No collection should be without at least one timepiece from a top European watch company like Bremont, A. Lange & Söhne, or Omega. The question is, which of the world’s most famous European luxury watch brands is likely to satisfy your requirements? Here, we take an in-depth look at ten top brands from Swiss, German, and British watchmakers. Beautiful, reliable, and luxurious, each of these has something special to offer.
Most Famous Swiss Watch Brands
Rolex was originally known as Wilsdorf and Davis. While it is among today’s most famous Swiss watch brands, it got its start in London, in 1905. Founded by Alfred Davis his brother in law, Hans Wilsdorf, the company name was changed to Rolex in 1915. In 1919, wartime taxes drove production costs to prohibitive heights, and Rolex moved its operation to Geneva, Switzerland. Rolex is famous for its quality, and it’s also famous for its innovations. 1910 saw the company as the first watchmaker to earn a chronometer certification for a wristwatch. In 1926, the company introduced Oyster, the first of many waterproof watches. In 1956, the Rolex Day-Date was offered for sale as the first wristwatch with an automatically changing day and date feature on the dial. These are just a few highlights. Today, Rolex continues to offer innovative new designs, and the company is famous for its sponsorship and philanthropy activities.
In 1894, a watch company called ‘Louis Brandt et Frères’ created a 19 caliber famously named Omega. The company was renamed in its honor in 1903. In 1932, the first small wrist Chronograph was introduced; the Omega 28.9 Chronograph is just one of the corporation’s many famous watches. Like other fine European timepieces, Omega watches have had many distinguished wearers over the years. A few notables include Jacques Cousteau, Buzz Aldrin, Daniel Craig, Michael Phelps, and Tom Hanks.
Patek Philippe has been producing some of the world’s finest timepieces since its inception in 1851. Renowned for their precision and many useful features including perpetual calendars, minute repeaters, split-seconds, and chronographs, Patek Philippe watches are hand-produced. Not only is this one of the world’s most famous Swiss luxury watch brands, it gets top marks with collectors and watch connoisseurs. Peak performance and interesting complications make these some of the most unique, exciting watches to own.
Founded in 1860, TAG Heuer was originally known as Uhrenmanufaktur Heuer AG. The company was purchased by TAG Group in 1985, and then taken over in a friendly buyout by French luxury goods conglomerate LVMH. TAG Heuer patented a dashboard chronograph called “Time of Trip” in 1911, and introduced its first wrist chronograph in 1914. Given its close connection with the automotive industry, it’s not surprising that TAG Heuer is popular has a history of being popular with professional and amateur auto racers. In 2013, the company celebrated the 50th anniversary of its Carrera, a racing-inspired chronograph that has spanned ten generations since its 1963 introduction.
While Breguet was established in Paris in 1775, the company later transferred its works to Switzerland. Among its many famous customers are Napoleon and Marie Antoinette. One of the world’s oldest watchmaking establishments, Breguet has the distinction of producing the first wristwatch, an accomplishment that took place in 1810. Since its inception, the company has changed hands many times. Today it is owned by the Swatch Group.
Most Famous German Watch Brands
A. Lange & Söhne
Founded in 1845, A. Lange & Söhne first produced high-quality pocket watches from its works in Glashütte. Like many other famous German watch brands, A. Lange & Söhne were tasked with providing Germany’s airmen with oversized wristwatches during the Second World War. After WWII came to an end, the post-war Soviet administration expropriated the company’s property. It was restored in December 1990, following the collapse of East Germany’s government. Complications graced A. Lange & Söhne’s early models as well as many of the watches it produces today.
Glashütte Original is a far newer brand than its contemporaries, having been founded in 1994 when VEB Glashütter Uhrenbetriebe (GUB) was privatized in 1994. Formerly part of an East German conglomerate that included A. Lange & Söhne, it is now owned by the Swatch Group. Glashütte Original is one of just a handful of watch makers that uses its own movements, and to date, its timepieces feature 10 proprietary movement innovations.
An even newer brand, UTS München was founded as an engineering company in 1999. Quickly gaining popularity for their precision, these magnificent timepieces are produced completely in-house. UTS München specializes in professional dive watches, with offerings rated for depths of 1,000 to 4,000 meters.
Most Famous British Watch Brands
Founded by brothers Giles and Nick English, Bremont is an aviation-themed watchmaker based in England. The founders’ story is a poignant one; their father’s 1995 death, which occurred during training for an air show spurred them to create the company. Bremont watches are built to COSC specifications, and take their inspiration from famous aircraft instruments. There are only four Bremont Boutiques worldwide, and all models are in high demand.
Roger W. Smith
Among the most famous British watch brands is Roger W. Smith, a company named after its founder, who incredibly made his first watch by hand after becoming interested in horology. Smith won the Best British Craftsmanship award at the 2015 Walpole British Luxury Awards. All Roger W. Smith watches are handmade on the Isle of Man, and each is a fine work of art.