Watch buyers often choose a target price range before narrowing their search down in any other way. One of the most common target prices is roughly between $200 and $1,000. Two brands that fit into this category are Tissot and Hamilton, two esteemed organizations that belong to the Swatch Group. Below, I explain how similar these companies are and give some guidance on how you can choose between them.
Hamilton’s history begins in the late 1800s when the company decided to specialize in watches for railroad workers. With a target market and a brand identity under their belt, they began to gain acclaim in the United States. What really made Hamilton takeoff was the two World Wars, as they manufactured timepieces for the US army in both of them. One of their most famous horological innovations was introducing an electrically powered product in 1957. Today, they are owned by the Swatch Group, which is a large timepiece conglomerate.
Tissot is a classic Swiss brand that is much older than you might expect. It was founded in 1853, and at that time mostly sold pocket watches in Russia. Much like Hamilton, this company saw a boom after World War II, started to enter into partnerships with other companies, and eventually was bought by the Swatch Group.
As you can see, there isn’t much of a difference between these brands when it comes to history and culture. Both are quite old, have respectable heritage, and are now part of a larger investment group. I personally trend towards Hamilton due to their United States roots, but that preference is minimal.
Materials, Craftsmanship, and Movements
Normally, I would separate these aspects into their own categories. The reason why I’m not is that these brands are incredibly even. Both are made from a high grade of stainless steel, have exceptional craftsmanship, and have a variety of reliable movements. You might decide that you have a preference between them once you get your hands on a few models, but I don’t see much variation between them. Both brands come with fantastic value and give you a lot of watch for the price you’re paying.
You don’t see much of a difference between these brands when you look at prices, either. Still, there are some minor variations. Tissot seems to have more models in the ultra-affordable $100-200 price range, while Hamilton has almost none below $300. As far as price, Tissot tops out around $1,500, while Hamilton pieces go a bit higher.
The looks of these two brands are really the first place where you see a significant difference. While many of their pieces have similar aesthetics, there are a few collections that break the mold.
For Tissot, they have a variety of super sporty watches that would look great on a race car driver’s wrist. That makes sense, considering that this company sponsors many drivers, the most notable being Danica Patrick. Aside from those, they mostly create luxurious looking pieces that likely fit into the dress watch category.
Hamilton is a bit different in a few ways. First, their most popular models are field watches, rather than dress pieces. Second, they experiment with odd, eye-catching shapes that are sure to garner some attention. The most famous of them is likely the Ventura, which has an especially distinctive look to it. My description won’t do it justice, so definitely check it out for yourself.
Sentiment of the Watch Community
I did a bit of research to see which brand has a more favorable reputation among the watch community. What I found was about as inconclusive as the rest of this comparison. There were roughly equal amounts of people on either side of the debate. For some reason, many of them felt very strongly, but without concrete reasons for why. Overall, the public sentiment on these brands is very even.
How to Choose Between Them
So, let’s review what we’ve learned so far. In short, Hamilton and Tissot are nearly the same in many ways. They have similar history, materials, craftsmanship, movements, and prices. For me, that leaves aesthetics as the only factor to take into consideration. Those of you who want a unique shape should go with a Hamilton, while those who love the sporty vibe of racing watches should go with Tissot. If you have no desire for either of those, then just look through both catalogs and see if anything catches your eye.
As you can see, you can’t really choose one of these brands as better or worse than the other. Instead, your decision will come down to pure aesthetic preference.
To get you started, let me recommend one model from each of them. They are the Tissot Heritage T0864081605100 and the Hamilton American Classic Intra-Matic Auto. Both have a fantastic minimalist style and are incredibly well made. No matter what, you can’t go wrong with either of these brands.