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The Top 10 luxury watch brands - The titans of horology

Kaweesa Abubakr 10/12/2023
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Royal Oak

Image: Audemars Piguet

It's only fair to state that the act of selecting the "top 10" in any category is almost always subjective. However, there is no denying that there exists a cadre of brands in the luxury watch market that have consistently stood the test of time, delivering quality watches that embody the apex of craftsmanship, innovation, and aesthetic appeal. We like to refer to these brands as the titans of horology.

So, which watchmakers deserve to be on the list of the top 10 luxury watch brands? Here, we'll explore the subject with pertinent information on the brands, share their unique history and specialties, and explain why you can't go wrong with a purchase from one of these storied watchmakers.

Patek Philippe

The company, founded in 1839 by Antoni Patek as Patek, Czapek & Cie, was renamed after Adrien Philippe partnered with Antoni in 1851 to form Patek Philippe as it is currently known. Still family-owned, the company arguably continues to reign as the pinnacle of Swiss watchmaking, renowned for its meticulous attention to detail, innovative mechanical complexities, and timeless aesthetics.

 Ref. 5204G-001

Image: Patek Philipe

Other notable collections include the Aquanaut, Grand Complications, and the Calatrava. These offer classic timepieces with a blend of traditional elegance and sophisticated ingenuity.

Audemars Piguet

Established in 1875, Audemars Piguet remains one of the few independent and family-owned luxury watch brands in the world. Founded by friends Jules Louis Audemars and Edward Auguste Piguet, the company has a history of crafting some of the world's most complex watches, such as the 1955 Audemars Piguet ref. 5516, the first perpetual calendar wristwatch with leap year indication.

Royal Oak Offshore Ceramic

Image: Audemars Piguet

Audemars Piguet's best-known collection, the Royal Oak, was launched in 1972 and was the first luxury sports watch made from stainless steel. It remains a favorite amongst some of the world's most prominent athletes.

Piaget

Since its founding in 1874, Swiss watchmaker Piaget has established itself as one of the world's finest watchmakers. Renowned for its ultra-thin and jewelry-laden watches, Piaget collections take luxury to a whole new level, with watches adorned with precious stones including diamonds, sapphires, and emeralds.

Altiplano Ultimate Concept

Image: Piaget

The Piaget Polo, launched in 1979, is the brand's most famous collection and has become a symbol of luxury and glamour in many upscale circles. The lineup best demonstrates Piaget's prowess at marrying the worlds of horology and jewelry.

Breguet

Classique 7337

Image: Breguet

Although Breguet watches have been worn by the likes of Napoleon Bonaparte, Winston Churchill, and Queen Elizabeth II, their most famous watch is the Breguet 160, also known as the "Marie-Antoinette" pocket watch. It is a Grand Complication watch commissioned as a gift for the queen.

Vacheron Constantin

Much like Breguet, Vacheron Constantin also stands as one of the oldest brands on this list, boasting a rich heritage that stretches back to the year 1755.

Les Cabinotiers Dual Moon Grand Complication

Image: Vacheron Constantin

True to its roots, the watchmaker has crafted some of the most complex and prestigious timepieces in recent years, the most notable being the Vacheron Constantin 57260 from 2015, which, with a staggering 57 complications, is the most complicated watch in the world.

Characterized by their historical, classical, and adventurous styles, respectively, the Historiques, Patrimony, and Overseas collections are some of the most popular that the brand offers.

Girard Perregaux

Neo Constant Escapement

Image: Girard Perregaux

Popular collections from the brand include the Bridges and the Laureato. The Laureato collection was introduced in 1975, with sporty yet elegant retro-style watches.

Jaeger-LeCoultre

With a catalog of over 1000 movements to its name, Jaeger-LeCoultre is one of the premier names in horology. Founded in 1833 by Antoine LeCoultre, the Swiss company is renowned for producing the Calibre 101, the smallest mechanical movement in history, and the watch that was won by Queen Elizabeth II at her coronation in 1953.

Tribute Reverso Chronograph

Image: Jaeger-LeCoultre

A. Lange & Söhne

Lang 1 Perpetual Calendar

Image: A. Lange & Söhne

Although the company closed in 1948 following the occupation of Germany by the Soviets, it was restarted in 1990 by Walter Lange, Ferdinand's great-grandson. More recently, the company made some noise in the horology world with the announcement in 2013 of the Grand Complication. The 50mm watch with multiple complications was valued at $2.6 million at the time of the announcement. Only six pieces were made available for sale.

Loved for its elegant perpetual calendars and minute repeaters, A. Lange & Söhne's current lineup includes watches in the Lange 1, Zeitwerk, 1815, Saxonia, Richard Lange, and the Odysseus collections.

IWC Schaffhausen

Formed by American watchmaker Florentino Ariosto Jones in 1868, IWC (International Watch Company) Schaffhausen was born from Jones' dream of fusing traditional Swiss horology with modern and advanced American technologies.

Portofino Pointer Date

Image: IWC Schaffhausen

Ulysse Nardin

Based in Locle, Switzerland, Ulysse Nardin was founded in 1846 by Ulysse Nardin, a young horologist who specialized in marine chronometers. The company notably supplied chronometers to over 50 naval forces during the 19th and 20th centuries, cementing its reputation in precision and reliability in the maritime realm.

Blast Free Wheel Marquetry

Image: Ulysse Nardin

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While some may contend that a few other brands should have made the list, it highlights most of the crème de la crème of luxury watchmaking, showcasing brands honing their craft over centuries. Each watchmaker embodies a unique blend of history, innovation, and artistry, which shines through in their exquisite collections. It will be difficult to argue that any of the brands mentioned don’t deserve to be on the list of top 10 luxury brands.


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