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The Top 25 Watch Brands to Know


Which are “best” is up to you, but you should absolutely be familiar with these companies.

20 watch brandsCourtesy

The name on a watch dial can tell you a lot. It might represent a range of intangible qualities, from history, pride and prestige to a reputation for quality and interesting design. But for those just getting into watches, there’s a lot to take in.

It’s best to develop your own impressions and relationships to brands over time and through 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 most prominent brands when learning about or shopping for watches.

There are hundreds of watch brands in operation today, each with its own personality and approach to watchmaking. The brands below aren’t necessarily “the best” or the only ones worth knowing about, but they’re some of the companies that you should probably be familiar with first if you’re just discovering watches. Together, they’ll help you establish a base from which you can do your own exploring.


rolex  submarinerRolex
  • Year Founded: 1915
  • Representative Model: Submariner

Surely, you already know Rolex. Appropriately represented by a crown logo, Rolex is the undisputed king of luxury watches, famously worn by countless historic figures and contemporary celebrities. New models often sell for above MSRP on the secondary market given how difficult they are to obtain, and vintage Rolex is the subject of the most active and passionate watch collecting. You don’t need to know anything about watches to know or want a Rolex. Naturally, the company backs up its reputation with unbeatable quality.


seiko srp777Seiko

Internationally, Seiko was long associated with affordable but reliable “everyman” watches. Today, the Japanese watchmaker is a global superstar loved for its quality and value, but it also rivals the top Swiss luxury brands with excellent finishing and innovative technology (particularly with its Grand Seiko luxury subsidiary, which now operates as its own brand). Seiko produces nearly every component in-house for its watches, which range from the low three figures to well into five.


omega speedmaster chronographOmega

From the moon landings to James Bond to its role as the 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’s got multiple bonafide icons, with the Speedmaster and Seamaster being among the most recognizable watch lines of any brand.

Patek Philippe

patek philippe nautilusPatek Philippe
  • Year Founded: 1839
  • Representative Model: Nautilus

Alongside Rolex, Patek Philippe is widely regarded as one of the most prestigious and collectible names in watches. The historic brand is known for its highly refined, highly complicated watches that often auction for stratospheric prices. Even new, functionally simple “Patek” watches start in five-figure territory.


cartier tank must watchCartier
  • Year Founded: 1847
  • Representative Model: Tank

Cartier is sometimes thought of first as a jeweler, but it’s also one of the most important historical watchmakers in the world. The French company pioneered early wristwatches and continues to make some of the most recognizable models today. Cartier’s often formal style is such that you can hardly discuss the brand without using the word “elegant.”


iwc pilots watchIWC

The International Watch Company is among several brands that come to mind when speaking of watches and their tie-in to aviation. IWC has several notable product lines but is most recognized for its various pilot’s watch collections, which draw upon its long military history.


jaeger lecoultre reversoJaeger-LeCoultre
  • Year Founded: 1833
  • Representative Model: Reverso

Jaeger-LeCoultre has a history of notable models but is best recognized for the Reverso, a watch with a unique reversible case first introduced for polo players in 1931. Also colloquially called “JLC,” the company produced a range of products from mid-tier luxury for daily wear to high-end, complicated horology and ultra-thin watches.

TAG Heuer

tag heuer watchTAG Heuer
  • Year Founded: 1860
  • Representative Model: Carrera

A strong association with motorsports 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 its parent company LVMH’s stable of watchmakers, but it produces its own in-house movements and some higher-end pieces as well. Its current catalog ranges between heritage models for collectors and more modern watches aimed more at first-time buyers.


zenith chronomaster originalZenith

Zenith is largely synonymous with its El Primero automatic chronograph movement, which today powers a wide-ranging collection of both modern and historically inspired models. The brand is also known for pilot watches as well as more technical, experimental and high-end collections.


panerai luminorPanerai
  • Year Founded: 1860
  • Representative Model: Luminor

Panerai more or less does one thing, really well, in a plethora of mostly subtle variations: The Italian brand makes large, legible watches with an unmistakable retro military look. Despite its pragmatic roots supplying Italian navy divers, the brand today is all about relatively high-end watches with in-house movements. Fun fact: Sylvester Stallone is often credited for having “discovered” the brand and kicked off its modern popularity after wearing one in the 1996 film Daylight.


black and stainless steel breitling navitimer b01 chronograph 43 watchBreitling
  • Year Founded: 1884
  • Representative Model: Navitimer

Breitling is best known for chronographs and pilot’s watches going back many decades. Modern Breitling watches have long been characterized by bold sizing and a brash military attitude, as well as a focus on rugged use. Many of the brand’s recent releases have focused on reissuing vintage models, following current industry trends.


tudor black bayTudor
  • Year Founded: 1926
  • Representative Model: Black Bay

Tudor is owned by Rolex and many of its watch components are produced in the same facilities as those of Rolex watches. The brand offers superb fit and finish, in-house movements and an irresistible connection to Rolex prestige for remarkably reasonable prices. Tudor is widely recognized as offering some of the best value in luxury watches.

Audemars Piguet

audemars piguet royal oakAudemars Piguet
  • Year Founded: 1875
  • Representative Model: Royal Oak

Audemars Piguet is often held up as one of the most prestigious names in watchmaking, focusing on high-end, highly finished in-house movements and complicated horology. The Swiss brand is essentially synonymous with its Royal Oak and spinoff collections of luxury sport watches, and is credited with creating the genre in the 1970s.


Longines dive watchLongines

One of the oldest extant watch brands, Longines today is owned by the Swatch Group and is one of the most dominant brands in the entry-to-mid-level luxury market. The brand’s lineup is vast, with a number of popular dress and sports watches alike, and it frequently draws on its extensive back-catalog for reissues and reimaginings of past watches.

Vacheron Constantin

Vacheron Constantin gold watchVacheron Constantin

The oldest continually operating watch brand — i.e., the oldest one that didn’t lay dormant for any period of time — Vacheron is among the most lauded brands in the world. While it’s the least-known of high horlogy’s traditional “Holy Trinity” alongside Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet, Vacheron nonetheless has a strong reputation when it comes to quality and a mastery over complications. It also has been steadily gaining popularity in recent years.


tissot prx watchTissot
  • Year Founded: 1853
  • Representative Model: PRX

One of the most affordable brands specializing in automatic Swiss-made watches, Tissot’s average SRP is around $500, though on rare ocassions can approach $2,000. The brand has something for everyone, from quartz dress watches to sporty mechanical chronographs. It’s in the midst of a bit of a modern renaissance, thanks largely to its very popular PRX line of retro integrated bracelet sports watches.


oris green dive watchOris
  • Year Founded: 1904
  • Representative Model: Aquis

Oris is a bit of an anomoly among Swiss watch brands in that it’s both independent and affordable. While the brand has made a move upmarket in recent years with a heightened focus on producing its own in-house movemenents, the vast majority of the the enthusiast favorite’s watches — most of which are tool watches like divers and pilot’s watches — can still be had for less than $5,000.


hamilton khaki field mechanical watchHamilton

Though Swiss-owned since the 1970s, Hamilton makes its American roots central to its DNA. Hamilton has a rich history to draw on and today offers an entry-level luxury watch experience (often sub-$1k) with a wide range of collections and models. The brand is also known for its connection with Hollywood and the many movies in which its watches have featured.


timex red and blue watchTimex
  • Year Founded: 1854
  • Representative Model: Q Timex

Timex’s past slogan “Takes a licking and keeps on ticking” is one of the best known in the history of advertising. The historic American watchmaker has long made affordability central to 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 couple hundred dollars.


swatch translucent watchSwatch

By far the most modest brand in this guide, with its average watch costing only around a hundred bucks, Swatch is largely responsible for saving the entire Swiss watch industry. It’s cheap and stylish quartz watches in the 1980s revived watchmaking in Switzerland, and its success enabled the brand to buy up a number of traditional watchmakers — including Omega, Longines, Tissot and Hamilton — who were on death’s door. Today, Swatch is as hot as its been since the Reagan era thanks to its wildly popular collab with Omega, the MoonSwatch.


casio gwm5610Casio

Japanese watchmaker Casio also makes other electronics but is in many ways almost synonymous with digital and calculator watches from the 1980s. Under its name are multiple watch sub-brands, the most notable of which is its famously durable G-Shock collection.


citizen eco drive promaster diverCitizen

Citizen is a watchmaker but also owns a range of other brands, including the movement maker Miyota, which supplies many smaller companies. The vast majority of Citizen watches use quartz movements with batteries that are recharged by light via a technology they call Eco-Drive.

A. Lange & Söhne

a lange and sohne grand langeA. Lange & Söhne
  • Year Founded: 1845 (modern incarnation founded in 1990)
  • Representative Model: Lange 1

Since its relaunch in 1990, A. Lange & Söhne has shot to stardom and come to rank among the oldest and most respected Swiss watchmakers. The brand’s passionate following is testament to the appeal of its sensible German approach, strong character and refined, hand-finished details.


hublot watchHublot
  • Year Founded: 1980
  • Representative Model: Big Bang

Hublot’s brash and oversized designs have made it a divisive brand among traditional watch enthusiasts, but the opulent brand deserves a lot of credit for its influence on the modern luxury watch industry. Launched at the start of the ’80s, Hublot had a unique and experimental approach from the start — its first watch combined a gold case with a rubber strap — and it’s original Big Bang, launched in 2005, would help popularize the oversized watch trend of the 2000s and became a fixture on the wrists of athletes and celebrities.

Richard Mille

richard mille tourbillonRichard Mille
  • Year Founded: 2001
  • Representative Model: RM50-03

Richard Mille is known for its extravagant prices and association with high-visibility celebrities (such as Rafael Nadal), and you’ll see the brand even pop up in the news sometimes. Mostly costing in the six-figure range, Richard Mille watches typically have complicated movements, tourbillons, nontraditional materials, aggressive sizing and flamboyant styling.


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