The 20 best watch brands you should know
The name on a watch face can tell you a lot. It can represent a range of intangible qualities, ranging from history, pride and prestige to a reputation for quality and interesting design. But for those new to watches, there is plenty to do.
Ideally, it’s best to develop your own impressions and relationships with brands over time and experience. Everyone has their own tastes and each watch should ideally be judged on its own merits, but you might want to have a basic orientation to the hottest brands when learning about or buying watches.
Today there are hundreds of watch brands, each with its own personality and approach to watchmaking. The brands below aren’t necessarily “the best” or the only ones to know about, but they are some of the companies you absolutely need to know about. Together, they will help you establish a base from which you can do your own exploration.
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You probably already know Rolex. Appropriately represented by a crown logo, Rolex is the undisputed king of luxury watches, worn by countless historical figures and contemporary celebrities. New models can sell for above MSRP in the secondary market, and vintage Rolexes are the most active and passionate watch collection. You don’t have to know anything about watches to know or want a Rolex. Naturally, the company consolidates its reputation with unbeatable quality.
Foundation year: 1915
Representative model: Submariner (Second hand shop)
Internationally, Seiko has long been associated with affordable yet reliable “everyone” watches. Today, the Japanese watchmaker is a global superstar beloved for its quality and value, but it also competes with the biggest Swiss luxury brands with excellent workmanship and innovative technology (especially with its spinoff brand Grand Seiko) . Seiko produces almost all of the components in-house for its watches, which range from low three digits to five.
Foundation year: 1892
Rrepresentative model: Prospex “Turtle”
Alongside Rolex, Patek Philippe is widely regarded as one of the most prestigious and collectible watch names – although the so-called (by some collectors) ‘holy trinity’ of watchmaking historically consists of Patek, Vacheron Constantin and Audemars Piguet. The historic brand is known for its highly refined and highly complicated watches which are often auctioned off at stratospheric prices. Even the new, functionally simple “Patek” watches start in five-digit territory.
Foundation year: 1839
Representative model: Nautilus (Second hand shop)
Cartier is sometimes considered primarily as a jeweler, but it is also one of the most important historical watchmakers in the world. The French company pioneered the first wristwatches and continues to make some of the most recognizable models today. Cartier’s often formal style is such that you can hardly talk about the brand without using the word ‘elegant’.
Foundation year: 1847
Representative model: Reservoir (Second hand shop)
The tech company is, like it or not, a major presence in the watch industry. Since its introduction in 2015, the Apple Watch has surpassed the entire Swiss watch industry in terms of units sold. It is the absolute standard for smartwatches and has prompted many traditional watch wearers to switch it up for good, not only because it is a technological marvel, but also because it has been carefully designed based on watchmaking principles developed over the centuries.
Foundation year: 1976
Representative model: Apple Watch (Pre-Owned Store)
From the moon landings to James Bond to its role as official timekeeper of the Olympics, Omega has a range of notable partnerships and watches to accompany them. The Moonwatch alone would make the brand a notable force, but it has several bona fide icons, from dive and dress watches to more chronographs.
Foundation year: 1903
Representative model: Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch (Second hand shop)
The International Watch Company is one of several brands that first come to mind when it comes to watches and their connection to aviation. IWC offers several remarkable product lines, but is best known for its diverse aviator’s watch collections, which draw on its military history.
Foundation year: 1868
Representative model: Large aviator’s watch (Second hand shop)
Jaeger-LeCoultre has a history of remarkable models, but is best known for the Reverso, a watch with a unique reversible case first introduced for polo players in 1931. Also colloquially referred to as “JLC”, the company produced a watch with a unique reversible case. mid-range product line. luxury to wear on a daily basis, up to complicated high-end watchmaking and ultra-thin watches.
Foundation year: 1833
Representative model: Reverso (Second hand shop)
A strong association with motorsport and chronograph watches characterizes TAG Heuer, which was known simply as Heuer until 1985. The modern brand is the most affordable and youth-oriented in the watchmaker’s stable. of its parent company LVMH, but it produces its own internal movements. and some high-end pieces as well. Its current catalog oscillates between heritage models for collectors and more modern watches intended more for first-time buyers.
Foundation year: 1860
Representative model: Carrera (Second hand shop)
Panerai does more or less one thing, very well, in a myriad of mostly subtle variations: The Italian brand makes large, readable watches with an unmistakable retro military look. Despite its pragmatic roots in supplying divers to the Italian Navy, the brand today focuses on relatively high-end watches with in-house movements. Fun fact: Actor Sylvester Stallone is often credited with ‘discovering’ the brand and launching its modern popularity.
Foundation year: 1860
Representative model: Luminor (Second hand shop)
Breitling is best known for its chronographs and aviator watches that date back decades. Modern Breitling watches have long been characterized by bold cuts and a brash military demeanor, as well as an emphasis on rugged use. Many of the brand’s recent releases have focused on re-issuing vintage models, following current industry trends.
Foundation year: 1884
Representative model: Navitimer (Second hand shop)
Tudor is owned by Rolex and many of its watch components are produced in the same facilities as Rolex watches. The brand offers superb fit and finish, internal movements and an irresistible connection to Rolex prestige at remarkably reasonable prices. Tudor is widely recognized as offering one of the best value for money when it comes to luxury watches.
Foundation year: 1926
Representative model: Black Bay (Second hand shop)
Audemars Piguet is often touted as one of the most prestigious names in watchmaking, focusing on high-end, highly-finished manufacture movements and complicated watchmaking. The Swiss brand is essentially synonymous with its Royal Oak collections and derived from luxury sports watches.
Foundation year: 1875
Representative model: Royal Oak (Second hand store)
A. Lange & Söhne
Since its relaunch in 1990, A. Lange & Söhne has become a star and is one of the oldest and most respected Swiss watchmakers. The brand’s passionate follow-up is testament to the appeal of its sensible German approach, strong character, and exquisite, hand-finished details.
Foundation year: 1845
Representative model: Lange 1 (Second hand shop)
Although part of Switzerland since the 1970s, Hamilton places its American roots at the heart of its DNA. Hamilton has a rich history to build on and today offers an entry-level luxury watch experience (often under $ 1,000) with a wide range of collections and models. The brand is also known for its connection to Hollywood and the many films in which its watches have featured.
Foundation year: 1892
Representative model: Khaki Field Mechanical (Second hand store)
Timex’s past slogan “Take a lick and keep ticking” is one of the most well-known in advertising history. The historic American watchmaker has long placed accessibility at the heart of its brand and continues to do so today with a wide range of quartz and mechanical watches, very few of which cost more than a few hundred dollars.
Yeswell-founded ear: 1854
Representative model: Weekender (Second hand shop)
Japanese watchmaker Casio also manufactures other electronic devices, but is in many ways almost synonymous with digital watches and calculators from the 1980s. Under its name are several watch sub-brands, the most notable of which is its famous collection G-Shock.
Yeswell-founded ear: 1946
Representative model: G-Shock 5600 (Second hand shop)
Citizen is a watchmaker but also owns a range of other brands, including movement maker Miyota, which supplies many small businesses. The vast majority of Citizen watches use quartz movements with batteries that recharge in the light via a technology they call Eco-Drive.
Foundation year: 1918
Representative model: Promaster Diver (Second hand shop)
Richard Mille is known for his extravagant pricing and association with high-profile celebrities, and you’ll even see the brand appear in the news from time to time. Costing for the most part in the six-digit range, Richard Mille watches typically have complicated movements, tourbillons, non-traditional materials, aggressive sizes, and flamboyant style.
Foundation year: 2001
Representative model: RM50-03 (Second hand shop)
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