For hundreds of years, the Swiss watch industry has been revered worldwide for its ability to craft luxury timepieces. The nation has an incredibly rich history of making watches, so much so that some of the most sought-after, expensive luxury watches in history are Swiss made.
Currently, Swiss watch brands dominate the luxury watch market as the quality of watches is so excellent they rarely lose their value. Watch collectors will often ‘invest’ in watches, hoping to sell their timepieces for more in years to come.
Here, in the latest of our luxury lifestyle series, we explore Switzerland’s finest luxury watch manufacturers and take a look at how much their models cost and how their prices are justified.
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What Makes Swiss Watches so Special?
Swiss watches have become the measuring stick for quality timepieces due to their incredible quality and precision. Crafted using hundreds of years of expertise, Swiss watches are intricately designed, and undeniably reliable.
The role Swiss craftsmanship has played in progressing and evolving watches and watchmaking is second to none - with Swiss movement watches featuring hundreds of complex mechanisms.
Additionally, many Swiss watch brands are trusted by some of the world’s most adventurous professions: Omega watches are used at the Olympics; Tag Heuer watches have gone into space, and Breitling watches are worn by aviators and divers alike.
So without further ado, let’s take a look at the world’s top luxury Swiss watch brands.
Top Luxury Swiss Watch Brands
Lauded by many as the number-one watch brand in the world, Rolex has built a reputation for creating premium-quality, precision watches.
Worn by elite figures everywhere, from Barack Obama to Victoria Beckham, the Rolex has become a true status symbol.
If you want to buy a Rolex, prices start at around £4,000 for a brand-new model, with some limited-edition models costing more than £50,000. Prices don’t stop here, though, with some ultra-rare Rolex watches being sold for more than millions.
Rolex’s prices are justified by their attention to detail and commitment to research and development - constantly innovating new manufacturing techniques. Despite making huge billions of pounds a year in sales, Rolex is actually a charitable foundation - choosing to donate huge sums to charities and organisations around the world.
2. Patek Philippe
One of the more exclusive watches on this list, it is estimated that, since being founded in 1839, there have been less than 1 million Patek Philippe watches made.
It typically takes 9 months for Patek Philippe to produce timepieces and up to 2 years to produce more complex watch models. This only adds to the brand’s mystique, making them more desirable.
A key reason why Swiss watchmaking is so revered is the attention to detail and time put into making each piece. Patek Philippe is a testament to this, keeping all of their production process in-house, from research and development to engineering and aftercare services like repairs. And it has been this way since 1839.
Patek Philippe can also claim the crown of the most expensive watch ever sold at auction, with their one-of-a-kind timepiece, the Grandmaster Chime, being sold for an eye-watering $31.2 million in 2019.
Luckily, a typical Patek won’t cost you millions, but a brand-new Aquanaut watch will set you back around £15,000, while the most expensive models can cost upwards of £250,000. The brand is very popular with watch collectors, as they rarely lose much value.
Although they now have ties to France, being owned by the iconic LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy - owner of other luxury brands like Louis Vuitton, Dior, and Moet & Chandon) Hublot was founded in Switzerland in 1980 - making it one of the newest of the 10 Swiss watch brands compiled in this list.
Hublot is hugely popular, particularly amongst footballers, boasting French star Kylian Mbappe as an ambassador and even being the official watch of UEFA men’s football.
While crafting mechanic watches using traditional methods, Hublot has embraced celebrity collaborations and partnerships, working with stars like Shawn Carter (Jay-Z), Usain Bolt, and Novak Djokovic.
Prices for a Hublot watch all depend on the model, with some pieces in the brand’s Big Bang collection starting at around £5,000, ranging up to and beyond £300,000.
Since making their first watch in the 1880s, Breitling has been making luxury timepieces that appeal to watch aficionados and explorers alike.
In the first half of the 20th century, Breitling’s reliability and boundary-pushing technology led them to become hugely popular with aviators and divers - creating watches that allowed the wearer to time events without resetting the second hand to zero.
To appeal to their clientele, Breitling launched diving watches, like the Superocean in the 1950s, a watch that’s still made today.
Now, the luxury watch brand remains one of the most sought-after Swiss watches around, thanks to their timeless design and exceptional longevity and quality.
In terms of price, an entry-level Breitling will cost around £3,000, but you will find some models that go for up to £40,000.
Part of the Swatch Group, which also includes Tissot, and worn by James Bond, Omega was founded in 1903, making a mix of quartz and mechanical watches.
Famous for their precision, Omega watches go under stringent testing before being released for sale.
When they’re put on sale, you can expect to spend between £2,500 and upwards of £40,000 on a brand-new Omega watch.
6. Richard Mille
The newest of these luxury Swiss watch manufacturers, Richard Mille was founded in 2001 but has, in a relatively short space of time, garnered an impressive reputation as a luxury watch brand.
Mille’s bold approach to design, a stark contrast from the classic watches designed by their fellow Swiss brands, was described by their commercial director, Alex Mille, as:
“We stop at no limit. We just go to the end of our concept. There's no compromise."
Buying a Richard Mille watch is not easy, with long waiting lists and prices starting at upwards of £50,000 (with some costing millions), you’ll need a lot of patience and more cash to wear one of Switzerland’s most luxurious watch brands.
7. Audemars Piguet
Audemars Piguet makes some of the most luxurious mechanical timepieces on the watch market. Audemars Piguet is renowned for using exceptional materials and delivering high-quality timepieces.
One of the things that makes Audemars Piguet so admired is their exclusivity. This is one of the best Swiss watch brands around, but they only create very limited pieces - making them difficult to get hold of.
Featuring complex watch movements, that can take months to finish, Audemars Piguet watches go a long way to justifying their high price tags - with watches costing anywhere from £15,000 to over £100,000.
8. Ulysse Nardin
Founded in 1846, Ulysse Nardin has cemented their place in this list of top Swiss watch brands by creating exceptionally precise luxury watches.
Nardin watches undergo rigorous testing for 15 days to achieve certification from the Official Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute (COSC).
Additionally, Ulysse Nardin only uses ‘exceptional’ materials, like enamel and silicium, which improves the accuracy and performance of a watch’s movement.
Ulysse Nardin’s attention to detail, premium quality materials, and extensive history and experience in crafting luxury Swiss watches do come at a price. An entry-level Nardin piece will cost around £1000, with some models, like the Marine Mega Yacht costing over £300,000.
9. Vacheron Constantin
The oldest watchmaker in the world, Vacheron Constantin has been crafting luxury watches for over 260 years.
The prestigious brand is also known for creating some of the most complex watches ever too, including the 57260, an $8 million pocket watch with 57 complications.
Vacheron Constantin’s pieces are immaculately presented too, with every single component being mirror polished to perfection before being added to the timepiece.
If you’re interested in buying a Vacheron Constantin, their prices start from around £4,000, with some models costing upwards of £50,000 into the millions for their most-sought after watches.
Founded in the Swiss town of Le Sentier, Jaeger-LeCoultre is so well-respected as a watchmaker that Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin, have used LeCoultre movements. Earning Le-Coultre the nickname ‘the watchmaker’s watchmaker’.
Originally starting as a maker of pocket watches, LeCoultre continues to make some of the finest mechanical watches available today.
The meticulous nature of creating a JLC watch is reflected in its price tag, with prices starting at around £3,000 and some pieces costing over £35,000.
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Luxury Swiss watches are not cheap, but they can prove to be a good investment, as many models tend to hold or even increase in value. If you’re looking to treat yourself to a timepiece from one of the Swiss watch brands in this list, check out our online bingo games or the best online slots in the UK to see if you could win big.
Or, to explore more luxury brands, take a look at some of the recommendations below:
- Top 14 Luxury Women's Watch Brands
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- 12 Most Expensive Watch Brands In The World
What is a watch complication?
A complication is a function of a watch that isn’t the time display. This could include the date display or alarm function.
What is the movement of a watch?
A watch movement is essentially the engine of a timepiece, enabling the watch’s functions to work. There are three main types of watch movements:
1. Mechanical Watch Movements
Mechanical, or manual, watch movements are still used in luxury Swiss watches as they are more intricate, require more skill to produce, and are consistent with traditional methods.
2. Automatic Watch Movements
Also known as self-winding movements, these differ from mechanical movements because they don’t require manual winding. Instead, utilising a weighted rotor that winds itself.
3. Quartz Watch Movements
These movements rely on an electrical current generated by a battery to keep the watch on time. Quartz movements have fewer moving parts than mechanical and automatic movements - making them more durable.
What was the quartz crisis?
The quartz crisis started in 1969 when Seiko released the first quartz watch. Because quartz watches are much cheaper than pieces with automatic or mechanical movements - making them more affordable.
These cheaper alternatives hit the Swiss luxury watch industry hard, and many brands went bust as a result of not being able to compete on price.
Are Swiss luxury watches worth the money?
If you’re looking for a premium-quality watch and you can afford the prices, then a Swiss watch is worth the money. Swiss luxury watch companies only use the best components and materials during the watchmaking process, so they can last hundreds of years.
What is the most-sold Swiss watch brand?
Rolex is the number one Swiss luxury watch brand, boasting billions of pounds in sales. The Rolex Submariner is the most popular watch in the world according to Google search trends, too - highlighting the brand’s relevance and popularity.
What are the most affordable swiss watch brands?
Swiss watch brands like Tag Heuer, Oris, Swatch, Wenger, Tissot and Alpina, are all more affordable alternatives to the likes of Rolex, Hublot and Vacheron Constantin. If you’re interested in buying a luxury Swiss watch, a second-hand Rolex, for example, may prove to be a better investment than a watch from a lesser-known brand.
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