Top 5 Swiss Watch Brands
Which luxury company produces the finest Swiss watch brands? Let’s run through the five top Swiss watch brands and look at why they enjoy enviable places in the upper echelon of the watchmaking world.
Are They Really That Good?
They’ve got the world’s best-known name in luxury watches, but what do you get when you buy a Rolex? Well, you get a watch like no other because Rolex is a company like no other. They’re privately owned, for one, and the freedom to operate independently can’t be overstated. While most other high-end watchmakers use 316L stainless steel, Rolex exclusively uses 904L steel. They retooled their production facilities to handle the super durable alloy that looks different from your usual stainless steel.
The benefits of Rolex operating on its own includes an on-site foundry for smelting gold, in-house manufacturing of all movements, and their own science labs to examine everything from oil viscosity to metallurgy on a microscopic level. And as for variety, with nearly a century of history, the choices are almost innumerable.
Among the most-popular Rolexes ever made we have the Submariner dive watches, the Cosmograph Daytona racing watches, and the Yacht-Master and Yacht-Master II. The Yacht-Masters came decades after the debuts of the Daytona and the Submariner. So they lack history. But their versatility and adaptability put them in contention for the all-time favorite Rolexes.
2: Omega for Swiss Heritage
If you’re in the market for a luxury watch, and you’re talking about a Rolex, then you’re probably going to be talking about an Omega too. It’s the age-old question: Which is better, a Rolex or an Omega? We may never be able to find a quantifiable answer, but we can look at a few reasons why one might lean to Omega.
Omega has been around for longer than Rolex. That’s usually a surprise to many as Rolex is synonymous with watch heritage. But Omega is older by over half a century, tracing its roots to a Swiss workshop that opened in 1848. Perhaps Omega isn’t perceived so much as an “older” brand because it’s often seen in popular culture, on the wrists of the current James Bond and a host of celebs, including brand ambassadors such as George Clooney, Daniel Craig, Nicole Kidman, and Michael Phelps, to name a few.
The undisputed champ when it comes to popularity is the Omega Speedmaster Professional, or “Moonwatch,” a classic timepiece made for space flight that’s taken well to terrestrial life. But, perhaps nearly as known and loved, are the Omega Seamasters. In particular, Planet Ocean Seamasters are some of the best dive watches you can buy that complement nearly any wardrobe on land.
3: Patek Philippe with Dress and Dive Classics
Folks have long joked that Patek Philippe is a “Rich Man’s Rolex.” While that may not be literally true, there is truth in the sense that you are looking at a different level when considering a Patek Philippe dress watch. Patek Philippe is a go-to brand for people who want to ascend to that rare air without being too flashy about it. Bling is for other brands.
Patek Philippe’s best-known and most-iconic watch is, without doubt, the Calatrava. The legendary dress watch bowed in 1932 and today remains an ever-popular flagship model for the brand. The Calatrava set the standard for what a good dress watch should be — simple and elegant with moderate proportions.
While it has less time in the spotlight than the Calatrava, the Patek Philippe Nautilus comes a close second in terms of popularity. People were slow to embrace the dive watch, which debuted in 1976 to little fanfare. But in 2006 the 30th-anniversary edition was an enormous hit and popularity hasn’t waned to this day.
4: TAG Heuer Has Auto Racing History
Any look at TAG Heuer watches should first peer past 1985, when the company Techniques d’Avant-Garde (TAG) bought a big part of Heuer Watches. Heuer’s tale actually begins in 1860, when Edouard Heuer set up his watchmaking shop in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland. He was soon known for making chronographs, especially for airplanes and cars, and in 1914 Heuer made a chronograph for the wrist. The Heuer racing watch was born! The watchmaker would be synonymous with auto racing to this day, producing the famed Monacos and Carreras.
Other than its race-inspired offerings, TAG Heuer excels at dive watches, which they didn’t get into until the 1980s. The late start doesn’t seem to have done any harm as the Aquaracer competes with some of the best dive offerings from Omega and Rolex.
5: IWC for Big, Bold Statements
The International Watch Company (IWC) makes some really nice dive watches, such as the Aquatimer. But IWC will probably never outdo Omega dive watches. And the IWC chronographs, specifically the Portugieser, are wonderful. But they may never beat Rolex chronographs, at least in the minds of many. What IWC can lay claim to, perhaps more than any other Swiss luxury brand, is pilot watches.
It’s a reputation earned with sweat, and blood. Literally, as IWC watches went into combat in both World War One and World War Two. There are a vast number of models under their five categories of pilot watches. That includes Top Gun, Spitfire, Classic, Le Petit Prince, and a category for Le Petit Prince author Antoine De Saint-Exupéry. But the pilot watch most everyone knows and loves is the IWC Big Pilot, the brand’s most-iconic watch with its huge dial and signature onion crown.
We should give honorable mentions to Audemars Piguet, Tissot, and Longines, who all trace their histories back to Switzerland more than a century ago. With that kind of heritage, it’s hard to find a fine Swiss watchmaker you wouldn’t welcome into the Top 5!