Watchmaking is an art, but above all it is a story. It is the story of enthusiasts who often havestarted in small workshops, eventually becoming renowned giants around the world. Here, I invite you to discover the biggest watch brands, their paths sometimes filled with success and sometimes more complex.
In this section, you will discover in detail the evolution of watch companies, the innovations of each brand and some watches that have entered the legend of timekeepers.
Watchmaking is also a matter of time, and we can see that the passion for tocantes never dies. Some well-known brands are over 150 years old, and others are very young but already at the top of the bill. In short, watchmaking are prestigious brands, always seeking to approach a little more excellence and precision.
The best watch brands
In a constantly evolving watchmaking landscape, there are some big names that cannot be overlooked. For many, it is the name of Rolex that immediately comes to mind. Yet today, many are trying to break the codes and try to launch their own brand. Many have talked in recent years about BA111OD, Hegid, Charlie Paris, Beaubleu and many others… They are still a little young to appear in this article, but nevertheless deserve your full attention.
The reign of Rolex in as undisputed queen of watch brands continues – and watches are still prized. While the prices of the most popular models such as the Submariner, GMT-Master II and Daytona are steadily rising on Chrono24, more discreet models have also joined the race. The Datejust, the recently released Oyster Perpetuals, the Explorer, the Explorer II and even the eccentric Milgauss are currently in high demand. Will their prices continue to rise or will we see a lull in the months to come? If everything is possible, nothing at the moment seems to predict an upheaval of the royal order.
Another incredibly popular brand is Omega. Hailing from Biel, Switzerland, she is responsible for some of the industry’s biggest icons, including the Speedmaster. With the launch of the new Moonwatch, featuring not only a new design but also a new movement, the brand is opening a new chapter in the heritage of the collection. Speaking of Moonwatch, the latest Speedmaster Snoopy is the most sought after of the Speedmaster special editions. Omega has also launched a new line of Seamaster watches. 300, a retro diver’s watch drawing on the brand’s rich heritage without sacrificing the highest standards of modern watchmaking. Now this watch has became a part of men’s fashion trend, used everyday and on every occasion.
Since Georges Kern, former CEO of IWC, took the helm of Breitling, the brand has shown renewed energy, to the delight of watch enthusiasts. Breitling is known for its excellent reissues of emblematic models of its history, for example the AVI ref. 765 1953 Re-Edition and the Navitimer ref. 806 1959 Re-Edition. Do these two references leave you on your hunger? Breitling also presented new versions of the iconic Chronomat, Top Time and Superocean Heritage ’57. The popularity of these flagship models of the brand is absolutely not declining with collectors and makes Breitling one of the best known and most sought after names around.
Patek Philippe is arguably the most (re) known and popular brand in fine watchmaking. The catalog of the Geneva-based company includes some of the most spectacular timepieces that exist, from small jewels of design and finish to the cutting edge of watchmaking know-how. The brand’s biggest success is the Nautilus, followed closely by the Aquanaut, and watches from the Complications and Grand Complications collections are also highly sought after. Patek Philippe having announced the discontinuation of the popular Nautilus 5711 / 1A in steel, the prices of this icon designed by Gerald Genta are likely to hold many surprises in store for us. Which timepiece will succeed in achieving this status?
You probably immediately associate the name Audemars Piguet with the Royal Oak. Although the Swiss brand from Le Brassus also offers other collections, for example the Code 11.59 and the Millenary aimed at a wider collector audience, the Royal Oak retains its place at the top of the class. Also the brainchild of Gérald Genta, this industry icon was launched in 1972 and remains a legendary piece of watchmaking heritage. Whether the iconic Royal Oak ‘Jumbo’ Ultra-Thin, Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar, the Royal Oak Offshore or the Royal Oak Concept, the popularity of these timepieces remains incredibly high – and demand is of course growing. François-Henry Bennahmias, CEO of Audemars Piguet, however revealed that the Royal Oak “Jumbo” Extra-Flat would no longer be produced. I can’t wait to see what the brand has in store for us and what new models will emerge.
Cartier has made about her in 2021, notably with the launch of the Tank Must Solar Beat with a special photovoltaic movement. This solar-powered Cartier Tank looks like its automatic and manual counterparts. The brand also took the opportunity to release three limited edition Tank models in monochrome colors (burgundy, blue and green). Another novelty comes from the Ballon Bleu de Cartier collection: this relatively recent series has gained popularity since its launch in 2007 and was adorned in 2021 with a revised version 40 mm in diameter. With such superb novelties and an unrivaled heritage, Cartier is at the top of its game.
The term “affordable” is certainly not a qualifier that is spontaneously associated with Richard Mille, a modern luxury watch brand that has given birth to some of the most popular and sought-after high-end references. Richard Mille’s philosophy is to create avant-garde watches combining high-tech materials with incredible watchmaking expertise and suitable for use in extreme conditions. The brand has developed watches for sports stars like Rafael Nadal and Bubba Watson, as well as Formula 1 drivers such as Fernando Alonso and Lando Norris. Richard Mille offers breathtaking horological creations, often at very high prices.
H. Moser & Cie
H. Moser & Cie. is an independent company that has been talked about constantly since its redesign in 2005 – and the past few years have been particularly fruitful for this Swiss company from Schaffhausen. The small independent brand has turned all heads with its popular Streamliner collection, including the Streamliner Flyback Chronograph and the Streamliner Center Seconds among others. This year, H. Moser & Cie. expands its range with the arrival of the Streamliner Perpetual Calendar, once again demonstrating its ability to produce some of the most impressive timepieces of the moment in-house. The collection Specials from H. Moser & Cie. contains some breathtaking concept watches, one of which is the spectacular Venturer with the Vantablack® dial that is sure to catch your eye.
The last name on our list of the top 10 brands is F.P. Journe , founded by François-Paul Journe and producing only 800 watches a year. You will be hard-pressed to find more qualitative and original than these timepieces, however: FP Journe is so popular with high-end collectors that almost all of its 800 pieces sell out in a matter of minutes. The brand’s catalog currently has six collections, including a timepiece that has truly established itself as one of the favorites of watch enthusiasts, I named the FP Journe Élégante 48. This stunning titanium quartz watch is a perfect example of the philosophy of Journe, which consists of proposing ingenious solutions to timing problems. This model among many others has allowed FP Journe to be talked about in the world of watchmaking and to obtain a place in our ranking.
Bell & Ross
Contrary to what its name might suggest, the Bell & Ross brand is… French (Franco-Swiss, more precisely). And like the previous one, this name also refers to its designer duo, Bruno Belamich and Carlos Rosillo. Founded in 1992, the company specializes in the thoughts watches for professionals, especially those working in conditions “extreme”: pilots, astronauts, soldiers … These timepieces are particularly robust, in the image of the Hydromax, waterproof up to 11,000 meters!
This is undoubtedly one of the oldest watch brands, founded by Abraham-Louis Bréguet in Paris in 1775, quai de l’Horloge (you can’t invent that!).
From 1780, Bréguet developed his first automatic watches, called “perpetual”. From Bonaparte to Winston Churchill, via Marie-Antoinette, Bréguet has rubbed shoulders with the great historical figures of this world.
If the 20th century was not always a pleasure, the acquisition by the Swatch group in 1999 allowed the brand to look to the future with more optimism. And to demonstrate incomparable know-how, as evidenced by the Aiguille d’Or received in 2014 for the Classique Chronométrie 7727 watch.
Internationally, the name of Chopard is often associated with the Cannes Film Festival, the Swiss house responsible for producing the Palme d’Or each year.
Since its creation in 1860, the Louis-Ulysse Chopard brand has shone with its refinement, with richly decorated watches, directly inspired by the Russia of the Czars. If we still find some of these characteristics on women’s watches, Chopard is showing more sobriety in men (although!), In particular with its emblematic LUC collection and its Tourbillon QF Fairmined for example.
Some may cry scandal when they see this mark appear here. However, Festina is a name to know when you love watches. Founded in 1902, the Swiss brand is also linked to Spain, having been acquired in 1984 by the watch brand Lotus and its owner Miguel Rodriguez. Even today, many adolescents wear a Festina watch on their wrist, which almost symbolizes “the coming of age”. If automatic models exist in the catalog, it is quartz watches that contribute to Festina’s influence. Like Fossil, better, in a way.
It is obviously not the best known of the Swiss brands, but it is one of those that has best adapted to the demands of modern man. It must be said that it passes for a “baby” compared to its illustrious elders, the Frédérique Constant house having been created in 1988! Now represented by footballer Clément Grenier in France, the brand is a benchmark in the accessible luxury market, with a rich and varied collection, ranging from Yacht Timer to Highlife, including its Vitality connected watch, now available at the Fnac!
With Michel Herbelin, we remain on a position quite close to that of Frédérique Constant, but with even more accessible models (380 euros for an Equinoxe for example). The result of a great family adventure, the Atelier d’Horlogerie Française created in 1947 has never hidden its attraction to the marine world, and this can be seen in almost all of its watches: Newport Régate Carbone, Cap Camarat … Porter a Herbelin watch is giving in to the call of the open sea. And for those who are afraid of being seasick, the City and Art Déco collections will also be at home in an urban environment!
A change of style and price range with Hublot! Here, we are not afraid of the flashy and the zero that line up when going to checkout. However, the Swiss brand founded in 1980 cannot be summed up in its bling-bling image. Because Hublot has mastered the “art of fusion” to perfection, skilfully combining materials as diverse as rubber, pink gold and ceramics. Very involved in the world of sport (from F1 to football), the brand can count on an iconic model, available almost infinitely.
Behind the three letters IWC hide the International Watch Company, a watch manufacturer born in Switzerland, in Schaffhausen, in 1868. International, the brand certainly is, since it is an American, Florentine A. Jones, who is originally. IWC has always stood out for its ability to innovate, by being a pioneer in the use of titanium or ceramics, for example. Today, the name of the brand is closely linked to the world of aviation, diving and sea racing. The Portofino and Spitfire collections are the most beautiful illustrations of this.
Founded in 1833, the Jaeger-LeCoultre manufacture is one of the most renowned in the world, always at the forefront of innovation. As early as 1844, Antoine Le Coultre thus developed the millionometer (capable of measuring the micron).
A few decades later, Antoine’s grandson, Jacques-David Le Coultre, met Edmond Jaeger. Together, the two men challenge themselves to create the thinnest watch in the world. It was done in 1907, with a movement of 1.38 mm thick.
Since then, another innovation and another watch has contributed to Jaeger-LeCoultre’s fame: the Reverso , a model with a reversible case created in 1931, which allowed polo players to protect their timepiece from shocks during of their parts. 80 years later, this watch remains an Art-Deco symbol prized by watch enthusiasts around the world.
The history of the Longines brand is closely linked to the history of sport. Founded in 1832 by Auguste Agassiz, the Swiss house produced its first chronograph in 1879. A few years later, Longines was the official timekeeper of the first Olympic Games of the modern era, in 1896, in Athens.
Long present in the world of tennis (especially at Roland Garros), Longines is today the official partner of several alpine skiing, gymnastics and archery competitions. And its Master Collection is on the wrists of many men, on and off the sports field.
When we think of Montblanc, we think above all of pens and leather goods accessories. Logical as the brand with the white star has established itself as a benchmark with its Meisterstück.
However, Montblanc has also officially been invited into the watchmaking world since 1997, with the creation of the Montblanc Montres SA manufacture in Switzerland. Almost as obvious, it is a watch called Meisterstück which allows the brand to establish its legitimacy.
Scuba diving, Formula 1, GIGN, jazz… The Oris manufacture demonstrates a versatility that is rare in the watchmaking landscape. Founded in Hölstein, Switzerland, in 1904, the brand almost disappeared during the watchmaking crisis of the 1970s (like many sisters). Fortunately, it has raised the bar superbly since the early 2000s, regularly rewarding us with exceptional timepieces, like the recent Carl Brashear Cal.401.
It is not only in Switzerland or Italy that we know how to make beautiful watches. The proof with Panerai, an Italian company founded in Florence in 1850 (but which has belonged to the Richemont group since 1997).
If the brand has few secrets for true watch lovers, it does not enjoy the same notoriety as several of its Swiss rivals. However, Panerai today produces exceptional watches, often inspired by the marine world.
From the Radiomir mechanical movement to the sublime Luminor, including the aptly named Submersible collection, the Italian-Swiss firm is made for the deep sea.
Who could have bet on the success of an independent French watchmaking house created in the midst of the crisis, in 1973, near Morteau? However, nearly half a century later, Pequignet is perpetuating Jura know-how with its emblematic royal caliber. An adjective that can be found even in the brand’s logo, a lily, but also on the emblematic timepiece of the company today: the Rue Royale.
Founded by Georges-Edouard Piaget in 1874 in Côte-aux-Fées is today one of the many stars in the Richemont galaxy. A star still in the firmament, which continues to shine thanks to its technical exploits. Thus, Piaget regularly breaks the record for the thinnest watch in the world, with its Altiplano collection.
Seiko is arguably the first Japanese watch brand to gain an international reputation. It is in any case the first to have offered a quartz watch to the general public. It was in 1969 with the Astron. The company founded in 1881 by Kintaro Hattari has literally turned the world of watchmaking upside down. Very closely linked to the world of sport (it has notably been a partner of FC Barcelona), the brand is preparing to blow out its 140 candles with the energy of a young first. Proof of his eternal youth? Seiko has just unveiled a 3-hand automatic watch in Naruto colors and a limited edition Street Fighter V!
Here is another big name in quartz watch! Born in Switzerland in the early 1980s, the Swatch watch has always shone through the simplicity of its design and its colorful style. The original model was made of plastic and is still the case today, although the brand is increasingly using bio-sourced materials. We particularly like Swatch watches for the collaborations it sets up, like its recent MoMA collection.
At the end of the 19th century, the watchmaking company founded in the Swiss Jura by Edouard Heuer was the first to manufacture chronographs in series. We therefore understand why the brand is so involved in the world of sport today.
Highly prized by Ayrton Senna in the 1980s, the brand gave its name to the F1 engine of the Red Bull Racing team between 2016 and 2018. It also played a major role in the world ski championships and the Louis Cup. -Vuitton (the famous sailing competition).
“Do better if possible, which is always possible. ”The motto of the Swiss brand Vacheron Constantin may make you smile, but it illustrates the desire of its creators to offer the most beautiful watches possible!
Founded in 1755, the brand can be seen as the oldest watch manufacturer in the world, although its recent history has not been easy.
Vacheron Constantin has survived the ages, continuing to innovate: the first horological complication in 1790, the first pocket watch with jumping hours in 1824, the thinnest minute repeater in the world in 1992 … And above all, in 2015, the reference 57260 became the most complicated watch in the world, with no less than 57 complications.
It was in 1865 that Georges Favre-Jacot founded his watch manufacturer Fabrique des Billodes in Switzerland. But it was not until 1911, when he sold his business to his nephew James Favre, that it took the name of Zenith.
In the midst of the watchmaking crisis, in the 1970s, everything ended well when the managers decided to bet everything on quartz. Fortunately, a few years later, the new owners of Zenith went back to basics and redeveloped their iconic El Primero movement. It still equips the brand’s watches today, especially in the Chronomaster and Defy lines.
The Tudor watch brand was founded in 1926 by a certain… Hans Wilsdorf. If you’ve read the article so far, this name must mean something to you, since he was also the one who created Rolex. In fact, Tudor can be seen as the “daughter company” of Rolex, although it has gained independence in recent years.
The similarities between Rolex and Tudor watches are obvious, although the latter are significantly cheaper! Today Tudor manufactures its own Manufacture calibers as on its new Black Bay Fifty Eight diving watch.
As part of the Seiko group, Orient represents a well-known entry point in mechanical watches thanks to its low prices, while Orient Star, a little more “upscale” than Orient, allows for a slightly higher price to benefit more attractive watches. The prices are quite low, but remember that the movements are still extremely rudimentary.
A good introduction to mechanical watches for people on a budget, with a preference for the Orient Star, which does not have the unappealing Orient emblem on its dials. Orient is a Japanese brand of men’s watches well known to watch enthusiasts, a company established in 1950 that offers reasonably remarkable value for money and a wide range of models from classic watches to diving watches and watches contemporary automatic. Prices for Orient watches range from 100 to 600 euros, and mechanical self-winding models start at 100 euros.
The history of the French watch brand LIP begins in 1867 in Besançon, thanks to Emmanuel Lipmann, who established his watch company there. The watch company has made a name for itself by appearing on the wrists of luminaries such as Winston Churchill and Charles de Gaulle. Lip currently offers both contemporary and historic men’s watches, all inspired by the company’s rich history.
The price range for Lip watches is between 300 and 1,500 euros. The brand name has been associated with the worst before it has gradually recovered in recent years. There has been a marked improvement in Lip since it became part of SMB, with watches that benefit from a capital of sympathy linked to history and from a move upmarket. The current models offer good value for money and the company incorporates the reintroduction in 2019 of a historic caliber of the old Lip made in France: the R23.
For those who appreciate minimalist design. After having heavily equipped the units during the war, the brand, thanks to the designer Max Bill, turned towards the Bauhaus style. Junghans, like almost all German brands, is a Swiss watchmaker, in this case ETA. Junghans is a German watch company that since 1861 has been producing a very sophisticated type of men’s watch, the enduring design of which is based on craftsmanship and a keen eye for detail. The Junghans men’s watch is therefore a modest, elegant and modern watch, priced between 800 and 3,000 euros.
The company is present in the premium watch segment, but its offer is failing to stay on trend. Unfortunately, Blancpain has a fascinating history (the company was founded in 1735 ) and deserves a new boost. We always go to Switzerland to source this brand of high-end watches.
Blancpain was founded in 1735 and flourished in the 19th century. If we meticulously retrace the history of watchmaking around the world, Blancpain is without a doubt the oldest watchmaking industry in the world.. Blancpain has become a household name among aficionados and watch collectors, simply because of its seniority. Blancpain’s work is, without a doubt, of high quality. The elegance of their design distinguishes old and new models on the market. After all, it is two centuries of knowledge. Blancpain watches are high quality watches with distinguished design. The manufacturer offers a separate design for each range, ranging from luxury sports ranges to so-called dress ranges. Either way, Blancpain is the brand of choice for ladies and men who prefer to trust the technical and material precision of Swiss watches.
MeisterSinger is a German watch company that has made a name for itself in the world of watchmaking with its watches based on the concept of the single hand watch. MeisterSinger founded the company in 2001, and today it is one of the benchmarks and specialists in this style of men’s watches. A single hand to tell the time is, of course, not recommended for people who are always on the move… Count between 800 and 4000 euros to acquire one of the brand’s models.
If MeisterSinger is known for anything, it is for its watches. This image sticks to their skin because it is a very sought after niche that they have successfully conquered. This is a pretty unique take on time, something not everyone will like and rarely offered in stores. Not to mention the nonexistent appeal of a flowing second hand sweeping across the dial. Don’t let that put us off, we needed to put one of the brand’s recently revamped classics to the test: the Neo.
Roger Dubuis is well known for his phrase “Dare to be unique”. In comparison to the luxury companies listed above, watchmaker Roger Dubuis is quite young. Either way, the brand has characteristics that appeal to its customers. Thus, in 1995, Roger Dubuis and Carlos Dias created Roger Dubuis. Since then, the company has focused on fine watchmaking. Roger Dubuis’ creations have always been avant-garde. To improve each of them, he meticulously uses Swiss watchmaking engineering. The Excalibur, EasyDiver, Goldensquare and Excalibur Lady La Monégasque collections are among the brand’s most popular watches.
Yema is a French brand of men’s watches founded in 1948 in Besançon. The company sells particularly well-built diving, automotive and aviation watches, and it uses Kickstarter campaigns to fund its new ideas. On the watchmaking front, especially on social media, models ranging from 250 to over 3,000 euros are presented. After creating strong diving watches, some of which were intended for the army, the brand found itself in the underground, offering watches for free in exchange for magazine subscriptions…. It went through different owners. The Montres Ambre group now owns the rights to use it. Given the popularity of one of its vintage models, Yema has tried to relaunch itself on several occasions. Without success. The brand has just resurfaced, and this time with more success staying much more true to its heritage, although the quality can still be improved.
Ulysse Nardin, positioned at the top of the spectrum, is very attractive in terms of high quality manufacture movements. The brand went through a phase where the design of several of its collections was particularly unusual, especially in the Freak and Executive lines. However, the firm appears to be making significant adjustments and is once again presenting increasingly stunning watches, especially those influenced by historic models such as the Diver Le Locle. Some models from the Marine and Classic collections have also proven to be popular. Although the brand offers a good finish and excellent movements, the costs seem to be a bit high in general.
Bremont is a British watch manufacturer. It bases its products on designs influenced by aerospace. Nick and Giles, two brothers, started the business. Since 2002, Bremont presents a mechanical design, with an emphasis on the issue of aviation. Bremont is a hidden treasure for people who appreciate finesse and British class. Indeed, Bremont seduces watch collectors with the exquisite and classic contours of each watch model. This brand will delight you if you are looking for a classic clock that is simple, functional, but beautifully made.
Mechanical watches are the fundamental characteristic of the Corum line. If you are attracted to these models, you should trust Corum. Fans of Swiss watchmaking, in particular, will find what they are looking for when purchasing a Corum. The company’s products, like those of most Swiss watchmakers, combine strength and utility. Although the company manufactures luxury models, it is also known for its items aimed at a more mainstream clientele. In any case, it embodies all the values associated with Swiss watchmaking.