Swiss watch brands have a long history of serving as the official timing partners of major sporting events. Rolex, for example, is heavily involved in the world of motorsports, serving as a Global Partner and the Official Timepiece of Formula 1® since 2013. Meanwhile, Hublot is the official timekeeper for the FIFA World Cup and FIFA Women’s World Cup. And, in case you didn’t know, Tissot has been the official timing partner of the NBA since 2015. Surprisingly, this deal marked the first time in the league’s over 70-year history that it had an official timekeeper, and their partnership even involved Tissot developing a new timing system. In addition to producing a dedicated series of “NBA Edition” watches, the Swiss watch brand has also signed on several players as brand ambassadors, including most recently All-Star point guard Damian Lillard (who is rumored to be getting his own “Dame Time” collection).
Now, that all sounds well and good on paper, but are Tissot NBA watches actually any good?
What is the Tissot NBA watch collection?
The Tissot NBA watch collection comprises many different models, all of which are based on existing offerings from Tissot. It’s fair to say the collection is characterized by the brand’s Chrono XL model, which is available in several color schemes, each bearing the logo of the specific team it’s representing. For example, the Tissot Chrono XL NBA Teams Special Chicago Bulls Edition features a black case, a dial and strap with red and white highlights, and the Bull’s iconic logo at 8 o’clock. This formula is repeated – with subtle variations – for the New York Knicks, the Golden State Warriors, etc. There’s also a more generic NBA Special Edition with a leather strap designed to look like the surface of a basketball.
As far as quartz-powered, entry-level Swiss watches go – an area in which Tissot excels – the Tissot NBA Chrono XL is a decent option. Measuring a substantial 45 mm in diameter, the 316L stainless steel case with black PVD coating is a bit on the larger side, hence the “XL” designation. But the quartz movement inside means that even though the watch boasts chronograph functionality, the case is still relatively thin at 10.9 mm, making its oversized diameter a bit more manageable. Plus, it delivers a respectable water resistance of 100 m (10 bar, 330 ft). Finally, each model’s case back features an engraving of the NBA’s logo.
The watch’s overall functionality is also pretty good, with a central time display; 30-minutes and 1/10-of-a-second counters; ADD and SPLIT functions; a central 60-seconds chronograph hand; and an EOL (battery end-of-life indicator). Of course, the fact that it’s a quartz movement – granted, a Swiss-made one – will most likely put off a lot of wristwatch aficionados. They probably also won’t be particularly impressed with the fact that Tissot offers literally dozens of variations of the Chrono XL, meaning the so-called Tissot NBA “special editions” really aren’t that special. For example, Tissot uses a subtle variation of this same model to create “special editions” for its sponsorship of the cycling race Giro D’Italia. But if you’re looking to represent your favorite team, these aspects might not matter to you that much anyway. Plus, even if Tissot does produce quite a few of these variations, this is a decent offering for the price, as I alluded to above.
So, do NBA players actually wear these watches?
The short answer to this question is no. Outside of official sponsorship events and the like, NBA superstars on big contracts are not commonly photographed wearing sub-$400 Tissot NBA watches. While this doesn’t necessarily reflect the quality of the watch itself, let’s be real here: fans, not the players, make up the target market. It’s pretty well documented that LeBron James – widely considered the best player of his generation and one of the greatest players of all time – is also a hardcore luxury watch collector.
One of LeBron James’ favorite watch models is the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Chronograph. He’s also known to rock a variety of Patek Philippe and Richard Mille timepieces, among others. What can we say? The man has taste! He’s also regularly photographed wearing his yellow gold Rolex Day-Date II, a model that has become somewhat synonymous with NBA players. A great story that perfectly illustrates this point is that of NBA All-Star point guard John Wall and his extremely generous holiday present to his Washington Wizard teammates back in December 2017. According to legend, the team was eating breakfast in a hotel ballroom before a road game when Wall entered with fifteen green boxes in hand, each containing a Rolex Day-Date. (By the way, Wall now plays for the Houston Rockets, and I’m sure his new teammates are hoping for a similarly grand gesture!)
Not to knock Tissot here, but it’s hard to imagine that a player handing out fifteen Chrono XL models featuring the team’s colors and logo would have quite the same impact. Still, if you’re a dedicated fan and want to show love for your team, a Tissot NBA watch is by no means a bad choice. Practical and functional, these watches are also understated enough to be worn for various occasions, meaning you can easily get away with wearing them on a daily basis. You do have to pay a small premium compared to the non-NBA editions of the Chrono XL, but that’s to be expected. In fact, I think the chief complaint from super fans is more likely to be that there isn’t a Tissot NBA watch available for their team… yet.