One of the storied Swiss brands, Tissot is now part of the Swatch Group. The brand has a colorful history and continues to produce both affordable and high-end timepieces.
Year Established: 1853
Headquarters: Le Locle, Switzerland
Watch Category: Mid-Range to Luxury
Brand Accomplishments: First mass-produced pocket watches and first pocket watches with two time zones
Founded in 1853, Tissot started as a father and son team. Charles-Félicien Tissot was a gold fitter and Charles-Émile Tissot a watchmaker. The origins of the company were as an assembly shop named Charles-Félicien Tissot and Son. In the mid-1800s, men carried pocket watches and ladies wore pendant watches. Tissot was the first to mass-produce pocket watches. Aa well, they produced the first pocket watch with two time zones.
The Tissot early watches bore rich decorations and complications with brilliant craftsmanship. It did not take long for the company’s reputation to expand and exports to the US and Russia thrived. In 1885 Charles-Émile moved to Russia to manage the Tissot business and married a Russian woman.
In 1907 Tissot built a factory in Le Locle. Until this time, the business was in the Tissot family home. Not long after, in 1910, Tissot produced its first women’s watch. Tissot focused on women’s wrist watches. Although, they did produce a men’s wrist watches ahead of the industry as a whole.
In 1917, the company moved from Ébauche to manufacture when they began producing movements. In the mid-1920s, Tissot entered into a commercial partnership with the Omega. This partnership was the groundwork for the two companies joining forces in 1930. The Great Depression led the two watchmakers to join forces and created the Société Suisse pour l’Industrie Horlogère (SSIH).
In the course of the World War I soldiers figured many ways to affix watches to their wrists. In the WWI period, the growth in demand for men’s watches helped propel the Tissot sales further. In 1953, Edouard-Louis Tissot took over and streamlined the company. He focused the company to create base calibers as a framework to build watches upon.
Throughout the 1970s and 80s, Tissot pushed the envelope in watch design. They explored making watches from materials such as plastics, granite, pearl, and wood. In 1974 Tissot began sponsoring race cars and now is the official timekeeper for many sporting events. The pressure of the quartz crisis weighed on the entire Swiss watch industry. The crisis led to Tissot’s owner, SSIH, to merge with Allgemeine Gesellschaft der Schweizerischen Uhrenindustrie (ASUAG). This merger created The Swatch Group.
Tissot survived through flexibility and innovation and continues that tradition today.