04/04/2024
 5 minutes

The 10 Best Watchmaking Brands of All Time

By Donato Emilio Andrioli
Top-10-Uhrmacher-Uhrenmarken-2-1

Best Watchmakers of All Time

A little over a year ago, we showed you the top 10 watch brands of all time. This time, we’re looking at the best watchmaking brands the watch world has ever seen. I’m not talking about the most popular brands out there, but instead the ones that make their presence felt with manufacture, heritage, and innovation. These watchmakers are the ones that every enthusiast should know about because of the extraordinary craftsmanship that goes into their timepieces.

The Heavyweight: Patek Philippe

I’m kicking off this top-10 list with a bona fide watch world heavyweight: Patek Philippe. The renowned Swiss brand was founded in 1839, and has been known for exquisite, luxurious watches ever since. The most famous pieces from the house of Patek Philippe include the legendary Nautilus and the sporty Aquanaut, as well as the refined Calatrava that watch aficionados around the world love for its timeless design and technological sophistication.

Patek Philipe Nautilus Stahl
The Patek Philippe Nautilus is one of the most iconic watches of all time.

More Than Just the Royal Oak: Audemars Piguet

Wherever you find Patek Philippe, you’ll most likely find Audemars Piguet as well. Founded in 1875, this brand is famous first and foremost for its Royal Oak line. This was the first-ever luxury steel sports watch, and upon its release in 1972, it turned the watch world on its head. The Royal Oak is AP’s most important timepiece. It has a case that looks like no other watch, a wonderfully complex bracelet with numerous polished and matte surfaces, and a meticulously finished movement that makes jaws drop. And yet Audemars Piguet is so much more than just the Royal Oak. With its Code 11.59 collection, the Swiss watchmaker impressively displays its dedication to original design and technical innovation.

Audemars Piguet Roal Oak steel, blue dial
The Royal Oak is the most important model from the house of Audemars Piguet.

Elaborate and Futuristic: MB&F

A watch brand doesn’t always have to look back on decades upon decades of history to achieve amazing horological creations. This is perhaps best exemplified by MB&F, aka “Maximilian Büsser & Friends.” The unconventional brand was founded in 2005, and is best known for its avant-garde, futuristic designs that are often inspired by science fiction films and outer space. Its most well-known watches include the HM4 “Thunderbolt” that MB&F describes as the perfect pilot’s watch.

MB&F M4 Thunderbolt, black leather strap
Ready for takeoff: the MB&F HM4 “Thunderbolt”

The Watchmaker of Watchmakers: Jaeger-LeCoultre

One brand that is an absolute must on this list is Jaeger-LeCoultre. Founded in 1833, the brand is actually better known for its movements than its watches, hence the nickname “the watchmaker of watchmakers.” Now, that doesn’t mean that their timepieces aren’t some of the best the industry has to offer. The Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso is JLC’s most famous watch, while gems like the JLC Ultra Thin Moon and the sporty, iconic JLC Polaris are just two more examples of world-class watchmaking you’ll find in the brand’s catalog.

Jaeger-LeCoultre steel, blue dial, small seconds
While the Reverso is Jaeger-LeCoultre’s most famous model, it’s not the only icon in the brand’s portfolio.

Horological Virtuosity: Vacheron Constantin

Vacheron Constantin was founded in 1755. In light of its uninterrupted watchmaking history since its founding, the brand hails itself as the oldest in the world. Although this fact is debatable, there’s no doubt that VC looks back on a centuries-old heritage of watchmaking achievement with elegant, timeless watches featuring stunning craftsmanship and classic designs. The most famous watches from Vacheron Constantin are the Patrimony and the Overseas, the latter of which is loved by watch fans for its sporty, go anywhere, do anything look and feel.

Vacheron Constantin Overseas steel, blue dial
Vacheron Constantin immediately comes to mind when watch lovers think of haute horlogerie.

Young and Untamed: F.P. Journe

Founded in 1999, F.P. Journe stands for high-quality materials, technical innovation, and top craftsmanship. F.P. Journe may be a newer brand in the industry, but that doesn’t mean it’s not on par with the world’s leading watchmakers such as Patek Philippe or A. Lange & Söhne when it comes to watchmaking excellence. One remarkable timepiece in the F.P. Journe portfolio is the Chronomètre à Résonance, the first wristwatch using the natural physical phenomenon of resonance for its timekeeping. When looking at this watch, it becomes abundantly clear that F.P.Journe is a name that belongs among the haute horlogerie elite.

F.P. Journe Chronograph gold
F.P. Journe is all about technical innovation, high-quality materials, and the very best in craftsmanship.

For Those in the Know: Parmigiani Fleurier

The luxurious, sometimes elaborate timepieces from Parmigiani Fleurier achieve a remarkable symbiosis between traditional craftsmanship and modern technology. Parmigiani Fleurier has developed 30 highly complex calibers, including one manufactured out of solid gold, as well as an innovative escapement that boosts power reserve. I highly recommend this brand for haute horlogerie enthusiasts who are looking for something a bit different.

Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda steel, blue dial
Parmigiani Fleurier exquisitely joins traditional craftsmanship with innovative technology.

Futuristic and Innovative: Roger Dubuis

Roger Dubuis is one of the most technologically innovative watch brands on the planet. Its bold, futuristic designs have won the hearts of watch lovers everywhere. Roger Dubuis is best known for its complicated, visionary timepieces. The components of its calibers are constructed of unconventional materials such as gold, titanium, diamonds, cobalt, and even ceramic. And Roger Dubuis is currently the sole watchmaker whose complete production is certified to carry the prestigious Geneva Seal.

Roger Dubuis Excalibur forged carbon silver, automatic
Bold and futuristic: watches by Roger Dubius

Watchmaking of the Highest Order: Breguet

Founded in 1775 by Abraham-Louis Breguet in Paris, this brand has historically played an important role in watchmaking. Breguet watches are renowned for their innovative technology, elegant aesthetics, and precision; they are a fixture in the world of haute horlogerie, with Breguet delivering the utmost in watchmaking excellence.

Breguet Classique silver, white dial, blue hands
The Breguet Classique is a masterpiece from the house of Breguet.

Top Craftsmanship, Made in Glashütte: A. Lange & Söhne

“This German watch brand was founded in 1845, and is one of the most popular haute horlogerie brands out there. Trademarks of the watchmaker are its precision manufacturing coupled with elegant, classic designs. The most popular A. Lange & Söhne timepieces include the Lange 1, the Saxonia, and the Odysseus that premiered in 2019. My personal highlights from this brand are its scrupulously created calibers, the level of which you will struggle to find elsewhere in the watch world, and something I had the thrill to see in person during a tour of A. Lange & Söhne’s production facilities in 2019.

A. Lange&Söhne clockwork caseback
Meticulously created, second-to-none calibers found nowhere else in the watch world.

About the Author

Donato Emilio Andrioli

With the purchase of my Tudor Black Bay 41, I discovered a passion for mechanical watches. I am particularly drawn to iconic watches with long and exciting histories.

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