84mm
  • Case material: steel (brushed, gold, rose gold available)
  • Crystal: flat, sapphire
  • Strap: leather and alligator, pin buckle clasp or jubilee bracelet
  • Movement: Swiss-made Powermatic 80.811 movement with Patented Silicon balance spring, patented Regulator-assembly
  • Power reserve: up to 80 hours

 

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