It’s hard to pin down exactly what “value” means when we’re talking about mechanical watches. Considering that nobody actually needs a mechanical watch, it’s really all grey area. However, there are a few things that I think we can all agree bring value to the table: robustness of construction, aesthetic finish and execution, and quality of movement technology. The Tissot Ballade delivers on all three, and with a price tag under $1,000 makes one heck of a case for itself.
The Ballade is an extension of the Tissot Powermatic 80 collection replica watches, which has been a core offering from Tissot for years now. I think the Powermatic 80 watches are the most interesting and compelling watches to come from Tissot overall, with the occasional chronograph or vintage-inspired worldtimer getting my attention too, and they come in many flavors. There are the basic models, and also special editions such as the Le Locle Chronometre that I reviewed way back in 2013, that really push the watch to its extremes. While the Ballade is now a central collection, I’d place it squarely in the latter camp, and for some pretty concrete reasons.
The most important thing about the Ballade is under the hood. The Powermatic 80 caliber has been upgraded to include a silicon balance spring, making it more resistant to magnetism over the long run. Typically, you’d have to spend thousands of dollars to get a watch with a silicon balance spring, but thanks to Swatch Group owning ETA and having some of the best industrial movement production capabilities you’ll find anywhere, you get that additional substance in a sub-$1,000 watch here. As if that wasn’t enough, the movement is also COSC certified as a chronometer. I really can’t think of a better movement available with a three-figure price tag. Can you?
Otherwise, the Powermatic 80 caliber movement fake Tissot watches (also called the C07.111) is unchanged. It’s based on the ETA 2824-2, with the namesake 80-hour power reserve, 23 jewels, and the automatic winding system. Decoration in the Ballade is similar to what you’ll find in other versions too. The rotor is polished and engraved with Tissot branding, which looks nice and isn’t too over-the-top, while finishing on the other components is pretty minimal. For a caliber like this, I think it’s appropriate, if not the most exciting.
But beyond the movement, the Ballade succeeds in other ways too. I’ve always liked the Powermatic 80 aesthetic, which has just enough mid-century charm to set it apart while being mostly a pretty no-nonsense look. The Ballade adds some different dial and case finishes that I really like. The bezel has a fine hobnail finish all the way around, with a slim polished section right around the dial, that frames it rather nicely. The pattern is then echoed in the center of the dial, with a flat section around the edge there as well (though this time much wider). The applied steel markers span the two sections of the dial, adding some dynamism. The slim Arabic numerals at 12 and six, combined with the sharp hands, are a definite nod to the scientific watches from the 1930s to 1960s that inspired the Ballade.