The term “Swiss Made” is not only an additional label for attested to the origin of the product, it is above all a seal of approval and a quality mark recognized throughout the world. Today, more than half of luxury watches come from Switzerland. In terms of know-how, there are sometimes only a tiny difference that distinguishes this group of watch manufacturers from another. This is why most people usually do not make the decision to buy one watch brand over another on exclusively objective criteria, the act of purchase is often the result of more subjective factors such as brand image attached to a particular Swiss watch manufacturer.
Even more subjective is the list of the Top 10 Swiss watch brands that we are going to present to you. Come with us for a brief trip to the epicenter of mechanical watchmaking. This trip will not only take us to the metropolis of Geneva, the cradle of two of the world’s most famous and famous brands, but will also take us to the less populated valleys of Switzerland, where the number of watchmakers is almost identical to that of the inhabitants.
10. IWC (Schaffhausen)
Our journey begins in Schaffhausen, just a few kilometers from the German border, where the International Watch Company was founded in 1868. Since then, it has been the symbol of Swiss watches made using the most advanced techniques. In 1993, IWC built one of the most complex wristwatches in the history of watchmaking: the Destiero Scafusia. In the 1950s, IWC was one of the few manufacturers to produce watches with a box larger than 4 centimeters and pocket watch calibers that were both very accurate and reliable. Even today, IWC is imbued with current trends without having to adapt certain points. Regarding its current collections, it should be noted that the IWC watch range is more consistent than it has ever been. There are elegant chronometers such as the Portugieser and Portofino, diving watches like the Aquatimer, and of course the “pilot” style watches, to which IWC has inevitably been associated since the 1930s.
9. Breitling (barns)
We continue our journey in the canton of Solothurn. Just to locate you: we are still in the north of the country, but further west, some 80 km from Basel. We reached the small town of Grenchen, located at the foot of the Jura mountains: a mountain ridge northwest of the Swiss Alps along the Swiss-French border and the cradle of all Swiss watch manufacturers. Breitling represents the high-end aviator chronographs with a multitude of additional features that, like the Navitimer, is activated by means of a rotating bezel. Fans of this Swiss brand appreciate the wide variety of details on the dials and its intrinsic sports and chic properties of its watches. Breitling’s story begins when Léon Breitling founded the company in 1884. Apart from a temporary closure and the acquisition of property rights by Sicura, Breitling now operates as an independent company.
8. Omega (Bienne)
Whether quartz, manual or automatic, all watches of the brand are certified COSC and officially designated as Chronometers. Breitling symbolizes the excellence of multifunctional precision instruments produced to the highest standards. The legendary Navitimer can not only count time with the greatest precision, but it can also perform several mathematical operations. The emergency equipped emergency transmitter has also saved more than a dozen lives.
We leave Grenchen and head for the eastern part of Lake Biel. The city of Bienne, formerly entirely German-speaking, is now bilingual after French watchmakers have settled there in large numbers. Bienne is the cradle of the Omega brand which, like Rolex, is perhaps the most famous brand in the world. Omega is not just the official partner of NASA, it is also the preferred choice of no less famous James Bond and George Clooney. It is a Swiss watch brand that represents the “scientisation” of the wristwatch and its characteristics can be broken down into metric data.
The Omega Speedmaster Professional was not just the first watch on the moon, it is also the most tested watch bracelet in history. In terms of design, Omega watches represent the very definition of what should be the watch designed for men, modern, sporty and elegant. No other manufacturer is as comfortable with the media as Omega or better able to seduce and captivate the eyes of experts and the public. Today, the names of his collections are no less illustrious than those of Rolex.
The Speedmaster, Seamaster, De Ville and its Planet Ocean and Aqua Terra sub-collections all belong to this impressive and prestigious catalog.
7. TAG Heuer (La Chaux-de-Fonds)
Now let’s leave the city of Solothurn to reach the canton of Neufchâtel and reach the French-speaking part of Switzerland to the west of Switzerland. Located at 992 meters above sea level, the town of La Chaux-de-Fonds is home to TAG Heuer headquarters. Although the manufacturer feels comfortable in the category of elegant watches, its key competence is still the production of sports chronographs. His models Monaco, Carrera, and Autavia are authentic classics in the world of the watch and are among the models most sought after by vintage lovers after the chronographs.
Its heritage and know-how is perpetuated through several so-called “retro” references in close connection with motorsports, especially Formula 1. The most recent examples are the Heuer Monaco Caliber 11 and the Heuer Autavia. TAG Heuer is proud to present itself as an innovative watch manufacturer of excellence and a pioneer with a keen eye on the future. This is particularly the case with the launch of a tourbillon model whose price slightly exceeds £ 12,000. The brand is also recognized as one of the first luxury watch companies to launch a Smartwatch.
6. Zenith (The Locle)
Let’s continue our journey to Locle, in the center of the Jura mountains plateau and not far from the Franco-Swiss border where there is a factory that has continuously produced watches since 1865. Founded by a 22-year-old entrepreneur, George Favre-Jacot , the “Factory Bilodes” was already at its origin source of many “buzz”. Swiss watches were produced industrially at the time: which meant that many watchmakers were delegating different production tasks to each other. The way had been traced by Longines and Rolex who would become the pioneers of the industrialized branch of the luxury watches they are today just after Zenith was founded.
Nowadays, the brand is known mainly for the launch of El Primero: the first automatic chronograph in the world. Today, it is a high frequency caliber of 36,000 oscillations per minute and its precision is considered the absolute reference of the watch industry. Rolex uses the El Primero calibres for its Daytona collection and there is an excellent reason for this: it is a Swiss brand that represents both a know-how and an innovative dynamic. Zenith is one of the few manufactures that creates its watches entirely and at the same time has an extensive watch catalog.
5. Blancpain (The Brassus)
Only half an hour’s drive from Locle, we reach our next destination. A place where time seems to flow more slowly than elsewhere, like a mechanical watch before it stops completely. We are talking about the Vallée de Joux, known as the valley of watches, in a way, the rural counterpart of the German Glasshütte. In twenty years from now, the small village of La Brassus will celebrate the 300th anniversary of Blancpain: it is the oldest still active watch manufacturer in the world. It is remarkable to note that even nowadays, not a single quartz watch comes out of the factory, only mechanical movement models are made there.
This inflexible commitment to mechanical watches is born from the passion for luxury watches. Blancpain even went so far as to bet to produce only a range based exclusively on mechanics during the peak of the quartz crisis, while the other manufacturers evolved into quartz watches. This determination, however, caused him some difficulties in this period when the utility of a battery triumphed over the gear train and the purism of the anchor escapement.
Jean-Claude Biver, now CEO of TAG Heuer, took on the responsibility to breathe new life into the traditional Swiss watch industry and put it back on the road to success in the 1990s. Today, Blancpain is one of the major players in production in this sector with classic models such as Fifty Fathoms and Villeret.
4. Jaeger-LeCoultre (The Path)
When the sun is high enough in the sky, just before it goes down gently to the west towards the mountains of the Jura massif, it is really hot in The Trail. The nearby town of Le Brassus at 1000 meters altitude is just high enough so that the softness of the sun is not diminished by the omnipresent mountain. The Trail is the cradle of the brand of Swiss watches based on the tradition, Jaeger-LeCoultre. It occupies one of the top places in our ranking as it is perhaps one of the most innovative manufacturers among Swiss watchmakers. No other company has so many patents, so many inventions of mechanisms to its credit or has expertise as coveted as Jaeger-LeCoultre. Even Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin have relied on their movements.
In short, Jaeger-LeCoultre is a maker with heart and soul, who constantly strives for absolute perfection. His designs, compared to those of other first-rate brands can sometimes seem quite simple. Nevertheless, there is one exception to this, the classic Reverso with many Art Deco details.
3. Breguet (The East)
A few kilometers away and not far from the south shore of Lake Joux lies the quiet village of L’Orient. It is the cradle of another well-known brand of Swiss watches, one that bears the legacy of perhaps the greatest genius of watchmaking in modern history. This is Abraham Louis Breguet and his company that bore his name. No other Swiss watch embodies the long tradition of the art of watchmaking in Switzerland as well as Breguet. During the second half of the 18th century, Breguet was considered the most renowned of all watchmakers. Marie Antoinette and Napoleon Bonaparte were among their clients.
Breguet not only created the oldest Swiss wristwatch, but probably the oldest wristwatch in the world and this for Napoleon’s sister, Caroline Murat, Queen of Naples. The spirit of the past continues in the current collection of watches and the many inventions of Breguet as the swirl and spiral Breguet have become today a “modus operandi” sector. The designs are baroque in nature and the guilloche, enamel and diamonds as meticulously crafted inlays are all hallmarks of his style. Some of these very characteristic designs have had a profound influence on other brands and names such as the Breguet needle or the Breguet dial are
2. Rolex (Geneva)
No list describing the best Swiss watch brands can be complete without mentioning the Rolex brand, so it’s no surprise that our next stop is near Lake Geneva. To be more precise, in the heart of a quiet suburb of the metropolis of business and watches of Geneva. It is not really necessary to present Rolex, but we nevertheless wished to add a brief comment for the sake of completeness. Rolex’s strength lies both in its recognition value and in the history of the brand itself. Not only were the inventions numerous, but sharp marketing and smartly managed public relations played a big role in the recipe for the brand’s success. Finally, for the brand, a watch can only be of quality if it has been well designed. Rolex does not focus on the production of highly complex motion mechanisms, its main focus is the creation of precise, robust and easy-to-maintain sports parts and watches. Rolex puts reliability and quality first and remains unmatched to this day.
Rolex’s automatic movements, built to the highest standards of quality, are not very demanding and do their job without a hitch for several decades. More than a dozen of his models have gone down in history in the Hall of Fame and Rolex continues to focus on creating accurate and highly durable watches with exceptional durability qualities.
1. Patek Philippe (Geneva)
When watch aficionados start throwing eight-digit numbers, then you may be witnessing a discussion about the different models at Patek Philippe. That being said, we have arrived there at the top of the world scale of the luxury watch and we are also coming to the end of the list of our Top 10 most prestigious Swiss watch brands. Patek Philippe represents perhaps the most remarkable of them. Its references regularly reach record amounts in auctions, which can reach several millions.
In 2014, the Patek Philippe Henry Graves “Supercomplication” became the most expensive watch sold in a £ 16 million auction. Today, Patek cultivates and maintains this exclusive image, and waiting times for some models are in line with demand far exceeding supply. Are we able to give you examples? The annual number of Patek Philippe Sky Moon Tourbillon can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Sometimes two, sometimes three or even five watches are produced in one year. To be able to acquire one of these famous watches, it is necessary to meet and greet personally the director of the company: Thierry Stern.
The company has a rich history and a rigorous philosophy: the same standards of quality apply to all its watch models. Regardless of whether it is a Grande Complication or “simply” a Calatrava or a Nautilus, Patek Philippe’s watch models are, in our opinion, the pinnacle of watchmaking creativity “made in Switzerland”.