The world of luxury watches is one that is steeped in history and filled with a plethora of established and well-known watch brands. For those who are passionate about timepieces, knowing the difference between these luxury watch brands is essential in order to discover which brand fits their style and personality. In order to help our readers explore the vastness of the watch industry, we have compiled a list of the top 20 luxury watch brands in the world to know.
Top Luxury Watch Brands
Rolex is perhaps the most well-known and oldest luxury watch brands of our time. However, what many people do not know is that the brand’s success is largely attributed to its commitment to creating highly reliable and extremely functional tool watches. In fact, Rolex was the first watchmaker to create a water-resistant timepiece, all the way back in 1926. And it was also Rolex that introduced the world’s first self-winding chronometer with a date window in 1945. Between 1950 and 1960, Rolex further cemented its reputation as a leading tool watch manufacturer with the release of iconic timepieces such as the Explorer (1953), Submariner (1953), Milgauss (1956), GMT Master (1959), and Cosmograph Daytona (1963). Even though Rolex has become synonymous with luxury nowadays, the brand’s timepieces are still crafted with incredible attention to detail.
Founded: 1905 (Wilsdorf and Davis in London, United Kingdom), 1915 (Rolex Watch Co. Ltd), 1920 (Montres Rolex S.A.)
Founder: Hans Wilsdorf, Alfred Davis
Nomos Glashütte is one of the most prestigious luxury watch brands in the world. The company’s headquarters in Glashütte, Saxony, is where the magic happens. Roland Schwertner founded the company in 1990 and since then, Nomos Glashütte has become renowned for its precise, timeless, and sophisticated designs. The watches are a fantastic example of German engineering at its finest, and the range of choices is impressive. With thirteen model families for both men and women and a wide selection of strap and dial colors, you’re sure to find the perfect watch to suit your style.
Founded: Roland Schwertner
Country: Glashütte, Saxony, Germany
Jules Louis Audemars and Edward Auguste Piguet were two childhood friends who shared a passion for horology. After taking different paths within the industry, the two friends joined forces in 1881 to start a company that would become one of the most influential luxury watch brands in history. Audemars specialized in crafting complex watch movements, while Piguet focused on regulating and ensuring the accuracy of timepieces. Together, they established Audemars Piguet & Cie, a brand that became not only a core luxury watch brand but also an innovator in horological technology. But perhaps their biggest contribution to the industry was the introduction of the Royal Oak, the world’s first luxury sports watch, in 1972. The Royal Oak secured Audemars Piguet’s place in watchmaking history and cemented their legacy as a leader in the industry.
Founder: Jules Louis Audemars, Edward Auguste Piguet
Vacheron Constantin is one of the top luxury watch brands in the world, with a legacy dating back to 1755. Through the years, the brand has established itself as a pioneer in the luxury watch industry, constantly introducing new horological complications and forging partnerships with renowned artistic and political figures. Despite their rich history, Vacheron Constantin remains progressive and innovative with their designs, always pushing the boundaries of what is technically possible. Their commitment to being independent and unconcerned with the trends of the industry is what sets them apart and solidifies their status as a modern Swiss luxury watch brand. In 2015, they created the most complex watch ever made, with an astounding 57 complications. With their respect for tradition intertwined with their forward-thinking mentality, Vacheron Constantin truly epitomizes what it means to be a luxury watch brand.
Founder: Jean-Marc Vacheron
Patek Philippe is a name that’s synonymous with luxury and elegance. With roots dating back to 1839, this Swiss watchmaker is one of the oldest watch brands in existence today. But what sets Patek Philippe apart from other luxury watch brands is the fact that it’s still independent and family-owned. Named after Antoni Patek and Ardien Philipp, the company has a long history of creating exquisite timepieces that have been fit for royalty – quite literally. Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom purchased one of Patek Philippe’s keyless pendant watches in London in 1851, while another timepiece was made exclusively for her. With such a rich history, it’s easy to see why Patek Philippe is still considered one of the premiere luxury watch brands in the world.
Founded: 1839 (Patek, Czapek & Cie.), 1845 (Patek & Cie.), 1851 (Patek, Philippe & Cie.)
Founder: Antoni Patek, Franciszek Czapek, Adrien Philippe
Blancpain, the oldest watch brand in existence, has a rich history that dates back to 1735 when its founder, Jehan-Jacques Blancpain, opened his workshop doors in Switzerland. For nearly two centuries, Blancpain functioned as just one of many Swiss horological workshops, constantly pushing technological boundaries and working to keep their business afloat. However, in the 1950s, the brand broke new ground in the world of horology when it developed the first modern dive watch, the Blancpain Fifty-Fathoms. This innovation was a response to the growing need for more reliable and nuanced devices to help divers keep track of how much air they’ve used while diving. The Fifty-Fathoms not only met that need but also set the stage for every other dive watch that would follow. Today, Blancpain is still a highly sought-after luxury watch brand known for its innovative creations and dedication to excellence.
Founder: Jehan-Jacques Blancpain
Known for their Swiss watches, Chopard is not only known for their unique timepieces but also for their jewelry. Founded in 1860 by Louis-Ulysse Chopard, a Swiss watchmaker, Chopard is identifiable for its classic look and great detailing. With state-of-the-art technological influence and well-established craftsmanship, Chopard is coveted because of its sophisticated models. With a clear design aesthetic and innovative development, Chopard has grown into a worldwide luxury watch brand.
Founder: Louis-Ulysse Chopard
IWC, an abbreviation for International Watch Company, is one of the most popular luxury watch brands based in Schaffhausen, Switzerland. Although it is situated in the German-speaking part of Switzerland, the company was technically established by an American. Founded in 1868 by Florentine Ariosto Jones, IWC originally aimed to create ornate pocket watches for the American market. Jones chose to set up his operation in Schaffhausen due to the region’s skilled and affordable labor pool and a reliable source of power from a hydroelectric plant. While IWC initially aimed to create elegant pocket watches, the brand’s most significant opportunity to leave a mark on the world of horology arose with the advent of aviation. Collaborating with various air force regiments such as the Luftwaffe, British RAF, and the U.S. Navy Fighter Weapons School over the years, IWC is best known for creating the most iconic pilot watch design to date.
Founder: Florentine Ariosto Jones
Ulysse Nardin has cemented a reputation for itself as a pioneer in avant-garde designs in the world of luxury watches. However, the luxury watch brands roots lie in creating marine chronometers that provided unmatched accuracy and reliability to Navy fleets. This practice has been an integral part of the brand’s DNA, which was lost in the face of the Quartz Crisis of the 1970s. The luxury watch brand faded into obscurity until Rolf Schnyder took over and breathed new life into it. Rolf’s team honored the brand’s history while also pushing the boundaries of innovation, creating new complications and materials that kept Ulysse Nardin at the forefront of the luxury watchmaking industry. Despite these modern advancements, the brand still stays true to its origins as a maker of high-precision timepieces that are rugged enough to stand up to the rigors of the sea.
Founder: Ulysse Nardin
Jaeger-LeCoultre has been an esteemed figure in the world of luxury watchmaking for nearly two centuries. Founded by Antoine LeCoultre in 1833, the brand has continuously pushed boundaries in the horological industry. One of its most notable traits has been its commitment to in-house, vertical watchmaking, a rarity during its early years. In 1870, the luxury watch brand even introduced an early assembly line that was mostly mechanized, which revolutionized the production process for technical and complicated movements. By keeping as much of the watch crafting process in-house as possible, Jaeger-LeCoultre has become synonymous with meticulous attention to detail and the creation of highly technical luxury watches that have firmly ensconced the Swiss watchmaker among the most revered in the business.
Founder: Antoine LeCoultre
Panerai is known as one of the most luxury watch brands with deep roots in the Italian military and a design that stands out among the crowd. Founded in Florence, Italy, in 1860, the brand began as a watch repair shop and fabricator of precision engineering equipment. Its partnership with the Royal Italian Navy in the early 1900s helped to define its identity today. Panerai’s water-resistant and luminescent watches proved invaluable for the Italian “frogman” — an elite class of amphibious soldiers tasked with underwater demolition. As the Italian Navy’s need to rely on these soldiers increased during the 1900s, so did their reliance on Panerai’s ability to provide reliable and functional timepieces.
Founded: 1860 (Italy)
Founder: Giovanni Panerai
12. Piaget SA
Piaget’s history of watchmaking dates back to an impressive legacy from 1874. Despite this, the Swiss luxury watch brand is most commonly associated with one distinct area of expertise: producing astoundingly thin and elegant watches. The brand began with a focus on producing watch movements before eventually developing its own complete collections of luxury watches. However, it was in the 1950s when Piaget truly cemented their legacy. The brand introduced the Caliber 9P watch movement in 1957, which was a remarkable 2mm thick. In comparison, a US quarter is 1.75mm thick, whilst a typical watch movement could measure anywhere between 8mm to 14mm in thickness. Piaget had revolutionized the industry with their ingenuity and commitment to creating slender and sophisticated luxury timepieces.
Founder: Georges Edouard Piaget
Founded in Paris in 1847, Cartier initially focused on catering to the jewelry needs of European royalty and high society individuals. However, it wasn’t until the early 1900s that they expanded their offerings to include watches for men under the guidance of Louis Cartier’s sons. This phase saw the creation of Cartier’s most iconic and influential models. The Cartier Santos, designed in 1901, was inspired by Alberto Santos-Dumont’s need for a reliable cockpit watch. Meanwhile, in 1917, the Cartier Tank was created after the Renault Tanks in use during WWI. These models paved the way for Cartier’s timeless and elegant luxury watch designs, which continue to be favored by people all around the world.
Founder: Louis-François Cartier
In the late 1800s, Léon Breitling had a passion for watchmaking and an exceptional talent for crafting intricate time-keeping mechanisms. He founded his own watchmaking workshop in 1884, focusing on creating chronographs and other complicated instruments. Breitling luxury watches quickly became synonymous with performance sports, industrialized transportation, and exploration. From the early 1900s, Breitling has been an innovator in timekeeping, offering the first chronograph wristwatch to aviators, creating separate start/stop pushers from the crowns in the mid-1940s/50s, and even pioneering the first automatic chronograph movement in the 1960s. Breitling’s focus on innovation and user-friendliness has helped shape the modern chronograph movement as we know it today.
Founder: Léon Breitling
15. Bell & Ross
Luxury French brand Bell & Ross is headed by Bruno Belamich and Carlos A. Rosillo. Launched in 1992, the design influences of these watches include Aircraft instruments. Most noted about this fine watch company is the square shaping that frames many of its watches’ faces. Its aesthetic boasts modern influence and can be identified by its sporty and athletic references.
Founder: Bruno Belamich, Carlos A. Rosillo
Since its inception in 1848, Omega has placed precision and cultural impact at the core of its philosophy. Beginning as a small watchmaking operation named “Louis Brandt & Fils,” the company took over four decades to flourish under Louis Brandt’s sons, Louis Paul and Cesar. Recognizing the untapped potential of their father’s work, the brothers moved the brand to Bienne, Switzerland. They developed an incredibly accurate movement that allowed for manual winding and time-setting from the main crown. From there, Omega revolutionized the watch industry, becoming the official timekeeper for the Olympics, the watch brand of NASA, and even making an appearance as the current James Bond watch. Omega’s pioneering spirit extends to the present day, with the luxury watch brand’s creation of the bi-directional automatic movement rotor as well as the Co-Axial Escapement movement.
Founder: Louis Brandt
Inspired by Aviation, the Bremont Watch Company is based in Britain but has expanded its brand and production worldwide. Since 2002, founding brothers Nick and Giles English have upheld the inspiration that made their watches famous, shown through their watches’ aircraft-themed and mechanically focused models. With classic curves and proportionate faces, these watches represent this British company’s image and branding.
Founder: Nick English, Giles English
Country: United Kingdom
18. TAG Heuer
Tag Heuer’s rich history and connection to the autosports and performance racing industries is undeniable. Founded in Switzerland by Edouard Heuer in 1860, the brand quickly began innovating in conjunction with the rise of automobiles in the late 1800s. This was evident with Heuer’s introduction of chronographs and the inclusion of dashboard timers and chronographs in the early to mid-1900s. As the 1960s and 1970s welcomed higher-performance automobiles, Heuer’s timepieces became the preferred choice due to the brand’s chronograph offerings. In the 1980s, Tag Heuer was acquired by TAG, a private holding company specializing in aviation and motorsports, resulting in the brand’s current name. From its inception in 1860, Tag Heuer has remained at the forefront of innovations and developments within the autosports and performance racing industries.
Founder: Edouard Heuer
It’s a common belief that luxury watch brands need to have a long-standing history to gain a reputable status in the industry, but Hublot defies that notion. Emerging onto the scene in 1980, Hublot was created by Carlo Crocco, who dedicated three years to developing a watch with an integrated natural rubber strap, making it a game-changer in the industry. With the success of Hublot, Crocco partnered with Jean-Claude Biver, who became the CEO of the brand. In 2004, Biver oversaw the release of Hublot’s most successful watch yet, the Big Bang Chronograph, which received numerous design and horology awards and eventually led to the acquisition of Hublot by LVMH. The Hublot Big Bang maintains its reputation as a recognizable design that the luxury watch brand has continuously developed and expanded.
Founder: Carlo Crocco
20. Richard Mille
Richard Mille is a relatively new brand in the world of luxury watches, having been established in 2001 by partners Richard Mille and Dominique Guenat. Despite their youth, the brand has made a significant impact on the watchmaking industry by pushing boundaries in terms of movement complications, watchmaking materials, and design. Drawing inspiration from high-performance automobiles, aviation, and space exploration, Mille and Guenat have imbued their passion for these fields into the DNA of their brand. One of the key selling features that Richard Mille promotes is the ability of their watches to withstand heavy impacts and movements. This is why the brand partners with sports ambassadors such as Rafael Nadal and Bubba Watson. Alongside their unique design ethos and functionality, Richard Mille also pioneers the use of new materials such as grade 5 titanium, graphene, carbon TPT, and LITAL – an alloy of aluminum, copper, magnesium, and zirconium.
Founder: Richard Mille, Dominique Guenat
Tudor watches have a rich history dating back to 1926 when they were first introduced as a sister company to Rolex. The driving force behind Tudor was to provide high-quality timepieces to a larger audience of consumers at more affordable prices. Tudor achieved this by using non-Rolex movements in conjunction with Rolex cases, bracelets, and other parts. The company’s reliability and affordability were especially fitting for the military and, in particular, the French Navy. Tudor’s collaboration with them in the mid to late 1900s helped to foster its luxury watch brand reputation for durability and precision. In recent years, Tudor has transformed its product lines to cater to the luxury lifestyle market while still paying homage to its rich history.
Founder: Hans Wilsdorf
Are Luxury Watches a Good Investment?
Investing in a luxury watch is a smart move for those looking to get the most bang for their buck. Not only do these watches tend to hold their value over time, but some models even increase in worth due to their limited supply. The craftsmanship of these high-end watches is unrivaled, and they’re designed to last for a lifetime, if not longer, with proper care and maintenance. While the high price tag may be daunting, it’s important to consider that these watches are truly works of art. The engineering behind them is incredibly complex, and the quality is unmatched. And, should you ever tire of your luxury watch, there are plenty of pre-owned watch marketplaces out there where you can sell it.
In this video, Teddy Baldassarre, he dissects a report on the state of the Swiss Watch Industry by Morgan Stanley and LuxeConsult and shares a detailed look at the industry’s top twenty brands.
Luxury Watch Brands FAQs
What are the top 10 watch brands?
The top 10 luxury watch brands are: Audemars Piguet, A. Lange & Sohne, Rolex, Patek Philippe, Blancpain, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Ulysse Nardin, Chopard, IWC Schaffhausen and Vacheron Constantin.
What is the cheapest luxury watch brand?
One of the most affordable luxury watch brands is Tag Heuer. While the watches have evolved over the decades, they still possess a persisting sports-like look. With a range of chronographs and memorable timepieces available, this brand boasts a technological appeal and premium functionality.
What are good watch brands?
There are many good watch brands. Some of the most affordable brands are Victorinox, Alpina, Seiko, Stuhrling, Casio, Tissot, Triwa, Citizen, Timex, and Mondaine.
What is the best luxury watch to buy?
The best luxury watch brand is Rolex. The Swiss luxury watch manufacturer has become synonymous with high-end horology, and Rolex watches are some of the most highly coveted luxury timepieces in the world.
What are the most prestigious watch brands?
Rolex, Patek Philippe, and Audemars Piguet are esteemed watch brands known for their exceptional craftsmanship, meticulous attention to detail, and beautifully sophisticated designs.
Why are Rolex watches so expensive?
Rolex Watches are renowned for their exorbitant price tags. This can be attributed to the labor-intensive manufacturing process that involves meticulous attention to detail by highly skilled master watchmakers with years of expertise.
Roger Grinstead is a senior apparel designer for X2U with over 25 years of expertise in the fashion industry. He has expertise in menswear and womenswear trends and product development. When Roger is not designing the latest fashion garments, he enjoys writing about men's fashion, hairstyles, and grooming.
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