Rolex has quite a few firsts to its name. The brand created the first waterproof wristwatch, the Oyster, in 1926; the first wristwatch with an automatically changing date on the face, the Datejust, in 1945; the first wristwatch waterproof to 100 meters, the Oyster Perpetual Submariner, in 1953; and, the following year, the first wristwatch to display two time zones concurrently, the GMT Master. Founded by Hans Wilsdorf and Alfred Davis in London in 1905, the company is now the largest high-end watch brand in the world. In 2017, a Rolex Daytona that had been owned by actor Paul Newman set a record when it sold for $17.8 million at auction.
The Swiss watch brand was established in 1833 and is known for its classic designs, especially the Reverso (left), which was developed in 1931. Legend has it that a British army officer who had broken his watch during a polo match in India challenged Jacques-David LeCoultre to come up with a design that could survive a hit to the face. LeCoultre invented with this model—the face flips over to protect the front of the watch.
The German watchmaker was established by Ferdinand Adolph Lange in the town of Glashütte in 1845. For the next 100 years, it was known for pocket watches and then took a 45-year hiatus after the World War II. Reestablished in 1990 and subsequently acquired by Richemont, it’s now known for high-quality mechanical timepieces.
Related article: Nothing But A Good Time With The Chanel J12
Audemars Piguet, which Jules-Louis Audemars and Edward-Auguste Piguet founded in 1875, changed the luxury watch game when it debuted the Royal Oak in 1972. The hefty steel timepiece was a notable departure from the much more delicate gold watches of earlier days.
Georges-Édouard Piaget set up his first workshop on his family farm in the village of La Côte-aux-Fées in the Swiss mountains in 1874, launching the brand that is now known for offering the thinnest automatic watch in the world.
Louis-François Cartier founded the iconic jewelry brand in Paris in 1847. Seventy years later, his grandson, Louis Cartier, invented the famous Tank Watch, which was modeled on a military tank.
This Swiss brand is known for offering quality timepieces that won’t break the bank. Brothers Louis-Victor and Célestin Baume founded the company in Les Bois, a village in the Swiss Jura, in 1830 with the motto “Accept only perfection; only manufacture watches of the highest quality.”
Ulysse Nardin founded his brand in Le Locle, Switzerland in 1846 after training in watchmaking under his father. The company has long been associated with the nautical world, and by the 1870s more than 50 of the world’s navies and international shipping companies equipped their sailors with its watches. Today, the band offers five collections: Marine, Diver, Classic, Executive, and Freak.
Founded by Auguste Agassiz in 1832, Longines is now owned by the Swatch Group. It’s been based at Saint-Imier in Switzerland since its founding, and here’s a fun fact: the brand’s winged hourglass logo is the oldest logo of its kind still being used in its original form.
At just 27 years old, American engineer and watchmaker Florentine Ariosto Jones founded IWC (which stands for International Watch Company) in 1868. Today the company is especially known for dive and pilot watches.
Parmigiani Fleurier is among the newer high-end watch brands. Michel Parmigiani established the Swiss watchmaker in Fleurier, Switzerland in 1996. One of its watches is now the preferred timepiece of Prince Charles, and its Toric Hemispheres watch, shown here, recently won the travel category at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (the Oscars of watchmaking).
If you think Tudor watches look like Rolexes, you’re not seeing things; Tudor is a subsidiary of the luxury watch giant. Its timepieces are perfect for people who want the look and feel of a Rolex without as high a price tag.
The Omega Speedmaster was the first watch worn on the moon (by Buzz Aldrin in 1969), and the Swiss brand founded in 1903 is also known for its appearances in James Bond films and as the official timekeeper of the Olympics. Prince William has been wearing one for more than a decade, too; the watch was reportedly given to him by his late mother, Princess Diana.
Related article: 7 Luxury Men’s Watches That Look Great On Women
Patek Philippe & Co. is consistently mentioned as one of the best watch brands in the world. While a Rolex is a status symbol to the masses, a Patek Philippe is a status symbol to those truly in the know. The Swiss brand was founded in 1839 and is the last family-owned independent watch manufacturer in Geneva today.
Vacheron Constantin is among the oldest luxury watch manufacturers in the world, having been founded in Geneva by Jean-Marc Vacheron in 1755. The watches, which are known for their extensive complications, have been worn on the wrists of famous figures like Napoleon Bonaparte and Harry Truman.
“Techniques d’Avant Garde” is what the TAG in TAG Heuer has stood for since Edouard Heuer launched the Swiss brand in 1860. In 1962, John Glenn wore a Heuer stopwatch on the Mercury-Atlas 6 flight, giving the Swiss watchmaker the distinction of being the first in space. Now the watches are known for their sporty appearance.
Founded as Officine Panerai in Florence, Italy in 1860, this watchmaker is known for its bold, sporty cases. In 2006 it launched a series of watches in partnership with one of the sportiest carmakers of all time—Ferrari.
Another company known for its bold cases, Hublot (French for “porthole”) was founded in 1980 by Carlo Crocco and acquired by LVMH in 2008. Crocco was the first to pair a natural rubber strap with a luxury watch.
Founded in 1884, Breitling is especially well-known for watches for aviators (the brand even teamed up with Scott and Mark Kelly, the only twins to have traveled in space, and employs a team of pilots who travel around the world doing acrobatic display flights in fighter jets).
Swiss watchmaker Louis-Ulysse Chopard founded Chopard in 1860, and in its early days the company was known for pocket watches and chronometers. Today, the brand’s glamorous watches and jewelry are regularly seen on the red carpet at events like the Cannes Film Festival (an official Chopard partner).
Related article: 15 Of The Best Swiss Watch Brands On The Market Today
Montblanc’s beautiful writing instruments might be the brand’s most recognizable products, but the company’s watches (which debuted in 1997) have also become known for their craftsmanship. It’s also introduced new technology to the world of horology. In 2015, the same year the Apple Watch debuted, Montblanc added some advanced technology of its own: the e-strap, which combined a traditional wristwatch with wearable technology in the form of an electronic display.
This article originally appeared on Town & Country.
- A. Lange & Söhne
- Audemars Piguet
- Baume & Mercier
- IWC Schaffhausen
- Mens Watch
- Parmigiani Fleurier
- Patek Philippe
- Tag Heuer
- Ulysse Nardin
- Vacheron Constantin
- Watch Brands
- Watch Making
- Womens Watch