What if wristwatches were invented 200 years earlier? It would have had an impact on the course of history, without a doubt, but it would also place this device on the wrists of people in history that never had the pleasure of wearing one, simply because it did not exist. I’m not even talking about famous individuals here, but rather normal people. People that were for example captain of a merchant ship in the mid 1700’s. Standing on the bridge of their ship, running three masts full of sails, being pushed over the seven seas by the invisible hand of the wind, you can imagine them wearing a watch that reflects the international nature of their career. A watch for example, like the Tissot Heritage Navigator 160th Anniversary.
Of course captains of merchant ships in the mid 1700’s did not wear wristwatches, nor would they wear a Tissot. Although of respectable age, the brand was founded in 1853, made the first Navigator for their centennial celebration in 1953, and released a new edition of this watch to celebrate their 160th birthday, last year. As part of their Heritage-collection, this watch is a numbered edition and still available in their current collection. The Heritage Navigator is an exact copy of the original Navigator from 1953, yet at the same time it is a completely different watch! The only thing Tissot didn’t transfer from the original design is the small button at two o’clock to set the world time function of the watch, for the simple reason that there was no need for it since the current version allows for setting this complication through the crown. The true difference between the 1953 and current version of the Navigator it its size, that grew from 36mm into 43mm in diameter.
Yes, we are used to large watches, but 43mm for a vintage inspired watch is a potent increase, yet 160 years of experience in the watch business is paying off. The size is actually working like a charm! On a 36mm dial the world time complication would have required eagle eyes to read it at a glance, a problem you won’t have with the 43mm version. Something our merchant captain would most likely also have appreciated. Tissot also didn’t just increase the diameter of the watch, but also kept its height under 10mm. Combined with relatively short lugs it makes for a very comfortable watch to wear.
The Tissot Heritage Navigator is one of the very few world time watches that features this complication at the center of the dial. Positioning the complication like this actually makes sense since it provides much more room to write the full name of the cities in the corresponding time zone. It also results in an outward design that makes the Heritage Navigator look even larger than it actually is. This is especially the case with the silver dial, which actually has a white inner section with the names of the timezones printed in dark blue on them, and an opaline outer ring indicating the 24 hours of a day. This perhaps odd combination increases readability big time, and create the vintage charm of a ton-sur-ton two-tone.
Being part of the Swatch-group enables Tissot to shop at ETA. Despite all those nice manufacture calibers that many brands are introducing these days, every collector and watch enthusiast is familiar with ETA’s reputation of creating sturdy and reliable movements. There for the choice for a caliber 2893-3 can only be welcomed. Although the movement decorations are up to par for this price point, yet not overly impressive, there is something else that is; Tissot’s modesty. The movement inside the Heritage Navigator is Chronometer-certified, a treat even most owners of the watch are probably unfamiliar with because Tissot is very modest about it. Those that really went through all the paperwork that come with the watch might have found the small Chronometer certificate, but other wise the only proof of the certification can be found in small print on the rotor. Modesty is a virtue and understatement is sexy!
Tissot’s modesty is not the only thing where the brand obtains extra points, they also do so with the folding clasp that comes with this watch. No butterfly clasp at all as this creates layers of leather and metal of uncomfortable proportions, but a nice, single sided folding clasp that follows the shape of the wrist, is easy to operate yet very difficult to open unintentionally. It seems that the strap is the only part of the watch this is pretending to be something it isn’t. The leather is of decent quality, but the alligator texture is an obvious print. A flaw easily remedied by getting an additional strap, but one cannot help but wonder why brands opt for an obvious imitation alligator while a nice, plain calf would probably look better on the watch.
This and the fact that the engraving of the number of the watch could be a little deeper, its shallowness making it even hard to read, are the only two points of criticism in an otherwise great watch. No, let me rephrase that; GREAT watch! Yes, this Tissot deserves it to be named great in capitals. The watch by itself is a straight home run, it is re-designed with an eye and understanding for proportion and clearly crafted with a lot of care. It will even, or perhaps especially, please watch connoisseurs who prefer to wander around in the higher realms of the watchworld, where only the Tissot’s lack of a manufacture movement might raise an eyebrow. But the truly GREAT part of this watch is that your Tissot dealer with only charge you US$1,650,- for the Heritage Navigator, making it exactly the kind of watch I was talking about recently that can create first time buyers and even turn them into collectors. Apart from that does it also have the ability to captain the heart of seasoned collectors and connoisseurs, and for full disclosure I have to say that yours truly is one of them.
Eclectic taste in Haute Horlogerie, passion for diamond set watches, loves the classics