“There are brands and there are brands. The latter usually being on the high-end side, with brands honoring the traditional craftsmanship, using the best resources, and utilizing the best production facilities out there.”
Shortlist of the 40 best luxury watch brands:
- Patek Philippe
- Audemars Piguet
- Vacheron Constantin
- A. Lange & Söhne
- IWC Schaffhausen
- Girard Perregaux
- Czapek Geneve
- Parmigiani Fleurier
- F.P. Journe
- Richard Mille
- Roger Dubuis
- Arnold & Son
- Jacob & Co.
- Laurent Ferrier
- Ulysse Nardin
- Glashütte Original
- Bell & Ross
- Grand Seiko
- NOMOS Glashütte
- Tag Heuer
- Baume & Mercier
- Maurice Lacroix
- Jaquet Droz
In the world of watches, there are watches, and there are watches. The former is a simple tool that accurately tells you the time, while the latter is a well-crafted timepiece that tells the outside world what kind of person you are, and if you are someone who cares about craftsmanship and tradition. And the same goes for the respective watch brands. There are brands and there are brands. The latter is usually on the high-end side, with brands honoring traditional craftsmanship, using the best resources, and utilizing the best production facilities.
Buying a new watch can be this enjoyable and exciting process of finding the perfect timepiece to accompany you on your day-to-day challenges. But buying a watch can also be a nerve-wracking and bewildering experience. Unlike choosing a new car, laptop, or headphones, choosing a watch is a lot more difficult. And besides the specifications and functions, choosing from which brand you buy, is also a very important part of the process.
And in order to help you throughout this process, I wrote a few articles, covering the 101 of watch buying. While today we are going to look at 40 of the best luxury watch brands, I also wrote another watch buying guide, in which we go through the basics of what to look out for when buying any kind of watch. You can check it out here.
Enough with the talking, let’s look at the best luxury watch brands out there.
First up is Patek Philippe. Founded back in 1838, the Geneva-based watch company belongs to the Holy Trinity, which consists of Patek, Audemars, and Vacheron. Patek Philippe’s unparalleled approach to design and manufacturing is what has allowed the swiss manufacturer to achieve the status as one of the best watch manufacturing companies in the world. Famously known for having some of the most expensive and complicated watches in the industry, Patek truly deserves a spot on the top of this list.
Most popular Patek Philippe model: Patek Philippe Nautilus
Audemars Piguet was established by Jules Audemars and Edward Piguet, in 1875. Throughout the last part of the 19th century, AP created the first grand complication, which was a pocket watch with a built-in alarm, a perpetual calendar, and a chronograph with jumping seconds. The release of the world’s first luxury sports watches in 1972 marks one of the most memorable moments in AP’s history. Like Patek and Vacheron, Audemars Piguet is also part of the Holy Trinity.
Most popular Audemars Piguet model: Audemars Piguet Royal Oak
In 1755, 24-year-old master watchmaker, Jean-Marc Vacheron, signs on his first apprentice, thus founding a business by making clear his intention to hand down his skills. In the industry, this contract is regarded as Vacheron Constantin’s birth certificate, which makes VC the oldest watch manufacturer in continuous operation since it was founded. As the last member of the Holy Trinity, Vacheron Constantin adheres to the highest watch-making standards in the industry.
Most popular model: Vacheron Constantin Overseas
Maybe the most famous watch manufacturer on this list is Rolex. Worn by countless public figures, actors, musicians, and athletes, the name Rolex has become a byword for luxury and exclusivity. The history of Rolex starts in 1905, when Hans Wildorf founded a company in London, which specialized in distributing timepieces. In 1919, Rolex moved from London to Geneva, where they stayed until this day.
Most popular Rolex model: Rolex Submariner
Famously known for being the brand behind the first watch on the moon, Omega was founded back in 1848, in a small Swiss village named La Chaux-de-Fonds. And ever since then, the Swiss manufacturer continues to produce high-quality and luxurious watches. Omega managed to gain a very loyal following and scored high-valuable contracts with movie franchises like James Bond.
Most popular Omega model: Omega Speedmaster
Having developed over 1,200 individual calibers and holding over 400 different patents, Jaeger-LeCoultre is known for its innovative spirit and creativity. JLC, short for Jaeger-LeCoultre, was founded in 1833, in the heart of the Vallée de Joux, in the Swiss Jura Mountains. Its iconic collections, such as the Reverso, which was born of the Art Déco movement in 1931, the Master, with classic and refined masculine lines, or even the Atmos, the pendulum watch with almost perpetual movement, form the foundation for the Manufacturer’s pride and the satisfaction of their loyal clients.
Most popular Jaeger-LeCoultre model: Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso
A. Lange & Söhne
Founded in 1845 by a guy named Ferdinand A. Lange, A. Lange & Söhne is a German watch manufacturer, that bases its operation out of “Glashütte”, which is the most famous town for watchmaking in Germany. From 1845 to 1945, A. Lange & Söhne pocket watches were among the most sought-after timepieces in the world, until, in 1945, the Second World War forced the company into a 40-year hiatus. Then, in 1990, following German reunification, Walter Lange, great-grandson of Ferdinand Adolph Lange, revived the brand and brought the glory back into German watchmaking.
Most popular A. Lange & Söhne model: A. Lange & Söhne Datograph
In 1735, a young man named Jehan-Jaques Blancpain registers himself as a watchmaker in a small Swiss town named Villeret and laid the foundation for the Blancpain watch company. Blancpain, for almost 200 years, stayed in the hands of the family and went on to produce many timepieces, with one of the most famous ones, being the Blancpain Fifty-Fathoms, which was introduced in 1953. Then, in 1992, Blancpain was sold to the SMH (Swiss Corporation for Microelectronics and Watchmaking Industries), who later became the Swatch Group.
Most popular Blancpain model: Blancpain Fifty-Fathoms
Founded back in 1868 by American engineer and watchmaker, Florentine Ariosto Jones, IWC created a name for itself by bringing together innovative American production techniques and traditional Swiss watchmaking skills. With watches like the IWC Portugieser, the Big Pilot, and the Portofino, IWC managed to rise through the ranks and become one of the most significant Swiss watch companies today.
Most popular IWC Schaffhausen model: IWC Portugieser
Continuing with Piaget. Known for their sophisticated and elegant watches, the Swiss watch manufacturer was founded back in 1874, in a small Swiss village named La Côte-aux-Fées. The founder of Piaget, Georges-Édouard Piaget, started his first watch workshop when he was only 19 years old, which led to over 147 years of being in business and resulted in the prestigious Piaget brand that we know today.
Most popular Piaget model: Piaget Polo
Founded in 1860, Chopard was originally famous for making ladies’ watches and pocket watches. But what started off as a watch-only production, evolved into the Chopard of today, which specializes not only in making high-quality timepieces for both men and women but also in creating high-end jewelry for an upscale clientele. Some of Chopard’s most well-known timepieces are the Alpine Eagle, the Happy Diamonds collection, and the L.U.C line.
Most popular Chopard models: Alpine Eagle, The Happy Diamonds, L.U.C
As one of the world’s most well-known luxury brands, Cartier manages to cater to a broad spectrum of luxury-loving people that are willing to pay good money for having one of the sought-after accessories with the iconic Cartier on it. While many think of Cartier as mainly a luxury jewelry and accessory brand, the, in 1847, founded brand, actually started out as a watch manufacturer. In fact, Cartier was the first manufacturer to produce the world’s first real wristwatch, the Cartier Santos, back in 1904. And this strong focus on luxury timepieces can still be seen today in Cartier’s wide range of luxury watches.
Most popular Cartier models: Cartier Tank and Cartier Santos
Founded back in 1791, in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, the Swiss watch manufacturer, Girard-Perregaux is dedicated to the creation of high-quality, Haute Horlogerie watches. As one of the only swiss watchmakers, GP develops and produces its timepieces under one roof, meaning that all processes are happening at only one location.
Most popular Girard Perregaux models: Girard Perregaux Laureato
Next up is the Swiss manufacturer Czapek Geneve. Founded by Franciszek Czapek, a Czech and Polish citizen, who fled to Switzerland in 1832, Czapek went on to produce innovative timepieces until 1869. And in 1869, the company suddenly disappears and was revived in 2012, by three entrepreneurs and watch enthusiasts. And ever since then, Czapek continuous to surprise the watch community with new and innovative watches. One of the most famous one being the Czapek Geneve Antarctique Passage de Drake, which features an eye-catching dial, as well as a very refined movement.
Most popular Czapek Geneve model: Czapek Geneve Antarctique Passage de Drake
In 1775, exactly 40 years after the foundation of Blancpain, Breguet was founded by Abraham-Louis Breguet, who after leaving his home in Neuchâtel as a teenager and heading for Versailles and Paris for a watchmaking apprenticeship, opened his first watch workshop in the Ile de la Cité in Paris. After surviving the French revolution, a switch of ownership, and two world wars, Breguet was sold to a Parisian jewelry house, which then got bought up by Investcorp, who relocated the production facilities to Switzerland. In 1999, Breguet joined the Swatch group and continues to create exquisite timepieces to this day.
Most popular Breguet model: Breguet Classique
Famously known for their ability and skillset to restore antique timepieces, as well as producing their own collection of beautiful watches, Parmigiani Fleurir is one of the most well-respected watch manufacturers in the industry. Founded back in 1976, the brand is perhaps best known for the Bugatti 370 watch, which is inspired by the Bugatti racing cars. Assembled along a horizontal axis and in a tubular formation—similar to a car’s engine, the watch was and still is considered to be a sensational piece of mechanical watch making.
Most popular Parmigiani Fleurier model: Parmigiani Fleurir Bugatti 370
To give you an idea of how prestigious and successful the F.P. Journe watch company is, F.P. Journe is the only three-time winner of the Aiguille d’Or grand prize from the Fondation du Grand Prix D’Horlogerie de Genève, which even winning for only one time is one of the greatest honors for every watch manufacturer. But F.P. Journe won it three times. Founded in 1999 by François-Paul Journe, an expert watch restorer, F.P. Journe creates highly innovative and creative pieces, which challenge today’s norm of watch design.
Most popular F.P. Journe model: F.P. Journe Chronometre Bleu
Known for their extravagant design and astronomical prices, Richard Mille is currently among the most hyped watch brands out there, with prices skyrocketing year for year. Like F.P. Journe, RM was founded back in 1999, which makes them a relatively new watch company. To be honest, I’m not a big fan of their watches, for me, they are just too much. But they have a cult-like following, who adores their timepieces and are even willing to pay high 6 figures amounts to get their hands on one.
Most popular Richard Mille models: RM 030, RM 011
Another, rather young brand, is Roger Dubuis. Founded in 1995 by Roger Dubuis and Carlos Dias, the Geneva-based watch manufacturer takes pride in producing high-end, contemporary Haute Horlogerie timepieces, which, let’s say, aren’t your typical watches. Their watches combine an extravagant look on the outside, with very sophisticated movements on the inside. Take for example the Roger Dubuis Excalibur, on the outside, the watch looks extravagant and out of any norm we know, and on the inside, beats a fantastic minute repeater that can chime the time at the press of a button.
Most popular Roger Dubuis model: Roger Dubuis Excalibur
Arnold & Son
Founded by the British watchmaker Jon Arnold, the watch company Arnold & Son makes its own in-house movements and has developed an impressive collection of calibers and a variety of startlingly sophisticated complications. Two of their most well-known watches are the Globetrotter and the Luna Magna. Both are exquisite and beautifully made timepieces, with very nice movements.
Most popular Arnold & Son models: Arnold & Son Globetrotter, Arnold & Son Luna Magna
Jacob & Co.
Speaking of exquisitely made timepieces, let’s take a look at Jacob & Co. and its lineup of extravagant and ultra-complicated timepieces. In 1986, Jacob & Co. was founded by Jacob Arabo, who recently graduated as an apprentice in fine watches and jewelry, and decided to open up his little shop in the diamond and jewelry district of New York City. From midtown Manhattan where he established his flagship store to the UAE, Jacob’s jewelry and ultra-complicated timepieces have become iconic expressions for his clients.
Most popular Jacob & Co. model: Jacob & Co. Astronomia Sky
Established back in 2009, by watchmaker and former product manager Laurent Ferrier, the Swiss watch manufacturer bases its operation out of Geneva. The brand Laurent Ferrier aspires to create watches with a design philosophy that is rooted in tradition, an innovative approach to movement construction, and meticulous hand-finishing. In fact, every Laurent Ferrier watch is developed, finished, assembled, and adjusted in their production facilities in Geneva. This philosophy can be seen in all their timepieces, with the “Square” and the “Grand Sport”, being the most well-known watches of their portfolio.
Most popular Laurent Ferrier models: Laurent Ferrier Square, Laurent Ferrier Grand Sport
Founded in the year 1865, by a guy named Georges Favre-Jacot, the Swiss watch company Zenith boasts a long-lasting tradition of manufacturing timepieces and movements, with their El Primero movement being the most famous of their creations. And if you know something about the El Primero caliber, you know that the brand behind it must be top-notch, in order to produce such a movement. While the El Primero being their most iconic movement, the Zenith Chronomaster line, that uses this movement, is equally awesome.
Most popular Zenith model: Zenith Chronomaster
Founded by Mr. Ulysse Nardin in 1846, Ulysse Nardin has written some of the finest chapters in the history of Haute Horlogerie. The Swiss watch manufacturer specializes in highly accurate marine chronometers, which led the brand to where it is now. Respected by the watch community and watch experts, Ulysse Nardin is always focused on the future and on how they can create the next big innovation.
Most popular Ulysse Nardin model: Ulysse Nardin Freak X
The Swiss watch manufacturer Breitling was founded by Léon Breitling in 1884. Originally from Germany, Léon Breitling emigrated with his parents from Germany to Switzerland in search of work. He then found a job apprenticing in watchmaking, which quickly turned out to be the right field of work for him and resulted in him getting his own watch workshop. What started off as a small workshop in the Swiss Jura mountains, turned into the Breitling of today, that we all know and love. And one of Breitling’s most famous watches is the Navitimer. Originally introduced as the official wristwatch for members of the US Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, the Navitimer of today is Breitling’s best seller and renowned for its quality and design.
Most popular Breitling model: Breitling Navitimer
Known for their unique watch designs and underwater capabilities, the Italian watch manufacturer Panerai specializes in creating high-end dive watches, which, since Panerai’s foundation in 1860, earned the respect of enthusiasts and connoisseurs alike. Panerai’s best-known watches are the Radiomir and Luminor – both of which have been updated numerous times, adapting to the current market situation.
Most popular Panerai models: Panerai Radiomir, Panerai Luminor
The next brand on this list is a little bit different than others. Glashütte Original was founded in 1994 by the privatization of VEB Glashütter Uhrenbetriebe (GUB), an East German conglomerate formed in 1951 from the watch companies based in Glashütte, like A. Lange & Söhne for example. Therefore, Glashütte Original didn’t actually start off as a “normal” watch manufacturer, but more as a group, made from different watchmakers. But that doesn’t mean, that the company didn’t deserve its prestigious reputation. In fact, the opposite is true. With its Senator, Pano, and SeaQ models, the Glashütte watch soon became a byword for high quality and maintains this reputation to this day.
Most popular Glashütte Original models: Glashütte Orginal Senator, Glashütte Orginal Pano, Glashütte Orginal SeaQ
Channeling the rare fusion of edgy Italian design and Swiss engineering, the watch manufacturer Bulgari manages to bring together contemporary design with historically significant watch manufacturing. But the 1884 founded company isn’t solely known for producing high-end watches, they are also in the markets of jewelry, fragrances, high-end accessories, and leather goods.
Most popular Bulgari model: Bulgari Octo Finissimo
Founded in 1926 by Hans Wildorf, as a more modestly priced alternative to its bigger sibling Rolex, Tudor left quite the mark in the watch industry and to this day, seems to get better with every new watch release. In the last few years, Tudor received a ton of great feedback for its newly released watches, like the Tudor Black Bay 58, the Black Bay GMT, or the new Tudor Chronographs, all of which, experienced a massive hype surrounding their releases and creating a shortage of supply, in almost every Tudor AD around the world.
Most popular Tudor model: Tudor Black Bay 58
Bell & Ross
Having a distinctive pilot and aeronautic background, the 1992 founded company Bell & Ross, quickly managed to establish themselves as one of the best brands in the market, especially with their contemporary BR 05 and their vintage-inspired BR V1 models. By combining a rugged design with technically advanced material and movements, Bell & Ross created an awesome portfolio of watches, which can withstand the toughest of conditions.
Most popular Bell & Ross models: Bell & Ross BR 05, Bell & Ross BR V1
Founded back in 1960, as a subsidiary of its mother brand Seiko, Grand Seiko was originally created to compete with the Swiss watchmakers. Because at the time, only watches made in Switzerland were considered to be luxurious. And while most of the best watch manufacturers still have their base of operations in Switzerland, the Japanese Grand Seiko brand left quite the mark. Originally known for designing highly refined dress pieces, Grand Seiko also went on to manufacture more sportive timepieces, to compete with the likes of Omega or Rolex.
Most popular Grand Seiko models: Grand Seiko Snowflake SBGA211G, Grand Seiko SBGH267, Grand Seiko SBGW 253
Born just two months after the fall of the Berlin wall, NOMOS Glashütte used the new opportunities to their advantage, creating industry disruptive designs, which are heavily inspired by the iconic Bauhaus style. The combination of clean, minimalistic, and straightforward design, combined with refined in-house movements, led NOMOS to have great success in the watch market of today. Nomos also offers a wide range of different priced watches, which makes the brand a lot more accessible than other options on this list.
Most popular NOMOS Glashütte model: Nomos Tangente
Commonly known for their high-quality writing pens, the German brand Montblanc also has a wide array of luxurious timepieces. The first timepiece was introduced back in 1997, which compared to other major watch manufacturers on this list, is quite recent. But nevertheless, Montblanc delivers on its promise of making high-quality timepieces that look awesome. One of Montblanc’s most famous lines of watches is the Heritage line, which through its elegance and refined looks, made quite the fuzz in the watch community.
Most popular Montblanc model: Montblanc Heritage
Like Montblanc, Hermès also isn’t primarily known for producing high-end watches. Usually, people connect the name Hermès with fancy bags, shoes, and belts, but not necessarily with fancy wristwatches. But this assumption doesn’t do Hermès justice, because Hermès actually started producing their own watches over a century ago, in 1912. And ever since then, they continued down this path and slowly increased the value of their pieces and with it, the awareness and respect of the watch community. With their latest model, the Hermès H08, they introduced a very innovative design and a sophisticated movement and landed itself a lot of positive feedback.
Most popular Hermès model: Hermès H08
Bremont was founded rather recently, in 2002, by two brothers. The British watchmaker stands for high-quality, high accuracy, and great designs, which can be seen throughout their lineup of different timepieces. Two of the most famous watches in the lineup, are the Bremont Supermarine Type 300 and the Supermarine Type 301, both catering to the outdoor and water-loving adventurer.
Most popular Bremont models: Bremont Supermarine Type 301, Bremont Supermariner Type 300
With its close association and relation to motorsport, Tag Heuer is all about sportive looks and breaking the existing boundaries of watchmaking. Tag Heuer’s watches were worn by many celebrities and actors, like Leonardo Di Caprio in Wolf of Wallstreet, Tiger Woods, Brad Pitt, or even Barack Obama, who was also spotted multiple times wearing one of Tag’s timepieces. This public endorsement means that Tag Heuer is regarded as one of the best luxury watch brands out there and rightly so.
Most popular Tag Heuer model: Tag Heuer Aquaracer
Baume & Mercier
Baume & Mercier’s history started in 1830, when the two brothers, Louis-Victor and Célestin Baume, decided to open a watch dealership in Les Bois, a village in the Swiss Jura mountains. After its foundation, their business grew and grew, and to this day, continues to produce fine timepieces, made in Switzerland. One of their most well-known watches is the Baume & Mercier Classima, which combines modern watchmaking with classic design principles.
Most popular Baume & Mercier model: Baume & Mercier Classima
Winning the prestigious Goldene Unruh award in Germany, Maurice Lacroix once more proofed that they certainly deserve a seat on the table of the best watch manufacturers in the world. Founded in 1975, the brand specializes in producing nicely finished watches with highly reliable movements, for a very modest price. One of their most well-known watches is the Maurice Lacroix Aikon, which resembles iconic steel sports watches from the 1970s.
Most popular Maurice Lacroix: Maurice Lacroix Aikon
Longines was founded in 1832, in a small Swiss town with the sounding name Saint-Imier. Ever since then, the almost 190-year-old company is known for manufacturing high-quality swiss watches. And while in present times, they are not regarded as prestigious as Rolex or Patek, Longines had times in which they were one of the most prestigious watch manufacturers in whole Switzerland. With their newest releases like the Longines Heritage Classic Tuxedo or the Legend Diver, Longines hit the ball out of the park and really delivered on their promise of making high-quality watches at rather affordable prices.
Most popular Longines model: Longines Heritage models
Founded back in 1738, by Pierre Jaquet Droz, the Swiss watch manufacturer Jaquet Droz, can be seen as a competitor to brands like Arnold & Son, Jacob & Co., or Roger Dubuis. All of them decided to not go with the ordinary watch design but made ultra-complicated watches with extravagant exteriors. But even though, these brands share some kind of similarities, they are still very individually in their designs as well as in their movements. A good example of that would be the Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde, which is a beautifully designed and very refined watch, that has its own distinctive flair to it.
Most popular Jaquet Droz model: Jaquet Droz