A simple and subtle model from the 1970s that was relaunched last year has become an unexpected viral success.
In the world of watches, the 1970s are a true source of inspiration and gave birth to legendary models such as the Patek Philippe Nautilus, the Vacheron Constantin 222 and the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak. However, for novice collectors with a bank account with fewer zeros, the most fashionable watch of the decade was the Tissot PRX, a $700 model first released in ’78 and re-released last year. Since then, the elegant timepiece of the disco era has been a huge success, witnessed by the numerous appreciations expressed on blogs and subreddits before exploding onto another platform: TikTok.
PRX, less than twelve months after Tissot brought it back into vogue, is vying for an accolade the Swiss watchmaker never expected to receive: “value watch“, as the industry’s most frequently recommended product on an app related to the tastes of Generation Z.
Young people have hit the mark, says Derek Mon, owner of Carat & Co. an authorised Tissot dealer based in Flushing, New York. The PRX is one of the first watches he mentions when people ask him for advice; Mon considers it ‘the best automatic watches under $5000… by far recommendable’. For budding enthusiasts, intrigued by the movements and complications, but put off by the prices that are usually charged, the PRX is an affordable alternative that can satisfy all needs and even many others probably not on their wish list.
Apart from the integrated bracelet and an essential dial, the greatest strength of the model in question may be its long power reserve, a term referring to how long a watch lasts after its internal spring mechanism has been fully wound. The automatic version of the PRX has a power reserve of 80 hours, almost twice as long as that offered by the Nautilus and the Royal Oak. In addition, for those who like the aesthetics of the PRX without being so demanding on the purity of the movement, Tissot also sells a battery-powered version for only $375.
In any case, the PRX is more than a substitute for a luxury product because it debuted around the same time as its more expensive counterparts: the Royal Oak hit the market in 1972 and the Nautilus in 1976. A history that gives it a hard-won pedigree in the crowded watch arena. “Tissot has the authority to use this design,” says Mon.
“They didn’t reintroduce it just to screw over another competing brand.”
According to TikTok enthusiasts like Ben Cook, a watch that offers quality, style and price also represents an opportunity to tap into an endless well of views, likes and followers. “Every time I publish a post on PRX, the video goes well. I’m actually kind of sick of making content on this watch,” he says jokingly. By his own estimation, he has made more than 30 videos on the subject. It is hard for anyone to resist the temptation to lean on guaranteed success in an attention economy, which explains why the watch is currently responsible for 135 million views on TikTok.
The PRX’s only flaw may be its size. Smaller dials are particularly in vogue today. There is a throwback to the days when the 39mm Royal Oak could affectionately be considered ‘jumbo’. The automatic PRX is only available in 40 mm and, as Cook points out, has an even larger diameter because of its squared-off case. If one believes the chatter on the forums, Tissot is well aware of the demand: rumour has it that a 35 mm automatic PRX is on the way, a size in which its quartz counterpart is already available.
“People have asked me a lot of questions about the possibility of having a 35mm automatic model,” Cook says.
“I think offering it in such a size would open up the appeal of the watch to even more people and make it even more popular than it already is now.”