By Meor Amri Meor Ayob
The T-Touch Expert Solar Titanium with reference T091.420.44.051.00 is one of the latest iteration of the first T-Touch model launched back in 1999. When Tissot presented its first tactile multi-functional watch in 1999, it instantly became a hit. The general public was amazed to see a sports watch with amazing functions that can be activated by just touching the crystal glass. Back then, adventure type computer-like watches with ABC capabilities (altimeter, barometer & compass) were only made by a few brands such as Casio and Suunto, to name but a few.
Although the technology interests me immensely, I did not find it useful if the watch is only powered by batteries without any energy regenerative system in place. The thought of such a watch not able to fulfill its capabilities due to the lack of power is unthinkable especially in the wild and when you need that particular capability the most.
Despite the improvement in solar technology for watches over the decades, it was only in 2014 that a T-Touch with solar power capability was introduced to the market. This was a defining moment and I finally took the plunge and got myself a T-Touch Expert Solar Reference T091.420.44.051.00.
This will be my first ‘Hands on Review’ for a non-mechanical watch. Even though it was designed for the wild, I won’t be testing it in that environment. Instead, I will look at it more in the way one would use it in a day-to-day urban setting.
Size & Weight
The first thing one would notice was the disconnection between the size of the watch and its actual weight. At 45 mm across and a height of 13 mm coupled with a metal bracelet to fit a lug width 22 mm, it should have some heft to it. However, the use of titanium as the base material would only tip the scale at just 123 grams. Granted it is not heavy, its dimension in considerable nonetheless.
From a practical standpoint, the major issue I found was the solid titanium bracelet. If you do want to take it out into the wilderness I would recommend the fabric strap option for a real good fit. I have seen people wearing their Casio Protrek ABC watches over their sleeves so that they can access the compass function quickly. This same goes for the T-Touch if you want to use it in an adventurous setting. Do note that the rubber strap option from Tissot would require you to cut the rubber strap to size which does not allow further resizing later. If given a choice on the strap option, the fabric strap (with a tang buckle) would be more useful in the long run. Although you can use after-market straps from other makers in the 22 mm category, because the end-link is unique to the T-Touch, you will see a noticeable gap between the strap and the watch casing.
From a cost effective standpoint, get the bracelet option purely because of the price benefit. The price difference between the bracelet and strap is small compared to buying a replacement bracelet. Best to just make the investment and then replace with a cheaper rubber or fabric strap option.
The T-Touch Expert Solar on a bracelet looks purposeful and oozes the feeling of sophistication. The grey tone on the titanium creates the dark mystic emotion that puts it in the same league as the Omega Skywalker X-33. However, the titanium bracelet does not have a whole lot of micro-adjustment capacity. On my wrist, it could not fit nicely so I resized it to be slightly loose (my wrist circumference is 7.5 inches).
Unfortunately, the light titanium material is more susceptible to scratches compared to stainless steel. A pity that Tissot does not have stronger titanium alloy to protect against such events unlike Seiko’s “Diashield” titanium alloy which is much harder. After wearing it for just a couple of days, scuff marks appears easily even after contact with desktops while typing on the keyboard.
The Interface & Function
The T-Touch Expert is protected with anti-reflective sapphire crystals and constructed to resist water pressure up to 100 meters (about 330 feet). Underneath the front sapphire crystal glass is a black carbon fibre-like weaved dial. There are hours and minute markers around the edge of the dial. Two types of hours markers are used that are interspersed between the odd or even hours. These markers as well as the hour and minute hands are painted with SuperLuminova luminous paint. The bottom part of the dial is also the LCD screen.
The fixed bezel is PVD black and has some text printed on the inner side of the bezel that highlight the various functions of the watch such as metrology, altimeter, compass, chronograph, alarm and timer. Meanwhile, the function key to access the various complications on the watch is located at the 3 o’clock position marked “T”. There are two other pushers marked “+” and “-“on both sides of the function key. The function key and pushers are also PVD black like the bezel.
From a distance, the watch looks like a normal analogue watch with easy to see a dial with great legibility. Even though the hands are short, there is high-level of contrast with the dial, which makes the T-Touch Expert Solar quite readable.
The dial and the tactile sapphire crystal that gives the T-Touch its name are the stars of this watch. The dial is divided neatly in half. The top comprises the solar cells that look almost like woven carbon fibre. The bottom half of the dial is the LCD display. Note that the LCD is an inverted screen which makes it blend better with the black woven carbon fibre half of the dial. The tactile sapphire crystal is divided into six sections and denoted by the function names printed on the inner side of the bezel. By tapping the various sections on the tactile sapphire crystal will allow the user to access the core functions.
The T-Touch Expert Solar is a very capable adventure watch, offering essential functions for everyday use such as a perpetual calendar with indication of day and week number, two alarms, two time zones, weather forecast with relative pressure, altimeter with difference meter, chronograph lap and split with logbook, compass with azimuth reference, timer with regatta function, and backlight.
For those of you new to the T-Touch, I would seriously recommend you read the manual first. Even if you are familiar with the Casio Protrek, it is best to study the manual as the way Tissot design the interface is unique to the T-Touch. The 21-page manual is easy to comprehend. While the basics of activating the functions are pretty intuitive, the need to adjust the watch for nearly all of the complications once you take it out of the box for the first time is bothersome (Tissot calls it “Synchronization”). In my case, I had to do it for the altimeter and the barometer.
The system of pushing the function key (let me refer to it as a ‘crown’ from now onwards) to activate the touch screen is easy, and the flashing ‘T-Touch’ logo on the LCD to indicate when the screen is live. By pressing on the function quadrants on the tactile sapphire crystal, both the hour and minute hands moves to point towards the chosen function when activated.
The new movement in the Tissot T-Touch Expert Solar is the ETA E84.305 and is the most advanced T-Touch movement to date. It not only incorporates solar power generation to the mix but also more energy storage, faster motors for the analogue hands as well as higher processing power. The improved responsiveness of the screen, as well as the extremely fast movement of the hands, makes it very desirable. The combination of such advancements makes for a much better user experience.
The Wearing Experience
The T-Touch Expert Solar is a sports watch under the ABC category – Altimeter, Barometer & Compass capable electronic watches. Competing brands under this category are the likes of Casio‘s Protrek series, Suunto’s Kailash, Traverse and Essential series, and Seiko’s Prospex Alpinist series (there are other brands with ABC capabilities but these three makers are Kings of this genre).
Apart from the technology, it has style and it wears comfortably. Wearing this watch in a formal setting is not a problem. Its shape tends for it to slip easily under shirt cuffs. The functionality makes it more usable – not for any practical reason (in my case) but mostly for the fun factor.
After wearing this watch for over two weeks, I must say that this watch has an edge over the Casio Protrek (I do own one). The Tissot looks good in many of situations that I am used to (unlike the Casio). Overall, a well designed and styled quartz/digital watch that looks good. Pricey, but worth it. For more info, please visit tissotwatches.com
MEOR AMRI MEOR AYOB – CONTRIBUTING EDITOR
Meor Amri is a passionate watch collector from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Having bitten by the horology bug in 2010, he has written extensively about the watch scene and has assembled a large collection of watches (excessively!!!) on his own free time. His blogs on the same subject are: Eastern Watch & Western Watch Read his articles here