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45 Best Swiss Watch Brands - A Complete Guide 2021

Vacheron Constantin Overseas Pink Gold
If you were to ask the average person on the street in many parts of the world, they’d likely tell you Switzerland is the home of luxury watches. While the realities of the international watch industry are more complex, and many other nations such as Japan and Germany are also prominent makers of excellent luxury watches, Switzerland for many will always be the home of fine watchmaking. Part of the reputation for watch excellence from Switzerland lies in the sheer number of industry giants calling Switzerland home. Household names like Rolex, Omega, Blancpain, and Patek Philippe are Swiss, as are literally hundreds of other brands. Swiss watchmaking also has a reputation for being expensive, in no small part because of the aforementioned brands. However, the Swiss watch industry is as vast as it is complex, with different brands with varying specialities producing watches of every category and price point for export around the globe
With all of that in mind, looking at the Swiss watch industry as a whole is a bit daunting. There are, quite simply, a lot of brands to check out. In order to help you with your research, I’m setting out to provide a brief overview of some of the most prominent brands in the Swiss watch industry to give you enough of an understanding of the major brands to help you hold your own in any watch nerd conversation and make informed buying decisions when the time comes.For each brand, I’ll provide just a bit of history, some of the brand’s most loved models or accomplishments, and a few words about what the brand is up to now. Without further ado, let’s take a look at the best Swiss watch brands (dramatic pause) in the world.

Blancpain

Now a subsidiary of Swatch Group, Blancpain was founded in 1735 by Jehan-Jacques Blancpain, making it one of the oldest watch brands in existence. For lovers of the French language, it’s important to note here that “Blancpain” means “bread white,” more or less, en français. With that out of the way, Blancpain has had many notable achievements over its lengthy history, but perhaps their most important horological contribution is the 1953 introduction of the Fifty-Fathoms, their first and indeed one of the first diver’s watches. Designed in collaboration with Nageurs de Combat, the French Navy’s combat swimmers, and later used by US Navy SEALs and other US military diving units, the Fifty Fathoms is one of Blancpain’s icons and a design you still see throughout their range today. Also known for high watchmaking, a few other noteworthy Blancpain watches are the Villeret Complete Calendar as well as their 1991 release, valued at around $800,000, the Blancpain 1735 Grande Complication, which features a tourbillon, moon phase, perpetual calendar, minute repeater, split-seconds chronograph, all in a surprisingly slim package.

Patek Philippe

Founded back in 1839 by Antoine Norbert de Patek and Francois Czapek, Patek Philippe is a leader in high watchmaking and is responsible for many complications and design elements taken for granted throughout the watch industry today. Owned since 1939 by the Stern family, who still operate the brand today in the person of CEO Thierry Stern, Patek Philippe is the best-known and indeed, the best-loved, of the “Holy Trinity of Watchmaking,” which also includes Audemars Piguet and Vacheron Constantin. Patek Philippe is most often associated with expensive, impressive feats of watchmaking such as the Philippe Grandmaster Chime Ref. 6300A-010 (with no less than 20 complications) which sold for $31.19M in 2019. Also included in Patek Philippe’s resume is the first split-seconds chronograph (No. 124 824), and the first perpetual calendar wristwatch (No. 97 975). Another of the most iconic Patek Philippe watches ever, the Calatrava Ref. 96, was released in 1932. For many enthusiasts today, the Nautilus, released in 1976, is a favorite, combining Patek’s watchmaking knowhow and a sporty case. Sticking to their guns in producing beautiful, complicated wristwatches for a very select clientele, Patek has most recently expanded their catalog with grand complications like the Calatrava Pilot Travel Time and the Grande Sonnerie.

Richard Mille

Founded in 2001 by Dominique Guenat and Richard himself, Richard Mille stands apart from many traditional luxury watch brands as an innovative watchmaking company with superior technical prowess and a design concept focused on producing lightweight watches. With a signature tonneau-like case shape implemented throughout their range, Richard Mille’s collection is popular with celebrities, athletes, and the very wealthy segment of the watch buying crowd. Demonstrating a collaborative spirit, their impressive first model, the RM-001, was developed with Audemars Piguet. Some of their best-known models made to date are the RM-56 Sapphire which has a case completely constructed from sapphire, the RM-018 Meteorite made in collaboration with Boucheron, and also their latest piece RM 27-04, a watch built for tennis star Rafael Nadal, that can withstand extreme accelerations as Nadal no doubt produces. For most collectors, a brand like Richard Mille is out of reach. However, just as enthusiasts might fawn over a new Pagani Huayra Roadster knowing they’ll never own one, Richard Mille’s work can be appreciated from photographs and YouTube videos.

MB&F (Maximilian Büsser & Friends)

Launched in 2005, MB&F is a watch company that allows founder Maximilian Büsser to test his considerable engineering chops and artistic vision, creating “Horological Machines” (only some of which can be worn on the wrist), which look like absolutely nothing else out there. With advanced training in Micro-Technology Engineering, Max’s horology literacy is also imprinted by Jaeger-LeCoultre, where he spent seven years in senior management, as well as his former role as managing director of Harry Winston’s Rare Timepieces department. Each of MB&F’s Horological Machines is technical and artistic achievement, using new materials, innovative design concepts, and an often novel approach to the very idea of what a watch is. Among the brand’s many wild creations, some of the most notable watches and time-keeping machines are the HM10 Bulldog, the sporty new Legacy Machine Perpetual EVO, their latest collaboration with H. Moser & Cie, and the LM101 and Endeavor Cylindrical Tourbillon.

Vacheron Constantin

Often considered a bit underrated by enthusiasts compared to some of its younger peers, Vacheron Constantin, founded in 1755 by Jean-Marc Vacheron and Francois Constantin, is another of the “Holy Trinity of Watchmaking,” along with aforementioned Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet. With a brand motto that states, “Do better if possible, and that is always possible,” Vacheron Constantin have somewhat quietly carved out an impressive following thanks to their watchmaking prowess and interesting designs. Fast forward to today, and Vacheron Constantin has one of the most comprehensive line-ups among high watchmaking brands, especially compared to the other trinity members, ranging from a simple yet elegant three handers to perpetual calendars, minute repeaters, and the excellent Overseas collection for which they are perhaps best known to most. Some recent noteworthy pieces from Vacheron Constantin are the Overseas Perpetual Calendar Ultra-thin Skeleton, the Traditionnelle Tourbillon, and also the Patrimony Minute Repeater, all excellent examples of what Vacheron is capable of.

Cartier

In contrast to many of the brands on this list, French brand Cartier (now owned by the Swiss Richemont Group) is a luxury jewelry brand first and watchmaker second. Still, Cartier, founded in 1847 by Louis-Francois Cartier, is an icon in the watch world as the brand responsible for the Pasha, Tank, and the Santos, a watch with an especially important history. Alberto Santos-Dumont, a Brazlian Aviator and friend to Louis Cartier, requested his friend design a watch that could be easily read during flight, a development which many consider the first men’s wristwatch and certainly the first pilot’s watch. Recently, Cartier has been increasing their production and inclusion of in-house calibers, with the Rotonde de Cartier Mysterious Double Tourbillon an excellent example of the high watchmaking now going on within the brand. For enthusiasts looking for something a bit more mainstream, their recently reissued Pasha de Cartier is a great example of Cartier’s signature look and feel.

Officine Panerai

Now owned by the Richemont Group, the original Officine Panerai was founded in 1860 when Giovanni Panerai opened up his very first workshop in Florence, Italy that served not only as a shop but also as a watchmaking school. During World War II, Panerai utilized luminescent material initially developed for gunsights in the dial of the Radiomir, a watch designed to allow frogmen of the Royal Italian Navy’s First Submarine Group Command to read time underwater while on clandestine missions attacking Allied vessels. The original Panerai watches were built by Rolex with Panerai producing only the luminescent dials. When the glowing material in the Radiomir was deemed too radioactive for wrist wear, the Luminor was developed using tritium as a safer source of illumination. Today, Panerai is positioned squarely among the ranks of luxury watches with an extremely loyal following who call themselves the Paneristi. A few of the most notable models from Panerai are Luminor Base 8 Days with calibre P.5000, Radiomir California in 47mm, Submersible in 42mm, as well as their latest introduction, the Luminor Tourbillon GMT in 47mm.

Audemars Piguet

The third and final of the “Holy Trinity of Watchmaking”, Audemars Piguet traces its heritage back to 1875, when founders Jules Louis Audemars and Edward Auguste Piguet first registered the brand. Renamed Audemars Piguet & Cie in 1881, the brand in its early days mostly manufactured movements for others, including Tiffany and Co. Audemars Piguet is respected for creating the world’s first-minute repeater movement in 1892 for Louis Brandt, Omega’s storied founder. However, without a doubt, Audemars Piguet is best known for one watch, the Royal Oak, designed by Gerald Genta in 1972. The original Royal Oak design has been updated and reimagined many times since its inception, with modern lineups like the many Offshore models, and the complicated Concept serving as good examples. In early 2019, Audemars Piguet released a new collection called Code 11.59, a series of modern dress watches with impressive calibers, as well as the [Re]master01 collection, essentially heritage reissue collection as we’ve seen from so many brands of late.

Hublot

Hublot, in contrast to many older watch brands on this list, traces its roots back only four decades to 1980, a fact that makes Hublot’s achievements and position in the industry today all the more impressive. Now a wholly-owned subsidiary under the LVMH, the Hublot we know today benefited tremendously from its time under Jean-Claude Biver. Biver, who helmed the brand from 2004 to 2014, also led the development and release of the Big Bang, now Hublot’s most popular model and a watch credited with saving the brand. Hublot is also known for the Classic Fusion, the Meca-10 Titanium, and their most recent line-up, the Classic Fusion 40th Anniversary, all of which are takes on Hublot’s signature case shape.

Chopard

Another brand with roots both in watchmaking and fine jewelry, Chopard was founded by Louis Ulysse Chopard in Switzerland in 1860. Owned by the German Scheufele family since 1963, Chopard is a rare independent watch brand in a sea of conglomerate-owned brands. In the company’s early history, Chopard was known for their reliable chronometer watches, and provided watches for Tsar Nicholas II, the last emperor of Russia, as well as the Swiss Railway Company. Today, Chopard produces pieces of jewellery and watches with an emphasis on “Responsible Sourcing” for their raw materials. Some of their most hyped recent watches include the Chopard L.U.C Time Traveller One, Mille Miglia Classic Chronograph, and their most recent release, an integrated bracelet sports model called the Alpine Eagle.

Rolex

Without a doubt, Rolex is one of the most important brands in watchmaking. Founded in London in 1905 but based in Switzerland since 1919, Rolex has cemented a place in watch history by producing many legitimate icons of watch design including the Submariner, Daytona, Milgauss, Yachtmaster, and Datejust, watches that all but define the categories in which they exist. For many, the Rolex Submariner is the definition of what a diver’s watch should look like, just as the Daytona is the definition of a sport chronograph. However, Rolex is also a polarizing brand among collectors and enthusiasts, with lengthy waitlists and a generally secretive approach to business being major contributors to the shade being thrown. Still, as evidenced by the seismic-level reaction to something as simple as a 1mm increase in the case size of the newest Submariner variant which just debuted, Rolex still controls the heart strings of a huge fanbase.

Breguet

Breguet, which dates back to 1775, is one of the oldest surviving watchmaking companies, and has long been associated with tourbillons, an innovation which they invented in 1801 as an answer to the gravitational effects on a watch’s timekeeping. Another notable achievement from the brand is the creation of the first watch to be wound by means of the crown in 1830, where previous watches were wound with a key. Breguet has also made watches for many famous patrons such as England’s King George III and Sir Winston Churchill. The brand even has their own signature set of hands in the Breguet hands that were invented back in 1783 by Abraham Breguet, and which are included today in watches from the Classic collection as well as in the Marine. A few of Breguet’s best-loved modern watches include the Classique 5140BB, Type XX, and their latest 7137BB.

Girard Perregaux

Considering what the brand is capable of, Girard Perregaux is one of the most overlooked brands in watchmaking today. Originally founded in 1791 by Constant Girard and Jean-Francois Bautte as Girard & Cie, Girard Perregaux, so named since 1856, has been associated with high watchmaking since its inception. With 80 manufacturing and design patents under their sleeves and a wide collection of in-house movements in beautifully designed watches, Girard Perregaux has somewhat quietly garnered an impressive reputation among those in the know. Some of Girard Perregaux’s most notable technical achievements are embodied by the Neo-Tourbillon with Three Bridges Skeleton and the Constant Escapement L.M. Now a subsidiary of the Kering Group, Girard Perregaux’s recent achievements include the Laureato Infinity Edition, introduced in 2020 as a limited-edition offering in commemoration with Wempe, the brand’s German distribution partner.

Jaeger-LeCoultre

Often referred to as the “watchmaker of watchmakers”, Jaeger-LeCoultre was established in 1833 in the heart of the Vallee de Joux in the Swiss Jura Mountains. Throughout their history, Jaeger-LeCoultre has often been more of a behind-the-scenes movement manufacturer, having supplied their calibers to many other important brands including Patek Philippe. This is, of course, in the days before the concept of “in-house” was as powerful a marketing tool as it is today. Without question, the most iconic watch from the House is the Reverso, initially conceived as a sports watch for polo players to wear during matches. Another signature innovation of the brand is the Polaris Memovox, a diver’s watch equipped with a mechanical alarm which has its own interesting heritage and series of modern reissues.

Zenith

Another older Swiss house, Zenith traces its roots back to 1865 and a surprisingly young founder in the form of 22-year-old Georges Favre-Jacot. One of the first to integrate all aspects of the watchmaking process under one roof, from case manufacture to movement production to final casing and assembly, Zenith has a lengthy history of watchmaking in the purest sense. For most modern collectors, Zenith is associated with the El Primero chronograph, a watch whose caliber was released in 1969, and is considered the first automatic chronograph caliber ever created, a foundational achievement for the brand. Though it struggled during the quartz crisis and changed ownership more than once, Zenith today remains one of a few Swiss manufacturers with true high watchmaking chops. Now heavily invested in technical horological research, Zenith’s recent Defy Classic Carbon, with its fully carbon fiber case and integrated bracelet as well as an in-house skeletonized caliber, demonstrates Zenith’s enduring commitment to pushing the boundaries of watchmaking.

Omega

Yet another of the very old brands in Swiss watchmaking, founded by Louis Brandt under the name La Generale Watch Co in 1848 before taking up the Omega name in 1903. As the inventors of the minute repeater, tourbillon, and co-axial escapement, Omega, now owned by the mighty Swatch Group, is without question one of a few industry leaders in Swiss watchmaking. In addition, Omega has garnered a loyal following by producing watches worn by people taking an active role in making history. With Omega watches used by the Royal Flying Corps, US Army, and myriad other military organizations since the WWI era, a partnership with the Olympic games since 1932, and the distinct honor of being chosen by NASA as the first watch worn on the Moon, Omega has out-of-this-world (I’m sorry) legitimate cool-guy points. Today, Omega continues to pump out interesting variations of their core models, often with in-house calibers, including the recent “Silver Snoopy Award” Speedmaster.

Ulysse Nardin

Founded in 1846 in Le Locle, Switzerland, Ulysse Nardin has a heritage and design sense largely stemming from their history of producing high-accuracy marine chronometers for use by various naval forces around the world. Despite a history of excellence in technical watchmaking, the brand like many others fell under hard times during the quartz crisis and changed hands more than once. Now safely positioned under the wings of French luxury group Kering, Ulysse Nardin has enjoyed a resurgence among collectors. Some of Ulysse Nardin’s most significant releases in recent times are the Marine Torpilleur and the Freak X, a tech-forward, tourbillon-equipped demonstration of the watchmaking capabilities of the brand. In 2020, Ulysse Nardin again demonstrated its avant-garde approach with the Blast, a 45mm sport watch equipped with a new automatic tourbillon caliber.

Breitling

Compared to some of the storied brands listed here, Breitling is one of the brands of the everyman, at least the everyman who is interested in sport watches. Swiss brand Breitling is old, founded in 1884, and has a lengthy history of building capable tool watches, often with movements produced by someone else, but more recently with an in-house approach. More than some other brands listed here, *ahem, Rolex*, Breitling have consistently adapted to industry trends and shifting styles, earning them a reputation as a brand for younger, more fashionable watch enthusiasts. Frankly, it’s a formula which has seen Breitling miss a time or two. But a willingness to adapt and a more reasonable set of price points compared to some other Swiss giants have also made Breitling a sort of attainable luxury sport watch. Think of models like the Navitimer, Superocean, and Aerospace. In recent years, Breitling have pumped up their in-house game, even collaborating with Tudor in producing the MT5813, a column wheel chronograph caliber based on the Breitling B01.

IWC

IWC Schaffhausen, or International Watch Company, was founded by an American, Florentine Ariosto Jones, in 1868. Of particular interest was the setting for the new brand in Schaffhausen, in Switzerland’s northeastern, German-speaking region, in contrast to the rest of the Swiss watch industry’s home in western, French-speaking Switzerland. This key difference led to cultural differences which still influence IWC today. The brand is likely best known for the many pilot’s watches they’ve created over the years, such as the original B-Uhr built for the Luftwaffe, the Mark 11, the first ceramic pilot’s watch (ref. 3705), as well as the modern Top Gun series. IWC are also known for the Portugieser series, their diver’s watches with their Aquatimer range, as well as their early adoption of titanium as a case material as in the very interesting IWC Porsche Design Ocean 2000, as well as the GST collection. Coming from the German-speaking part of Switzerland has also made the IWC a common choice for the German military since WWII, when IWC produced the aforementioned B-Uhr pilot’s watch along with other brands. More recently, IWC modified the Ocean 2000 diver they created with Porsche Design to create a Bundeswehr adapted model for German Navy divers and explosive ordnance technicians. Now a part of the Richemont Group, IWC is now best known for its Portugieser, Aquatimer, Portofino, and Pilot’s watches including the Big Pilot.
TudorIt was none other than Rolex’s Hans Wildorf who originally registered Tudor in 1926 before launching the company properly in 1946. Built around using off-the-shelf Swiss movements with Rolex-made cases and bracelets, Tudor was dreamed up as a way to get people into the Rolex brand family at a lower price point, a concept that worked. For much of their history, Tudor has been associated with tool watches, a fact that makes sense when you consider their purposeful lower price point compared to their more luxurious older siblings at Rolex. Tudor’s Oyster Prince, one of their best-loved early models, was used on a Royal Navy scientific expedition to Greenland in 1952, proving their utility as tool watches. The Tudor Submariner is another case in point, having been used by various military organizations around the world (along with Rolex Subs) all the way into the 1990s, when watches like the G-Shock largely took over military service. Their current popularity stems from when they relaunched in North America in 2013 with the Black Bay and Pelagos, two very interesting new tool divers which have both become mainstays of the brand. The enthusiast crowd’s love for Tudor started right here for many. Most recently, Tudor, which has in some ways become the “Black Bay” brand, released their now super popular Black Bay 58.

Tag Heuer

TAG Heuer S.A. was founded back in 1860 by Edouard Heuer, and operated simply as “Heuer” until the Techniques d’Avant Garde (TAG) Group obtained a majority share in 1985, creating the TAG Heuer we know today. For decades, the brand was closely associated with sports and specifically auto racing, making appearances in many popular films including a cameo by Heuer’s beloved racing chronograph, the Monaco, in Le Mans (1971) on one Steve McQueen’s wrist. Later in 1999, TAG Heuer became a part of the LVMH Group. TAG Heuer’s most-loved models include the Monaco, Carrera, and the Aquaracer, with Monaco arguably being the most iconic model from the company. Since receiving a major overhaul during Jean-Claude Biver’s tenure as CEO, Tag Heuer as a brand balances a collection of innovative modern watches with a vintage inspired collection including the excellent Autavia Chronograph.

Hamilton

With roots dating back to 1892 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in the United States, Hamilton Watch Company is a brand with a rich history of producing military watches for the United States Army during WWI and WWII. Though the company eventually ceased US manufacture in 1969, the brand’s now Swiss-made Khaki field watch collection will forever be associated with the classic image of the American GI storming a beach or charging across a battlefield. Hamilton is also known for its roles in film, with over 500 major movie appearances and a stunning catalogue of milestone moments on the silver screen. Hamilton, who are now owned by the Swatch Group, are a major actor in the international watch industry, with iconic collections like the aforementioned Khaki, Intra-Matic, and Jazzmaster, and a reputation for quality at an entry level price point for a Swiss watch.

Montblanc

Better known for their pens and leather goods to the majority of consumers, Montblanc was founded back in 1906 in Hamburg, Germany. Still considered a young brand in the world of horology, Montblanc only started producing watches in 1997. However, Montblanc has been in excellent company as a subsidiary of the Richemont Group since 1988, and enjoys technical support from other Richemont Group brands like Vacheron Constantin, Piaget, and Cartier. Richemont also purchased Minerva, a high end watchmaking factory, in order to increase Monblanc’s manufacturing capabilities, and Montblanc debuted their first in-house movement, the Calibre MB R100, in 2008, followed by the Tourbillon Bi-Cylinderique MB 65.53 in 2011. In 2020, Montblanc released the new 1858 Split-Seconds Chronograph, a declaration to the industry of Montblanc’s watchmaking prowess.

Bell & Ross

Initially conceived by Bruno Belamich (for Bell) and Carlos A. Rosillo (for Ross) as a university project in 1992, Bell & Ross, still an independent brand, is, at its core, a design brand as opposed to a true watchmaker capable of in-house manufacture. Heavily focused on tool watches, and designed with a “function drives design” concept, the majority of Bell & Ross watches are heavily inspired by aviation instruments, all the way down to their signature square case shape. In their early days, Bell & Ross watches were built by Sinn Watches in Germany, and that lineage still shows in the current Bell & Ross collection. Breaking free from Sinn, Chanel stepped in as a partner and equipped Bell & Ross with their own Swiss factory in 2002. Usually relying on Sellita movements, Bell & Ross watches are also often a strong value proposition compared to watches from other luxury watchmakers. Recent releases from the brand, including their square, ISO-rated BR 03-92 diver’s watch and the exciting BR05 sport watch, are good examples of where Bell & Ross are going.

Baume & Mercier

Founded as Frères Baume in 1830 in Geneva, Switzerland by brothers Louis-Victor and Célestin Baume, the brand later partnered with Paul Mercier in 1918, becoming the Baume & Mercier we know today. During a particularly challenging period for the brand, Baume & Mercier joined the Richemont group in 1988. As another Swiss watch brand that is often overlooked by the general watch-buying public, Baume & Mercier presents a solid value for their tasteful collection, having also recently forayed into in-house calibers including the BM13-1975A included in the Clifton Baumatic, one of the brand’s most popular collections. Capitalizing on an industry trend currently gaining ground, Baume & Mercier has taken the environmentally-conscious route by releasing the 10587, cased in recycled ocean plastic, in 2020.

Longines

Compagnie des Montres Longines Francillon S.A., better known as Longines, was founded back in 1832 in Saint-Imier, Switzerland by Auguste Agassiz. Longines is now a subsidiary of the Swatch Group since 1983, and stands as one of their more entry-level brands, alongside Tissot. Being the official timekeeper of the Commonwealth Games and the French Open as well as many other sporting events, Longines has become especially well-known to non-watch enthusiasts, acting as a gateway brand into Swiss collecting for many consumers. In recent years, Longines has produced an enviable line of heritage reissue models which are garnering a fanbase among collectors. Longines’ popular models include the Legend Diver, the Master, and the Aviation Big Eye. Though powered by off-the-shelf Swiss movements, the value proposition presented by many Longines watches has made them a popular industry mainstay.

Oris

Oris SA, founded in 1904 in Holstein, Switzerland by Paul Cattin and Georges Christian, is a rare watchmaker in the current landscape in that it is still independent in a sea of brands backed by large conglomerates the Richemont, Swatch, or Kering Groups. For most, Oris’ status as an independent is endearing, giving the brand a David vs. Goliath feel. With a distinctive aesthetic and willingness to innovate outside the normal boundaries, Oris has become a staple for value conscious collectors and especially sport watch enthusiasts. Their most-loved models include the Aquis diver’s watch and the Big Crown Pointer Date, a watch with routes as far back as 1948. In an apparent answer to critics, Oris’ latest achievement is the release of their first in-house movement, the Calibre 400, which holds an amazing 120 hours of power reserve, and is included in the new aptly-named Aquis Calibre 400.

Franck Muller

Founded in 1992 when watchmaker Franck Muller was challenged by Vartan Sirmakes, a watch industry executive, to expand his then cottage-style business into an actual luxury watch brand. Muller has devoted his career to making highly complicated and innovative watches, even earning the nickname, “Master of Complications”. As a brand, Franck Muller is known for technologically-advanced watches built with true high watchmaking craftsmanship. Despite their youth, Franck Muller have already created a loyal following among celebrities and those who can afford the largely custom pieces. One of the most notable watches from Franck Muller is the Crazy Hours, a watch where the hour markers are mixed up and the hands jump around to display the time. Also worthy of mention are the Secret Hours and the Vanguard Tourbillon.

Parmigiani Fleurier

Founded in 1996 in Val-de-Travers, founder Michel Parmigiani initially conceived the brand as far back as 1976 while working as a mechanical timepiece restorer, even restoring pieces for the Patek Philippe Museum. The founder’s intimate knowledge of the inner workings of complicated watches and clocks was infinitely valuable in allowing the young brand to immediately produce watches at a level of complexity that often takes a new brand decades to develop. By acquiring several other workshops, Parmigiani eventually created a fully in-house production model and has won numerous horological awards in their brief history. Some of the brand’s best loved models include the Bugatti Type 370, theoretically inspired by the Bugatti Veyron supercar, as well as the more recent Tonda 1950 Tourbillon.

F.P. Journe

Another brand piloted by an individual craftsman is F.P. Journe, whose founder, Francois-Paul Journe, like Michel Parmigiani, spent many years restoring complicated timepieces for other entities including brands and museums. In 30 years of practice, Journe learned more than enough to create his own collection of totally handcrafted timepieces which he unveiled in 1994. Each new watch was emblazoned with “Invenit et Fecit”, meaning “invented and made”, a reference to the high level of craftsmanship which went into each of Journe’s creations. Though expensive by any measure, for many fans of high horology, F.P. Journe is one of the more interesting, coveted manufacturers out there, still only producing a small selection of watches each year. As they have with a few other brands, Chanel has partnered with Journe, a move which should provide the brand with the financial backing to expand their traditionally small collection and reduce lengthy lead times by adding additional watchmakers and facilities. Three excellent examples of what F.P. Journe is capable of are the Tourbillon Souverain, Sonnerie Souverain, and the Centigraphe Souverain.

Van Cleef & Arpels

Like several other brands on this list, Van Cleef & Arpelsis likely better known for its jewelry than its watches and is, like Cartier, headquartered in Paris, while the brand’s watches are produced in Switzerland. Now owned by the Swiss Richemont Group, Van Cleef & Arpels was founded in 1896 by a father and son-in-law team. With an early history steeped in revolutionary and artistic jewelry making, Van Cleef & Arpels turned its attention to watchmaking in the 1920s, primarily with jewel encrusted women’s watches such as the now-iconic Shutter and Cadenas models. More recently. Van Cleef & Arpels has unveiled several serious high watchmaking pieces, including the Midnight Planetarium. With an entire solar system beautifully executed in precious materials on its starry, aventurine dial surface, the caliber powering the Midnight Planetarium consists of 396 components and accurately displays the relative position of the planets as they are in real life, an incredible feat of watchmaking and a powerful demonstration of Van Cleef and Arpels’ capabilities.

Piaget

Another jewelry maker turned watchmaker is Piaget, whose roots are grounded in 1874 in La Côte-aux-Fées. Unlike Cartier or Van Cleef & Arpels, Piaget’s watchmaking roots are as old as the brand, having produced watch movements since its inception. In the 20th century, Piaget expanded its collection by producing complete watches, as opposed to simply building calibers for other brands. Now owned by the Richemont Group, Piaget have grown into a true high watchmaking house (I typically refuse to say Maison) capable of competing on both technical prowess and artistic inspiration with the titans of the Swiss watch industry. Having pioneered the ultra-thin watch segment in the 1950s, Piaget’s Altiplano Concept is an example of the brand’s watchmaking acumen, featuring a 2mm overall thickness with a finely finished handwinding caliber.

Laurent Ferrier

Another of the younger brands on this list is Laurent Ferrier, whose namesake founder opened shop in 2010 near Geneva. With a family history rich in watchmaking, young Laurent followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather by attending watchmaking school before starting work with a small Swiss brand you may also know, Patek Philippe. What is even more interesting is Ferrier’s history in motorsports. As a semi-professional race car driver, Ferrier finished 3rd at Le Mans in 1979, sharing the podium with winner and fellow watch legend Paul Newman. Moving back to watches, Laurent Ferrier’s first watch, the Gallect Classic, was released in 2010 to immediate critical acclaim and industry awards. Since then, the brand has continued to produce models which are beautiful examples of high Swiss watchmaking in very limited quantities, including the Micro-Rotor, Traveller, and Origin. In 2020, Laurent Ferrier released its new Classic Origin Opaline, which many have called the most beautiful dress watch release in years.

Corum

Entrenched in the high-end luxury watch space, Corum was founded back in 1955 in La Chaux-de-Fonds, and quickly developed a reputation for avant garde visual designs backed up by impressive technical watchmaking. The brand is perhaps best known for its Coin watch, which was released in 1964, and is an ultra-thin mechanical watch with a movement set behind a $20 US Double Eagle gold coin. While a bit gimmicky, the Corum Coin watch has been worn by US presidents and other prominent figures, and likely galvanized the experimental spirit we see in Corum’s collection today. More recently, Corum released their LAB02, featuring a totally handmade caliber with a flying gear train and flying tourbillon, and almost no bridges to be found. The LAB02 is visually striking and a great example of the wild yet beautiful designs for which Corum is known.

Frederique Constant

Frederique Constant is another relatively young brand juxtaposed amongst some brands on this list who measure their life cycle in centuries. However, since Frederique Constant’s founding in 1988, the brand has already had an interesting series of acquisitions and mergers. Now, the brand is a subsidiary of Citizen Holdings, which also owns Bulova. Now, FC is one of the larger Swiss brands in terms of output and has an emphasis on the so-called affordable luxury sector of watchmaking. In recent years, and notably since the Citizen acquisition, Frederique Constant has stepped up into the ever-growing in-house game, and now produces several interesting models, including the excellent Slimline Moonphase collection, which houses a totally in-house manufactured caliber. For the money, these are some of the best-equipped watches coming out of Switzerland right now, and a brand more enthusiasts should consider in the entry-to-luxury space.

H. Moser & Cie

Though certainly Swiss today, H. Moser & Cie has an interesting history as a brand name originally founded in Russia way back in 1828, though the brand’s watches were primarily made in Switzerland. The original company was sold soon after its founder’s death in 1874 and folded amongst political unrest in Russia in 1918 before reappearing in Switzerland in 1953. After a few more acquisitions and total disappearances from the market, H. Moser & Cie as we know it today was formally relaunched in 2005 by the original founder’s great grandson along with some private investors. Since then, H. Moser & Cie has taken up a position as a high watchmaking brand with a more streamlined, clean aesthetic and impressive technical acumen. Perhaps best known for the Streamliner collection, H. Moser & Cie released their Streamliner Flyback Chronograph, the brand’s first automatic chronograph and integrated bracelet sport watch, in 2020 to critical acclaim and industry buzz.

Maurice Lacroix

Maurice Lacroix finds its origins under the umbrella of Desco, a luxury watch representative and distributor who once handled such brands as Jaeger-LeCoultre, Eterna, Heuer, and Audemars-Piguet. In 1961, Desco acquired a company that assembled watches for other brands, and eventually began to build watches under the Maurice Lacroix name in 1975. The brand took off, and models like the Masterpiece collection are great examples of the early decades of Maurice Lacroix’s history. More recently, the brand has jumped into the world of manufacture movements with both feet, culminating in modern models like the Pontos Chronograph Monopusher, a watch celebrating 20 years of the brand’s popular Pontos sport watch. For watches built to a surprisingly high standard from an established Swiss brand, Maurice Lacroix is an excellent brand to check out, and one you don’t see everyday.

Roger Dubuis

Based in Geneva, Roger Dubuis hasn’t been around all that long, having been founded as an independent as recently as 1995. Now under the weighty umbrella of the Richemont Group, the brand has grown into one of the more prominent smaller Swiss brands in the industry. As a brand associated with high watchmaking and complicated calibers, Roger Dubuis stands out for being one of the few brands on this list to produce the majority of their case and movement components in-house, a more difficult and rare feat than you might imagine, especially for a brand that isn’t all that big. The brand is best known for its complicated models such as its vast collection of flying skeletonized tourbillon watches. In recent years, Roger Dubuis has collaborated with prominent motorsport brands such as Pirelli, a relationship symbolized by the briefly-named Excalibur Spider Pirelli ICE ZERO 2, a titanium watch featuring a flying skeletonized double tourbillon.

Carl F. Bucherer

Carl F. Bucherer is a lesser known Swiss brand I think should be included in more Swiss watchmaking conversations. Founded in 1888, Carl F. Bucherer started out producing pocket watches, but saw the writing on the wall and was an early maker of wristwatches for both men and women. With a wealth of experience in chronographs, world timers, and chronometer grade calibers developed mid-century, Carl F. Bucherer has more recently reached into their archives, as has much of the industry, and created a tasteful heritage collection. Still invested in high watchmaking, the brand recently released the Heritage Tourbillon Double Peripheral, a relatively svelte 42.5mm watch packed with beautifully finished watchmaking tech and artisanship.

Doxa

Doxa for me is one of the most fun and colorful Swiss brands on the market today. Originally founded in 1889 as a maker of mostly dress watches, Doxa is without question best known for their Sub series of diver’s watches released in 1967. While the company suffered and changed hands more than once as a result of the economic effects of the quartz crisis, Doxa was effectively relaunched with a heritage-inspired diver’s watch collection in 2002, and today operates more like a microbrand than a huge corporation. In its modern collection, stand-out favorites include the Sub 300T, Sub 200 T.Graph, and entry level Sub 200. More recently, Doxa has been having some fun with the Sub collection, releasing a solid gold version of the T.Graph chronograph as well as a carbon-cased variant of the Sub 300. In the entry to mid level Swiss tool watch space, you can’t afford to overlook what’s happening over at Doxa.

Eberhard & Co.

Eberhard & Co. was founded back in 1887 around the genesis of a number of other prominent watch brands. Founder George Eberhard represented a prominent Swiss family with deep roots in the watch industry. The brand’s early history is marked by innovation in the chronograph space, and Eberhard & Co. is one of the first to release a wrist-worn chronograph in 1919, before also introducing dual pusher and split seconds models. Overall, Eberhard is known for the Extra-Fort series of watches released in the 1940s, which were sportier, more capable watches in a market then dominated by dress watches. Today, the brand, which is incredibly popular in Italy, continues its tradition of creating sporty mechanically interesting watches like the modern Scafograph, 8 Jours, and revamped Extra-Fort.

Eterna

The Eterna that comes to mind for most people is the KonTiki, a series of sport watches built to commemorate the incredible ocean passage of Thor Heyerdahl aboard a balsa-wood raft (and wearing an Eterna) in 1947. Each KonTiki watch featured an engraved version of Heyerdahl’s raft on its caseback. Eterna traces its lineage all the way back to 1856, and is also responsible for starting ETA as a stand-alone movement manufacturer in 1932, perhaps the brand’s overall largest contribution to the watch industry. Nowadays, Eterna is known for its tasteful collection of watches inspired by the brand’s most successful models. For an often overlooked, excellent source for Swiss everyday watches, Eterna is one to consider.

Fortis

Fortis is another independent Swiss brand mostly associated with tool watches, especially their collection of Cosmonaut watches, used in space by the Russian Space Agency. With an often bead-blasted, utilitarian style, Fortis has developed a reputation for overbuilt, highly-legible timepieces designed for a variety of active pursuits. With roots as far back as 1912, Fortis’ early history is marked by the first automatic production watch in 1926, as well as the early production of a water resistant watch, the Fortissimo, released in 1940. Since then, the brand has dabbled in avant-garde designs, alarm watches, Marinemaster diver’s watches, and a variety of Flieger style tool watches, including the aforementioned Cosmonaut collection. In recent years, the company faced financial difficulties and was acquired by a private investor in 2017, who reinvigorated the brand and ensured that Russian cosmonauts still have watches to wear in space.

Zodiac

As another brand to heavily invest in the recent vintage-revival craze currently dominating the international market, Zodiac has a wealth of historic watch designs to pull from, including the much-loved Aerospace GMT and Sea Wolf collections. The brand that would become Zodiac was founded in 1882 and later named Zodiac in 1908. Without question, Zodiac’s most important contribution to the watch world is the Zodiac Sea Wolf series, which debuted in 1953, making it one of the first-ever watches designed for diving. Financial issues threatened Zodiac in the late 1990s, and Fossil acquired the brand in 2001 before formally relaunching Zodiac in 2002. Recently, the brand has dabbled with in-house movements in watches designed after some of their best historic models. The rereleased Sea Wolf, Super Sea Wolf, and Super Sea Wolf GMT (which looks more like an old Aerospace) watches are well regarded for their respective prices, and a good indication of the positive direction Zodiac is now moving towards.

Mido

In business since 1919, Mido’s early history is associated with automotive-inspired designs, waterproof tech, and the automatic Multifort collection. Today, Mido is one of a few value leaders in the Swiss watch industry, combining a rich heritage of classic designs with modern technical advancements to create a compelling collection of reasonably-priced everyday, dress, diver, and chronograph watches, all with Swiss calibers. Some of Mido’s best-loved watches in recent years include the Ocean Star Tribute diver and Baroncelli dress watch.