Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Review: Tissot Seastar 1000

Tissot Seastar 1000 Automatic

Tissot is a Swiss watch making company founded in 1853 by Charles-Félicien Tissot and his son, Charles-Emile Tissot, in Le Locle, a small town in the Swiss Jura. Like most watch companies in the mid-19th Century, they made pocket watches. By the end of WWI they were making wristwatches as the popularity of them rose during the war. Their first round of financial troubles resulted in a merger with Omega in 1930 that created SSIH. The merger was financial and governance in nature. Both brands retained their own unique identities and product lines afterward.

During the early 1980's, Tissot was among a number of companies pulled under the umbrella of The Swatch Group which was formed by the Swiss banking industry and government to save the Swiss watch making industry from financial collapse caused by the onslaught of inexpensive quartz watches made in Japan. They are financially independent of the other watchmaking companies and brands within the group, and must maintain their own viability. Their financial stability has gradually improved over the past 30 years. During the late 1980's, Tissot made watches from unusual materials including rock, mother of pearl, and wood. While they were more of a fad, it showed Tissot's imaginative thinking and willingness to take some risk to try unusual concepts. Within The Swatch Group, Tissot is classified as a "mid-range" brand along with numerous others including Balmain, Hamilton and Mido.

While Tissot started as a "Manufacture" (making their own movements), they have been an "Assemblage" for several decades, and the watch movements they use now, both mechanical and quartz, are made by ETA, a movement maker in The Swatch Group. ETA has a long and renowned history of designing and making high quality watch movements. Tissot has an international market presence with wider international brand recognition, including within North America, compared to a number of the other Swatch Group brands.

Although they make a range of styles, their primary focus in the past few years has been sports watches, many of which are associated with car and motorcycle racing. They are the official timekeeper for NASCAR, and Danica Patrick, a well-known Indy Racing Leauge (IRL) driver is one of their "ambassadors," which has improved brand visibility in the USA. Others in their collections like this Seastar are associated with diving.

The presentation box the Tissot Seastar 1000 comes in is more than impressive. It goes above and beyond most packaging materials and workmanship quality I've seen used for watches in its price class, with a special compartment in the bottom containing a good sized book about Tissot and their history.

At 44mm x 52mm x 16mm and 180g it's Gargantuan and massive, especially compared to nearly all my other watches. The only other one in my collection that rivals its size and weight is the IWI Marine Diver (not quite as tall, but heavier). The lug width and heavy band is 22mm wide. A "true" diver, it's rated to 300 meters (1ooo feet) with a very solid and heavily protected screw-down crown, and a thick bezel.

My wrist is modest and this one definitely covers it completely. I knew its dimensions when I bought it and there was some concern it would look much too big for it. However, Tissot did a marvelous job designing its lugs, bracelet attachment and scaling the Seastar 1000. The lugs slope downward more than on most watches and the bracelet falls off around the wrist naturally. Every element is scaled so that no elements look unnaturally larger than the rest, a very pleasant surprise as macro-photographic perspectives can only hint at this.

Workmanship, fit and finish are immaculate. The polished areas are mirror finish and the brushed areas match texture throughout. The sapphire crystal is noticeably domed . . . more so than the others I have . . . without a "cyclops" magnifier. It doesn't need one as the crystal is a slight magnifier and date is easily readable.

The silver dial has a magnificent ultra-fine sunburst texture with high polish silver applied indices that do not get "lost" as they stand boldly proud above the dial. Of special note is the chapter ring with half-minute marks; this is the only watch I've seen with 30-second intermediate and shorter hashs around the dial. Printing is clean and straight with very sharp edges. Hands are bold without being so bold as to cover too much of the dial and the red tip on the seconds hand is a nice touch that makes it easier to see.

Lume is bold, bright and even throughout, on the hands, just outside the indices, and on the bezel ring. The bezel ring has one-minute detents and is very smooth with positive detenting that feels solid without any wobble or rattle.

Some may not like a display back on a diver, but this doesn't bother me. It has a "porthole" look embedded into the back held on with screws. Slightly off-center, the SCUBA diver and Tissot logo show on the decorated auto-wind weight when it's oriented in the correct position. The movement is a 25 jewel high beat 28.8k bph ETA 2824-2 automatic with date complication. As this ubiquitous movement is so well known, I won't say more about it here.

The solid machined links on the bracelet are thick and heavy to counter-balance the weight and scale of the watch head. Signed clasp closure is very positive without being hard to work and conceals a dive extension with equally positive closure. Removeable links have "split pins" and these were much harder to remove than with others I've resized. While this may be one downside and make resizing the bracelet difficult, it also indicates the pins will not work themselves out over time.

The signed crown screws down smoothly and the detents for date quick-set and setting time are positive. Knurling on the crown and bezel should make them easier to operate with light gloves on than with most watches. The crown guard fits the style of the rest of the case nicely and is a very desirable feature to protect the large crown without making it difficult to unscrew and use to set the watch.

Once I had the bracelet adjusted properly, the watch feels very comfortable and balanced on the wrist even though its high mass can't go unnoticed. The secret is removing the proper number of links from each side to keep the hidden z-fold of the clasp centered under the wrist when the watch head is centered over the wrist.

Overall Impression:
This is a phenomenal watch for its price point. I don't consider it a true "tool" watch although it could certainly be used as one. It's simply too beautiful to subject it to what diving would undoubtedly do to its case and bracelet finish! This is a watch that wants to stay beautiful! Those bothered by very large and heavy watches on their wrist should find a different watch; this one isn't for them. However, for those that do wear larger and heavier watches, don't dismiss the Tissot Seastar 1000 based on its much larger than normal dimensions and weight compared to other divers. You would be pleasantly surprised that it doesn't look or wear oversized. Tissot ordered up a "diver," told their designers to make it Biggie Size, and that's just what they did; very, very well!

It fits my modest wrist just fine!Tissot's Web Site
Note: I do not have any association with The Swatch Group, Tissot or their dealers other than having bought a Tissot from an authorized dealer.


  1. Great review! I sure enjoy my blue dialed version of this Swiss beauty. I think its one of the best values in the horological landscape at this time. I hear that Tissot may be discontinuing all automatic watches, so interested parties should get 'em while you can!

  2. With all due respect, the lug pins and bracelet interface leave much to be desired on a watch of this heft. There is a sizable gap between the case lugs and the links in the bracelet which allows the lug pins to flex. Over time, and less than you might think, they break off due to metal fatigue. I went though 3 sets in the year and a half I wore the watch. Rolex pins are a vast improvement, but the sloppy fit between the lugs and bracelet eventually breaks them as well. Fortunately, it always fell off and landed on something soft. Incidentally, the bracelet and lug pin design on my $60 Fossil is far superior; solid pins, and bracelet links flush with the lugs. This is rather important on such a heavy watch, but Tissot simply blew it in this case. I wrote an email to Tissot/Swatch about this recurring, frustrating problem. That was 2 years ago. I never received a reply. Decent watch otherwise, but I think I'll steer clear of Tissot in the future. The Tissot is pretty and I love the nice dome sapphire crystal, but it sits on my desk and I wear my cheap Fossil with its plastic quartz movement. Sadly, I think it's actually a better watch.

  3. I've been using a Tissot Seaster 1000 as a daily wear watch since Nov 2008 and I'm impressed by it. I have the one with the blue dial and bracelet, and I get compliments once in a while. The bezel and the crown have a solid feel to them and the heavy watch feels good on my wrist. This watch is certainly built like a tank and will probably last a long time.


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