May 10, 2017
Silicon has many, many benefits for watches; anti-magnetism, longevity-of-life, temperature resistance, and not requiring lubricant being among them. However, because of the difficult-to-produce and fragile nature of silicon, hairsprings made of the material have typically been used exclusively in high-end timepieces. And that is why Tissot unveiling the Tissot Ballade watches featuring a silicon balance spring and COSC-certified Powermatic 80 movement at Baselworld 2017 is unusual. And the most interesting part of that announcement? It will cost less than a thousand dollars.
Tissot is no stranger to anti-magnetic watches. During the 1930s, they created one of the first anti-magnetic watches with the Tissot Antimagnetique. Ever since then, they’ve been using anti-magnetic components in their watches, so the next natural step would be silicon. That’s not surprising. What’s surprising is the price.
There are seven models of the Tissot Ballade, and while the three ladies’ pieces were reviewed hands-on here back in September, the newest “Gents” models are a bit more masculine with a 39mm or 41mm case. All cases will be in steel with a Clous de Paris-patterned bezel and inner-dial disc, which I find a tasteful nod to the 1930s style. Both the men’s and women’s watches will feature bi-tone rose-gold and yellow-gold-plated models, with the yellow gold coming on a stainless steel, bi-tone bracelet, and the rose-gold fitted with a brown leather strap on the Gents, and a white leather strap for the ladies. A full stainless steel case with steel bracelet is also available for both. Each piece has the date window displayed at the 3 o’clock position. While I would normally always go for a bracelet, I find the steel case on black leather to fit the Tissot DNA more than the bi-tone bracelet models. The Tissot Ballade is water resistant up to 50m, and all models feature a sapphire crystal and transparent case-back displaying the movement (sorry we don’t have any pictures for you of it from Tissot).
The Tissot caliber C07.811 Si, or more commonly known as the Powermatic 80, beats at a low 21,600VpH frequency, and is based on the ETA 2824 workhorse. And by “based on” I mean heavily modified. While this movement has been around for almost 4 years, the Tissot Ballade brings some upgraded components. The “80” in its name comes from the whopping 80-hour power reserve increase from the 38 hours of the basic ETA movement. Longer power reserves can be achieved in a few ways, such as slowing down the movement as Tissot has done here from 4Hz in the ETA to 3Hz. The concern that that means accuracy being negatively affected proves unfounded, apparently, as these are also certified chronometers, meaning they are accurate to -4/+6 seconds per day. So the COSC-certified Powermatic 80 featured in the Tissot Ballade also being fitted with a silicon hairspring makes for a welcome, unconventional, and arguably never-before-seen addition to a timepiece in this price range.
Why is this important? It’s bringing previously and otherwise unobtainable technology into an affordable market. Swatch, being the juggernaut that it is, has the resources, equipment, and channels to produce a silicon hairspring, fit it into an affordable movement, and reach more enthusiasts with higher-quality components. Being that Tissot is one of the largest producers of watches in Switzerland, this could open a lot of doors for the industry, and for Swatch.
With an 80-hour power reserve, and a silicon hairspring, I would be hard-pressed to find the same features in many other watches at this price point. Pricing for the Tissot Ballade Powermatic 80 COSC ranges from $925 for the stainless on leather to $1075 for the two-tone steel and gold. tissotwatches.com