In the world of luxury watches, nothing is more important than legacy. The big names we revere today stand upon centuries of inherited knowledge and craftsmanship. Each company has its own enduring style. Whether you’re trying to purchase an authentic VC, or deciding how to sell a Rolex watch, here are the brands you need to know.
1. Patek Philippe
From Einstein to Picasso to the Queen, many legendary wrists have sported Patek watches. The Geneva-based brand introduced the first ever Swiss wristwatch in 1868.
Patek Philippe watches are known for elaborate additional features, called complications, that display calendar dates, celestial charts, alarms and more. The Patek Philippe Henry Graves Supercomplication includes 33 complications and fetched a world record $23.98 million at a 2014 auction.
2. Audemars Piguet
Company founders Jules Audemars and Edward Piguet both grew up in Switzerland’s Vallee du Joux, nurtured by generations of watchmakers. They complemented each other. Audemars produced intricate watch mechanisms, and Piguet inspected and assembled them into a flawless finished product.
Almost 100 years later, in 1972, the brand was struggling to compete with modern quartz watches. Then designer Gerald Genta dreamed up the Royal Oak, the world’s first stainless steel luxury watch. It was an overnight sensation, and cemented Audemars Piguet as one of the most popular watch brands in the world.
Breguet is one of the oldest watch brands on Earth. Over the centuries, the company has been responsible for many groundbreaking innovations in timepiece technology. Founder Abraham-Louis Breguet set up shop in Paris in 1775. He created the first ever automatic watch in 1780, and the first wristwatch in 1810. The former fascinated Marie Antoinette and established Breguet as a darling of the French royal court. Spot a Breguet watch by its distinctive hands, which end in hollow moon-shaped rings and pointed tips.
If you’re wondering how to sell a Rolex watch, just rely on the name. Founder Hans Wilsdorf chose “Rolex” because he thought it sounded like a watch being wound. It was short enough to fit on a watch face and universally easy to pronounce. Sure enough, Rolex caught on. The crisp brand name became synonymous with luxury and resilience.
Rolex produced the first waterproof watch, the Oyster, in 1926. English Channel swimmers and Mount Everest climbers have worn Oysters on their expeditions. The company went on to design special watches for deep sea divers, race car drivers, and airline pilots.
Edward VII famously called Louis Cartier “Jeweler of Kings and King of Jewelers.” Cartier, who inherited the Paris-based jewelry company from his father, revolutionized the wristwatch. He embraced modern trends and absorbed artistic influences from around the world. These can be seen in Cartier’s dazzling bejeweled pieces. During World War I, Cartier introduced the boxy Tank model, a departure from its colorful bracelet-like watches. The Tank watch has been an icon ever since. Cartier is not strictly a watch brand, but their elegant timepieces are what really makes them tick.
6. Vacheron Constantin
This Geneva watch company has been operating like clockwork for over 260 years. Vacheron invented the watch complication, and developed the first non-magnetic watch from palladium components. The brand designed watches for Princess Diana, Napoleon Bonaparte, and a whole roster of royalty from around the world. No stranger to delicacy, VC holds records for the thinnest minute repeater and thinnest manual-winding caliber.
VC’s “Patrimony” collection offers sleek, minimalist watch cases. But with Vacheron Constantin, there’s always more than meets the eye. The company diligently preserves watchmaking methods. They employ master artisans who carry on the tradition of the Swiss timepiece.
Leon Breitling is responsible for the modern chronograph, a watch that combines a classic display with a stopwatch. This became a Breitling specialty. The Grenchen, Switzerland based company includes a chronograph on every watch they make.
They crafted the Navitimer model for high fliers; aviators and astronauts took to the watch. A typical Breitling is more practical than your average luxury watch. It has a large face for easy readability. Some Breitling pieces even include a circular slide rule on the bezel.