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Five of the Best Swiss Luxury Watch Brand of All Time

Five of the Best Swiss Luxury Watch Brand of All Time
Mau Briones

The term “Swiss Made” was formally adopted in the 19th century to indicate that a product was made in Switzerland. The most popular items by far to have the “Swiss Made” labels are Swiss watches. Almost all Swiss watchmakers label their watches prominently on the dial. The words are fully capitalized, positioned on the bottom of the face, split by the half-hour indicator if available, curved along the bottom edge as necessary. A watch is considered Swiss if the movement was encased in Switzerland and if final control by the Manufacture d’horlogerie took place in Switzerland.

Let us take you on a brief and fascinating journey of Swiss watchmaking and discover some of the rich history, achievements, developments, and improvements of different Swiss watch brands.

Patek Philippe

Our journey begins with Patek Philippe. It was founded in 1851 in Geneva and Vallee de Joux. It designs and manufactures timepieces and movements, including some of the most complicated mechanical watches.

Early History:

Antoni Patek is a Polish watchmaker who is known for his pocket watches along with his partner Franciszek Czapek. When they separated in 1844, Patek joined with Adrein Philippe, a French watchmaker who is famous for inventing the keyless winding mechanism. Patek Philippe & Co was founded in 1851 and became a popular brand until today. Patek Philippe popularized perpetual calendar, split-seconds hands, chronograph, and minute repeater watches.

With a vibrant, uninterrupted operating history spanning nearly 180 years, the company still offers a unique legacy of tradition and innovation from the first pocket watches to the very latest supercomplications. Under the Stern family which still leads Patek Philippe & Co today, we have seen many developments, innovations, and several iconic watches made its successful debut.

Rarest and Most Expensive Watches:

The Henry Graves Jr. Supercomplications, Reference 1527 Perpetual Calendar, Calibre 89 Grand Complication Pocket Watch, Reference 2458 Observatory Chronometer for J.B. Champion, and Reference 5004T Titanium.

Vacheron Constantin

Vacheron Constantin is a luxury Swiss manufacturer of prestige watches. A brand of Richemont Group approximately employs 1,100 people worldwide – mostly based in manufacturing plants in Geneva Vallee de Joux.

Early History:

On September 7, 1755, Jean-Marc Vacheron a 24-year old master watchmaker signs on his first apprenticeship, thus funding a business by making clear his intention to hand down his skills. This contract can, therefore, be regarded as Vacheron Constantin’s birth certificate, making it the oldest watch manufacturer in continuous operation since it was founded. In 1770, his company created the first complication, and nine years later he designed the first engine-turned dials. The earliest known masterpiece of Jean-Marc Vacheron was a silver pocket watch. The pride of Vacheron Constantin’s heritage and signed J: M: Vacheron, a Geneve on the movement, fitted with a verge escapement and features a finely crafted hand in gold.

The son of JM Vacheron, Abraham took over the workshop in 1785 and managed to keep the enterprise going despite the troubles following the French Revolution. Following the lead given by his father, he taught the watchmaker’s trade to his son, Jacques Barthelemi. The company started to produce more complications under the era of Jacques Barthelemi, such as musical watches with two different tunes. The first export of products to France and Italy also happened under this era which gained high-ranking clients like Prince Charles-Albert of Carignano.

In 1819, Francois Constantin became an associate of Vacheron, the company continued its activity under the name Vacheron & Constantin. Francois traveled around the world and marketed the watch, he helped the company to open new markets. In 1833, Vacheron and Constantin hired Georges-Auguste Leschot to supervise the manufacturing operations. Leschot was an inventor and his creations turned out to be successful for the company. His inventions had a great impact on the watchmaking industry in general. He was the first person to standardize watch movements into Calibers.

Recent History:

Today the company produces about 20,000 timepieces per year. Sheik Ahmed Zaki Yamani, former Oil Minister of Saudi Arabia and an avid watch collector became the majority shareholder, who then folded Vacheron Constantin into his personal portfolio of holdings. In 1996, the entire share capital of the company was bought by Swiss Richemont Group.

In 2003 Vacheron Constantin introduced a new sports line called Overseas, and a collection called Egérie, the first to include watches for women. In 2004 Vacheron Constantin opened its new headquarters and manufacture in Plan-les-Ouates, Geneva. In 2005 Vacheron Constantin created the wristwatch “Tour de I’lle”, to mark the anniversary of 250 years of Vacheron Constantin. The watch includes 834 parts and 16 horological complications. It was only available through the Vacheron Constantin shop in Geneva. In 2007 Vacheron Constantin introduced the Métiers d’Art ‘Les Masques’ collection of timepieces featuring miniature reproductions of primitive art masks. The company selected twelve masks from a private museum collection and reproduced the masks on a small scale. The miniaturized masks are featured in the dial centre of every watch from the ‘Les Masques’ collection.

In 2012, Vacheron Constantin introduced the Métiers d’Art ‘Les Univers Infinis’ collection of timepieces featuring tessellation, a design of interlocking identical shapes, inspired by the work of Dutch artist Maurits Cornelis Escher. In 2015, during the manufacturer’s 260th anniversary, Vancheron Constantin revealed the world’s most complicated mechanical watch, named Reference 57260. It took three watchmakers and eight years to build the 57-complication watch at the request of a client.

Rarest and Most Expensive Watches:

Vacheron Constantin Overseas Dual Time, Vacheron Constantin Tribute to Great Explorers, and Vacheron Constantin Malte Tonneau Openworked Tourbillon.

Jaeger LeCoultre

Jaeger LeCoultre is a Swiss luxury watches and clock manufacturer based in Le Sentier, Switzerland. The brand has hundreds of inventions and thousand calibres to its name including the world’s smallest calibre, one of the world’s most complicated wristwatches, and a timepiece of near-perpetual movement.

Early History:

Founded in 1833 by a brilliant inventor, Antoine LeCoultre. Jaeger LeCoultre has been acknowledged since the 19th century as the “Grande Maison” of the Vallee de Joux. In 1844, Antoine made the most accurate instrument that measures the micron, the Millionometer. Just three years later, another revolutionary invention came along in his workshop where Antoine discovered a system that would eliminate the need to use a key in order to rewind or set watches.

Antoine’s son decided to join the family business and at the age of 16, Elie became a pioneer of watchmaking, developing a plethora of complications and transforming his father’s small workshop into one of Switzerland’s most valued manufacturer. Under Jacques-David, Elie’s son a friendship with Edmond Jaeger was formed, and the formidable Jaeger-LeCoultre was born in 1937. From then on, for over 180 years in the watchmaking industry, the company had made masterpieces of pocket watches to wristwatches, all equipped with the newest technology and innovations.

Recent History:

In 2010, The Master Grande Tradition à Grande Complication which 75 were produced reproduces in miniature the movements of the Earth relative to the Sun and the stars. Its guilloché dial represents a star map. Driven by a flying tourbillon, it rotates once around the dial in 23 hours 56 minutes and 4 seconds, corresponding to one rotation of the Earth relative to the stars. In 2011, to celebrate its 80th birthday, Reverso came out with a fresh take on the absolute classicism of its Art Deco lines, with the Grande Reverso Ultra Thin including two Tribute to 1931 models in honour of the very first Reverso models. As for complications, the Reverso Repetition Minutes a Rideau takes its juggling with the visible and the hidden, and with technique and beauty, to a new level.

Rarest and Most Expensive Watches:

Jaeger LeCoultre Joaillerie 101 Manchette, Jaeger LeCoultre Hybri Mechanica Grande Sonnerie, and Jaeger LeCoultre Master Grande Tourbillion.

International Watch Co. also known as IWC

IWC is a luxury Swiss watch manufacturer located in Schaffhausen, Switzerland. IWC Schaffhausen is notable for being the only major Swiss watch factory in eastern Switzerland, as the majority of well-known Swiss watch manufacturers are located in western Switzerland.

Early History:

The heritage of IWC is deeply rooted in Amerian pioneering spirit and entrepreneurship. In 1868, a watchmaker from Boston founded the IWC in the name of Florentine Ariosto Jones. He draws on the help of eminently qualified Swiss watchmakers, modern technology, and hydropower source from the nearby River Rhine to manufacture pocket watch movements of the highest possible quality. When Jones returns to the United States, Rauschenbachs family from Schaffhausen take over the company. During the company’s early years, it produces pocket watches with a digital “Pallweber” display, as well as wristwatches for both men and women.

Following the death of Johannes Rauschenbach-Schenk, Ernst Jakob Homberger takes over the company on behalf of Rauschenbach’s heirs. This era sees the birth of two watch families which are still true icons to this day. The first “Spezialuhr für Flieger” establishes the tradition of producing Pilot’s Watches in Schaffhausen, which, thanks to their unmistakable design, are still popular across the world today. As Portuguese importers order a series of large wristwatches with high-precision pocket watch calibres, the first Portugieser model leaves IWC’s workshops. Hans Ernst Homberger was the third and last of the Rauschenbach heirs to run the factory as a sole proprietor.

At the peak of the quartz crisis, IWC deliberately focuses on creating masterpieces of watchmaking art. With the world’s first watch case made from titanium, IWC lays the foundation for its unparalleled expertise in the area of materials. In the mid-1980s, the perpetual calendar from Kurt Klaus makes its debut in the Da Vinci family. Following seven years of development, IWC launches its first Grande Complication, and reaches the pinnacle of haute horlogerie. To mark its 125th anniversary, IWC unveils what is then the world’s most complicated mechanical wristwatch: Il Destriero Scafusia.

Recent History:

After IWC becomes a part of Richemond, the company continuously expands its six watch families with precision engineering and exclusive design. In the Portugieser line, a double moon display is added to the perpetual calendar, while this mechanism features a digital display for the date and month for the first time in the Da Vinci family. IWC introduces the external/internal rotating bezel for the Aquatimer and launches its first watch with a bronze case. The Annual Calendar complication shows the month, date and day in the format used in the U.S. – a tribute to the company’s American founder.

In 2015, IWC Schaffhausen celebrates the 75th birthday of the Portugieser watch family. The newly designed IWC manufactured 52000-calibre family sets new technical and aesthetic standards. The annual calendar and the digital calendar are adopted for use in the Portugieser line. In 2016, watch lovers all over the world can look forward to a wide range of IWC Pilot’s Watches that seem set to create a furore with innovative designs, sophisticated complications, and top-quality materials.

Rarest and Most Expensive Watches:

IWC Siderale Scafusia, IWC Grande Complication Platinum, IWC Grande Complication Perpetual, and IWC Portuguese Tourbillon Squellette.

Omega SA

Omega SA is a Swiss luxury watchmaker based in Bienne, Switzerland and is owned by Swatch Group. Omega watches is the official timekeeper for the combat unit of Royal Flying Corps in 1917, NASA’s choice and first watch on the moon in 1969, and the official timekeeping device of the Olympic Games since 1932.

Early History:

The forerunner of Omega, La Generale Watch Co, was founded at La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland in 1848 by Louis Brandt, who assembled key-wound precision pocket watches from parts supplied by local craftsmen. He sold his watches from Italy to Scandinavia by way of England, his chief market. In 1894, his two sons Louis-Paul and César developed a revolutionary in-house manufacturing and total production control system that allowed component parts to be interchangeable. Watches developed with these techniques were marketed under the Omega brand of La Generale Watch Co. By 1903 the success of the Omega brand led to La Generale Watch Co to spin off the Omega brand as its own company, and the Omega Watch Co was officially founded in 1903.

Omega made history in providing the first watches used in the NASA space program yet in the 1970s it lost its way in terms of marketing. Under the worldwide economic crisis in the 1970s and a restructuring as part of the swatch group in 1983, Omega had become weakened. It was only in the past two decades that Omega managed to really make a comeback under the leadership of the Swatch Group. Part of this was due to new marketing strategies that focussed on product placements.

Rarest and Most Expensive Watches:

Omega Constellation Baguette and Omega Speedmaster Professional.

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