THE STORY OF TISSOT AND CAR RACING
Winning or losing a race depends not only on the skills of the drivers, but also on the performance of the cars. It’s a world where passion, precision and technical innovation are key.
The same goes for the Swiss watch company Tissot, which’s continuous commitment to technical perfection since its foundation in 1853 is encapsulated in its motto of “Innovators by tradition”.
TISSOT WATCHES CHOSEN BY DRIVERS
The story between Tissot and car racing began when Harry Zweifel, the 1957 Swiss Champion who was later known as “the Swiss hillclimb specialist” and “Switzerland’s favourite car racer”, sent Tissot a signed photograph in 1958, where he had written: “Meine Tissot ist an jedem Rennen dabei” (“My Tissot is by my side at every race”).
Though they had existed for half a century, car racing competitions became increasingly popular from the 1950s onward.
In 1965, it inspired Tissot to launch a watch for men: the Tissot PR 516. Its patented bracelet with holes referred to the steering wheel of racing cars. This world’s first was then copied by many other watch brands.
On the technical side, this model was highly protected against both axial and lateral shocks, thanks to its suspended movement – hence its name, Tissot PR 516, PR meaning Particularly Resistant.
The Tissot PR 516 featured in an award-winning campaign and was a great success, to such an extent that it became one of the most popular models of the entire Tissot collection.
In 1968, South American rally legend Henry Bradley, who was very fond of his Tissot PR 516, chose to write the name of the watch on his Ferrari out of pure passion. If anything, it shows that Tissot watches were of good enough quality, precision and resistance for such extreme sportsmen and that they adopted Tissot watches based on their performance on the circuit.
TISSOT & TEAM RENAULT ALPINE
Tissot’s true involvment in car racing started in 1973, as it took part in the Monte Carlo rally, sponsoring Alpine, which took all three podium positions and five of the top six places of the rally thanks to its “Berlinettes”. It dominated the competition that year and went on to win the World Rally Championship.
From 1977 to 1982, Tissot sponsored Team Renault Alpine, both in the 24 Hours of le Mans and in Formula 1.
In 1977, Alpine had moved into Formula 1, coincidentally as the first brand with a turbo engine. Jabouille was their driver in 1977 and 1978.
In 1979, René Arnoux joined the team. The same year, at the French Grand Prix in Dijon, Jabouille finished first in a Renault RS10 equipped with a V6 Turbo engine. It was the first ever win for a turbo engine in Formula 1 (later adopted by all other teams).
Renault Alpine’s 1980 season was marked by the Brazilian Grand Prix, where a Renault RE20 was adorned with Tissot lettering on the front. Team Renault Alpine shone in that race, winning first place and fastest lap for Arnoux as well as pole position for Jabouille. In 1981, Jabouille was replaced by Alain Prost and in 1982, the team enjoyed 4 Grand Prix victories – two by Prost and two by Arnoux.
Today, Tissot is back with Alpine at the World Endurence Championship in the LMP2 category.
TISSOT & TEAM PORSCHE
In 1974, Tissot sponsored Porsche at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, with drivers Claude Ballot-Lena (European champion 1974) and Vic Elford in a Porsche 911 Carrera RSR. Unfortunately, the pair could not finish the race.
In 1995, Tissot sponsored Porsche at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, with Lilian Bryner, Enzo Calderari and Andrea Fuchs.
TISSOT & LORIS KESSEL
In 1976, Tissot decided to enter the world of Formula 1 and pinned their hopes on Loris Kessel, a young driver from the canton of Ticino, Switzerland and a close friend of Clay Regazzoni’s. Kessel had proven himself in Formula 3 and Formula 2 and had shown great ease in Formula 1 at the Brands-Hatch circuit. He was competing in Formula 1 for the first season.
“To the great Tissot Family, with my best regards”
The contract was signed March 18th, 1976. Kessel competed in five Grand Prix in a white and blue Brabham BT44 with the English RAM team (a second car bearing the Tissot lettering was driven by Patrick Nève at the Belgian Grand Prix), but failed to achieve any notable results due to a lesser engine provided by RAM.
Tissot also came up with a new logo especially for car racing, strenghtening their involvment.
“TISSOT STRATOS BY BERTONE” COLLECTION
The common values of the world of car racing and the watch brand – precision, innovation and technology – inspired Tissot to create the first quartz watch model with digital read-out, the Tissot Stratos. It had a racing style design and a sleek, aerodynamic look, signed by the famous car designer Nuccio Bertone.
TISSOT & TEAM ENSIGN
Tissot sponsored Team Ensign, managed by Englishman Morris Nunn, as of the last three Grand Prix of 1976 and until 1978.
Team Ensign’s pilot was the Belgian Jacky Ickx…
… joined by the Swiss Clay Regazzoni (“Rega”) for the 1977 Formula 1 season, in an Ensign N177.
Clay had been World Champion Runner-up in 1974, but 1977 was not a great season for Team Ensign, nor was 1978 (Derek Daly, who drove the Tissot car, was 20th in the World’s Drivers Championship and Ensign was last in the International Cup for F1 Constructors).
TISSOT & JACQUES LAFFITE
Jacques Laffite, who had enjoyed a great victory in 1977, drove a JS9 with Tissot lettering in 1978. Unfortunately, he failed to repeat the 1977 performance.
“TISSOT F1” COLLECTION
In 1978, followed the Tissot F1 collection that became the darling of the public, derived in various models.
Colin Chapman, founder of Lotus cars, owned one and used it on Formula 1 circuits.
TISSOT & TEAM LOTUS
Tissot sponsored the well-known and ever-innovative Lotus Team (Carlos Reutemann, Mario Andretti, Elio de Angelis and Nigel Mansell) from 1979 to 1982 in the Formula 1 championship.
In 1979, Argentinian Carlos Alberto Reutemann and Italian-American Mario Andretti drove a Lotus Mark 79 and Mark 80 with the Tissot Quartz logo resplendent on the bodywork. Andretti had just been World Champion in 1978 with the ingenious Lotus 79, designed as a wing car.
The co-operation with Lotus then ran until 1982 along with Elio De Angelis and the then unknown Nigel Mansell (who became World Champion in a Williams in 1992). After the Mark 79 and -80, the Lotus models 81, 81B, 87, 87B, 88, 88B and 91 came into operation, all portraying the Tissot logo.
“TISSOT MARTINI RACING” COLLECTION
The Tissot Martini Racing from 1987 was a sporty watch that included a chronograph with intermediate-time, measuring to 1/10th second.
TISSOT & TEAM SAUBER MERCEDES
Tissot returned to Formula 1 as a sponsor of the Sauber Mercedes Team in 1994. They had just moved to Grand Prix in 1993. In 1994, the Sauber C13 came onto the scene with the Mercedes-V10 engine, designed by the Swiss engineer Mario Illien.
It was driven by Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Karl Wendlinger and Andrea de Cesaris. Frentzen clocked up a fourth, a fifth and two sixth places.
TISSOT & UPCOMING TALENT
On the national level, Tissot devoted itself to the up-and-coming talent. In 2001, it sponsored the Formula 3 driver Tobias Blättler, who was able to count on the watchmaker from Le Locle for three seasons.