Horology is an art that has its roots deep in history. Watches are a powerful expression of your personality, unlike anything else. Are you someone interested in an expensive watch that is instantly recognizable and has a touch of reliable luxury? You would almost certainly be going for a Rolex. Are you interested in a watch with pristine mechanical quality and is still reasonably priced? A Seiko would be your best bet. The competition between these brands is quite fierce with hundreds of years of pedigree backing these makers. Without further ado, let’s get into the list.
Naturally, the first name to appear on this list would be Rolex. Arguably the most iconic watch brand ever. The Rolex brand radiates a level of prestige that has not been replicated anywhere else. They were the first company to ever patent a waterproof watch with the Oyster lineup. The fact that a Rolex has been James Bond’s favored partner in crime has only increased Rolex’s share in watch mythology. Rolex watches tend to be a great investment if you are willing to hold on to them and keep them nice and tidy for a few years.
A brand that has been around for nearly 2 centuries, Patek Phillipe is evidence of the fact that being completely uncompromising on your fundamentals will end up paying off. Since the inception of the company, there have been less than a million watches produced. To put this into perspective, the Casio G-Shock sells approximately 9 million units annually.
Patek Phillipe introduces a level of exclusivity that you cannot find anywhere. The attention to detail is simply mind-boggling with everything being completely handcrafted. Patek Philippe has always been on the cutting edge of innovative design technology. Their models are some of the most expensive in the entire industry and are highly sought after as well, with collectors paying insane amounts for highly coveted variants.
The go-to mechanical watch, Seiko is a symbol of Japanese precision that echoes through so many other industries as well. Everything from a $100 dollar Seiko 5 to a $72,000 Grand Seiko, the range of products that Seiko is able to offer is stunning.
What is perhaps even more genius about this visionary brand is the fact that you would get the same level of craftsmanship with the Seiko 5 as you would with the Grand Seiko. Primarily a producer of diver watches, Seiko is one of the bestselling watch brands of all time and would make for a perfect growing-up gift for your son or daughter at their sweet 16.
Armed with the most badass name in the watch industry, Omega’s level of sheer coolness is something that most people want to associate with. This is why people are more than willing to pay $81,000 for the Omega Speedmaster. A true pioneer of precision watchmaking, Omega is considered to be the most precise watchmaker when it comes to keeping time. After all, what good are all the frills of a beautiful watch when it can’t keep time well enough?
In fact, at the 1931 Geneva observatory trials, Omega completely decimated the competition and performed a clean sweep, coming in first in all 6 categories. Having won what is known as the Olympics of watchmaking, Omega has only gone up ever since. They have been to the deepest depths of the ocean and on mountaintops where ordinary watches would give up.
The concept of watches as jewelry is perhaps best embodied by Cartier. Cartier was quite literally the jeweler of the kings. This is why Cartier’s influence goes far beyond horological culture. The Cartier Tank is their most famous product and has a unique design that will be immediately recognizable from afar.
What is perhaps even more interesting is that Cartier is a brand that is perennially interested in pushing the boundaries of watchmaking. For a watchmaker that has been around for so long, one would assume that they would be happy sticking to their philosophy. In truth, every new Cartier watch brings with it a new technique of producing watches.
Considered by many to be the ultimate watch for ‘flexing’, a Hublot can always be recognized by its ability to look as if it were forged in the heart of a volcano. The genius, however, is in the fact that Hublot is successful in doing something that people across all sorts of businesses are trying to do for a long time. It is the art of combining the past and the future.
You see this everywhere; a metal cover of Beethoven’s symphonies is a great example to give. Unlike an ill-advised cover of classical music by 15-year-old metalheads, Hublot is able to combine the sensibilities of the past with the production techniques of today. The result is something truly beautiful.
In many ways a brand that is always knocking on the door of the big boys, Tissot sells its watches at a price point that makes them great value for money. They are the official timekeepers of the NBA, Tour de France, and European Rugby Champions. If they are trusted by these organizations to be able to keep time accurately, I think my vote would also go to Tissot.
The brand is able to maintain a duality of the past and present. While they will always be completely steadfast on their fundamentals, you will be expecting the next big thing in the watch world to come from their doors. Their motto, ‘innovators by tradition’ is a good indicator of that.
The oldest continuously producing watchmaker in the world, Vacheron Constantin’s history spans over 265 years and is completely unmatched. Other watchmakers might be able to boast that Cristiano Ronaldo or David Beckham are seen sporting their watches. Vacheron Constantin on the other hand can calmly reveal the fact that Napoleon Bonaparte himself used to wear a Vacheron Constantin timepiece.
I think that ought to be enough evidence of the greatness of this watchmaker. Even today, these timepieces are available only in a limited amount, and being able to get one’s hands on one is akin to willing the lottery, a very expensive one indeed. They also bear the Hallmark of Geneva, a stamp of approval of royal proportions.
These are widely considered to be the best watch brands in the world. They have different qualities that make them so unique. However, the one thing that unites all of these brands is the fact that there is a constant hunger to improve.
As you can already see, this is a game that spans centuries, and the competition is such that no manufacturer can really afford to sit on their laurels. Even in the world of Apple Watches completely outselling the entire Swiss watch industry, we still see an appreciation for these brands since even a premium brand like Apple cannot come close to the level of exclusivity that some of these makers offer.
In the end, they will always be the ultimate status symbol, and just wearing a Rolex will get you into more clubs than you can imagine.