02/14/2023
 5 minutes

The Top 10 Watch Brands of All Time

By Donato Emilio Andrioli
Omega-2-1

Top luxury watch brands all have two things in common: They have an impressive portfolio of iconic watches to their names and consistently meet the highest level quality standards. Here are the top 10 watch brands of all time. Did your favorite make the cut?

Number 10: TAG Heuer – Dedicated to Motorsport

TAG Heuer, formerly known as just Heuer, has produced some of the most iconic motorsport watches ever made. These include the Autavia, Monaco, and Carrera. Today, the brand boasts a wide-ranging portfolio that remains closely linked to its sporting roots. Models like the TAG Heuer Formula 1 or TAG Heuer Aquaracer are popular entry-level choices, thanks to their comparatively accessible prices.

TAG Heuer is most famous for its iconic chronographs.

Number 9: IWC – From Pilot’s Chronographs to Dress Watches

Does anyone else remember IWC’s controversial ads of yesteryear? The ones with the tagline, “Almost as complicated as a woman. Except it’s on time.” I’ll leave the judgements to you, but it definitely got people’s attention – everyone was talking about the brand at the time. While IWC’s provocative ad days are gone, their top-notch timepieces remain. The IWC Ingenieur is a great all-around watch designed by the legendary Gérald Genta, aviation fans swoon at the IWC Pilot’s Watch, and those looking for a dress watch can’t go wrong with the IWC Portofino or IWC Portugieser.

IWC is known for both their pilot’s watches and elegant dress watches.

Number 8: Cartier – More Than Just Jewelry

While Cartier may be better known in the mainstream for its jewelry, the Parisian luxury brand also makes a few absolutely iconic timepieces. The Cartier Tank deserves a mention, as does the Cartier Santos, the world’s first pilot’s watch. The history of the latter goes all the way back to 1904. While its looks have barely changed since its public debut in 1911, Cartier has updated certain features, including adding a quick-change system for the bracelet and links. Tradition and modernity aren’t at odds at this Maison – that’s what I love about Cartier.

The Cartier Santos is the most iconic watch in the brand’s lineup.

Number 7: Jaeger-LeCoultre – The Watchmaker’s Watchmaker

Jaeger-LeCoultre is known as much for their calibers as they are for their watches. That’s why this traditional brand is known as the watchmaker’s watchmaker. Even so, the manufacturer’s own watches are some of the best the industry has to offer. The Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso is the most well-known name in the JLC portfolio, but models like the JLC Ultra Thin Moon are similarly impressive. The JLC Polaris even offers something interesting for sports watch fans.

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

Number 6: Audemars Piguet – Inventor of the Steel Sporty

In 1972, a time when the quartz crisis was ravaging the watch industry and steel watches were considered practical tools, Audemars Piguet did something completely unexpected: Together with legendary designer Gérald Genta, AP created the first luxury timepiece made of steel. The release of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak is very much responsible for many of the models we know and love today. The only disappointment here? Apart from the Royal Oak and Royal Oak Offshore, the brand doesn’t have much of interest to offer in its lineup, even though the Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 collection does have some pieces worth admiring.

The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak was the first luxury steel sports model.

Number 5: Breitling – Tool Watches and Big Cases

Breitling has a fair number of iconic watches on offer. Models like the Breitling Avenger and Breitling Chronomat boast high recognition value and are quite substantial for luxury watches. Large diameters and tool watch designs are typical of Breitling, but the luxury brand also has some smaller watches in its collection. The Breitling Navitimer is easily one of the most iconic watches of all time, and the Breitling Superocean is a great option for fans of diving watches.

The Breitling Navitimer is one of the most iconic watches of all time.

Number 4: Vacheron Constantin – The Oldest Continuously Operating Watchmaker

Tradition is palpable at Vacheron Constantin. The manufacturer was founded in 1755, and describes itself as the oldest watchmaker in the world. The Patrimony and Overseas are two of the brand’s best-known models, with the latter becoming something of a fan favorite in recent years.

Vacheron Constantin’s most popular model is the coveted Overseas.

Number 3: Patek Philippe – Refined Timepieces and Prestige

I’d wager there are very few watch enthusiasts out there who haven’t dreamed of owning a Patek Philippe. In contrast to Audemars Piguet, this luxury watchmaker offers a more widespread model range. While the Patek Philippe Nautilus is the brand’s most famous model, the Calatrava and Grand Complications collections have plenty of fans. But in my opinion, the most interesting watch in the Patek portfolio is the Aquanaut. This model was first released in 1997, meaning it doesn’t have the rich history of the Nautilus, but it’s already achieved icon status.

The Patek Philippe Aquanaut was first released in 1997, but it’s already achieved icon status.

Number 2: Omega – The Eternal Number 2

Omega is Rolex’s toughest competitor and is often perceived as the eternal number two in the watch world – completely unjustified in my opinion. Omega has a huge portfolio of great, high-quality watches on offer. The brand’s METAS-certified Co-Axial movements are definitely worth mentioning; not only are they extremely accurate, but they’re also anti-magnetic to 15,000 gauss. The Omega Seamaster Diver 300M is one of the most exciting contemporary divers, and the Omega Speedmaster Professional is arguably the most iconic watch of all time. I really appreciate how Omega presents their watches; it’s more playful and modern than the competition, but never in bad taste. The Seamaster comes in a box that is reminiscent of the deck of a yacht, and the Speedmaster comes in what looks like a piece of astronaut kit. Unpacking your timepiece has never been more experiential!

The Omega Speedmaster Professional is an immortal masterpiece.

Number 1: Rolex – The Leader

Last but not least is our number one top watch brand of all time: Rolex. The brand with the crown is responsible for the creation of not one, but many iconic watches with timeless designs and great histories. Timepieces like the Rolex Submariner and Rolex Datejust are often imitated, but never duplicated. The Rolex Submariner is the most replicated watch in the world and has certainly earned its reputation as a status symbol. What I most like about Rolex, however, is that the watches just feel great. It’s a thing of beauty to operate a Rolex bezel, turn a Rolex crown, or even open the clasp. While the top of the leader board isn’t universally loved among watch enthusiasts, the brand’s long-standing success is absolutely justified. It’s even more impressive when you consider that Rolex is still a relatively young brand compared to many other luxury watchmakers.

Brilliant marketing strategy and iconic watches – it’s no wonder Rolex is so successful.

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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