Siffert, Ickx, Stewart, Moss, and McQueen are names that naturally come up when talking about the golden era of motorsport, but theyíll come up just as much when discussing vintage watches. Some had watches made in their name long after their racing days were over; others made watches like the Autavia and Daytona into big names in the collecting world. Tissot is hoping to add a new name to the conversation with the release of the Heritage 1973 Chronograph Ė and that name is Loris Kessel.*
Kessel isnít as well known as some of his contemporaries, and he didnít rack up any championship points in the six Grand Prix races he entered, but he was indeed sponsored by Tissot in the 1976 Formula 1 Grand Prix in addition to building and entering his very own car, the Apollon Fly, the very next year. His involvement in the community was absolutely monumental, having not only raced, but opened up car dealerships around the canton of Tessin and created racing teams around these dealerships. *Now his son, Ronnie Kessel, is carrying the torch under the banner of Kessel Classics, a Swiss shop that specializes in campaigning classic race cars in historic races around the world. Ronnie has motorsport in his blood, having been named after Lorisís close friend and fellow Formula 1 racer Ronnie Peterson.
The Tissot Heritage 1973 Chronograph was developed with Kessel Classics in mind; the barrell case and orange accents look right at home amongst the cars the shop preps for races like the Monte-Carlo Rally and the Bernina Granturismo in St. Moritz. Theyíve entered heavy hitters like a Lancia Stratos and an Alfa Romeo Stepnose GTV into these historic races. And when they entered Lorisís favorite car into the Monaco Historic Grand Prix, a 1976 Ensign N176 F1 car, they took first.
The Tissot Navigator watch of the '70s laid the blueprints for the new Heritage 1973 Chronograph with its tonneau case and panda-style chronograph registers. Since the design language is already out there, the charm of the watch comes from how closely it sticks to the script -- and I mean that in a good way. Sure it eschews a poly crystal for a box-cut glass crystal with a dramatic dome, but any watch produced in 2019 has to contend with the performance standards put forth by modernity. Acrylic just wonít cut it anymore. And besides, *crystal on this watch is so well done that when you hold the watch flat and look at the dial from the side, the curvature of the crystal distorts the tachymeter scale in the same exact way all the old plexi crystals on chrono watches from the '70s do. The numbers look like theyíre bleeding right off the side of the dial, like theyíre just dripping and running down into the small crevice between the dial and the tachymeter chapter ring.
Then there's the brushing on the case. It almost seems like when the '70s ended all the machines that could produce a beautiful radial brushed finish just stopped working. Itís a finish that very few modern watches wear, and thatís a shame, because it adds so much personality and visual variety to a case. Itís also incredibly prone to scratches and they canít be polished out *easily. That might have something to do with how uncommon it is these days Many would-be fantastic vintage watches have seen a *poor "sunburst" polish and when itís done incorrectly itís not pretty. But the Tissot nails it, and there are a variety of finishes present that make this an exciting bit of metal to encapsulate an ETA Valjoux 7753.
The funk has been engineered out on many modern watches that draw inspiration from this period. The Omega Speedmaster MK II of 2014 uses orange accents in a more restrained fashion. Designers of the Autavias of today donít readily embrace the tonneau case like they once did. Breitling hasnít even touched the Top Time. When it comes to a modern watch that offers a very specific vintage vibe, this Tissot is at the top of the stack. Itís priced at $2,100 and there will be 1973 of them made.*
In a way, this watch puts Kesselís name back on the grid with drivers like Ickx once again. And the Heritage 1973 Chronograph is a winning formula if youíre looking for a modern watch that accurately captures the coolness of the racing world in the '70s in the small details.*This one pulls out ahead.*
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