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Luxury watches are the ultimate status symbol accessory. The rich and famous — from celebrities to influencers to royalty — are often found sporting the latest designs from the most illustrious watchmakers around the world. From Switzerland to Germany, France, and even the United States, the distinction of having a watch from one of the big names is a statement in itself. Even if the faceplate isn’t diamond-encrusted, wearing a watch in this category will set you apart.
Each of the major luxury watch brands is steeped in history, with founding stories that only add to the elite allure of these timekeeping giants. While you’ve probably seen a restored vintage Rolex on TV or admired a new Zenith timepiece on social media, how do these and the many other brands of luxury watches stack up against one another? There are a host of renowned craftsmen on this list that may have slipped your notice if you don’t frequent the red carpet.
Today, we’re looking at every major luxury watch brand ranked worst to best in a comprehensive guide that will make you a watch expert in no time.
Established in 1833 by Antoine LeCoultre, Jaeger-LeCoultre has firmly positioned itself as a leading luxury watch brand. The company originally started in Vallée de Joux on the border of Switzerland and France, where it had the distinction of being one of the first watchmakers in that particular area. Over its long history, Jaeger-LeCoultre has been at the forefront of innovation, securing hundreds of patents and introducing over a thousand distinctive components to its timepieces.
The most recognizable of the Jaeger-LeCoultre watches is its Reverso series. It was originally designed for use in polo so players could flip the face of the watch to protect the faceplate. During heavy use or when there was the risk of damage, the watch flipped to reveal a solid metal face that wouldn’t break. Then, during normal use, it could flip back to reveal the time as usual. While its protective essence remains intact, today’s Reverso models have evolved to feature design, with some showcasing intricate layouts or transparent plates that offer a glimpse into the watch’s inner workings.
Jaeger-LeCoultre has become a highly regarded luxury watch brand known for its unique designs, impeccable timekeeping, and unique catalog of collectible watches.
11. Vacheron Constantin
Established in 1755, Vacheron Constantin is one of the most respected watchmakers on this list. As they approach 27 decades in the business, their legacy remains unchallenged as one of the world’s most esteemed luxury watch brands.
Their watchmaking philosophy is encapsulated in their company motto: “Faire mieux si possible, ce qui est toujours possible.” In English, this means, “Do better if possible, and that is always possible.” Over the decades, they have consistently crafted watches that not only meet but exceed the rigorous Swiss standards. With an annual production of approximately 20,000 watches, they prioritize exclusivity and quality over mass production, distinguishing themselves from larger manufacturers.
Vacheron Constantin’s celebrated history has a long list of renowned patrons. Historical luminaries such as Napoleon Bonaparte and Harry Truman have adorned their wrists with these masterpieces. Their watches, celebrated for their precise craftsmanship and lasting value, are sought after by collectors and celebrities alike. Notable enthusiasts have included the legendary Marlon Brando, along with a host of other acclaimed actors and actresses.
10. Baume & Mercier
Baume & Mercier, established in 1830 by brothers Louis-Victor and Célestin Baume, has a rich history in watchmaking. In 1918 the brand evolved when it partnered with Paul Mercier, leading to the renowned Baume & Mercier label we recognize today.
While Baume & Mercier are known for creating high-quality watches, they typically do so at a considerably lower price point than many other luxury brands, which makes them more accessible to more people. This has earned them global respect and brand loyalty from more watch enthusiasts than merely the most affluent buyers. In addition to their main line, Baume & Mercier has collaborated with various companies to produce limited-edition watches. One of their most notable collaborations was the Baume & Mercier Capeland Shelby Cobra, a timepiece inspired by the iconic Shelby Cobra sports car.
Today, Baume & Mercier watches are highly sought after by collectors. Their vintage pieces, in particular, remain in high demand. The brand’s enduring popularity can be attributed to its commitment to using top-quality components and its meticulous manufacturing processes. Every watch they produce is of Swiss design, crafted to stand the test of time and be worn for generations.
9. A. Lange & Söhne
A. Lange & Söhne has a fascinating history rooted in German watchmaking traditions. Founded in 1845 by Ferdinand Adolph Lange in Glashütte, Germany, the company produced top-tier watches until 1948 when the Soviet Union’s occupation led to the nationalization of many watchmakers. However, in 1990, the brand experienced a revival under the guidance of Ferdinand Lange’s great-grandson, Walter Lange, and today, the company is known for making very limited runs of high-quality luxury watches among the pinnacle of German watchmaking traditions.
A distinguishing feature of A. Lange & Söhne watches is their intricate engravings and decorations. Even the tiniest components, hidden beneath the watch’s faceplate, have these exquisite details. This painstaking attention to detail highlights their unwavering commitment to the art of watchmaking and their status as a luxury brand.
Historical figures and modern leaders alike have shown a preference for A. Lange & Söhne timepieces. in the late 1800s, German Emperor Wilhelm II commissioned a special watch as a gift for Sultan Abdul Hamid II of the Ottoman Empire. In recent times, global leaders like Vladimir Putin and Bill Clinton have sported A. Lange & Söhne watches. Given their limited production, unmatched craftsmanship, and popularity among the elite, A. Lange & Söhne has firmly established itself as one of the world’s premier luxury watch brands.
8. Audemars Piguet
Audemars Piguet is unique on this list as it not only produces some of the most popular luxury watches in the world, but it’s still family-run after almost a century and a half. It was originally founded in 1875 by Jules Louis Audemars and Edward Auguste Piguet. The current chairs of the company are still their descendants, Jasmine Audemars and Olivier Frank Edward Audemars. This is impressive considering that most companies tend to adopt a more corporate structure.
In the realm of luxury watchmaking, Audemars Piguet has pioneered several innovations that have become industry standards. For instance, they were the first company to create the skeleton watch. This is a normal watch with pieces of the face plate removed to show the internal workings of the watch. Skeleton watches have since become a separate category in the industry and are often sought by collectors.
Audemars Piguet has also played a prominent role in pop culture by defining itself as a luxury brand for the rich and famous. They notably gained a huge following and popularity when it was used as a brief plot point in the show “Entourage,” where it is worn by Jeremy Piven’s character Ari Gold. With continued innovation, slim and sleek designs, and a following amongst celebrities and collectors, Audemars Piguet secures its spot as one of the top luxury brands.
Cartier is one of the most instantly recognized luxury brands in the world, and not just for watches. The company was founded as a luxury brand from the outset in Paris by Louis-François Cartier in 1847, and today, Cartier has a long history of making fine luxury goods. It is one of the few brands on this list to claim they’ve created jewelry for kings and queens, as in 1904 the Cartier company received a royal warrant and became the official supplier of jewels and jewelry to King Edward VII. In fact, it was King Edward VII who first called Cartier “the jeweler of kings and the king of jewelers.”
In addition to their fine jewelry, the company also makes luxury watches. They’re all finely designed and manufactured in Switzerland to the highest standard. Cartier’s watches are renowned for their beauty and can be found all over the world. With such an impressive track record, it’s no wonder that Cartier ranks among the world’s elite luxury watchmakers. While their watches ooze top-tier quality, their broader focus on jewelry might place them behind some brands that exclusively specialize in watchmaking.
The name Omega is a powerful one in the watchmaking world. Established in 1848 by Louis Brandt, who crafted each piece by hand, the brand has since evolved into a global powerhouse in luxury watchmaking. Upon Brandt’s passing, his legacy was carried on by his children, who expanded the brand’s reach and influence.
Omega is one of the most recognizable luxury brands for several reasons. First, it’s part of the Swatch Group, the world’s largest watch company. It’s also been used throughout key historical and cultural events like the Olympics, where Omega watches have been the official timekeeping devices of all their events since 1932. This major accomplishment shows the company’s trustworthiness and global appeal. The Omega Speedmaster watch was also present for a global event when it was worn during the 1969 Apollo 11 mission.
To further boost its popularity and solidify its status as a luxury watch brand, Omega has become a huge part of pop culture. You may recognize it on the wrist of the world’s most famous spy — James Bond. Ever since Pierce Brosnan’s rendition of Bond in “Goldeneye,” Omega watches have been on the wrist of 007.
In the world of luxury, few things make a bigger statement than aviation, which conjures images of global travel and lavish vacations. You’ll likely find Breitling watches on the wrists of many pilots, for whom these timepieces were originally designed. Established in 1884, Breitling has consistently delivered premium timepieces. One of their early designs featured a rotating slide rule tailored for pilots, allowing them to make in-flight calculations. This innovation was so popular that the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association adopted it as its official watch.
Throughout its history, Breitling has also partnered with several other luxury brands, including Bentley automobiles. Breitling designed a timepiece for the center console for Bentley and for almost 20 years, from 2002 to 2021, many Bentleys came equipped with a Breitling timepiece.
Today, Breitling remains a pinnacle in the luxury watch sector, developing partnerships to produce distinctive timepieces. However, they haven’t strayed far from their roots and still continue to make advanced aviation and nautical watches, some of which now have integrated apps for advanced functions and calculations. Breitling’s combination of functionality, precision, and stylish designs made its watches iconic accessories among the elite.
4. IWC Schaffhausen
IWC Schaffhausen, or the International Watch Company of Schaffhausen, was established in 1868 by an American, Florentine Ariosto Jones, who strategically chose Schaffhausen, Switzerland for its location. His vision was to merge Swiss craftsmanship, American business acumen, and German engineering. Schaffhausen’s proximity to the German border made it ideal.
Over the decades, IWC introduced innovative proprietary models. However, like many in the watch industry, the 1970s brought challenges with the influx of affordable quartz watches. Instead of conforming to this trend, IWC became masters of haute horlogerie, the refined art of watchmaking. Rather than producing mass-market timepieces, they honed their craft in creating precise mechanical watches, which are now among the most intricate and accurate available.
Many of their watches are limited editions released for special occasions, but they still produce incredibly accurate watches. One particular model made for Portuguese calendars is so accurate it only needs to be adjusted every 577.5 years. Today, IWC is celebrated for its handcrafted, precision-engineered luxury watches.
Zenith takes our third spot for a top luxury watch brand. Founded in 1860 by Georges-Favre Jacot, Zenith pioneered several unique designs and manufacturing processes that helped set it apart from the competition. A standout feature of Zenith’s approach is its vertical manufacturing process. While common today, this was groundbreaking in the 1860s. This method ensures Zenith oversees every stage of their watch production. From the tiniest screw to intricate components, everything is crafted in-house, guaranteeing exceptional quality control.
Zenith’s legacy has also been associated with many key moments in history. This stems from the company honoring adventurers, explorers, daredevils, and others who pushed the boundaries of what was possible. Louis Bleriot, the first person to fly across the English Channel, was gifted a Zenith watch to wear before his historic flight.
While Zenith’s products are more accessible than some other luxury brands, they also craft limited-edition timepieces in collaboration with artists and organizations. One of the most memorable was made in 1910 when they partnered with Art Nouveau artists Mucha and Lalique. Today they partner with brands like Range Rover to create limited-run luxury watches. Zenith makes some of the best watches in the world. With a proven track record of timekeeping precision, limited special editions, and collaboration throughout key achievements in history, it confidently secures a spot in the top three.
When it comes to luxury watches, Rolex often tops the list. It’s not just a symbol of opulence but also represents precision and innovation in watchmaking. Founded in 1905 by Hans Wilsdorf, who sought a concise, memorable name, ideally five letters long. After much contemplation, he landed on Rolex.
A standout feature of Rolex watches is the Oyster casing, introduced in 1926. This design was the world’s first waterproof watch case. Its reliability was popularized when Mercedes Gleitze swam the English Channel wearing a Rolex. The watch remained functional throughout her 10-hour endeavor.
Rolex’s legacy extends to many historic adventures. From soaring over Everest to scaling its peak, Rolex watches have proven their mettle. They’ve also ventured to the planet’s deepest point, the Marianas Trench. The Deep Sea Special, a Rolex creation, was engineered to endure the immense pressures of the trench’s deepest segment, Challenger Deep. This watch accompanied the Trieste crew in 1960 and filmmaker James Cameron during his own dive into Challenger Deep years later.
Over the decades, Rolex has introduced many innovations and limited-edition timepieces. Among all the brands listed, Rolex stands out as the most collectible, retaining its value like no other. This distinction is attributed to its impeccable craftsmanship, exclusivity, and widespread popularity.
1. Patek Philippe
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Patek Philippe watches are some of the most sought-after luxury watches in the world. Founded in 1839 by Antoine Norbert de Patek and François Czapek, the brand was a pioneer, introducing one of the first keyless winding systems for pocket watches and heralding a new age in watchmaking. Ever since, the company’s legacy has been built on persistent innovation and the creation of some of the best analog timekeeping precision in the industry.
These watches’ already premium price tags can skyrocket at auctions, especially if linked to a notable owner. The elite have admired and worn Patek Philippe timepieces both as functional devices and as works of art. Some of their first keyless watches were presented to Queen Victoria and Countess Koscowicz of Hungary, making them literal gifts fit for royalty.
Patek Philippe watches sit at the top of this list for several reasons beyond their intrinsic value. The watches are all made of the highest quality components, while the company itself has been a leading innovator in the industry for decades, continuously improving on its designs and filing new patents with each revision. The company’s commitment to accuracy, innovation, and artistry helps establish Patek Philippe timepieces as some of the most desirable watches in the world.
Source : SlashGear