The story of the legendary Tissot 15TL (33.3)

27 October, 2023

The story of the legendary Tissot 15TL (33.3)

Vintag Silvana watch

Ilja Rijs
Founder and collector

Brand history
Tissot watches are celebrated for their superb artistry, enduring sophistication, and cutting-edge advancements. With a proud legacy tracing back to 1853, Tissot has emerged as a prominent Swiss horologist, presenting an extensive collection of premium and functional timepieces. A Tissot watch was also known as ‘A watch for champions.’, while the brand prominently sponsored 24 Hours of Le Mans, Rally, and Formula1 in the 1960’s (Team Renault Alpine, Porsche, and Lotus to name a few…). Tissot was the watch of choice for many race- and motorsport professionals, while the many watches were fitted with chronograph complications, which could be used to measure speed and distance. The fusion of style, interesting brand heritage and practicality, in Tissot watches has earned them unwavering trust among watch collectors worldwide.

The story of the Tissot 15TL from 1942
‘A watch for champions’, as discussed earlier was a later iteration of the brands commitment for making precision ‘tools’ for professionals in the field. Tissot already made promise to this philosophy in the 1930’s, when they began producing one of the most legendary chronograph watches ever, together with the help of Omega and Lemania (The three companies were merged under the SSIH company at the time, exchanging innovations and parts with each other). The Tissot chronograph calibre 15TL, also known as 33.3 by Omega, was born in an era when there was a strong demand for trustworthy, rugged, and no-nonsense watches.

But what makes this famous in-house developed 15TL/ 33.3 calibre earn its legendary status? To understand, we must fast forward to 1957. Does that already ring a bell…? In 1957, Omega launched the first Omega Speedmaster, which is easily one of the most iconic watches ever to be produced. The Omega Speedmaster featured an updated version of the 15TL/ 33.3 movement, which was called the 321 calibre. An Omega Speedmaster with this infamous 321 calibre, was strapped on the wrist of Neil Armstrong during the Apollo Program in 1966, when the first steps on the moon were taken by humans.

In short, the 15TL/ 33.3 movement which was developed by three very experienced and well-respected horological brands in the 1930’s, formed the basis of the development of the 321 Omega Speedmaster calibre which was launched in 1957. Omega Speedmaster watches with this 321 calibre accompanied the astronauts when first setting foot on the moon in 1966.

1942 however, were different times. The Second World War was the top-of-mind subject for most of the people in Europe. Omega, Lemania and Tissot were (and still are), Swiss based companies. Their neutral role created the position, where they would supply both the Allied and the Central Powers of sufficient and trustworthy watches and clocks. Materials such as steel were very expensive during The Second World War, since the demand of steel skyrocketed to make weapons, tanks, and other WW2-related equipment. This affected the watch industry at heart: Only high-end watches or watches which were designed as a tool for higher-ranked soldiers were made of steel. Watches for Privates, or for civilians, where made of a cheaper, chrome plated, nickelled case. As a result, watches from the 1930-1940’s which are made from solid steel, reflect a higher collectors’ value, then those made of chrome plated nickel.

Most of these watches have been destroyed in battle, or during the past 80 years. The percentage of these watches which have been preserved in untouched, original condition is very low. Since the case back is ‘snapped-on’ rather than screwed-on, there is a significant chance of the watch being exposed to water at some point during its lifespan. Water of moist will affect the condition of the lacquer of the dial. This explains that many examples of these military chronograph watches are repainted or restored. That’s why this Tissot 15TL Chronograph from 1942, with all original parts, is a desirable collector’s example.

Watch details
Stainless steel watch case with snap-on case back
Olive-shaped chronograph pushers

Originally aged black chronograph dial with ‘Telemetre’ and ‘Tachymetre’ scale

In-house Tissot/ Omega/ Lemania 15TL (33.3) column wheel chronograph movement.

Italian hand-made leather strap, custom made for this watch
Stainless steel two-piece 7-row bracelet

This vintage Tissot World War II survivor has many stories to tell. The outstanding quality of the in-house column wheel chronograph movement together with the rugged stainless-steel stepped watch case, makes this one of the most desirable vintage chronographs references out there. The original and patinated dial features an attractive Telemetre and Tachymetre scale, which were used by soldiers during World War II to measure distance and speed. The large watch case appears to be unpolished.

This watch has been treated with care throughout the decades by various collectors across the world. While the movement has been professionally checked by our watch maker, this watch is ready for new adventures.

37 x 44 mm


  1. Tissot brand history

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