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 Powermatic 80 collection, 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 Chronometrethat 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 (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.
The model I chose to wear around for a few days is the most basic, with a steel case and bezel, a black dial, and a black leather strap with a butterfly clasp. To me, that’s the one. However, there are three other men’s models and three women’s models too. For men, you could opt for a steel model with a silver dial on a steel bracelet, a two-tone steel and rose gold model on a brown strap, or a two-tone steel and yellow gold models with a two-tone bracelet. For women, there’s a two-tone steel and rose gold model on a white strap, an all-steel model on a bracelet, and a two-tone steel and yellow gold model on a two-tone bracelet. The ladies’ pieces have mother-of-pearl dials as well. In all cases, the gold-colored platings are PVD, not real gold, though at this price point you can’t argue at all about that. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Tissot continue to build out this collection further.
Ultimately though, how does the Ballade wear? Great. The 41mm case is just 9.84mm thick, so it wears smaller than you might expect. Would I like this watch even more if it were 39mm? Yes, I’d probably have bought one the moment it came out if it were that size. This is a good middle ground though and I think for a lot of people looking for their everyday watch, it’s going to be very comfortable and the not-sporty, not-dressy look is going to work for them in nearly every situation. The dial in particular looks extremely nice, changing tones in different lighting, and the applied markers are very nicely executed here too.
As you’d probably expect at this price point, the leather strap could be better, and I’d swap it out for something more understated if I were going to wear the watch long term. I also applaud Tissot in spirit for including a butterfly buckle here, but I’m not a fan of that style of buckle (simple pin buckles win for me every time) and would leave that in the box as well. Otherwise, it’s pretty tough to find anything to complain about here.
Overall, the Ballade has left me extremely impressed. It’s easy to get excited about the big guns. When Patek Philippe introduces a minute repeater worldtimer or F.P. Journe surprises us with a split-seconds monopusher chronograph, anyone with a love of horology is going to take note. But these quiet wins impress me more and more these days. The Ballade is a watch with great styling, nice attention to detail, and a genuinely interesting movement, all for under $1,000. Whether you’re someone looking for your first quality watch, a seasoned collector who wants a no-fuss workhorse, or someone trying to find a solid recommendation to get your friends as interested in watches as you are, the Ballade is a solid choice.
The Tissot Ballade range includes seven total models for both men and women, with prices ranging from $925 for those on straps to $1,075 for the two-tone bracelet versions. You can check out the full selection and even purchase directly by visiting Tissot online.