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Tissot Seastar Automatic vs. Quartz, a 20 Year Comparison

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This was the first model that I owned, a Tissot Seastar Quartz Analog, followed by the Automatic version a few years later.

This was the first model that I owned, a Tissot Seastar Quartz Analog, followed by the Automatic version a few years later.

Tissot Seastar Dive Watch Review

My First Seastar

I enjoy a number of water related hobbies, including scuba diving and kayaking, so I'd never even consider owning a watch that wasn't either water water resistant or water proof. When I stumbled across the Seastar line of watches made by Tissot, I was excited to find that there was a well made, precision, Swiss watch with water resistance up to 300 meters in my price range and I decided to save up and purchase one. Although they're not a true "waterproof" watch and don't feature a pressure release valve or helium gas, these rugged watches will stand up to swimming and even diving at recreational depths, though they're not warranted for scuba use. I've swam with both my automatic and quartz Seastar watches, as well as gone scuba diving with them up to a depth of 100', having no issues whatsoever. As for which is the better watch, I now have a clear personal favorite, which I'll get to later in this article.

Care and Feeding

From personal experience I can testify that the Tissot Seastar quartz series does not require any regular maintenance, except for a new battery every couple of years. The analog series requires a trip to a qualified watchmaker every couple of years for lubrication and cleaning, however at three years out with the automatic model I've not yet had this done.

I know from personal experience that spray on sunscreen is not a friend of this, or any other watch with baked on black enamel on the face. When applying sunscreen, never spray it on the face of the watch or it will eventually cause the finish to fade, as it did to my quartz model. Other than this little hiccup, the quartz Seaster model has been an incredible value for the money over the past 20 years and mine still works flawlessly.

About Tissot

Many Americans had never heard of the Swiss watchmaker Tissot until the early 2000's when they became an official NASCAR sponsor. The unlikely partnership of a noisy American motor sport and a no-nonsense Swiss watchmaker did have the effect of increasing brand awareness, yet Tissot still enjoys better name recognition overseas, where it's perceived as an affordable luxury watch.

Tissot may be thought of as a "poor man's Rolex" by some, since there's still no other Swiss made watch that even comes close in terms of quality and style at a fraction of the price. The name "Seastar" even seems a bit derivative of Rolex's "Seamaster" and this was most likely intentional. The company makes a wide variety of timepieces for men and women, with prices ranging from $250 quartz models to the $8,500 Heritage Navigator Limited Edition gold model.

What’s on the Inside of the Tissot Seastar

Tissot quartz analog Seastar watches feature a precision Swiss made, multi - jeweled movement. Accuracy is within a couple of seconds each month. Quartz watches like the Seastar beat even the best Rolex chronometer in terms of accuracy, yet there is still plenty of fine Swiss craftsmanship in the watch to please even an engineer.

If you prefer the engineering beauty of a highly tuned automatic watch, the Tissot Seastar comes in an automatic version, for about a hundred bucks more. The movement used in the automatic version is virtually identical to the one found in Tag Heuer watches, yet for only about a fourth of the price.

Case and Band

For those accustomed to Japanese watches such as Seiko, the case and band of the Tissot Seastar watches may feel a bit hefty. It looks good on any man with an average sized wrist, but not on those with very skinny wrists. The size of the quartz version's face is 45.5mm millimeters, which is slightly less than a Rolex Submariner's face. The automatic version features a slightly smaller profile at 43.0 mm. The case of the quartz version is 12.82 millimeters deep and the automatic's is 12.7mm deep. Both offer a nice masculine profile on the wrist. Some models feature a band with a deployment clasp, which keeps the watch from opening by accident, and also a wet suit extension. This allows the watch band to be extended about a 1/3 of an inch to fit over a standard 6 millimeter wet-suit. The Seastar series comes in a number of colors and some feature a stopwatch and chronometer feature.

In terms of their weight, neither version is that light, but still aren't heavy enough to feel uncomfortable on the wrist. The weight of a Tissot Seastar quartz is 150 grams and 180 grams for the automatic.

The Tissot Seastar Series: What You Get for the Money

What makes the Seastar watch series unique among similarly priced watches is the quality of construction. All Seastar water resistant watches, whether self-winding automatic or quartz models, are made with marine grade stainless steel. The case back, and screw-down stem are all protected by small high quality rubber O rings. In earlier years Tissot advertised these as "dive watches" and for almost every practical purpose, they still are. For some reason, despite having the exact same construction, they're now referred to as "water resistant" watches, with no mention of using them for scuba diving. What may have happened was when some recreational divers began to push the limits of the sport with new mixed gas diving technology, and began diving to depths closer to the watches rated limit, enough failures began to happen to cause the company have to change their rating.

Another very rich feature is that they both feature scratch-resistant sapphire glass face. Synthetic sapphire glass is one of the hardest man-made substances. Many "dive" watches, including Invicta, Reactor and Luminox, feature softer mineral glass faces. (My own Luminox dive watch showed visible scratches after wearing it only two months). Even though mineral glass is "hardened" it's still much easier to scratch than synthetic sapphire glass. On the MHO's hardness scale Sapphire glass is two points higher.

What having a synthetic sapphire glass face means, for those who tend to give their watches a workout in the real world, is that years from the purchase date you'll still most likely have a clear, easily readable, scratch-free watch face. For me, the quartz sapphire face is one of the best features of these watches, considering that they sell for much less than a Rolex or Tag Heuer.

My current Seastar automatic, which is now 3 years old. It's been highly abused yet has no visible scratches.

My current Seastar automatic, which is now 3 years old. It's been highly abused yet has no visible scratches.

Which Seastar is Best, Automatic or Quartz?

Why I Prefer My Seastar Automatic vs. the Seastar Quartz

My first quartz analog Seastar was purchased in 2000 and over the past 20 years has been treated very roughly at times, yet the face is still mostly scratch free. I've mixed concrete while wearing it, gone scuba diving, swimming and ocean kayaking, and hardly did I ever take it off until 2017, when I purchased the same watch in an automatic version. For those unfamiliar with watch terms, "automatic" refers to the fact that these watches are "self winding", and thus never require batteries, unlike quartz models which contain one that must be replaced about once a year.

With my newer Seastar automatic, I never have to worry about batteries again. By keeping it on and wearing it most of the time, it stay's fully wound thanks to a small pendulum (which you can see through a window on the backside of the watch.) My older quartz Seastar still works great when replace the battery about once a year, but it mostly sits in a dresser drawer since I wear my automatic most of the time.

I really like the fact that the automatic model has a slightly smaller face, making it seem less "clunky" on my wrist than the quartz model. I also love the thought of a "perpetual motion machine", made of finely tuned gears and jewels, humming along on my wrist without any electronic technology involved. Holding the automatic version up to your ear you can year a satisfying mechanical humming sound as all the little parts work in synchronicity. I also love the way automatic watch second hands "sweep" or flow around the dial instead of tick.

The Only Downside to the Seastar Automatic

I like the slightly smaller face size for my own wrist and I love the fact that the Seastar automatic requires no batteries. The construction of both models is extremely good and both feature synthetic sapphire glass faces. The only downside in my book is that they don't keep as accurate time as the quartz models do. This is true for almost any automatic watch, even the much more expensive Rolex. Digital watches, even the $9.00 ones in the discount store, are generally more accurate. If however you don't mind your watch being off up to a minute or two every couple of months, then this should be of little concern.

I find that accuracy is much higher when the watch is worn consistently. Some of the times that it's been off a minute or two were when I'd taken it off of my wrist overnight and it probably wound down too much.

It's easy enough to unscrew the waterproof stem cover and bump the time a ahead a bit if needed, so for me this lone shortcoming doesn't bother me that much. Also, I don't have to visit the jeweler every year and pay for changing a battery.

Alternatives

If you're looking to save a bit of money and still want a highly water resistant watch with a sapphire crystal face, you may want to consider the Momentum Men's M50. Instead of a Swiss movement this rugged sports watch features a Japanese quartz one and is advertised to be water resistant to 500 meters, compared to 300 meters for the Seastar. These watches are advertised to be favorites of first responders, and retail for about $100 less than the Tissot Seastar Quartz.

© 2009 Nolen Hart