Tissot has a stellar reputation for well-made watches at notably affordable prices, like the recent Ballade Powermatic 80 or Heritage Petite Second. Switzerland’s biggest watchmaker by production, Tissot maintains a vast portfolio of vintage-inspired, dress and technology-focused watches, including a skeleton wristwatch with modern styling.
Skeletonised watches are intriguing as the intricate mechanics that make a movement tick are front and centre. Combining both aesthetics and mechanics can be a tough nut to crack, however, as legibility in particular suffers when a movement is open-worked. Tissot managed to nail both looks and legibility with the T-Complication Squelette, which retails for a little under US$2000.
At 43mm in diameter and 12mm high, the T-Complication Squelette is a sizeable watch on the wrist – it has presence – but also an expansive canvas of gears and springs.
The stainless steel case is fully brushed with substantial “horn” lugs, and a handful of interesting details that contribute to its character.
Most notably is the asymmetry on its upper right flank that is not initially obvious. The case subtly widens from the crown to the top-right lug, filling the angular space between the lug and case that’s present on the other three lugs.
And the signed crown has an interesting knurled pattern reminiscent of a turbine, creating a subtle mechanical motif that is echoed in the movement.
The bezel is relatively narrow and simply gets out of the way. The watch has no dial, other than a thin but legible minute track with luminous markings every five minutes.
Large, almost oversized, open-worked hour and minute hands are blued steel with Super-LumiNova fill, leaving them satisfyingly visible against the skeleton movement. Depending on the light, the hands and minute track appear either blue or black.
Transforming the ordinary
One of the most captivating aspects of the watch is the size of the movement, which expands to fill virtually the entirety of the case. It’s a modified ETA Unitas 6497-1, a reliable workhorse dating back to the 1960s that was originally designed for pocket watches.
It’s been open-worked on both sides, transforming it into a lesson in horological anatomy. While skeletonised movements are often highly decorated and ornate – and in much pricier watches – Tissot went for a modern, industrial aesthetic that is inexpensive to execute but visually attractive.
Like the turbine-inspired crown, the main plate has been open-worked into a propeller-like form, exposing the majority of the inner workings while evoking an edgy, kinetic vibe.
A narrow bezel and case back leave an unfettered view of the movement on both sides. Everything is visible, and being a pocket watch movement, also large. You can see the balance wheel, escapement, mainspring inside the barrel, and an abundance of gears, jewels and blued screws – Watch 101 in a single movement.
Winding the watch is like winding an old clock – loud and tactile, and a real joy. The slow, 18,000 beats per hour movement has a subtle tick that’s audible in a quiet room, creating quite a tangible wearing experience.
Where the watch falls slightly short – though it’s not really a criticism given the price – is the strap and buckle. The strap is faux alligator – embossed calfskin – and fitted to a butterfly clasp with push buttons.
I’m not the biggest fan of folding clasps, preferring a pin buckle as I have relatively small wrists; here the clasp sat at a somewhat uncomfortable angle on the bottom of my wrist. Those with larger wrists will likely be happy with this though.
When I swapped the original strap for a leather strap with a pin buckle I had on hand, the watch was very comfortable. It is large, but its dramatic presence is well worth the dimensions.
The Tissot T-Complication Squelette is a unique offering that is both eye-catching and strong value. It’s one of my favourite skeleton watches overall, and a sure thing in the sub-US$2,000 segment.
The Unitas 6497-1 movement may seem a bit pedestrian, but Tissot has masterfully transformed it into something that’s unlike other executions of the same movement. And the large size of the watch only enhances the effect.
Key facts and price
Case diameter: 43mm
Material: Stainless steel
Water resistance: 50m
Movement: ETA 6497-1
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds
Frequency: 18,000bph (2.5Hz)
Power reserve: 46 hours
Strap: Black leather with alligator pattern and butterfly clasp
Availability: Online in certain countries, as well as boutiques and retailers worldwide
Price: US $1,950 or 2,651 Singapore dollars
For more, visit tissotwatches.com
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