In 1988, Tissot joined forces with Ettore Sottsass, founder of design and architecture movement the Memphis Group. The Italian designer had created a watch in keeping with his daring, colourful, disruptive, nonconformist approach. To mark to the 40th anniversary of the movement’s birth, Tissot is issuing the Heritage Memphis, which goes right back to the style of the ’80s. There are four arty models, aimed at people attuned to the avant‑garde, to style and to unapologetic originality.
Tissot, “Innovators by Tradition” since the company was founded, has always had a knack for anticipating and riding key fashion trends, particularly by forging partnerships with famous designers, such as Ettore Sottsass in the ’80s. Forty years after the movement was founded, Tissot is launching its Heritage Memphis Limited Edition.
In 1988, Ettore Sottsass proposed a watch that would express his design style, in partnership with the Le Locle brand. Like his furniture, this piece broke with existing norms and conventions. The Tissot Sottsass is round, but its profile is lenticular. It comprises a case back and bezel, both bevelled. Together they form a geometric stack reminiscent of Sottsass’s designs, such as Totem, the piece that launched the movement. There are no lugs, but instead a protuberance of the case that serves to attach it to the strap, a new shape encased within others like a set of cubes, one of Sottsass’s signatures.
The hour markers are chunky, contrasting and playful, providing yet another visual jolt of the kind that Memphis is all about. And where function is concerned, the Tissot Sottsass differs from the run-of-the-mill by having a notch in the mid-section so that the crown does not break the perfect circle formed by the case.
Using seemingly simple graphic elements, Sottsass designed a very sophisticated watch. It is distinctive for its architectural structure that reveals the creative genius of the architect and designer, in the spirit of the Memphis Group.
“The watch I’ve designed for Tissot makes use, mostly in its graphics but also in its structure, of certain signs and practices that, as far back as classical Antiquity, have facilitated communication with the universe – at least in the figurative sense. And one of these is the famous mandala.”
This is where Sottsass and Tissot converge: the watch as a means of expression – of a personality, of a philosophy, of how we experience of the passage of time.
In 2020, Tissot issued a new Memphis collection that coincided with the return to favour of this much-talked-about design group with both the media and the market. It consists of four references, each in a limited series. They are based on Ettore Sottsass’s 1988 design in a more contemporary version. Tissot has thus not settled for a pure reissue, but has adapted one of the most emblematic of its historic designs to the present day.
The dials follow the same aesthetic principles, but have been proportionately enlarged. The case has been reworked with elongated, more contemporary lines. The glass has been redesigned, and is now domed so as to follow more closely the stacked profile of the case/bezel ensemble. The Tissot Heritage Memphis stands out from the crowd with a seconds indicator in the centre that dispenses with a hand in favour of a small disc marked with a dot. Lastly, the case backs comprise a pattern of seemingly random geometric shapes, reminiscent of the backgrounds of all Memphis décor. This pattern is repeated on the interior faces of the rubber straps.
The Memphis collection consists of two Ladies’ models, 34 mm in diameter, one in steel with a white dial, the other in steel with a yellow gold PVD bezel and black appendages. Each model is issued in a limited series of 1,7000 pieces. The two other models, for Men, have a masculine look, with a diameter of 41 mm. The first is available in steel with a yellow gold PVD bezel and black PVD appendages. These three references have a white dial and black hour markers, the same as the original edition. The fourth and final reference is a tribute to our era, as it is fashioned entirely from black PVD steel with a matching dial. Only the hour markers are white, in keeping with the contrasting look that is integral to the Memphis design codes. These Men’s models come in a limited series of 3,000 pieces for the black PVD version and 2,500 for the two-colour version.
These references are mounted on a black synthetic leather strap, made of vegan material, and all come with a second, interchangeable strap in a bright colour. This contrasts not only with the case and dial, but with convention. Memphis has built its reputation on a lavish use of colour, with a predilection for bright, zesty, pop-art colours. Tissot is taking the same approach by offering pink, red, blue and fawn, always in a lively, clashing, fun combination that is utterly Memphis.
Tissot Heritage Memphis Limited Edition Technical Specifications
- Swiss Made PreciDrive quartz movement
- 316L steel case with gold or black PVD coating
- Sapphire glass
- Water-resistant to 50 m (5 bar)
- Engraved case back
- Hours, minutes, seconds
Strap & Buckle
- Interchangeable straps
Tissot Heritage Memphis Limited Edition Gallery
Quote from the Tissot Archives