Finding a great high-end watch is not like hunting for a pair of running shoes or a new button up shirt for work. These timepieces often sport price tags in the tens of thousands of dollars, and at least won’t cost you less than $1,500. So then how does one shop for a heritage-worthy timepiece?
One of the best ways to search for a new watch (or anything, really) is to first find a brand you have an affinity for or interest in – and then either go search through offerings by the brand. But, of course, this isn’t as easy as it sounds. There are lots of great luxury watch brands out there. In fact, there are so many that it can be difficult to actually get a handle on who offers what. That is why we decided to take the time to pull together a list of the best luxury watch brands out there. Take a scroll through and see for yourself.
A. Lange & Sohne
Like most companies you’ll find on this list, A. Lange & Sohne is very old. The German watch maker has been around since 1845. While they’ve obviously produced a large number of watches since they were first founded (including oversized aviation watches for German Airmen in WWII), they’re maybe best known for their Lange 1 family of watches.
This Swiss watch maker has been making top-tier mechanical watches since 1875. The founders, Edward Auguste Piguet and Jules Louis Audemars, were experts in their respective fields of watch making (blank movements and final regulation) and would go on to set a precedent of perfection and fine craftsmanship. The timepiece the company is best known for today is the Royal Oak line.
Baume & Mercier
Want to talk about old? Baume & Mercier was founded nearly a full 30 years before the American Civil War. And what’s more, the Swiss luxury watch maker was expanding into international business as early as the 1920s. Now, the brand produces 6 models that are somewhat more accessible than others in the luxury market ($2,000-$5,000).
Bell & Ross
Compared to others on this list, Bell & Ross is practically an infant. Founded in 1992, the company first re-released old Sinn watch models with different branding up until 2002 when they began producing their own timepieces in Switzerland. Since that change, the brand has become best known for their square-cased watches that draw their inspiration from aviation equipment.
It used to be that Swiss watch makers were all broken up by their specialty. One group in one valley would produce a specific part of a timepiece, while the next would specialize in another. One of the first to deviate from that production technique? Girard-Perregaux. Founded in 1791, the company produced everything in-house. The luxury watch brand’s most famous piece is likely the Vintage 1945.
Once upon a time, Hamilton watches produced their timepieces right here in the U.S. Founded in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in 1892, the brand made pocket watches during the expansion of the railroad system in America, and then wrist watches and military timepieces after WWI and WWII. In 1969, however, they moved their manufacturing to Switzerland where they’re still made today.
Another relative newcomer in the world luxury watches, Hublot was founded in 1980 in Switzerland. The brand is known for producing big, braggadocios timepieces with complicated and expensive movements often displayed through a clear dial. While they produce a number of great watches – they’re likely best known for their Big Bang.
Located in Switzerland, and founded by an American. That is how the International Watch Company got its name. Before founding what would become one of the most well respected watch makers on the market, Florentine Ariosto Jones had worked as the director of a Boston-based watch company. Jones understood that there was a market for Swiss watches in the U.S. Given that the company has been around since 1868, we’d have to say he was right.
This Swiss luxury watch maker is responsible for a whole lot more than just making great watches. Since it’s founding in 1833, Jaeger-LeCoultre has produced somewhere more than 1,000 different movements. Today they’re possibly best known for their Deep Sea chronograph watch and Memovox models.
Founded in 1832 and located in Saint-Imier, Switzerland, Longines has led the watch world in producing top quality mechanical timepieces. Some of their most recognizable models include the Hertiage, La Grande classic and Hydroconquest.
Most new luxury watch brands founded in the later half of the 20th century have tended more towards the hefty and bulky look (see Hublot and Bell & Ross). Nomos is an exception. The industry darling has set itself apart by producing interesting, attractive dials with top-notch movements.
There aren’t a whole lot of Italian luxury watch brands out there, and there are even fewer who’ve been around since the mid 1800s as has Officine Panerai. The brand found its own when in WWII they began producing dive watches (with the help of Rolex SA) for Nazi-allied Italian troops. Today, some of the brand’s most sought after models are its diving watch which feature large cases and big protective latches over the crown.
Good guys wear Omega. Or at least it feels like that. Bond has worn them since 1995, as has the British Royal Flying core, J.F.K, and the first astronauts to go to the moon. The iconic luxury watch brand has been around now since 1903, and without a doubt is best known for their Speedmaster though they have a vast collection that includes chronograph and GMT watch models.
Oris may not be as well known as its Swiss peers from the early 1900s, but they’ve consistently produced capable and attractive mechanical watches for well over 100 years. The luxury watch brand produces everything from pilots watches to dress watches, but they’re likely best known for the divers.
When someone says ‘luxury watch’, its brands like Patek Philippe that come to mind. Founded in 1851 in Switzerland, the company pioneered the keyless winding mechanism, and went on to produce watches for some of the world’s wealthiest and most prestigious – think American bankers European royalty, and Hollywood actors. Their most recognizable timepiece is likely their Nautilus.
Initially, when Piaget was founded in 1874, it was intended to be a manufacturer of watch parts for other companies. But as more luxury watch brands began bringing all of the production in-house, Piaget followed suit. After doing so, they ended up making waves in the watch world by producing ultra-thin movements like their Altiplano.
Without a doubt Ressence is among the most innovative luxury watch brand out there. Founded in 2010, the Belgian maker has eschewed convention with its stunning and unique dial design. Rather than just using a movement that drives functions on an otherwise static dial, watches by Ressence drive the entire face to move. Their most impressive timepiece at the moment is the Type 5 dive watch.
It isn’t likely that founders Hans Wilsdof and Alfred Davis knew that 112 years after starting their watch company it’d be the latest luxury watch brand in the world. During their century-long run, Rolex was the first to make a waterproof watch, the first to feature an automatic date window, and the first to make a GMT watch. And yet, despite all of these accomplishments, they’ll still likely be best known for their Submariner.
Seiko’s Quartz watches are among the most ubiquitous on the watch market as a whole, but few people know that the Japanese brand also has a line of ultra high-end watches they make under the name of Credor. Launched in 2006, the luxury watch brand produces high-end Swiss-style timepieces that can fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Founded in 1860, this Swiss watch maker has a long history of developing timepieces for flight and automobiles. They were the first to develop the ‘Time of Trip’ function, and were used by Luftwaffe pilots. Tag Heuer is still well respected in the racing community, but has also struck out into the smart watch market with their connected modular model.
Tissot has been located in Le Locle Switzerland since it was founded all the way back in 1853. Now, well over 100 years later, the brand is still making solid watches that fall comfortably in the mid to high-end part of the market.
In the world of luxury watch brands, Tudor is maybe something like a teenager. A subsidiary of Rolex, the Tudor line of watches was rolled out in 1954. Their first watch was a diver, and now over 60 years later, they’re still best known for producing attractive and capable dive watches like their Black Bay model.
You can tell a lot about a luxury watch brand by who wore their timepieces. In the case of Swiss watch maker Vacheron Constantin, they can count royalty, popes, conquerers, and American presidents among their customers. That alone should tell you a bit about the pedigree of this heritage Swiss watch maker.
American-made watches are not common. Sure, there are a few brands that assemble all the parts here – but the beating heart of most all timepieces are made overseas in Switzerland. But that isn’t the case for Weiss. This small maker assembles everything – from the movement to the case and dial, right here in the states. The company has only been around since 2013, but we predict they’ll have a long future ahead of them.
Started in 1865, Zenith claims that they’re the first brand to use the concept of ‘Manufacture’ (producing and assembling watches under one roof). Since then the brand has consistently produced fantastic timepieces with striking dials and astoundingly consistent movements.
The Best Places To Buy Vintage Watches Online
You don’t have to buy your luxury watches brand-stinking new. In fact, it can be a lot more fun to go on a hunt for the older, harder to find models. Take a look at our list of our best places to buy vintage watches online and see what you can scrounge up.