At The Watches of Switzerland Group, we pride ourselves on working with the world’s most exciting watch brands, from the oldest and most redoubtable names in the industry to the newcomers pushing the boundaries of horology. Here we’ve picked five luxury watch brands that we think you should know about, especially if you are just starting out on your watch-collecting journey, and highlight what you need to know about each brand before making that initial investment.
Rolex: for recognisable quality
In 2019, we celebrated a century of partnership with Rolex, easily up there as one of the world’s most famous luxury watch houses. Since our Northern Goldsmiths store began selling Rolex in 1919, we’ve seen many of Rolex’s most trail-blazing creations come through our doors, from the signature Datejust invented in 1945, the first watch to display the date on the dial and a precursor to the ubiquitous date window, to the legendary 1963 Cosmograph Daytona with its tachymeter bezel and now-iconic driving watch design.
While Rolex has made some of the most recognisable watches for men and women on the planet, it has also been the driving force behind many significant horological innovations. In 1926, it created the Oyster, the world’s first waterproof and dustproof wristwatch – the timepiece on which its reputation was founded. Today, the timeless Oyster case features prominently throughout Rolex’s collections. It’s guaranteed to be waterproof to depths of 100 metres thanks to a middle case crafted from a solid block of corrosion-resistant Oystersteel and a fluted case back that’s hermetically screwed down by a special tool only used by Rolex watchmakers. For absolute security, its winding crown is also fitted with a Rolex-patented Twinlock double waterproofness system. The brand uses innovative materials in its movements, such as the game-changing Syloxi hairspring, which it introduced in 2014. This is made from silicon, which means it is insensitive to magnetic interference, offers stability even when exposed to temperature changes and remains up to 10 times more accurate than a traditional hairspring even if accidentally knocked.
Rolex watches are built to last. The brand doesn’t jump on trends but rather slowly evolves to keep its identity central to all of its watches. That’s why you can walk into one of our showrooms today and spot the Rolex display straight away, just as you could 100 years ago.
OMEGA: for space and sea
OMEGA has had a big 2019, particularly where two pillars of its collection are concerned. It’s been 50 years since the Speedmaster Professional became the first watch to be worn on the moon and in June it sent one of its Seamaster Planet Ocean Ultra Deep Professional watches to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, some 10,928m deep — setting a new world record in the process.
Today, the Speedmaster ‘Moonwatch’, as it has become affectionately known, remains hugely popular for gents. The chronograph watch is instantly recognisable thanks to its black bezel with tachymeter scale, its perfectly balanced dial, and plenty of lume, which will help whether you’re in the outer reaches of space or pulling a late one in the office.
Meanwhile, the Seamaster has become something of a cultural icon, not least because it has been worn by the world’s most famous spy, James Bond, since 1995’s GoldenEye. Almost a quarter of a century on, the Seamaster 300 is as much of a mainstay of the 007 franchise as M and Q, with its hardy water-resistance to 300 metres and tough scratch-resistant sapphire crystal. If you’re an adventurous sort, OMEGA is the brand for you.
TAG Heuer: for sporting pedigree
When we think of sports watches, particularly motorsport, TAG Heuer instantly springs to mind and for good reason. The Swiss brand (known as Heuer until 1985, when it joined forces with TAG) patented the first 12-hour dashboard chronograph in 1911 for use in aircraft and automobiles, and in 1916 it invented the Mikrograph and Microsplit, the world’s first sports stopwatches that could time to a precision of 1/100th of a second.
Then, in the 1960s, it became the first watch brand to enter Formula 1, when Jack Heuer, the great-grandson of the eponymous founder, started working with Swiss motor-racing legend Jo Siffert. Since that time, TAG Heuer has been associated with some of the racetrack’s greatest drivers and teams, and today partners with the likes of Aston Martin Red Bull Racing and Formula E.
year, its square-shaped Monaco — the world’s first automatic chronograph, made
famous by Steve McQueen in the iconic 1971 film Le Mans — marks its 50th
anniversary and remains one of the brand’s most enduring models. Its other
collections include the Aquaracer, designed with divers in mind, and the
elegant Link collection.Whatever your pursuit, TAG Heuer has a
functional timepiece to suit every style and taste.
Breitling: for aeronautical class
Breitling is the ideal brand if you’re searching for an action-packed, adventure-ready wristwatch. Ever since the launch of the Navitimer in 1952, it’s been hard to talk about pilot’s watches without mentioning Breitling. That instantly recognisable knurled bezel is not only great to look at but was designed to help pilots turn the inner slide rule while wearing gloves so they could make calculations on fuel consumption mid-flight. Today, Breitling’s sturdy and functional pilot’s watch collections include the Avenger and Aviator 8 lines, and are regarded as among the most resilient and reliable on the market.
The brand has also made waves in the diving world with the Superocean collection, which was first unveiled in 1957 — an era when recreational diving was becoming increasingly popular. At the time, its water-resistance to 200 metres was a world-first against its contemporaries, and it featured large Arabic numerals and oversized hands, making it easy to read underwater. Breitling has honed the design over the years, and today’s Superocean models boast water-resistance to an impressive 2,000 metres and a new helium escape valve that ensures the watch can withstand extreme pressure without exploding.
Cartier: for classical design
If you’re looking for elegant and timeless style for men and women, seek out Cartier. The Parisian watch maison is known for its distinctively shaped watches, all of which feature its signature blued sword-shaped hands, blue sapphire crown and striking Roman numerals. Perhaps its most famous timepiece is the rectangular Tank, which was designed by Louis Cartier in 1917 and took inspiration from the Renault tanks used by Allied Forces on the Western Front during the First World War. More recently, 2016 saw the release of the cushion-shaped Drive de Cartier, a refined men’s watch that somehow felt brand-new while speaking Cartier’s historic design language.
The maison also lays claim to designing the first ever purpose-built pilot’s watch, which it penned for the Brazilian inventor and aviation pioneer Alberto Santos-Dumont in 1904. Unlike many of the standard pilot’s watches we’re used to today, it featured a dainty square gold case that echoed the lines of the Eiffel Tower with exposed bezel screws and Roman numerals. Today, the Santos is still popular, and is now equipped with the brand’s SmartLink and QuickSwitch concepts, meaning it’s now easier than ever to change the strap or adjust the bracelet at home.
Cartier excels at ladies’ watches, too. We love the rectangular-shaped Panthère, which first burst onto the scene during the 1980s and was recently revamped for the modern-day woman. There’s also the classically-round Ballon Bleu with its distinctive floating sapphire cabochon crown — another model that proves Cartier is the master of dress-watch design.
Discover more luxury watch stories on Calibre Online here.