Heirloom watches are special, and I have a few, including two pocket watches. But there is one in particular that has given me sleepless nights while hiding in a dark corner of my case. Finally, I set out on the mission of bringing my grandfather’s Tissot Seastar back to its glory. And after a three-month sojourn in England, it has returned — with a (shock, horror!) repainted dial.

Why was this heinous crime committed, and why me, who should know better? You should never repaint a dial or polish up a vintage case — that’s the gospel. You will ruin the value and legacy of a family heirloom, right? Well, except when someone in his early watch-collecting days had a dial repainted in the wrong color. Yes, that was me, and now I’ve paid the price. But I finally have my grandfather’s Tissot back in silver after over two decades.

Bringing My Grandfather's Tissot Seastar Back

I ruined my grandfather’s Tissot Seastar

How could I have committed such a heinous crime? Before embarking on watch journalism, which is now a big part of my life, I started with cheap watches, dabbling in vintage Seiko, Citizen, and €30–80 eBay finds. My grandfather’s Tissot was in my drawer, having stopped in the ’90s with a rust-stained dial because I forgot to remove it while diving off a pier. That was crime number one. But one of my eBay bargains had a lovely repainted dial; it was wrong and valueless, but I didn’t realize it. So I sent the Tissot to the same eBay dealer to be painted matte black and serviced for €90. It looked fine, but flakes eventually appeared, and it was all wrong, looking more charcoal than black. I just didn’t know any better. Thank God I didn’t even have any Instagram to post it on. I can only imagine the trolling comments it would elicit today.

The poorly repainted Tissot, shamefully pictured last year

The shameful exile to a dark corner of my collection

Did I use the Tissot Seastar after its matte black transformation? Well, I did, and I enjoyed it until I felt deeply ashamed, realizing what a faux pas the paint job was. I left it to languish in a dark corner along with a couple of pocket watches, only to bring it out occasionally. My shameful crime now had become painfully apparent. At this point, I wished I had kept the rust-spotted dial and restored the movement. Alas, that was many years ago. So I have occasionally looked for vintage or NOS dials but never found the right one. Eventually, I googled restorers last year because I’m no longer active in the vintage scene and many forums are dead.

I found a small company in London, Harris Horology, that finally answered, and I popped it over in bubble wrap and a small box. After getting a £325 quote for a fully refurbished and refinished dial, I knew this was disproportionate to its value. But that was also wholly irrelevant. If the HH team could bring back its silver luster, it would be a nice reminder of my namesake grandfather, a lawyer in a small west-coast town in Norway. And waiting three months or so only added to the excitement before picking it up from the post office this Easter. The 35mm Tissot didn’t disappoint.

Bringing My Grandfather's Tissot Seastar Back

The rebirth of an heirloom

Was it worth about the same as buying a decent manual, non-hacking ’60s Tissot Seastar? In a word, yes. Silver is a very difficult tone to get right, and it might be a tad darker than its Swiss original, but to be fair, I don’t remember. What strikes me is that the restorer has made the resplendent dial look perfectly vintage, including sharp little details like the capitalized “SWISS MADE” straddling the 6. The dial is not overly glossy and has applied gold numerals, just like the watch I remember seeing on my grandfather’s wrist as he smoked his afternoon pipe.

Bringing My Grandfather's Tissot Seastar Back

The numerals are slightly smaller and more rounded than the originals, but they suit the dial perfectly. The sharp gold-tone handset is untouched, maintaining its original slightly scratched appearance and faded lume. But the indices and logos are sharp, showing no hint of a refinish. It’s been a long time since I’ve wound and used a non-hacking watch, but waiting to match the seconds and then frantically winding to start it up is part of the old-world charm. I love this watch all over again, and it’s about time.

Now my grandfather’s Tissot Seastar feels right

After the service, the fairly basic caliber runs with a superb accuracy of ±8 seconds a day. Ironically, it feels much better on my wrist now than it did years ago when it got damaged in the first place. Why? I was still on the “big is cool” train the last time I used it actively. But with my 2024 taste, a small-cased 35mm watch feels just right. And with the stretched-out Carrera-like lugs offering a short and sweet 42mm span, my grandfather’s Tissot Seastar wears like a dream. Now I just need to find the perfect strap. I will also note that the same watchmaker is also working on a French 1927 rectangular watch that belonged to my father. So stay tuned for an 18K gold Reverso alternative with an engraved case and a twist.

What do you think, Fratelli? Have you forgiven me for my crime? Let me know about your favorite heirloom watch in the comments, repainted or hopefully not.