51 Best Luxury Watch Brands To Know In 2022
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51 Best Luxury Watch Brands To Know In 2022

How well do you know your luxury watch brands? The timepiece industry is populated by many dozens of companies — a handful of them still independent, many others now members of a larger luxury-goods conglomerate — each with its own unique origin story, historical highlights, and technical and aesthetic brand DNA. Here we've gathered what we consider the current top 50 luxury watch brands that should be on the radar of watch enthusiasts and given you a brief rundown of what makes each one special. In the interest of being informative (and transparent), we've divided them into sections: brands owned by the two major Swiss luxury groups (Swatch and Richemont), brands within the French LVMH Group, Japanese Citizen Group, and the small Swiss concern Sowind; the largest, best-known independent companies, and the leading brands among the rest of the independents. We've even added a little tidbit of trivia for each brand.

RICHEMONT GROUP

A. LANGE & SÖHNE

A. Lange & Söhne

Today widely recognized as the paragon of German high watchmaking, A. Lange & Söhne was originally founded by Ferdinand Adolph Lange in 1845 in the village of Glashütte in Saxony, laying the foundation for that town to become the heart of the nation’s watchmaking. In the wake of World War II, and the Cold War-era partitioning of Germany, the company effectively ceased to exist. The modern A. Lange & Söhne was revived in 1990 by Walter Lange, great-grandson of Ferdinand Adolph Lange, in partnership with legendary watch-industry entrepreneur Günter Blümlein. Though the modern incarnation of A. Lange & Söhne is just slightly more than three decades old, its status among elite watchmakers is undeniable, and its core models are recognized as icons: the flagship Lange 1, which serves as the face of the brand, along with trendsetting designs like the Datograph, the Zeitwerk, the Cabaret Tourbillon, and most recently, the luxury-sport Odysseus — all boasting original manufacture movements made in Glashütte, all the way down to the hairsprings.

Founded: 1845 (original), 1990 (modern)

Headquarters: Glashütte, Germany

Ownership: Richemont Group

Notable models: Lange 1, 1815, Zeitwerk, Odysseus

Did you know: The unique dial of the A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk collection takes its inspiration from the digital clock above the stage of the Opera House in Dresden, installed at the behest pf King John of Saxony in 1870.

BAUME & MERCIER

Baume & Mercier

Brothers Louis-Victor and Célestin Baume founded Frères Baume in 1830 and partnered with Paul Mercier in 1918 to form the Baume & Mercier firm that we recognize today. Since joining the Richemont Group in 1988, Baume & Mercier has offered tastefully designed Swiss-made timepieces at solid values compared to many of its peers, including complications from day-dates to chronographs to a perpetual calendar, all outfitted with outsourced Swiss-made calibers and modules. In recent years, Baume & Mercier has forayed into making its own in-house calibers, including the so-called Baumatic movement that it has installed inside several models within its sporty-elegant Clifton collections, and has even more recently revived its Riviera model from 1973, its own answer to the mega-popular trend of integrated-bracelet sports watches.

Founded: 1830

Headquarters: Meyrin, Switzerland

Ownership: Richemont Group

Notable models: Riviera, Clifton, Classima, Hampton

Did you know: Baume & Mercier worked directly with Peter Brock, designer of the Shelby Daytona Cobra Coupe and Corvette Stingray,  in the development of its Clifton Club Shelby Cobra Limited Edition. 

CARTIER

Cartier Watches

Cartier has enjoyed a worldwide reputation as the “King of Jewelers and the Jeweler of Kings” since its founding in Paris by Louis-Franois Cartier. The company is also responsible for some of the most iconic and influential timepieces in history and continues to build on that legacy to this day. One of those icons sprung from a request by pioneering aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont to his friend Louis Cartier, grandson of the founder, for an easily readable watch he could wear during balloon flights. Cartier’s answer, today called the Santos watch and first marketed to the public in 1911, is now regarded as the first purpose-built aviation watch as well as the first wristwatch aimed at men. The Santos begat the square-cased Tank watch in 1919, an Art Deco-era milestone that continues to exert its influence over watch design today, and the Pasha in 1932, one of the earliest and most stylish waterproof watches. Cartier has also in more recent years distinguished itself with in-house high complications like the “Mysterious” movements at which it has excelled, in which the dial elements appear to float in midair thanks rto cleverly obscured mechanical parts.

Founded: 1847

Headquarters: Paris, France

Ownership: Richemont Group

Notable models: Tank, Santos, Panthere, Pasha, Ballon Bleu

Did you know: Cartier’s first ‘Mystery Clock” was purchased for $3,200 in 1913 by famed American banker J.P. Morgan.

IWC

IWC Pilot's Watch

Notably the first and still only Swiss watch firm founded by an American (New England watchmaker Florentine Ariosto Jones), the International Watch Company, abbreviated IWC, is also one of the few watchmaking houses headquartered in Schaffhausen, in Switzerland’s northeastern, German-speaking region, rather than in the country’s western, French-speaking regions. Originally a maker of ornate pocket watches, IWC is most famous today for its family of aviation watches, like the Big Pilot’s watch, first worn by Luftwaffe pilots during World War II; the Spitfire series, based on the Mark 11 worn by British RAF pilots in the 1950s; and the Top Gun collection, made in cooperation with the U.S. Navy Fighter Weapons School. IWC has been a pioneer in materials like titanium and high-tech ceramic and is also well known by enthusiasts for models like the dressy Portugieser, the motorsport-inspired Ingenieur, and the Aquatimer range of dive watches. The Top Gun pilots’ models are where IWC has been the most bold in its use of new materials, such as the proprietary Ceratanium alloy as well as ceramics in difficult-to-execute colors like white and a “Mojave Desert” sand tone.

Founded: 1868

Headquarters: Schaffhausen, Switzerland

Ownership: Richemont Group

Notable models: Big Pilot’s Watch, Portugieser, Portofino, Aquatimer

Did you know: IWC founder Florentine Ariosto Jones served in the 13th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment during the American Civil War.

JAEGER-LECOULTRE

Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso

Jaeger-LeCoultre, established in 1833 in the heart of the Vallée de Joux in the Swiss Jura Mountains, has been called “The Watchmaker of Watchmakers,” and the maison has worked hard to earn the reputation, producing more than 1,242 in-house calibers over its long history — and for much of that history supplying some of them to other major heritage brands like Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin. Jaeger-leCoultre’s most iconic watch is undeniably the Reverso, made since 1931 and recognizable by its swiveling, reversible case, which was initially conceived as a sports watch for polo players to wear during matches. Another signature innovation from Jaeger-LeCoultre came in 1968: the Polaris Memovox, a diver’s watch equipped with a mechanical alarm, which exerts its aesthetic and technical influence on an entire collection of Polaris sport-luxury models today.

Founded: 1833

Headquarters: Le Sentier, Switzerland

Ownership: Richemont Group

Notable models: Reverso, Master Control, Polaris, Atmos Clock

Did you know: The Vatican in Rome maintains the largest collection in the world of Jaeger-leCoultre’s Atmos clocks.

MONTBLANC

Montblanc Watches

Montblanc, founded in 1906 in Hamburg, Germany, has a longstanding and well-deserved reputation as a purveyor of high-luxury pens (as well as leather goods and other accessories) and the company has been striving to apply the same standards to its relatively young watchmaking division, which sprung up in 1997. The biggest step toward building Montblanc into a haute horologerie house was the purchase by parent group Richemont of Minerva, a historical Swiss watchmaking factory specializing in chronograph calibers, and installing it as the Montblanc Manufacture. Today, Montblanc watches feature a combination of elements inspired by vintage Minerva watches, by hallmark Montblanc pen details, and by a “mountaineering,” adventurous spirit derived from the company’s namesake Alpine peak. The 1858 Geosphere, a ruggedly built yet luxurious world-time watch, perhaps best embodies the cosmopolitan theme of globetrotting exploration that has become Montblanc’s stock-in-trade.

Founded: 1908 (pen company); 1997 (watch company)

Headquarters: Le Locle, Switzerland

Ownership: Richemont Group

Notable models: TimeWalker, 1858, Star Legacy

Did you know: Montblanc’s Nicolas Reussec watches are named after the inventor of the first device to be called a chronograph (a “time writer” that was used to tally speeds at horse races). 

PANERAI

Panerai watches

Officine Panerai could be considered one of the watch industry’s oldest overnight successes. Tracing its origins to 1860, when it was founded as a watch shop and watchmaking school in Florence by Giovanni Panerai, the company started making watches at the request of the Italian military shortly thereafter. Worn by frogmen of the Royal Italian Navy, Panerai’s original model, the Radiomir, took its name from the proprietary luminescent material (originally developed for use in firearms) applied to its dial to enhancer underwater legibility. The Radiomir, one of the first dive watches, was superseded by the Luminor, which added a newer luminescent dial material and a patented crown protection device to seal the case against water penetration. These watches, originally built for Panerai by Rolex, were exclusively available to military clients until 1997, when Panerai was swallowed up by Richemont and finally started offering its watches for commercial sale. When the modern-day Luminor and Radiomir caught the eye of alpha-male Hollywood actors like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone — and worn on screen in their blockbuster films — Panerai’s status as a luxury watch brand with masculine, retro-military appeal was assured.

Founded: 1860

Headquarters: Neuchâtel, Switzerland

Ownership: Richemont Group

Notable models: Luminor, Radiomir, Submersible

Did you know: Sylvester Stallone wore a Panerai Luminor in the 1995 movie Daylight, and the movie has since lent its name to that model, now one of the brand’s most collectible.

PIAGET

Piaget Polo S

While it’s more widely known for its jewelry these days, Piaget, founded in the small Swiss village of La Cote-aux-Fées by Georges Piaget in 1874, has been a watchmaker from the beginning; its original trade was making movements, and the company began making complete watches in In the 20th century. Since 1957, when Piaget created the historic 2mm-thick Caliber 9P, the company has been world renowned for the elegant thinness of its watches and movements. The world’s thinnest self-winding mechanical movement, Caliber 12P, followed Caliber 9P just three years later, in 1960, and Piaget has building upon these foundations ever since, the most recent triumph in this area being the Altiplano Ultimate Concept, which debuted in 2018 as a prototype and hit the market in 2020; the entire watch, case and movement, is just 2mm thick, matching the wafer thinness of the original Caliber 9P. Piaget also offers a wide range of other luxury watches for men and women, from the high-jewelry Limelight pieces to the elegantly sporty Polo and Polo S collections, which channel a 1970s vibe.

Founded: 1874

Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland

Ownership: Richemont Group

Notable models: Polo, Altiplano, Limelight

Did you know: Despite the company’s renown as a jeweler, Piaget didn’t start making jewelry until the 1960s, having focused solely on watches until then.

ROGER DUBUIS

Roger Dubuis

Watch complications specialist Roger Dubuis, formerly a director at Patek Philippe, founded his eponymous independent brand in 1995 and quickly established it as one of the leading haute horlogerie houses in Geneva, known for high complications, skeletonized calibers and tourbillons. A part of Richemont since 2008, the Roger Dubuis brand has since forged a new path without its founder but still takes pride in pushing the envelope in terms of technology and design. The Excalibur collection, launched in 2005, is the undisputed flagship, boasting models with tourbillons, double tourbillons and minute repeaters in addition to the “Spider” series of distinctly skeletonized pieces. In recent years, Roger Dubuis has collaborated with prominent motorsport brands such as Pirelli, producing eye-popping timepieces like the Excalibur Spider Pirelli ICE ZERO 2, a titanium watch featuring a flying skeletonized double tourbillon.

Founded: 1995

Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland

Ownership: Richemont Group

Notable models: Excalibur, Excalibur Spider, Velvet

Did you know: The Roger Dubuis Quatuor, launched in 2013, was the first wristwatch to contain four free-sprung balances, connected by a differential system.

VACHERON CONSTANTIN

 Vacheron Constantin Historiques

Vacheron Constantin is one of the oldest watch manufacturers in the world, founded in 1755 by Jean-Marc Vacheron and François Constantin, with an uninterrupted history of watchmaking and a brand motto that states, “Do better if possible, and that is always possible.” Throughout its centuries of history, Vacheron Constantin can claim a number of horological milestones and wearers drawn from the ranks of royalty, like Egypt’s King Fuad I. Vacheron Constantin’s Ref. 57260 pocket watch, unveiled in 2015, holds the title of the world’s most complicated watch ever made, packing 57 total complications. Vacheron Constantin offers one of the most comprehensive lineups among high watchmaking brands, with pieces in its Patrimony and Traditonnelle collections that range from elegant three-handers to perpetual calendars, minute repeaters, and tourbillons. Its sport-luxury Overseas collection, which draws its influence from the legendary 222 reference from 1977, encompasses its own raft of complications, and the vintage-inspired Historiques series engages enthusiasts with modern re-editions of classical timepieces from Vacheron’s extensive archives like the Historiques American 1921, which revives the Art Deco-era “drivers’ watch” look for a new generation.

Founded: 1755

Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland

Ownership: Richemont Group

Notable models: Patrimony, Overseas, Historiques, Traditionnelle

Did you know: American flight pioneers Orville and Wilbur Wright were customers of Vacheron Constantin.

VAN CLEEF & ARPELS

Van Cleef & Arpels

Like its Richemont stablemat Piaget, Van Cleef & Arpels is known more for its jewelry than its watches, and like Cartier, VC&A is headquartered in Paris but produces watches in Switzerland. In contrast to both, however, Van Cleef & Arpels, founded by Dutch jeweler AlfredVan Cleef and his father-in-law Salomon Arpels, was a jeweler before it was a watchmaker.Accordingly, most of the maison’s timepieces are designed as timekeeping pieces of jewelry, the most high-end pieces equipped with what the company calls “Poetic Complications.” Its earliest watches from the 1920s were primarily jewel-encrusted ladies’ models like the now-famous Shutter and Cadenas models. In the modern era, VC&A regularly astonishes watch aficionados, male and female, with pieces like the Midnight Planetarium, whose dial hosts an entire solar system, beautifully executed in precious materials on its starry, aventurine surface, and whose mechanical movement accurately displays the relative position of the planets in real time — an incredible feat of watchmaking and a powerful demonstration of Van Cleef and Arpels’ capabilities. For men looking for a simpler, elegant dress watch, the Pierre Arpels collection is an excellent, off-the-beaten-path choice. 

Founded: 1896

Headquarters: Paris, France

Ownership: Richemont Group

Notable models: Poetic Complications, Pierre Arpels

Did you know: Van Cleef & Arpels counts opera star Maria Callas, Princess Grace of Monaco, and heir to the Woolworth fortune Barbara Hutton among its customers.


SWATCH GROUP

BLANCPAIN

Blancpain Fifty Fathoms

Blancpain was founded in 1735 by Jehan-Jacques Blancpain, making it one of the oldest watch brands in existence — one of the few, in fact, that can say it’s been making watches longer than the United States has been a country. The maison offers a plethora of small and high complications  in its extensive and elegant Villeret collection, named for the Swiss village where it originated before moving to the Vallee de Joux in 1983, including a so-called “complete” calendar, a signature complication but these days Blancpain is perhaps best known for the milestone if contributed to watch history in 1953 — the Fifty-Fathoms, one of the very first purpose-built diver’s watches. Designed in collaboration with the French Navy’s Nageurs de Combat (combat swimmers, and later worn by U.S. Navy SEALs and other American military diving units, the Fifty Fathoms has become a pillar of its product range today. A subfamily based on a particular model from the late 1950s, called Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe, has a more modest, retro look and has become a popular collection on its own. 

Founded: 1735

Headquarters: Le Brassus, Switzerland

Ownership: Swatch Group

Notable models: Villeret, Fifty Fathoms, Air Command

Did you know: Jacques Cousteau wore a Blancpain Fifty Fathoms in his Oscar-winning undersea diving documentary film, The Silent World, in 1956.

BREGUET

Breguet watches

Abraham-Louis Breguet was one of the most important figures in the history of watchmaking and his signature invention, the tourbillon, finds some of its most creative and ambitious expressions in the modern Breguet watch brand, whose history can be traced all the way back to 1775. (Patented in 1801 as a solution to the effects of gravitational fields on a watch’s movement precision, the tourbillon is of course now a staple of many other watchmakers as well.) Breguet made the first watch to be wound by means of its crown in 1830, an era in which watches were wound with a key, and Breguet watches throughout history have adorned the waistcoats and wrists of important figures from England’s King George III to Queen Marie-Antoinette to Sir Winston Churchill. The maison even established its own signature set of hands, called Breguet hands, back in 1783, which are found on pieces from Breguet’s modern Classique collection as well as models from many other brands. In addition to its well-curated selection of tourbillon-equipped timepieces (like the super-thin “Extra-Plat” Classique references) and rare complications like the world-time Hora Mundi and its Equation of Time models, Breguet produces luxury with both a nautical and a classical aeronautical flair with its Marine and Type XX collections, respectively. 

Founded: 1775

Headquarters: L’Abbaye, Switzerland

Ownership: Swatch Group

Notable models: Tradition, Classique, Marine, Type XX, Reine de Naples

Did you know: As a general in the French Army, Napoleon Bonaparte purchased Breguet’s first carriage clock on the eve of his military campaigns into Egypt in Syria.

GLASHÛTTE ORIGINAL

Glashütte Original

Glashütte Original is a relatively young German luxury brand that nevertheless can boast roots reaching all the way back to the mid-19th Century and the birth of watchmaking in the Saxon town of Glashütte. After the Second World War, the Soviet Union, which controlled East Germany and therefore Glashütte, consolidated all of the existing independent watch companies operating in the town (including the original A. Lange & Söhne firm) under one state-owned conglomerate called the Volkseigener Betrieb Glashütter Uhrenbetriebe (GUB). After the Berlin wall fell, and Germany was reunited, the GUB was allowed to be privatized in 1994 and became the Glashütte Original company that we know today. Its most emblematic watch designs come from the Pano collection, named for, and easily identified by, the large “panorama date” display on the model’s asymmetrical dials. Perhaps the most distinctive execution in the collection is the PanoInverse, in which the back of the movement — with its traditional decorative elements, like Glashütte ribbing and an engraved balance cock —has been flipped to the front to act as the watch’s dial. Recently, Glashütte Original has revived some sporty models from the GUB era, including the Spezimatic SeaQ series of divers’ watches.  

Founded: 1845 (original), 1994 (current)

Headquarters: Glashütte, Germany

Ownership: Swatch Group

Notable models: Senator, Seventies, Pano, Spezialist

Did you know: Glashutte Original’s Alfred Helwig Tourbillon is named after the German inventor of the flying tourbillon and former headmaster of the German Watchmaking School in Glashütte.

HARRY WINSTON

Harry Winston watch

American jeweler and “King of Diamonds” Harry Winston founded his eponymous firm in his native New York in 1932 and the company began dabbling in watchmaking in 1989, naming its initial collection “Premier” after the name of Winston’s original company, Premier Diamonds. In 2001, Harry Winston started making noise in the haute horlogerie sphere with the launch of the Opus series, which enlisted some of the world’s most gifted and creative independent watchmaking minds to produce rare and complex timepieces, initially under the leadership of future MB&F founder Maximillian Büsser. Francois-Paul Journe, Christophe Claret, Vianney Halter, Antoine Preziuso, and Urwerk co-founder Felix Baumgartner are among the watch-industry rock stars who have contributed their savoir-faire to a Harry Winston Opus edition. While there hasn’t been a new Opus for quite a few years, Harry Winston — acquired by the Swatch Group in 2013  — continues to display a dedication to both high watchmaking and high jewelry with collections like Ocean, Midnight, and the ultra-complex Histoire de Tourbillon pieces.

Founded: 1932 (company), 1989 (watchmaking)

Headquarters: New York, NY, U.S.A

Ownership: Swatch Group

Notable models: Avenue, Midnight, Ocean collections, Opus Editions

Did you know: In 1989, Harry Winston created a replica of the ruby slippers worn in the movie “The Wizard of Oz,” which sold at auction for $3 million, substantially more than the final sale price of the original slippers.

JAQUET DROZ

Jaquet Droz Bird Repeater

Pierre Jaquet-Droz (1721-1790), founder of the modern watchmaking house that bears his name, was not only one of the most renowned watchmakers of the 18th century; he was also a pioneer in the development of automatons, which are now considered the first mechanical computers. His lifelike, moving figures, controlled by complex clockwork-like mechanisms, are now on display in museums and inspired smaller versions on Jaquet-Droz’s clocks and music boxes, which featured singing birds and other mobile creatures. The spirit of these fascinating inventions lives on in the timepieces of today’s Jaquet Droz, which resides alongside Breguet and Blancpain among the Swatch Group’s high-luxury houses. Whereas much of the collection consists of elegantly designed timepieces with more conventional complications — many of them part of the flagship Grande Seconde series, whose figure-eight arrangement of hours-and-minutes and running seconds on two different-sized, overlapping subdials has become a brand hallmark — the most breathtaking Jaquet Droz watches combine minute repeater mechanisms with miniaturized automatons on the dials, which move at the push of the same slide that activates the repeater’s chimes. To mark its namesake’s 300th birthday in 2021, Jaquet Droz unveiled the Bird Repeater 300th Anniversary Edition, with tiny birds singing and fluttering against the lush, miniature-painted natural landscape of the enamel dial as the watch chimes the time.

Founded: 1738

Headquarters: La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland

Ownership: Swatch Group

Notable models: Grande Seconde, Skelet-One, Bird Repeater

Did you know: The three most famous automatons created by Pierre Jaquet-droz and his sons — the Writer, the Musician, and the Draughtsman — are still functional and on display at the Musee d’Art et d'Histoire Neuchâtel, Switzerland.

LONGINES

Longines watch

Headquartered in Saint-Imier, Switzerland since its founding in 1832 by Auguste Agassiz, Longines takes its name from “lles longines,” or the “long meadows” that surround that picturesque Swiss village. The brand has been a pioneer in sports timing throughout its history, developing timing technologies for racing and a host of equestrian competitions as well as being a one-time Olympic Games timekeeper. Longines remains heavily involved in equestrian sports today, acting as official timing partner of horse racing’s Triple Crown and other events. The company also looks back on an enviable history of involvement in early aviation, designing the legendary Hour Angle watch with Charles Lindbergh in 1931 and supplying watches to pilots like Howard Hughes, Amy Johnson, and Amelia Earhart. Longines was also one of the first Swiss brands to embrace quartz technology in the 1950s, and remains in that game with its line of Conquest VHP (Very High Precision) quartz-powered models. All together, this collection of history and savoir-faire yields a very versatile collection of both distinctly modern and charmingly retro timepieces, all offering immense value for their price.

Founded: 1832

Headquarters: Saint-Imier, Switzerland

Ownership: Swatch Group

Notable models: Spirit, HydroConquest, Master Collection, DolceVita

Did you know: Registered with the Swiss Federal Office of Intellectual Property in 1889, Longines' winged hourglass logo is the oldest registered logo still in use today.

OMEGA

OMEGA Speedmaster

Few Swiss luxury watch brands have had more historical impact on our popular culture than Omega, founded by Louis Brandt in 1848 (and taking up the name Omega, from one of the Brandt firm’s leading calibers, in 1903). One of the watch industry’s most trend-setting leaders, Omega created some of the first minute repeaters and tourbillons for the wrist, and was the first to use the revolutionary co-axial escapement in its calibers. By far its best known watch model is the Speedmaster Professional, aka the “Moonwatch,” which in 1969 became the first watch worn on the moon ands has been a mainstay of NASA space missions ever since. Omega has been a timing partner of the Olympics since 1932 and regularly releases collectible special editions in concert with the Games. Since 1995, Omega has been the official watch of James Bond, with both Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig sporting the naval-inspired Seamaster model in various iterations on the big screen. In recent years, Omega has also become a partner of the PGA Tour, developing Aqua Terra watches with the input of golf champs like Rory McIlroy.

Founded: 1848

Headquarters: Bienne, Switzerland

Ownership: Swatch Group

Notable models: Speedmaster, Seamaster 300, Constellation, De Ville

Did you know: A special gold Omega Speedmaster, personalized for President Richard M. Nixon but never worn by him because of statutes that wouldn't allow him to accept the gift, now resides in Omega's Museum in Bienne.

 

LVMH GROUP

BULGARI

Bulgari Octo Finissimo

Renowned worldwide for its jewelry, Bulgari has also forged a reputation over the past decade as perhaps the most prolific pioneer in the elite field of ultra-thin, complicated timepieces. The company, which was founded in Rome in 1884 by Greek silversmith Sotirio Bulgari, made its first important contribution to the watch community in the 1940s — the Art Deco-inspired, coiled-bracelet Serpenti, which survives as its flagship ladies’ model to this day. Two historic men’s timepieces, the Bulgari Roma and Bulgari Bulgari, debuted in the 1970s and established the classical Roman-architectural look that would define the Bulgari watch brand going forward. The jeweler set up its own watchmaking center in Switzerland in the 1980s and in 2000 bought the independent high-horology ateliers of Daniel Roth and Gerald Genta (the latter founded by the legendary watch designer who contributed the Bulgari Bulgari), incorporating their expertise into the parent Bulgari brand. It is that horological savoir faire that has enable Bulgari to introduce new models in its Octo Finissimo collection — high-luxury mechanical watches of record-breaking thinness — into the market consistently for several years, including the world’s thinnest automatic tourbillon, perpetual calendar, GMT-equipped chronograph, and minute repeater.

Founded: 1884 (company), 1940s (watchmaking)

Headquarters: Rome, Italy

Ownership: LVMH Group

Notable models: Octo, Bulgari Bulgari, Serpenti, Lucea

Did you know: In March 2020, Bulgari contracted with the partner firm that makes its men’s and ladies’ fragrances to produce thousands of bottles of hand sanitizer and distribute them to medical facilities in Bulgari’s native Italy to aid in the fight against COVID-19.

HUBLOT

Hublot watch

Hublot is one of the youngest watch brands on this list, tracing its roots back only to 1980, which makes its high profile and undisputed position in the luxury watch field all the more impressive.  Hublot’s stock-in-trade “Art of Fusion” began with the very first models from brand founder Carlo Crocco, which raised eyebrows as the first gold watches mounted on rubber straps. This combination of high luxury with sporty practicality proved to be a trendsetter for the entire industry and continues to inform Hublot’s identity today. It was former CEO Jean-Claude Biver, who helmed the brand from 2004 to 2014, who oversaw the release of the emblematic Big Bang, whose bold, aggressive design took the brand to the next level. In addition to maintaining its pioneering role in the use of new materials, like high-tech colored ceramics and its proprietary Magic Gold alloy, Hublot has cultivated relationships with a number of high-profile sporting organizations and athletes, including FIFA World Cup soccer, for which the brand is Official Timekeeper, the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys, the NBA’s L.A. Lakers, Olympic Sprinter Usain Bolt, and NHL star Alexander Ovechkin, to name just a few. Hublot has also created some groundbreaking inventions on the technical side, such as the La Ferrari Tourbillon, which stores an astounding 50 days of power reserve in 11 mainspring barrels.

Founded: 1980

Headquarters: Nyon, Switzerland

Ownership: LVMH Group

Notable models: Big Bang, Classic Fusion, Spirit of Big Bang

Did you know: The word “Hublot” means “porthole” in French; the brand name is derived from the design of the Hublot case and bezel, which was influenced by a porthole in a submarine.

TAG HEUER

TAG Heuer Monaco

The company we now know as TAG Heuer traces its history to 1860 and its founder Edouard Heuer; “TAG” would be added to the family business’s name in 1985, when the Techniques d’Avant Garde (TAG) Group obtained a majority share. Many, albeit not all, of the firm’s most influential and memorable watches were born in the pre-TAG era, the brainchildren of founding family scion and former CEO Jack Heuer, who ramped up the brand’s involvement in motorsports and race timing. Foremost among these are the Carrera, launched in 1964 and named after a treacherous road race; and the Monaco, inspired by the Monaco Grand Prix and famously worn by Steve McQueen in the 1971 auto-racing movie Le Mans. TAG Heuer has also dabbled in aviation-style watches, with the Autavia, and driving watches, with the Aquaracer. While mechanical watches, many of them chronographs, remain at the core of TAG Heuer’s identity, the “Avant Garde” aspect has not been forgotten: TAG Heuer was one of the first traditional Swiss watchmakers to enter the smartwatch arena, launching its multi-purpose and versatile TAG Heuer Connected Watch in 2015 and offering updated and optimized versions of it in the subsequent years..

Founded: 1860

Headquarters: La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland

Ownership: LVMH Group

Notable models: Carrera, Monaco, Aquaracer, Autavia

Did you know: TAG Heuer was one of the few watch brands outside of Rolex, Omega, and Seiko to be worn in a James Bond movie: Timothy Dalton wore a quartz-powered TAG Heuer Night Diver model in 1987’s “The Living Daylights.”

ZENITH

Zenith Chronomaster

Zenith traces its roots to 1865 and a surprisingly young founder, 22-year-old Georges Favre-Jacot. It was one of the first watch maisons to integrate all aspects of the watchmaking process under one roof, from case manufacturing to movement production to final casing and assembly, Zenith has long prided itself on its quest for timekeeping precision, earning a record number of chronometry prizes over the years, and its most influential contribution to watchmaking history is the El Primero chronograph caliber, released in 1969 as the first chronograph movement with automatic winding. (Learn more about El Primero here.) This foundational achievement for the brand helped it survive through the Quartz Crisis years and into the recent revival of the luxury mechanical watch. Zenith has built much of its modern collection around the El Primero and its simpler offshoot, the Elite, and since the caliber’s 50th anniversary in 2019 it has heavily relied on some of those now-iconic and collectible El Primero watches to guide the growth of its core Chronomaster and Defy collections. Less renowned but just as distinct are Zenith’s Pilot Type 20 models, some of the most period-appropriate early 20th-century aviation watches you’ll find on the market today.

Founded: 1865

Headquarters: Le Locle, Switzerland

Ownership: LVMH Group

Notable models: Chronomaster, Defy, Pilot Type 20

Did you know: The El Primero caliber was nearly consigned to the dustbin of history when another Zenith company, the one that made TVs and radios, took over the watch company in the 1970s and decreed that all mechanical watch movements be destroyed and replaced with quartz.

 

SOWIND GROUP

GIRARD-PERREGAUX

Girard-Perrregaux Laureato

The long and somewhat convoluted history of Girard-Perregaux begins in 1791, when watchmaker Jean-François Baute established a watchmaking atelier under his name. Another watchmaker, Constant Girard, founded Girard & Cie. in 1852, which became Girard-Perregaux after he married Marie Perregaux in 1854. Constant’s son took over the company in 1906 (still following?) and acquired the Baute company to merge it into the family firm. This series of business maneuvers allows the modern Girard-Perregaux to claim a pedigree back to 1791 even though neither Girard nor Perregaux had yet been born. In any case, Girard-Perregaux boasta an undeniably historic pedigree in the annals of high horology, the most notable being the Three Gold Bridges Tourbillon, Constant Girard’s patented, award-winning take on Abraham-Louis Breguet’s hallmark horological invention; the “Bridges” design continues to influence Girard-Perregaux’s watch innovations today from both an aesthetic and technical standpoint. A more recent milestone, the Laureato sport-luxury watch, conceived in the 1970s, heyday of that genre, has since its 2016 relaunch taken up the leader position in Girard-perregaux’s collection, with recent models designed in collaboration with the brand’s automotive partner, Aston-Martin.

Founded: 1791

Headquarters: La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland

Ownership: Sowind Group

Notable models: Laureato, Bridges, 1966, Cat’s Eye

Did you know: The Girard-Perregaux Laureato was given its name, which is Italian for “Graduate,” by an Italian distributor who was apparently a fan of the 1967 Dustin Hoffman film, “The Graduate."

ULYSSE NARDIN

Ulysse Nardin watches

A watch maison whose very name conjures up romantic images of seagoing adventure and oceanic exploration, Ulysse Nardin, founded in 1846 by its eponym, carved out its place in Swiss watch history as a revered maker of marine chronometers for many of the world’s navies in the 19th and 20th centuries. Long regarded as the “standard bearer of nautical timekeeping,” Ulysse Nardin also entered the 21st Century as one of the most technically innovative and boldly experimental watchmakers on the scene. In 2001, Ulysse Nardin shook up the watch world with its introduction of the Freak, a wildly unconventional timepiece with a “flying carrousel system” in which there are no hands, only a baguette-shaped movement rotating on its own axis, with a bridge to indicate the minutes, while a rotating disk mounted on the mainplate indicates the hours. The Freak was also one of the first watches to use silicon for several of its vital movement parts, a material now widely used in the industry. The brand’s maritime history lives on in collections like the Diver, whose many models include special editions devoted to preserving endangered marine wildlife, and the recently launched Marine Torpilleur family, named for a type of historical torpedo boat and designed to echo the look of classical marine chronometers, with Roman numerals, cathedral hands, and a stacked arrangement of subdials. At the pinnacle of haute horlogerie and trumpeting the company’s most avant-garde design are more highly complicated models like the Blast Hourstriker and Blast Moonstruck.

Founded: 1846

Headquarters: Le Locle, Switzerland

Ownership: Sowind Group

Notable models: Marine, Diver, Freak, Classico

Did you know: Ulysse Nardin won a competition organized by the Washington Naval Observatory in 1905 to become an official supplier of watches to the U.S. Navy for several years.

 

CITIZEN GROUP

ANGELUS

Angelus Chronodate

 

The newest “old” watchmaker on our list, Angelus was founded by brothers Albert and Gustav Stolz in 1891 in Le Locle, Switzerland, faded from the scene in the 1970s, and revived in 2015 to take its place alongside Arnold & Son as a modern-day luxury brand based in La Chaux-de-Fonds under the ownership of La Joux-Perret and the Japanese Citizen Group. In its original incarnation Angelus was known as a top-notch producer of chronographs and multifunction table clocks; its most famous example of the former was the ChronoDate model, which was reintroduced in a more luxurious limited edition in 2022. In the modern era, Angelus chiefly makes watches that are unmistakably avant-garde rather than historically inspired: one of its first releases was the U10 Lumiere Tourbillon, with a large rectangular titanium case with two chambers under two sapphire crystals in the front, one for a time display, the other for a flying tourbillon. The follow-up U50 Diver Tourbillon, launched in 2018, was the brand’s high-concept answer to the traditional diving watch, with a skeleton tourbillon caliber and an interior rotating bezel. The release of the vintage-look ChronoDate may portend a return to more conventional pieces, but time will tell.

Founded: 1891 (original), 2015 (relaunch)

Headquarters: La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland

Ownership: La Joux-Perret, Citizen Group

Notable models: U23, U50 Diver Tourbillon, Chronodate

Did you know: Angelus made the movement that Panerai used in its Radiomir Mare Nostrum prototype watch of 1943, a watch that would never be produced but would provide the template for the Panerai Submersible series. 

ARNOLD & SON

Arnold & Son Globetrotter

Watchmaker and inventor John Arnold (1736-1799), who gave us the modern definition of the term “chronometer,” was English, not Swiss, but his remarkable horological innovations in the 18th century live on today in the company that bears his name, based in the Swiss watch hub of La Chaux-de-Fonds and owned by Japan’s Citizen Group. Arnold & Son makes high-end mechanical watches, all with in-house-made, highly decorated movements, whose designs hearken to the marine chronometers that John Arnold made for the British navy. Among the maison’s notable pieces are the Time Pyramid Tourbillon, with a three-level, openworked linear-oriented movement that features a 12 o’clock tourbillon and dual power reserve indicators; the Globetrotter, an inventively designed world-time watch with a miniature-painted 3D globe that rotates under a suspended bridge over the dial to display multiple time zones simultaneously; and the Luna Magna, introduced in 2021, which boasts the largest 3D moon-phase ever used in a wristwatch.

Founded: 1764 (original), 1995 (modern)

Headquarters: La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland

Ownership: La Joux-Perret, under Citizen Group

Notable models: Time Pyramid, Globetrotter, Luna Magna

Did you know: John Arnold, considered one of the inventors of the modern mechanical watch along with Abraham-Louis Breguet, was the inventor of the overcoll balance spring, which is still found in watches today.

FREDERIQUE CONSTANT

Frederique Constant WorldtimerFrederique Constant, named for the fathers of its founding couple, Peter and Aletta Stas, has since its founding in 1988 forged a solid reputation for as a maker of classically designed wristwatches — many highly complicated and increasingly powered by in-house movements — at very reasonable prices. Frederique Constant is one of the larger Swiss brands in terms of output and represents “affordable luxury” as well as any Swiss brand in its market segment. Since its acquisition by the Citizen Group, Frederique Constant has stepped up its production of in-house movements, found in signature complicated models like the Classic Manufacture Worldtimer, Slimline Moonphase, Flyback Chronograph Manufacture, and the brand’s Perpetual Calendar one of the very few that can be had for under $10,000. Frederique Constant’s recent initiatives include the revival of its integrated-bracelet sport-luxury Highlife line and the revolutionary Monolthic caliber with its single-piece silicon oscillator.

Founded: 1988

Headquarters: Plan-Les-Ouates, Geneva, Switzerland

Ownership: Citizen Group

Notable models: Classic Manufacture Worldtimer, Highlife collection, Slimline

Did you know: Frederique Constant, along with its sister brands Alpina and Mondaine, was in the first wave of Swiss watch brands to introduce a “luxury smartwatch” in february 2015, several months before the launch of the Apple Watch.

 

THE INDEPENDENT ICONS

AUDEMARS PIGUET

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak

Audemars Piguet began making watches in 1875, when founders Jules Louis Audemars and Edward Auguste Piguet first registered the brand, and it remains one of the very few privately owned firms in the watchmaking industry, still in the hands of the Audemars family. Renamed Audemars Piguet & Cie in 1881, the company primarily manufactured movements for other firms in its earliest days, including Tiffany and Co., but later gained renown for milestones like the world’s first-minute repeater movement for wrist watches in 1892, the first jumping-hour watch in 1921, and the first automatic tourbillon movement in 1986. Without a doubt, however, Audemars Piguet is best known for one watch, the Royal Oak, designed by Gérald Genta and released in 1972 as the first true luxury sports watch. The Royal Oak has been at the forefront of Audemars Piguet’s collection ever since and has spawned popular sub-collections like the Royal Oak Offshore and the experimental, highly complicated Royal Oak Concept pieces. In 2019, Audemars Piguet made an attempt to diversify its collection with a new series called Code 11.59, which features its own distinctive design and complex calibers.

Founded: 1875

Headquarters: Le Brassus, Switzerland

Ownership: Audemars Piguet Holdings SA

Notable models: Royal Oak, Royal Oak Offshore, Millenary, Code 11:59

Did you know: Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger helped popularize the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore when he wore one in the 1999 film “End of Days.” 

BREITLING

Breitling Chronomat

If you’ve been in an airport, you’ve probably seen advertisements for Breitling watches, and if you are a pilot, you’ve no doubt worn one or two yourself. Founded in 1884 by Léon Breitling, the Swiss company was an early believer in producing timekeepers, especially chronographs, for various sports as well as for the emerging travel modes of automobiles and airplanes. It was aviation that Breitling would primarily embrace, and which influenced the creation of its two most storied watches, the Chronomat and the Navitimer. (The innovative slide rule bezel, which allowed pilots to make quick calculations on their wrist, debuted on the former but would become the calling card of the latter.) Willy Breitling, heir of Léon, made Breitling the favored watch of pilots and jet-set travelers with a clever and aggressive ad campaign and that identity has persisted, despite the fact that Breitling has in recent years expanded the scope of its appeal with more emphasis on its Superocean divers’ watch and the revival of its dressy sport chronograph, the Premier. Breitling has also revamped and expanded the size offerings in both its Navitimer and Chronomat collections, demonstrating a continued commitment to the aviation classics that put the brand on the pop culture map.

Founded: 1884

Headquarters: Grenchen, Switzerland

Ownership: Partners Group SA

Notable models: Navitimer, Chronomat, Superocean, Emergency

Did you know: Astronaut Scott Carpenter, who wore a Breitling Navitimer on a mission for the Mercury program, approached Breitling with the idea of making a Navitimer with a 24-hour dial that was more useful in space. Breitling continues to make this model, which it named the Navitimer Cosmonaute.

CHOPARD

Chopard Mille Miglia 

Another brand rooted in fine watchmaking but widely known in the modern era for its high jewelry, Chopard was founded by Louis-Ulysse Chopard in Switzerland in 1860. Owned by the Scheufele family since 1963, Chopard offers a diverse selection of luxurious timepieces for men and ladies, from the playful, feminine Happy Diamonds and Happy Sport to the sleek, sporty, motorsport-inspired Mille Miglia series that sprang from Chopard’s longtime partnership with the classic car rally race of the same name. At the upper echelon of the portfolio is the L.U.C collection, named for the initials of Chopard’s founder, which boasts the most elegant designs and the highest level of horological complexity, as evidenced by models like the Flying T, Perpetual Chrono, and Full Strike. The Alpine Eagle, a revival of Chopard’s first-ever sport luxury watch from 1980, has recently taken a starring role in the collection with its eagle-inspired design and robust integrated-bracelet construction.

Founded: 1860

Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland

Ownership: Scheuffele Family

Notable models: Mille Miglia, L.U.C, Alpine Eagle, Happy Diamonds

Did you know: Chopard, a longtime partner of the Cannes Film Festival, makes the Palm d’Or trophy in the same foundry that it makes its gold jewelry and watch cases.

PATEK PHILIPPE

Patek Philippe

Since its founding in 1839, Patek Philippe has been a leader in high watchmaking, pioneering many complications and design elements that are now seen widely throughout the watch industry. The Stern family, who purchased Patek Philippe in 1939, still own and operate the brand today and have built it into what is almost certainly the most prestigious Swiss luxury watchmaker and definitely the one most valued on the auction scene. Patek Philippe’s array of complications, found mostly in its elegant and historic Calatrava line (which has been in production since 1932) but also in some pieces within the sportier Nautilus and Aquanaut collections, include annual calendars, perpetual calendars, chronographs, world-time functions, minute repeaters, and, in some of its most coveted and priciest watches, combinations of two or more of the above. Patek created the first annual calendar and the first wristwatches with a perpetual calendar and a split-seconds chronograph. The Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime Ref. 6300A-010 contained no less than 20 complications and sold for $31.19M in 2019. To the surprise and consternation of many diehard enthusiasts, Patek Philippe recently discontinued the Nautilus, the sport-luxury trendsetter designed by Gerald Genta and released in 1976, which had been its hottest item for many years. It remains to be seen what the manufacture will do for an encore.

Founded: 1839

Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland

Ownership: Stern Family

Notable models: Calatrava, Nautilus, Aquanaut, Sky Moon Tourbillon

Did you know: The Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 5711 with Tiffany Blue dial is the most expensive wristwatch ever sold at auction, fetching $6.5 million at Phillips in 2021.  

ROLEX

Rolex SubmarinerNo brand on this list has become more of a household word than Rolex, founded in London by Hans Wilsdorf  in 1905 and based in Switzerland since 1919. Many of the 20th Century’s recognized  icons of watch design all hail from the rich history and archives of Rolex — the Submariner, launched in 1953, which to many defines the quintessential look of a divers’ watch; the Cosmograph Daytona, arguably the essence of what an auto-racing-inspired sport chronograph should be; the GMT-Master, whose bicolor bezel and 24-hour hand basically established the look of the modern traveler’s watch; and the Day-Date, a watch worn by so many heads of state that it’s been nicknamed “The President,” to name the most famous examples. Even lesser known Rolex models, like the nautical-themed Yacht-Master, the military-rooted Air King, and the deep-diving Sea-Dweller, claim their own interesting histories and fan bases. Since around 2000, Rolex has been almost entirely vertically integrated, making most every part of its watches and movements at its own factories and developing dozens of patented technologies.

Founded: 1905

Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland

Ownership: Hans Wilsdorf Foundation

Notable models: Datejust, Submariner, GMT-Master, Cosmograph Daytona

Did you know: Rolex developed the first GMT-Master watch at the request of Pan Am Airlines pilots, who wanted a watch they could use to check the time at both their home time and destination.

TUDOR

Tudor Black Bay Chronograph

Rolex founder Hans Wildorf originally registered Tudor in 1926 before launching the company properly in 1946 — combining off-the-shelf Swiss movements with Rolex-made cases and bracelets in a mission to bring customers into the Rolex brand family at a lower price point. As one would expect from a more accessible sibling to luxurious big brother Rolex, Tudor has for most of its history been associated with tool watches — like the Tudor’s Oyster Prince, one of its best-loved early models, worn by the U.K.'s Royal Navy, and the Tudor Submariner, used by various military organizations around the world all the way into the 1990s. Tudor had been largely absent from the U.S. commercial market until somewhat recently, when the brand made a major push in 2013. Since then, Tudor has attained new levels of popularity among consumers, who have been duly impressed by red-hot models like the Black Bay and Pelagos, two dive watches whose style is largely derived from elements of the Oyster Price and Submariner, and by the company’s efforts to forge an identity separate from Rolex. The latter initiative can be found in watches like the Black Bay Chronograph, which contains a movement co-created with Breitling, and in the increasing number of Tudor in-house calibers supplanting the outsourced movements of yesteryear.

Founded: 1926

Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland

Ownership: Rolex SA

Notable models: Heritage Black Bay, Pelagos, Heritage Ranger

Did you know: Tudor Oyster Prince watches were worn on the 1952 British scientific expedition to Greenland.

 

MODERN INDIE STARS

ARMIN STROM

Armin Strom

Independent watchmaker and skeletonization expert Armin Strom laid the foundation for the firm that would bear his name in 1967 when he set up shop in Burgdorf, Switzerland to make watches for customers on commission. (One of his clients was Omega, for whom he contributed the first skeletonized Speedmaster.) In 2006, Strom family friend Serge Michel invested in the company, eventually bringing aboard another friend, watchmaker Claude Greisler, to form the two-man creative team that has run Armin Strom since 2009. Michel and Greisler have continued the signature focus on skeletonized timepieces while also exploring new horological inventions like the Resonance Clutch Spring device, a new technology for regulating rate precision, and consistency of accuracy, by connecting two balances in a suspension system. The technology is Armin Strom’s most significant development in recent years, as evidenced by the slew of Resonance models that have become the centerpieces of the collection.

Founded: 2005

Headquarters: Bienne, Switzerland

Ownership: Armin Strom AG

Notable models: Gravity Equal Force, Pure Resonance, Tribute 1

Did you know: In 1990, brand founder Armin Strom entered the Guinness Book of World Records for making the world’s smallest skeletonized women’s watch. 

BELL & ROSS

Bell & Ross

Initially conceived by Bruno ("Bell") Belamich and Carlos A. ("Ross") Rosillo as a university project in 1992, Bell & Ross found its brand identity in 2005 with the creation of the BR 01 Instrument, inspired by the dashboard clock in an airplane cockpit. That distinctive aesthetic, with a squared case with visible screws framing a round dia with large, legible stenci-style numerals, has defined the collection ever since. The earliest Bell & Ross watches were made in a partnership with Sinn Watches in Germany, headed by Belamich’s design mentor, Helmut Sinn, and struggled to find an audience. An acquisition by Chanel in 2002, along with a subsequent investment in the company, gave Bell & Ross the lifeline it needed to forge a new path and attain lasting success. The BR 01 begat the smaller BR 03, which eventually gave rise to the BR 05, a recent addition to the portfolio that adapts the aviation tool-watch look into a more stylish, sporty execution, complete with an integrated bracelet. For divers, Bell & Ross offers the BR 03-92 models, which represent one of the very few ISO-rated dive watches with a waterproof square case. And those seeking a more traditional style, the company makes a line of round-cased, vintage-look timepieces called BR-V2 (the “V” denoting “vintage”). .

Founded: 1992

Headquarters: Paris, France

Ownership: Chanel (majority stake)

Notable models: BR 01, BR 05, BR 03-92 Diver

Did you know: Bell & Ross is the official supplier of watches to the French space program.

BOVET FLEURIER

Bovet watch 

One of the first Swiss watchmakers to exclusively focus on the Chinese market, the House of Bovet, founded in London by Edouard Bovet, earned renown for its incredibly ornate 19th-Century pocket watches and those vintage pieces continue to influence the designs of Bovet watches in the modern era. The timepieces within Bovet’s Amadeo series, in fact, are cleverly engineered to convert from wristwatch to pocketwatch to miniature table clock with their patented case and bracelet design. Amadeo watches, including those within the Virtuoso and Recital collections, feature crowns at 12 o’clock protected by a bow, in the style of a pocketwatch, and their reversible cases are designed to feature displays on both the front and back side. Since 2001, Bovet Fleurier has been creatively driven by its owner, Pascal Raffy, who has pushed the brand to greater heights of high-horological complication — like astronomical world-time displays, three-dimensional moon-phases, flying tourbillons, and seven-day power reserves — and avant-garde yet still historically rooted aesthetics, like the hand-engraved, blue flinqué enamel dial of the Virtuoso IX.

Founded: 1822

Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland

Ownership: Pascal Raffy (owner and CEO)

Notable models: Virtuoso, Recital, Monsieur Bovet, 19Thirty

Did you know: In the 1830s, Bovet watches were so popular in China that the Chinese word for “Bovet” (“Bo “Wei”) became a synonym for “watch.”

BREMONT

Bremont chronograph

When Nick and Giles English — yes, that’s these British brothers’ real surname — started Bremont in 2002, they had two goals: spearhead the return of watchmaking to the U.K. and pay tribute to their late father, a pilot, watch collector, and inveterate tinkerer who stoked the brothers’ own passion for aviation, horology, and all things mechanical. Most would agree that they’ve been successful at both. Bremont watches channel the spirit of aviation, particularly military aviation, in a distinctly stylish manner, whether they’re classical pilots’ models (like the MB1 and Altitude) racing-inspired chronographs (like the watches made in partnership with British automaker Jaguar) or divers’ watches (the Supermarine series, taking its name from the manufacturer of WWII-era Spitfire aircraft). Bremont has developed numerous partnerships over its relatively short lifespan, including one with the British Ministry of Defence, from which arose an officially licensed series of Military timepieces for the civilian market. Most notably, Bremont draws closer every year to its goal of making all of its watches in Britain; in 2022 it released the Longitude, a dual-time watch with its first proprietary caliber, made in its London manufacture.

Founded: 2002

Headquarters: Henley-on-Thames, England, U.K.

Ownership: Nick and Giles English (co-founders)

Notable models: Altitude, Supermarine, Longitude

Did you know: Bremont co-founder Nick English had a cameo in the first Kingsman movie, in which Bremont watches were worn.

CARL F. BUCHERER

Carl F. Bucherer

Carl Friedrich Bucherer is one of the most significant figures in luxury watch retailing history, founding in 1888 the jewelry and watch shop that would eventually grow into today’s Bucherer Group, Europe’s largest watch seller, which has recently expanded into the U.S. The eponymous watch brand that he launched in 1919 is less well known but still boasts an impressive history. At first focusing on Art Deco-style ladies’ watches, the company was an early adopter of the wristwatch, which Carl Bucherer foresaw as taking over the men’s market from the ubiquitous pocket watch, and started making a series of wristwatch chronographs in the 1940s and ‘50s. Contemporary re-editions of those midcentury models are currently making a comeback as the core of Carl F. Bucherer’s Heritage collection, one of its most popular series. Carl F. Bucherer was the first watch brand to develop a serial-produced range of calibers with peripheral rotors and in 2018 even applied the peripheral rotor architecture to a tourbillon. On the tool watch front, the brand has made its robustly built Patravi ScubaTec since 2013, including several special editions in partnership with the Manta Trust charity.

Founded: 1888

Headquarters: Lucerne, Switzerland

Ownership: Bucherer Family

Notable models: Patravi, Manero, Heritage, Pathos

Did you know: In the 2017 spy film, Atomic Blonde, a Carl F. Bucherer watch worn by Charlize Theron plays a key role as the hiding place for some secret documents.

CZAPEK

Czapek watch

The Czapek brand as we know it today began with a crowdfunding campaign in 2015 but the name traces its origin back to the largely forgotten co-founder of perhaps the luxury watch world’s most prestigious house. In 1839, François Czapek was the partner of fellow Polish immigrant Antoine Norbert de Patek in the Swiss firm Patek, Czapek, & Cie, which would become Patek Philippe when Jean-Adrien Philippe joined in 1851, after Czapek had departed at the end of this contract with Patek. Czapek watches in the modern era pay tribute to the ambitious technical and aesthetic spirit of its namesake. Watch collectors and watch-industry peers have taken notice: Czapek’s Quai des Bergues watch brought the new-old maison its first GPHG award just a year after its founding. Czapek’s collection includes elegantly classical timekeepers as well as high complications like rattrapante chronographs and tourbillons. Watches in Czapek’s limited-edition Antarctique collections have proven to be nearly as elusive as some of Patek Philippe’s most coveted pieces.

Founded: 1845 (original), 2015 (modern)

Headquarters: La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland

Ownership: La Joux-Perret, under Citizen Group

Notable models: Time Pyramid, Globetrotter, Luna Magna

Did you know: Founder François Czapek wrote one of the first Polish-language books on watchmaking ever published.

DE BETHUNE

De Bethune DB25

Named after the Chevalier de Bethune, a French nobleman credited with inventing an escapement device for watches and clocks in 1727, De Bethune was the passion project of two men, entrepreneur and watch collector David Zanetta and watchmaker Denis Flageollet. Since its origins in 2002, the brand has firmly cemented its status in the upper echelon of small independent high-horology purveyors, its timepieces made particularly distinctive by hallmarks like the cases’ hollowed-out, floating ergonomic lugs and use of polished titanium, the three-dimensional moon globes found in the sculptural multi-levels dials of its moon-phase watches, and the overall simplicity of its designs that belie the complexity of the in-house calibers inside, characterized by large, Delta-shaped bridges and sapphire barrel covers. De Bethune has consistently pushed the envelope with inventive timepiece like the DB28 Steel Wheels Sapphire Tourbillon, the Reversol-like DB Kind of Two Tourbillon DB29, and the DB25 Starry Varius, whose star-filled astronomical dial can be customized to reflect the night sky above each owner’s location.

Founded: 2002

Headquarters: L’Auberson, Switzerland

Ownership: WatchBox (majority stake)

Notable models: DB25 Starry Varius, DB25 Moon Phase, Maxichrono

Did you know: Actor Robert Downey, Jr., an avid watch connoisseur, wore a De Bethune DB28 Tourbillon on the press tour for his 2019 movie, Avengers: Endgame.

F.P. JOURNE

F.P. Journe

Francois-Paul Journe, born in Marseille and a graduate of the Paris School of Watchmaking, plied his trade as an independent watchmaker and restorer of complicated timepieces for other entities, including brands and museums, before starting his eponymous brand in 1999. Then as now, his motto is “Invenit et Fecit,” meaning “invented and made,” which means that all of his watches are both conceived and built under the same roof. Over more than two decades, F.P. Journe has acquired an avid and knowledgeable following of collectors while still producing watches in very small numbers each year. Journe is known for consistently using gold in his array of in-house-produced calibers and for distinctive aesthetic elements like the silk-rope-pattern crown on the cases and blued teardrop-shaped hands on the dials. F.P. Journe’s boldest horological triumphs include the Tourbillon Souverain, Sonnerie Souverain, and Centigraphe Souverain. The company has even pioneered a new type of quartz caliber for its ladies’ Elegante collection, whose battery stops when the watch is not worn, thus extending its life for up to 18 years. 

Founded: 1999

Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland

Ownership: Privately held, with Chanel holding 20% stake

Notable models: Chronomètre Souverain, Tourbillon Souverain, Centigraphe, Octa, Eleganté

Did you know: F.P. Journe is the only watchmaker to win three Aiguille d’Or top prizes in the Geneva Watchmaking Grand Prix (GPHG)

GRAND SEIKO

Grand Seiko

The Grand Seiko brand, which spun off as an independent entity from its larger Seiko parent brand in 2017, started with a single model in 1960, which was positioned at the time as ticking proof that Japan could build watches at a level of luxury on par with the best of Switzerland. When the Grand Seiko finally launched internationally in 2010, the timepiece that had largely been Japan’s little secret gained a worldwide and rabid following. Since 2017, only the Grand Seiko logo, sans the Seiko logo, appears on the dial. Grand Seiko watches are lauded, even by Swiss watch connoisseurs, for their craftsmanship and understated style: the cases feature the brand’s signature Zaratsu polish,achieved by pressing the case against a rotating tin plate. The dials feature intricately textured surfaces, many inspired by the landscape, flora and fauna of Japan — a noteworthy example being the Ref. BGA011, affectionately nicknamed the “Snowflake,” whose dial texture evokes the snowy fields around the Grand Seiko manufacture in the Suwa region. As befits a brand at this level, Grand Seiko makes all its own calibers, including automatics, quartz, and the proprietary Spring Drive; it recently introduced the high-beat caliber 9SA5, outfitted with a new escapement, balance, and gear train, which has already found a home in the latest generation of Grand Seiko watches.

Founded: 1881 (Seiko parent company), 1960 (first Grand Seiko watch), 2017 (as independent brand)

Headquarters: Tokyo, Japan

Ownership: Seiko Holdings Corporation

Notable models: Heritage collection, Elegance collection, Evolution 9

Did you know: The word "Seiko" in Grand Seiko is derived from the Japanese word "Seikosha," which translates as "House of Exquisite Workmanship."

GREUBEL FORSEY

Greubel ForseyFrenchman Robert Greubel and Brit Stephen Forsey teamed up to establish this Swiss brand that occupies the highest echelon of complicated watchmaking in 2004. Greubel Forsey made an instant splash with the high-horology aficionado set by introducing the world’s first watch with two tourbillons and has pushed the envelope of innovation ever since. Many of its signature timepieces, all of which are made in very limited quantities, feature tourbillons in various creative iterations, including watches with as many as four of them, i.e., the Quadruple Tourbillon à Differentiel introduced in 2008, which connects two double tourbillons rotating at different speeds by a clever differential device. In recent years, Greubel Forsey has applied its distinctive design aesthetic and award-winning chronometric technology to other categories of timepieces, like the eye-catching GMT Sport, with a super-complex global time indication and a new, ergonomically curved sporty case. 

Founded: 2004

Headquarters: La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland

Ownership: Privately owned (Richemont,  20% stake)

Notable models: Double Tourbillon 30º, Quadruple Tourbillon, GMT, QP à Équation

Did you know: In 2012, Greubel Forsey teamed with independent watchmaker Philippe Dufour to kick off the "Birth of a Watch" project, an initiative to preserve the knowledge and practice of traditional watchmaking practices in danger of being lost to industrialization. 

MB&F

MB&F

MB&F stands for “Max Büsser and Friends,” and since its launch in 2005 it has been a workshop for Maximillian Büsser, a former executive at Jaeger-LeCoultre and onetime CEO of Harry Winston’s Timepiece Division, to apply his considerable engineering chops and artistic vision to create “Horological Machines” that are often wildly different from anything seen before in the timepiece arena. The “Friends” that have partnered with Busser on some of these projects are a “Who’s Who” of independent watchmaking rock stars: Kari Voutilainen (on the Legacy Machine “Thunderdome,” among others), Stepan Sarapaneva (on the MoonMachine pieces), and Alain Silberstein (on the LM 1 Silberstein “Performance Art” piece), to name a few. Each of MB&F’s Horological Machines is a technical and artistic achievement, often combining unconventional materials with innovative design concepts and off-the-wall movements whose approach to timekeeping challenges all existing conventions. A short list of recent highlights would include the HM10 Bulldog, the Legacy Machine Perpetual EVO, and MB&F’s recent collaboration with H. Moser & Cie, the LM101 and Endeavor Cylindrical Tourbillon.

Founded: 2005

Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland

Ownership: Private (Maximillian Büsser, founder)

Notable models: Legacy Machine Perpetual, HM4 Thunderbolt, HM6 Space Pirate 

Did you know: Founder Max Büsser created the M.A.D. Gallery in Geneva in 2011 to showcase his “kinetic art” timepieces alongside other mechanical artworks.

MORITZ GROSSMANN

Moritz Grossmann

The Moritz Grossmann brand has only operated since 2008, when it was founded by watch-industry veteran (and trained watchmaker) Christine Hutter, and presented its first watch in 2010, but the history of the Grossmann name goes back much further. Karl Moritz Grossmann was born in Dresden in 1826 and, alongside Ferdinand Adolph Lange, was one of the pioneers of the watchmaking industry in Glashütte and founded the German Watchmaking School in Glashütte. One of the most exclusive watchmakers in that German horological hub, Moritz Grossmann makes only a several hundred watches per year, its most popular model being the Benu, a classically designed watch made to exacting standards. Moritz Grossmann also dabbles in some high complications, however, like its own version of the flying tourbillon — a German invention. Other highlights include the Atum Pure M, with its eye-catching mesh dial to show off the movement, and the Universalzeit, a world-timer introduced in 2022.As with most high-end watches made in Glashütte, the movements in Moritz Grossman watches feature traditional elements like three-quarter plates, Glashütte ribbing, and hand-engraved balance cocks.

Founded: 2008

Headquarters: Glashütte, Germany

Ownership: Private (Christine Hutter, founder)

Notable models: Benu, Atum, Tefnut

Did you know: Among Moritz Grossmann's many special editions inspired by world events is the "Meet in February" edition, commemorating the historic summit in 2019 between U.S. President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. 

H. MOSER & CIE.

H. Moser & Cie.

The other watchmaker headquartered in Schaffhausen (along with the larger and more well known IWC) is  H. Moser & Cie, founded by Heinrich Moser in 1828. Early Moser watches were made in Switzerland but marketed primarily in Russia. 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 series of acquisitions and a total disappearance from the market for decades, H. Moser & Cie as we know it today was formally relaunched in 2005 by the founder’s great grandson along with some private investors. Moser has garnered acclaim for its highly streamlined, minimalist aesthetic as well as its impressive technical acumen; both are on display in the watch that arguably defines the brand, its Perpetual Calendar, whose subtly complex design has been adapted into several variations since its debut. Moser is also known for being at the forefront of the gradient “fumé” dial trend that other brands have embraced in this current era of bolder colorways. Recently, Moser dipped its toe into a different arena with its Streamliner Flyback Chronograph, its unique take on both an old-timey vintage stopwatch and an integrated-bracelet sport watch, which debuted in 2020..

Founded: 1828 (Original), 2002 (Modern)

Headquarters: Schaffhausen, Switzerland

Ownership: MELB Holding Group (Meylan Family)

Notable models: Endeavour, Streamliner, Pioneer, Swiss Alp Watch

Did you know: The original Moser company’s clients in the 19th century included members of the Russian Imperial Court as well as Vladimir Lenin.

NOMOS GLASHÜTTE

Nomos Glashütte

Founded in 1990, just two months after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Nomos has in its relatively young corporate life risen to become one of the most popular brands in German watchmaking as well as probably the most accessible to newer collectors. Nomos’s success — which includes an impressive string of German design awards for several of its products — has resulted from a combination of sensible pricing, classical Bauhaus design, and outstanding quality. Over the past several years, the brand has been steadfast in its pursuit of developing in-house movements, both manually wound and mechanical, and equipping more of its timepieces with them, gradually replacing the outsourced Swiss movements that animated their predecessors. Minimalist classics from Nomos’s early days are still among the most popular, such as the Tangente, Orion, and the square-cased Tetra, though the company has also expanded its scope with sportier models like the diving-inspired Ahoi and racing-inspired Autobahn.

Founded: 1990

Headquarters: Glashütte, Germany

Ownership: Private (Roland Schwertner, founder)

Notable models: Tangente, Orion, Metro, Club Campus, Ahoi

Did you know: Since 2012, Nomos has partnered with Doctors Without Borders to produce special limited editions whose proceeds benefit that humanitarian organization’s mission 

ORIS

Oris Big Crown

Paul Cattin and Georges Christian founded Oris in 1904, in Hölstein, Switzerland, naming the company after a nearby brook. A maker of pocket watches and, by 1925, the increasingly popular wristwatches, Oris enjoyed a long period of growth and expansion throughout the following decades and even made its own movements. Losing its independence during the consolidation years of the Quartz Crisis, Oris regained it in the 1980s, when a management buyout transformed the company and solidified its mission to make only mechanical watches going forward. Today, Oris has become a staple for value-conscious collectors of Swiss-madew watches, particularly sport-oriented models. Among the brand’s modern pillars are the Big Crown Pointer Date, which traces its existence all the way back to 1938; the Aquis diver’s watch series in all its various incarnations; and the recently launched, vintage-influenced Diver Sixty-Five. In an apparent answer to critics, Oris’ most impressive achievement in recent years has been the release of its first in-house movement, Caliber 400, which holds an amazing 120 hours of power reserve and made its debut in the Aquis Calibre 400.

Founded: 1904

Headquarters: Hölstein, Switzerland

Ownership: Private

Notable models: Aquis Diver, Big Crown ProPilot, Divers Sixty-Five

Did you know: In another reality, minus the management buyout, Oris could have been part of the Swatch Group. In 1970, the company was acquired by ASUAG, the conglomerate that eventually merged with another firm, SSIH, to form the Swatch Group.

PARMIGIANI FLEURIER

Parmigiani Tonda PF

Master watchmaker Michel Parmigiani was one of the watch industry’s leading restorers of antique timepieces when he established his own eponymous brand in 1996, supported by one of his restoration workshop’s most prestigious customers, Switzerland’s Sandoz Family Foundation. Twenty-five years on, Parmigiani Fleurier is solidly positioned as one of the most distinctive and creative independent maisons of the 21st century, with timepiece concepts still guided by Michel Parmigiani and his design philosophy based on the Golden Ratio. With five separate specialized ateliers under the Parmigiani umbrella, making every component from the cases to the dials to the movements, Parmigiani is also one of the most vertically integrated brands currently operating. Its watch collections, which include the Greek architecture-inspired Toric, the elegant Tonda PF and stylishly sporty Tonda GT, feature hallmark elements like the cases’ teardrop-shaped lugs, the dials’ Delta-shaped hands, and a “grains d’orge” guilloché motif on the movement and/or dial. 

Founded: 1996

Headquarters: Fleurier, Switzerland

Ownership: Sandoz Family Foundation

Notable models: Tonda PF, Tonda GT, Toric, Kalpa

Did you know: Antique clocks and other vintage timepieces restored at Michel Parmigiani’s workshop can be found in the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva and the Museum of Decorative Arts in Milan.

RICHARD MILLE

Richard Mille

Richard Mille partnered with watch-industry exec Dominique Guénat to found the Richard Mille brand in 2001, and two decades later the company has staked out an elite territory in the luxury watch industry with its avant-garde designs, its pioneering use of space-age materials, and its partnerships with high-profile athletes and celebrities. At its core, Richard Mille is a brand influenced profoundly by the automotive and aeronautical industries and incorporates materials and technologies from those worlds into its design DNA to produce “extreme watches for extreme conditions,” most often housing super-complex, lightweight movements inside signature tonneau-shaped cases. The list of high-tech materials Richard Mille has pioneered in the watch industry is lengthy, including graphene, carbon TPT and quartz TPT; much of the watches’ astronomical prices comes from the intense levels of R&D needed to perfect them. The company takes pride in making watches for use in punishing sports, like the series of timepieces it has made for Spanish tennis champ Rafael Nadal, which can withstand the extreme accelerations and impacts of being worn on a tennis court thanks in part to their super-light but rigid cases and movements cleverly suspended in the case by tiny cables.

Founded: 2001

Headquarters: Les Breuleux, Switzerland

Ownership: Private (The Richard Mille Group)

Notable models: RM 027 Rafael Nadal, RM 006 Felipe Masa Tourbillon, RM 50-03 McLaren F1

Did you know: Rafael Nadal wore a Richard Mille RM 27-04 Tourbillon, a watch valued at $1 million, while winning his record 21st Grand Slam title in 2022.

URWERK

Urwerk UR-100

Conceptually, Urwerk is cut from similar cloth as MB&F, with a mission to make timekeeping machines for the wrist that are as far from traditional analog design as technically possible. Founded in 1997 by the visionary pair of watchmaker Felix Baumgartner and designer Martin Frei, Urwerk’s visual stock-in-trade is the use of orbiting satellites on a three-armed carousel to display the hour rather than hands, often in conjunction with an unconventional retrograde minutes indications along a scale. Urwerk has applied versions of this innovative timekeeping tech to various timepieces in a number of executions and materials — black PVD-coated platinum, gunmetal-toned titanium, and the yellow-gold, Star Wars-inspired UR-100 “C-3PO” edition, to name just a few.

Founded: 1997

Headquarters: Carouge, Switzerland

Ownership: Private (Felix Baumgartner and Martin Frei, founders)

Notable models: UR-101, UR-102, UR-103

Did you know: The brand name is derived from "Ur," the ancient Mesopotanian city where time units were first measured, and "werk," the German term for a watch's movement.

 

 

 

 

18 Comments

Join the Conversation

EP
Eirol P.

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EP
Eirol P.

Awesome article, checkout Asorock watches, a leading black African American-owned unique luxury watch brand with swiss ap, Hublot homage watch designs asorockwatches.com

EP
Eirol P.

Awesome article, checkout Asorock watches, a leading black African American-owned unique luxury watch brand with swiss ap, Hublot homage watch designs asorockwatches.com

EP
Eirol P.

Awesome article, checkout Asorock watches, a leading black African American-owned unique luxury watch brand with swiss ap, Hublot homage watch designs asorockwatches.com

DD
David D.

wow…great list. Gives me new insight into some brands, I’ve not considered or known. Now my list of desired watch brands/pieces has grown…that’s good and bad. lol.

SW
Susan W.

A marriage between classic watchmaking and modern design.
https://www.roroos.com/astronomy.html

tm
tony m.

https://www.asorockwatches.com/

NH
Nicholaus H.

I feel this review of asorock is pertinent:

https://www.benswatchclub.com/blog/asorock-watches-review

tm
tony m.

wondering why asorock watches was not included? they are a unique luxury watch brand

tm
tony m.

checkout asorock watches, they are a unique luxury watch brand

AG
Alekz G.

Why Hamilton wasn’t included?

CW
Carlos W.

Fantastic read! Miss Glycine in the list

DH
David H.

Surprised Ebel wasn’t mentioned here. Some nice Swiss watches since 1911. Famous for the Sportwave band.

AF
Alejandro F.

Excellent! I enjoy your selection Teddy. Regards from Argentina

CS
Chris S.

Great read, enjoyed the comprehensive level of insight into some of the luxury players. Personally was hoping to see Hermès on this list as I like the look of some of their models but know next to nothing about them as a watch manufacturer.

CS
Christian S.

Hey, thanks for list. May I ask why NOMOS is not featured here? Is it because they are not considered a luxury brand? Best, Christian

DP
Diana P.

Great List! Love these luxury watch brands. Such adorable selection. Thanks for sharing. https://www.hancocks-london.com/product-category/new-arrivals/

JT
John T.

I think you should look at Cuervo y Sobrinos, a Swiss company with roots dating back to 1862 in Havana, Cuba. They have in-house movements and their dials have a Latin flair.

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