This proved to be the most difficult review of the three I planned to post this summer. At first glance, the Tissot Seastar 1000 is a straightforward watch at a straightforward price. Lo and behold, reviewing this piece in depth opened up so many aspects which I had to make sense of. Let’s see if you agree.
Nothing beats a daily beater
One of the first things I did after deciding that I wanted to quit being a one-watch man, was to invest in a daily beater. After buying a Tissot for my father some years ago, I always had an eye for (some of) their watches. This time my primary requirement for the watch was for it to be a diver, so that could endure an active lifestyle. In my case this spans from water sports, hiking, riding motorcycles to renovating my house. I also wanted a design that I could like and choice fell on the Tissot Seastar, albeit being slightly above my budget for a daily beater.
Immediately after coming home from the AD I realized two things. First, the watch was way too nice for me to use as “rough duty beater”. Second, I was in love. I’ll get back to why.
Mass-produced, borderline fashion
“Rolex is just large scale, mass-produced watches with no soul” one watchman said to a friend of mine a while ago. He was comfortably used to much more exclusive watches, such as AP’s and PP’s primarily. Still, Rolex is perhaps the most well-known brand, has huge popularity and long waiting lists for those that are lucky enough to even be put on one.
If one considers Rolex being mass-produced, well, what could then be said about the Swatch group’s entry level brand Tissot with the equally mass-produced Powermatic 80 movement? The short answer: all watch makers essentially do the same thing. They design, manufacture and sell watches. Some brands and designs are more popular than others; some sell in larger quantities than others along the fundamental economy laws of supply and demand.
Tissot, a classic brand with a long history coupled with Omega, doesn’t seem to strike in popularity. At least not among people I know within and outside of the watch community. The price level for Tissot watches is between 500 to 1000 EUR/USD, which is well below the mid-range but slightly above entry level. This segment is highly competitive for two main reasons that I can think of. First, this is the large-volume segment largely dominated by Seiko, next to Tissot’s sibling Certina and some others. Second, this is the segment where many microbrands operate. I made a diagram of the pricing of dive models from four of the Swatch group’s brands. The way I see it, the Swatch group is making a good job covering the market segmentation. Keep in mind, Blancpain is also owned by the Swatch Group and for fairly obvious reasons not part of the plot.
In general, most people don’t like spending money on watches, and I think that many put their limit around a few hundred Euros or dollars. Tissot (and Certina) starts just above this range and therefore appeals to those that do want to obtain a slightly nicer timepiece yet don’t want to spend a king’s fortune. Tissot (and Certina) is also carried by a bunch of AD’s around the globe and has a large presence. As such, Tissot should have all the reasons to be a very popular and worn watch. Strangely enough, it doesn’t seem to be so. In the case of the Seastar, the equally priced Certina DS Action Diver seems to sell much better. On one hand, I can’t understand why the Seastar isn’t more popular. On the other, there are a few good reasons that I’ll cover further down.
A modern diver with a long heritage
Tissot’s Seastar model came already in 1930’s, equivalent in many ways with the classic Omega Seamaster. The Seastar has, like the Seamaster, evolved from a being a classic dress watch into a modern diver where the Seamaster enjoys huge popularity and a solid price tag. The Seastar has become quite anonymous and comes in a variety of versions; both as automatic and quartz, with a chronograph version of the latter. On the topic of mentioning Tissot and Omega – the former was merged with the latter in 1930.
Dive watches are by far the most popular type of watches. Most brands have one or more series of dive watches in their collections. One could view the Seastar as “the mandatory diver” in Tissot’s quite broad lineup. Judging from its unpopularity, that might be true to some extent. The Seastar doesn’t have the same look and feel as many other divers, even though it comes in several different versions, with bracelets, rubber and canvas straps. Although the subject for this review is the Tissot Seastar 1000 Ref T1204071705100 with black sunburst dial and canvas strap, I will mention some of the other variants in this review as it is critical to understanding this watch.
The first evidence of the Seastar being one out of many is that it comes in the same standard box as all (or at least most) other new Tissot watches. Nothing wrong with that; the box is well made and has clever compartments for documentation, tags, etc. In comparison to many other boxes, this one is not excessively large, making it easy to stow away in a bookshelf or drawer.
Like most other Tissot watches, the heart of the timepiece is the Powermatic 80 movement. Here’s one of the major benefits but also drawbacks of the Tissot Seastar. If I got it right, the Powermatic 80 is a developed ETA 2824-2 movement, now under the designation ETA CO7.111 with 80 (yes, eighty) hours of power reserve. This comes not from additional barrels, but from energy efficiency in the basic design. Remember, 80 hours of power reserve normally comes at much higher prices! Recently, there’s also a Silicium version of this movement that makes the watch less sensitive to magnetism.
It has 23 jewels instead of the regular 25 from the 2824-2 and is reduced to 21 600 beats per hour. A close comparison can reveal the six ticks per second compared to the smoother eight. Visually, it’s still a nice movement and a see-through case-back is standard for most Powermatic 80 watches. If I didn’t get it completely wrong, the main difference is the absence of a fine regulation screw. It doesn’t have the fancy blue screws, but then again, it’s priced below mid-range.
Critics might argue that it’s a mass-produced movement. I argue that you get 80 hours of power reserve with the Powermatic 80 movement. And this, at least to me, is worth a lot!
Case, crown & glass
The case has a weird, cylindrical form with the dimensions 43/1X mm, lug width of 21mm and L2L 47.3mm. The case is mostly finely brushed, but has polished details, for example inserts on the sides and lug tops. This mix of polished and brushed gives the watch a certain lively appearance that I really like.
Many might find 43mm too large and would perhaps disregard this watch based on that. In fact, thanks to the lug size and the cylindrical case shape, I’d say it doesn’t feel obsessively large. Rather the contrary – I know of people that have flipped this watch as it felt much smaller than 43mm.
My associations of the barrel-shaped case go to Oris Aquis, Breitling Superocean Heritage and perhaps Blancpain’s Fifty Fathoms Bathyscape. The cylindric form doesn’t appeal to everyone and wears in a peculiar fashion. However, I think that Tissot has struck gold with the sleek, downward pointing lugs that make this rather large piece wear extremely well. It’s not perfect, the even larger Sinn U1 wears better I believe. But perfect is the killer of good; and the Seastar wears well.
The crown has the Tissot “T” as a protruding detail and is well placed within a solid crown guard. As expected from a dive watch, it is a screw down crown with a very good and distinct feel between the modes.
The watch has a display case back, something that is quite rare among divers. The obvious reason for this is the risk of compromising the water resistance. The Seastar is rated to 200m/20bar, meaning that it falls outside the “professional diver” category, if there is a such.
The caseback is quite nice. The movement is clearly visible with a nicely engraved rotor. Around the crystal, there is (as usual) some text: Tissot, the water rating, sapphire crystal, stainless steel, etc. Between the groves for the case removal tool, there are three radial engraved lines which gives a very nice touch of symmetry.
The glass is flat, which adds to the general barrel form. The flat shape is quite practical as it reduces the risk of nicks and, to some extent, scratches. Sapphire crystal, of course.
The lug width is 21mm, which makes the option of custom straps and bands more challenging. I’m not sure if this is a Swatch group thing, since Omega Seamaster and Longines Hydroconquest also sport 21mm lugs. Perhaps the 21mm lug width gives and “optimal symmetry” with the case? Or perhaps, this is a way of selling more original straps. Either way, it’s one of the major drawbacks for someone like me who loves to play around and swap straps on my watches. Luckily, I’ve found a nice black, 21mm nylon Nato strap as a good option to the leather padded canvas strap for warm summer days
The dial is one of the things I like most with the Seastar. At least in the case of the black sunburst dial on my watch. Sunburst dials are not rare in this or even lower price ranges (Casio Duro for example). But the quality of the Seastar dial is surprisingly high and I frequently find myself playing around with the dial in the ambient light. From a utility perspective, sunburst dials on a diver watch is almost absurd. Then again, this adds to a unique timepiece that may well find a completely different kind of utility.
The dial has cylindrical 5-minute markers, a down-ward pointing triangle at 12 o’clock, rectangular 3, 6 and 9 o’clock markers; all filled with superluminova. Between the chapter ring and the 5-minute markers, there are white minute stripes. Between center and 12 o’clock, the Tissot logo and the year 1853 are displayed in white. On the opposite side, between center and 6 o’clock is the Seastar logo with Powermatic 80 beneath. A simple date window is found just above 6 o’clock and around the same marker “Swiss made” is written neatly.
As mentioned, I love this dial. The way the lovely sunburst plays in the light with the edges of the hour markers and the hands is extraordinary. Tissot has really made a good job here as it gives away a very delicate impression. There is one small flaw in the watch I have though. The 7- and 8 o’clock markers are not aligned perfectly, something that is given away when the seconds hand’s luminous ring fly over.
I mentioned earlier that the Seastar comes in many different versions. I need to point out that they appear more different than one might assume. The one that I own, with the black sunburst dial, appears way much nicer than for example the blue gradient (Ref T1204071704100) or the latest blue Powermatic Silicium (Ref T1204071104101) where the dial and bezel go very bad together. Unfortunately, they look much, much nicer on pictures. This is one of the reasons I think the Seastar doesn’t sell that well. The disappointment when realizing a watch looks much poorer in real life is quite a let-down.
The previous generation of the Seastar 1000 were horrible in my point of view, due to the hands. Large, arrow hands that reminded of mushrooms made the watch look weird. Thankfully, Tissot has replaced them with very sharp, straight sword minute and hour hands- The seconds hand is thin with a small luminous marker almost at the edge and the Tissot T at the base.
As mentioned in my previous review, I’m extremely picky when it comes to hands. In this case, I think Tissot has nailed it when it comes to all but one detail of the hands: the Tissot logo on the seconds hand. This is nothing unusual. For example, Breitling sports their B at the same place in their prestige divers. For Tissot however, it doesn’t really work that well. It’s comes across as a corny attempt to paste their logo in a funny place. At the same time, it’s not totally off either. The large T makes the seconds hand a bit more dominating and if one looks past the fact that it’s the logotype, it gives a nice geometry overall.
In terms of readability, the hands are perfect and so is the lume. The hands come across as polished and give reflections, again something that sacrifices utility over style.
The bezel is a standard, coated steel bezel with the regular diver design and a luminous top marker. 60 clicks, unidirectional with ratchets making it easy to turn. The bezel gives away that the Seastar 1000 isn’t a high-end watch. It doesn’t have the same distinct clicks as for example some high-end divers do. There’s no slack, and it’s perfectly aligned (as should be expected). There’s just no “X-factor” about the bezel making it different from any other diver in the same range.
Straps and bracelet
The Seastar 1000 comes in a handful configurations with either a rubber band, canvas strap or steel bracelet. There’s even a mesh bracelet option, which for me sparks associations to the Breitling Superocean Heritage.
The rubber band is a bit of a let-down. It’s hard and has a slightly foul yet discreet smell. I wore it a couple of times before changing back to the canvas strap, which has an artificial leather padding and feels extremely comfortable. It has a nice push button butterfly clasp sporting the Tissot logo.
Unfortunately, the canvas strap is too short and will not be possible to wear for those with larger wrists. Also, the push buttons of the clasp are not very precise and requires a bit of force sometimes to close properly.
The bracelet, on the other hand, is on par or even better than what the price may suggest. It’s a five-link bracelet with combination polished and brushed links that makes it look nice. Considering that the bracelet will last longer than any band or strap, and that the options for custom bands and straps are limited, my recommendation is therefore to go with the bracelet.
In addition to the see-through case back, the Seastar has a simple date window as general feature. I mentioned a small quality flaw of the dial before, and here’s the other smaller issue I have with this watch. For the two-digit dates, when looking carefully, a small piece of the next date can be seen in the window. This is nothing that should be expected in a watch in this – or any – price range.
Putting that aside, I think it’s a clever move to include a date window on this model. As I’ve hinted before, the Seastar is not a professional diver and can therefore afford to move away from basic utility in the same way many other diver watch designs have. I’ll get back to that later.
Price, buying and options
The Seastar is around 800 EUR with two years warranty. This is well below the 1 000 EUR step, but also way above the entry level of 2-300 EUR where you find many quality divers. Typically, at least in my watch community, the Tissot watches drop like most watches in this segment when sold second hand. On the other hand, they are not turned around as frequently. Is 800 EUR the right price for this watch? Yes and no.
If looking past the flaws mentioned above, the package is extremely good: large power reserve, strong brand with large AD presence, 80 hours power reserve, Swiss made, see-through caseback and a very, very nice design. In this regard, this is a watch that punches way above its belt and in this regard.
In my reviews, I like to present some options to the watch in subject. Let me point out that there are probably other, more suitable options than the ones I think of.
Longines Hydroconquest – the solid mid-range diver
Oris Aquis – borderline classy, borderline bully
Seiko SPB053 – Heritage & utility
From my point of view, the Longines Hydroconquest share many design features with the Seastar, and therefore I cannot refrain from comparing them. A prospective desk diver, the Hydroconquest has a beautiful sunburst disk in (currently) four different colours: black, blue, gray and blue. Standard bracelet and strap options. Longines, like Tissot, is a traditional Swiss watch maker with a long history. I also think the pricing of the Hydroconquest makes it very interesting as it is well placed in the mid-range. In addition, the Hydroconquest comes in 41 and 43mm sizes to appeal to a larger range of wearers. In fashion with a more traditional diver design, the Hydroconquest doesn’t have a see-through case back. Having said that, the Tissot beats the Hydroconquest with its 80 hours power reserve. It’s really a matter of taste – the Seastar wears better for me and is almost half the price of the Hydroconquest.
Oris Aquis is another popular diver that reminds me of the Seastar (or vice versa). This is an unfair comparison, as the Acquis is priced in the upper end of the mid-range. Both watches have the barrel-like design of the case that gives a bulky impression. The Acquis comes in many more sizes, versions and more complications (GMT for example). The Aquis series also sports delicate sunburst dials that look fantastic. My main problem with Aquis is that they are often too bulky plus that you can’t use custom straps and bands due to the lug design.
The third option is just below the Seastar in terms of price. Seiko has a myriad of diveers and I’m the first one to admit that I’ve mixed up models before. In the original version of this post, I had by accident listed the SLA037 as a viable alternative. The watch I had in mind was in fact the SBP053. Compared to the Seastar the SPB053 is similar in size and specification (sapphire crystal over the mineral crystal found in Seiko’s entry level divers), but has a more classical and sporty look.
There is, as usual and particularly in this price range, a ton of other options. After all, dive watches are found everywhere.
Tissot is in many regards mainstream and targets a difficult market segment just above entry level. Still, it’s a brilliant watch maker with a long tradition and a very strong geographical presence. The whole idea of Tissot seems to be to give the impression of luxury without having to pay for it. I think this is completely fair. After all, it’s quite nice to buy a nice watch, with the whole AD experience, without having to go to the most exclusive dealers.
Compared to the bread-and-butter microbrands in the same range, Tissot is a watchmaker with long history. If you’re really into watches and horology, you might find the idea mass-produced of mass-produced watches and movements less appealing. But then I also suggest that you think the same in relation to quite a few other brands.
As I’ve hinted throughout the review, the Seastar is not a professional diver. I also didn’t include any true professional diver watches in the options section. The reason is that most divers out there only get wet when you wash your hands.
Tissot and many other brands have therefore evolved their design of diver watches to become dressier. For example, there is little need for sunburst discs or see-through casebacks (let alone a date function) if one wants a utility watch. Now, the whole idea of the diver watch is not primarily for underwater use, but rather a sturdy time piece that can withstand a good deal of beating. That’s why most divers around have a date function so that it becomes a useful every-day watch.
Tissot Seastar takes this a bit further into a direction that I believe is a dressy diver. I bought the Seastar to use as a “rough duty” watch: sailing, snorkeling, hiking and landscaping. Instead, it has become my “at home/leisure” beater that, if needed, can step up for a dressier occasion or, conversely, do some unexpected rough duty. I would not feel embarrassed if I’d wear this watch for a job interview. And it is in this regard that the details mentioned make total sense. That’s also why 200m depth rating is more than enough.
I’ve also mentioned a few drawbacks. Let’s start with the poor straps. I cannot understand how Tissot can deliver this watch with a too short canvas strap. Had the watch been sub 40mm, it could have been explained, but many people wearing 43mm watches have larger wrists. As for the rubber band, I’m just disappointed by the quality and feel. Perhaps it’s durable?
Second, the quality flaws on the disc and the date window/wheel are also difficult for me to explain. Maybe I was unlucky with the piece that I god, and maybe most others are without these flaws? Doesn’t really matter, if you ask me. The quality control of a brand like Tissot should not let these errors slip.
In the end of the day, at least for me, the positives outweigh the negatives by far with this watch. Despite its drawbacks and flaws, I love this watch. This is another versatile watch that gets the job done. Actually, jobs.
Rating: 6.5/10 – Everyday watch
EDIT: By accident, the original post had the Seiko SLA037 instead of the SPB053, which is far above the Seastar in price. Thanks to Alex who pointed this out!