Tissot may come to its 170Th Birthday next year, but always knows how to be on time. As one of the first brands to embrace the exciting world of car racing in the late 1950s, Tissot and sporty chronographs became natural allies. The PR 516 from 1965 was one of the brand’s earliest watches inspired by the race track; A novel steel sports watch with a perforated steel bracelet to mimic the holes found on the steering wheels of race cars. Earlier this year, Tissot revived its PRS 516 automatic chronograph but didn’t go the vintage route. In a departure from the brand’s heritage collection of compelling remakes of vintage models, the PRS 516 is a thoroughly contemporary chronograph with a bold stance, plenty of motorsport details and an aggressive price tag. Let’s take a look at the black and blue versions of the PRS 516 chronographs launching in March 2022 with a beefed-up Valjoux movement.
The brand’s first association with motorsports dates back to 1958, when Swiss driver Harry Zweifel sent Tissot a signed photo behind the wheel of a sports car and the message “My Tissot will be by my side at every race.” In 1965, Tissot released the Tissot PR 516, a racing-inspired steel watch with holes in the bracelet to evoke the steering wheel holes of sports cars. With its suspended movement and lateral protection against axial and lateral shocks, the PR in the name is particularly resistant. Rally pilot Henry Bradley loved his Tissot PR 516 so much that he inscribed the watch’s name on his Ferrari.
A sporty tool watch
The latest PRS 516, which now stands for precise, solid and sporty, lives up to all its promises. Let’s start with its robust case made of 316L stainless steel with a diameter of 45mm and a thickness of 16.3mm. Yes, it’s a watch, and despite the small lugs, it has a commanding presence on the wrist, as you can appreciate in the photographs taken on Bryce’s 16.5cm wrist. Combined with the stainless steel bracelet option, you can really feel the heft of this watch (the watch weighs 140g on the leather strap and 219g on the steel bracelet). For many, a bulky watch is synonymous with solidity and resilience, and the PRS 516 looks like a strong, sporty chronograph with a cool tool watch vibe.
The two piston-style pushers surrounding the crown are perhaps the only retro element, while the sleek modern black ceramic bezel with its engraved tachymeter scale is finished in white lacquer. Unlike some ceramic bezels that are polished to a high gloss, the ceramic is brushed for a sportier matte effect. Ceramic is ideally suited for watch exteriors that are prone to scratches and impacts and will not oxidize over time. The surface of the lugs and case sides also runs through the center of the entire case with a sharp polished bevel, which has a red ring that separates it from the ceramic bezel. Given the case’s 100m water-resistance, it’s odd that the large folded crown isn’t screw-in. A domed scratch-resistant sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating protects the dial and the caseback provides a view of the movement.
Black or blue dials
Compared to the previous (2015) version of the PRS 516, the dial has been radically changed and looks more technical and contemporary. Available in sunray-brushed black or blue with black sub-dials, the dial now features large Arabic numerals for the hours and sporty red central chronograph hands and its T-shaped ultra-clear white railway minute/seconds track for precise chronograph readings. Counterweight. All the chronograph hands are picked out in racing red, making them easy to approach and adding a cool motorsport touch.
The two slightly lowered sub-dials – the small seconds at 9 o’clock and the 30-minute counter at 3 o’clock – have black interiors and sharp white markers and are marked with the words seconds and minutes. The central hour and minute hands, as well as Arabic numerals and four hands positioned at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock are treated with Super-LumiNova. Although it always stirs controversy, the date window on this PRS 516 is discreetly integrated with a black background and white numerals at 6 o’clock.
Another interesting departure from the previous PRS 516 chronograph and the original 1965 model is the new rally strap with blue dial chronograph. Instead of the large perforations found on the leather strap of the 1965 bracelet and 2015 models, the latest PRS 516 is presented on a more discreet rally strap with smaller perforations, a design choice perhaps made to tone down the vintage card. The black dial PRS 516 chronograph comes on a stainless steel bracelet and, like the leather strap, is equipped with an interchangeable quick-release system.
A powerful movement
A checkered pattern, evoking the black and white flag used to signal the end of a race, is engraved on the caseback with a visible window over the movement. Powering the chronograph is seen in other Tissot models such as the ETA A05.H31 and Heritage 1973 Chronograph based on the old Valjoux 7753, and other Swatch Group brands such as Rado and Mido. The chronograph is activated by a cam instead of a column wheel, which significantly increases the price of the watch. If you’re interested in how Tissot improved the iconic Valjoux 7750 chronograph movement, Xavier’s technical article explains it.
The movement has 27 jewels, beats at 28,800vph (4Hz) and has an upgraded and beefy 60-hour power reserve. Functions include central hours, minutes and chronograph seconds, 30-minute counter, small seconds and date. The movement is industrially finished with perlage and features a customized openworked rotor designed to look like the steering wheel of a vintage sports car.
The latest Tissot PRS 516 chronographs deliver what they promise: precision, robustness and sportiness. Minimizing the vintage card, they position themselves as contemporary style chronographs with an injection of race car sportiness thanks to bright red accents and a ceramic tachymeter scale on the bezel. They are readable, easy to operate, resilient and come with a powerful 60-hour tank. And best of all, they are true value propositions.
Tissot PRS 516 with blue dial, ref. T131.627.16.042.00 Supplied with a gray leather rally-style strap and retails for EUR 1,925. Model with stainless steel bracelet, ref. T131.627.11.052.00, Retails EUR 1,995. Please contact the officer Tissot website in your location to get updated prices in your currency.
For more information, please visit TissotWatches.com