Tissot PRX Powermatic 80, $650
The ’80s is often considered a Dark Age of watchmaking as cheap quartz watches undercut historic brands — and people around the world made questionable fashion decisions. But don't discount the decade altogether. Any era will have its own nostalgia and design wins, and the Tissot PRX is here to prove it. Reviving a vintage model from 1978, we're looking at an aesthetic representation of quartz-age watches but fitted with an automatic movement for the modern enthusiast. With a highly competitive price, it's one of the most hyped watches of 2021 so far, but does it live up to the buzz?
Case Diameter: 40mm
Case Thickness: 10.9mm
Water Resistance: 100m
Movement: Powermatic 80 automatic
Several features stand out on the PRX Powermatic 80. The look and design is indeed very throwback, but from a different era than the vast majority of recent vintage reissues. That gives it a unique vibe, and part of its look is the now very trendy "integrated bracelet" that will (along with some other elements) inevitably draw comparison to the iconic Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and related watches. All this is fine and good and cool, but offering it all with a nice level of finishing for $650 is notable, indeed.
Who It's For
In its quartz or automatic form, the PRX will appeal to fashion and design-conscious crowds with its nod to a time — again, the late-'70s to '80s — that's beginning to experience renewed appreciation. Though based on a vintage model designed specifically for its quartz movement, the Powermatic 80 offers the same style but with an automatic movement for those watch snobs who still can't get as excited about quartz, as ironic as it might be in this case. Finally, you can't overstate the appeal for many of the "integrated bracelet," typically associated with some very high end watches, and this is one of the most affordable ways to get a comparable experience in a respectable package.
If it's the quartz-era nostalgia you're after, check out the Q Timex Reissue series that's based on some models from around the same time and cost a fraction of the price (around $179 for most models). The Timex M79 is a similar concept and aesthetic with a basic automatic movement for around $279.
If you're after the versatile, masculine look I've heard watch executives refer to as "sports-chic," a more modern-feeling option is the Astor & Banks Fortitude watch ($525-$550). For such a balanced yet distinctive design that includes an integrated bracelet, however, Tissot is about the most affordable option that comes to mind. If price is less of an issue, you still don't have to go all the way into five-figure watches like the automatic Audemars Piguet Royal Oak (~$21,700+) to get it, and might also be interested in Frederique Constant's Highlife at around $1,895+.
The PRX's style tends to be associated with the 1980s but its design was in fact born in 1978. Quartz watches were less than a decade old at this point and just beginning to take off before completely taking over in the following decade. Quartz movements allowed for slimmer designs, and watch designers wanted to emphasize this with flat-looking cases. That's why you'll find many watches from the time with similarly thin shapes as well as angular facets (particularly the slope of the lugs), and why the PRX feels particularly '80s.
Elements of the design, however, go back even further, and the masses of watch guys who find echos of more famous models in every new watch they see will surely have a field day comparing the PRX to the 1973 Audemars Piguet Royal Oak. Any wristwatch with an integrated bracelet (and certain other traits) is subject to this — and the PRX Powermatic 80 is even more with its waffle-textured dial. Personally, though, I see more of the Rolex Oysterquartz (itself influenced by watches like the Royal Oak, of course) in the PRX's case shape, dial and overall vibe — but I don't like to focus too much on these comparisons. It's more interesting to look at any watch on its own and in its contemporary context.
The PRX is in large part so cool because you can't really find other modern watches with a similar style. It stands apart, in my opinion, from the many Royal Oak wannabes by leaning away from a sport-lifestyle character and instead offering more of an everyday, almost dressy appeal with just a hint of retro funk. That's how the PRX strikes this reviewer, anyway, but many may find that it makes an attractive, affordable Royal Oak alternative.
It's not just the various design elements that the PRX combines so well, but the details and execution that the brand really nailed. You don't typically find finishing this nice at this price point: you've got brushed surfaces for most of the case and bracelet, but subtle polished elements add contrast and elevate the watch's overall feel significantly. The case sides each have a sliver of polished bevel at the top alongside the polished bezel.
The finishing shines (so to speak) on the bracelet, especially: Its links are mostly brushed, but polished on their top and bottom edges so that a lip of shiny metal peeks out when the bracelet bends on the wrist. This is a really subtle and elegant touch that's perhaps easy to overlook, but Tissot deserves credit. It's comfortable and tapers significantly toward the appropriately minimal butterfly-style clasp, but some may find that the bracelet's width at the lugs has a visually bulky effect — like a watch's version of, say, shoulder pads or big hair.
Anyhoo, you're not going to have a distinctive design without at least a little quirkiness. The bracelet is central to the PRX's whole personality, and Tissot got it right in many ways, from its thinness to the way each link articulates about 180 degrees. It's also notable that there's even a quick-release system for easily removing the bracelet, indicating that the brand might be planning to add strap options — though none are available at time of writing. This is important to note because while people get excited about the "integrated bracelet" thing, the tradeoff of this system is that it generally won't work with standard aftermarket straps — but that's par for the course.
For it's price, you can't really complain about anything Tissot is offering here. If I had a money-is-no-object fantasy PRX, however, it would be 38mm in diameter with proportionally narrower lugs, all-titanium construction, and it would do away with the case back bulge by using a thin, manually wound or micro-rotor automatic movement. At 10.9mm, the Powermatic 80 version is only 0.5mm thicker than the quartz version, and Tissot clearly made an effort to keep it as thin as possible, but I'd love to see it even thinner. (That's fanciful, but I like thin watches.)
"Powermatic 80" designates the automatic version of the PRX and is also the name of the movement itself, which is visible through a display case back. It's part of ETA's latest generation of mass-produced movements seen across Swatch Group brands, and this version offers a hearty 80-hour power reserve and a "high-tech escapement" (as you'll find laser-etched on the rotor) with a patented Nivachron balance spring (also made by Swatch Group). Winding and setting feel smooth and solid.
The quartz and automatic versions of the PRX are immediately distinguishable due to different dial executions. While the quartz models have sunburst finishes, the Powermatic 80 has a waffle-like texture that not only adds another level of interest and desirability —and, yes, also recalls the Royal Oak — but is excellent for legibility. The quartz and automatic versions each come in three versions with blue or black dials, or white with gold accents plus a gold bezel for the automatic version (which increases its price by $25). The blue version is overwhelmingly the most popular choice and sold out upon launch.
The PRX might be the hippest thing Tissot has ever done, and there's no doubt they've got a hit on their hands. A lot of brands are doing their own version of "sports-chic" integrated-bracelet watches, but Tissot was able to make the PRX about more than that with its '80s/quartz angle. This is a lot of watch for the price, and the automatic version is going to more or less check all the boxes for a lot of people.