The 10 best Swiss watch brands
If you're in the market for a luxury watch, chances are you will spend a long time looking at watch manufacturers from Switzerland. However, even though there are many famous Swiss manufacturers that produce designer timepieces, there are a few that stand out as the best watch brands for their fantastic quality and rich heritage. Below, we've listed ten of the best Swiss luxury watch brands and why they're so prestigious.
Date established: 1884
Key models: Chronomat, Navitimer, SuperOcean, Aerospace, SuperAvenger
Breitling was founded in 1884 in the town of Saint-Imier by Léon Breitling, and they moved to their current location of Grenchen in 1982. One of the main reasons they're so revered is that they're the only Swiss watch brand to have COSC chronometer certification, awarded by the institute responsible for checking the accuracy and precision of Swiss chronometer watches. This certification is difficult to achieve — only 6% of all Swiss watches are certified (COSC).
Their watches are influenced by diving and aviation, with design features like polished cases, bracelets and large, easy-read faces prominent. The SuperOcean and Navitimer stand out as key models that epitomise this style — there's even a version of the Navitimer designed with a 24-hour dial for use in space.
In our range of pre-owned Breitling watches, you can find many classic styles that have been tested and verified by our team of experts.
Date established: 1911
Location: La Chaux-de-Fonds
Key models: Wave, Sport Classic, Beluga, Discovery
In 1911, married couple Eugène Blum and Alice Lévy established EBEL in La Chaux-de-Fonds, with the aim of producing watches with both masculine and feminine qualities. They weaved these values into the very name of the company with EBEL being an acronym of their initials: 'Eugène Blum Et Lévy'. The pair formed the ideal partnership, with Eugène taking on the technical aspects of the brand and Alice controlling the aesthetics.
To this day, EBEL produce elegant wristwatches for both men and women. Take one look at the brand's collection and you'll see elegant design with many soft, gentle shapes and classic features. They've also produced a number of watches that lean more towards jewellery, with ornate dials and precious stones evident. At the same time, EBEL have produced more technical timepieces, with various chronograph designs that focus on accuracy as much as looks.
Our collection of pre-owned EBEL watches is a good place to start looking for a timepiece from this brand: we have a selection of timepieces to choose from, all of which have been verified by our team of watch experts.
Date established: 1905
Key models: Submariner, Day-Date, DateJust, GMT Master II, Daytona, Oyster, Yachtmaster
Started in 1905, Rolex has gone on to become not just the most recognisable watchmaker in the world, but perhaps one of the biggest names in fashion. It's also one of the most innovative brands around, with a long history of firsts including the first waterproof wristwatch, the first automatically changing date, and the very first to watch to receive chronograph certification.
Having said that, Rolex have built their reputation on making straightforward watches for men and women that are reliable, easy to maintain, and designed to be worn every day. The movements the brand use for most of their watches avoid complexity, instead they opt for simple mechanisms that are designed to run for years and years. In most cases, a Rolex watch will run for decades without issue. The timeless designs of models like the Daytona, Submariner, and DateJust never go out of style, which goes some way to explain why they've been one of the best watch brands for so long.
At Est1897, we have a huge range of pre-owned Rolex watches to choose from, so our collection is the ideal place to start your Swiss watch collection. We test each and every one of our items for authenticity and quality.
4. Patek Philippe & Co.
Date established: 1851
Key models: Calatrava, Nautilus, Grand Complication, Gondolo
When it comes to prestige among Swiss-made watch brands, many experts will agree that Patek Philippe & Co. is at the highest tier, and maybe the most sought-after of all. After all, this is a brand whose pieces regularly set records for the most expensive wristwatch sold at auction, and many of their lines have production numbers that have yet to enter double digits.
Patek Philippe was established in 1851 by Polish watchmaker Antoni Patek and French watchmaker Adrien Philippe, who set up in Geneva and began to make pocket and wristwatches. Their models popularised many features, including the perpetual calendar, split-seconds hand, and minute repeater, and even found their way onto the wrists of royalty when Queen Victoria and Prince Albert acquired several models between them.
In 1976, the watchmaker diversified their range by developing the Nautilus sports watch, which saw them expand from their traditions to a more contemporary style, all while maintaining the same craftsmanship and quality. To this day, the brand continues to make some of the best watches in the world by maintaining their incredibly high standards.
Here at Est1897, we often have pre-owned Patek Philippe watches in stock, so be sure to check out our watch collection to see the latest models available.
5. IWC Schaffhausen
Date established: 1868
Key models: Portuguese, Big Pilot, Portofino, Aquatimer, Mark
IWC — the International Watch Company, to give them their full title — are the only luxury Swiss watch manufacturer located in Eastern Switzerland, where their factory can be found a few kilometres from the German border. They were founded in 1868 by American watchmaker Florentine Ariosto Jones, who relocated to Switzerland with the goal of merging Swiss craftsmanship with US production techniques to create highly desirable watches for the US market.
The brand became known for their technical excellence in producing highly accurate timepieces, producing watch movements, such as the famous Caliber 89, that had a reputation for precision and longevity. In fact, many of the movements made in the mid-twentieth century are still in service today. IWC have a rich history in land, sea, and air exploration, so you’ll find plenty of innovative features included on their watches.
As well as being technically impressive, IWC timepieces have a great sense of style that has remained timeless over the years. They have ranges to suit most tastes, including elegant models like the Portuguese and Portofino, as well as diving (Aquatimer) and pilot (Big Pilot) styles. This sense of style is also a big part of the reason IWC are one of the most famous Swiss brands.
You can find a wide range of pre-owned IWC Schaffhausen watches here at Est1897, which are well worth a look if you’re looking to add to your collection.
Date established: 1860
Key models: Happy Sport, Cocktail, Classic, Imperiale, Mille Miglia
Chopard was founded in 1860 in Sonvilier by Louis-Ulysse Chopard, but later relocated to Geneva. The brand’s origins can be found in wristwatches and pocket watches for ladies, where elegant design, quality craftsmanship, and a jeweller’s eye for decorative flourishes combined to produce highly desirable designer timepieces. Chopard were also widely recognised for the accuracy of their movements, allowing them to create watches that performed as admirably as they looked.
In the 1970s, Chopard began to pioneer their signature look within their watches: a free-floating diamond behind sapphire glass. They also began to develop more technical watches for men, containing chronographs and other features, in the 1980s. The brand continues to blur the lines between jewellery and timepiece, and even produced one of the most valuable watches of all time in the Chopard 201-Carat watch, valued at $25 million US dollars.
You can explore the unique look of this brand in our range of pre-owned Chopard watches, where you’ll find timepieces that have been examined and tested by our in-house experts.
Date established: 1903
Key models: Seamaster, Speedmaster, De Ville, Constellation, Aqua Terra
Omega is one of the most famous Swiss watch brands, with a long history of producing exceptional timepieces. Founded in 1903, it gained a reputation as being one of the finest makers of movements and chronographs in these early days, something that it is still very well known for.
Over the years, its watches have remained smart and stylish, with classic designs like the Seamaster and Speedmaster remaining unchanged. It’s also a rival to Rolex in both reliability and longevity, with high-quality movements ensuring that each timepiece doesn’t lose a second, even over the decades. Perhaps more than any other brand, Omega has ingrained itself into popular culture thanks to well-known partnerships with the James Bond film series and A-list stars such as George Clooney and Nicole Kidman.
But it’s not all just marketing savvy: Omega knows how to produce amazing technical watches. That's why institutions that demand precision timekeeping, like the Olympics, the Royal Flying Corps, and the American Army have chosen it as their supplier over the years. They also gained the honour of being the very first watch on the Moon, when astronaut Buzz Aldrin wore his in 1969.
Be sure to take a look at our range of pre-owned Omega watches, where we have fine examples of the brand’s best models. Each one has been fully tested by our in-house watch experts.
8. Raymond Weil
Date established: 1976
Key models: Nabucco, Freelancer, Mozart, Fantasia, Parsifal
Though relatively young compared to other Swiss watch brands, Raymond Weil has accomplished a lot in just over 40 years of trading. The watchmaker was established in 1976 when Raymond Weil himself set up a small boutique to sell his luxury timepieces. Fast forward a few decades and the company has become a world-famous manufacturer of Swiss watches while remaining independently owned by the Weil family.
It’s this independent spirit that Raymond Weil lists as its primary inspiration, and you can see it in the eye-catching and stylish designs that they manufacture. The brand is also heavily influenced by music, which has led to many collections being named after the composer or piece that inspired the designer: examples include the Mozart, Fantasia, and Amadeus watches.
Raymond Weil hasn’t been afraid to produce timepieces in multiple styles, either, and it’s possible to find more technical, chronograph watches sitting beside elegant dress watches in the range. You can take a look at some of these designs in our pre-owned Raymond Weil watch collection, all of which are fully tested and verified for authenticity.
Date established: 1946
Key models: Classic, Clair de Rose, Black Bay, Pelagos, North Flag
Tudor was established by Hans Wilsdorf — the founder of Rolex — in Geneva in 1946 (though he registered the brand name in 1926). Originally, he saw the brand as a more affordable spin-off of Rolex but, over the years, the sister brand forged its own identity as a producer of high-quality tool watches.
The watchmaker really came into its own as a luxury watch brand when it began to produce precise technical watches. Its reputation was enhanced when an order of 26 Tudor Oyster Princes was placed for a British Royal Navy expedition to Greenland sponsored by the Royal Family and Winston Churchill. These pieces made use of a waterproof oyster case and a self-winding rotor to put them at the cutting edge of scientific timekeeping. A later diving model — the Submariner — was adopted by the French Navy.
While Tudor's offering became a little stale in the 90s, there has been a real resurgence with the brand over the past 10 years. In keeping with their heritage, their new watches take inspiration from years of great technical watches in the 50s and 60s, matching them with top-of-the-line production values. The result is a highly desirable line of wristwatches that sit among the best watches in the world. And, they are selling better than ever before.
You can find a wide range of pre-owned Tudor watches in our collection, with styles ranging from divers' watches to dress pieces. Each one has been fully tested by our team of experts.
Date established: 1860
Location: La Chaux-de-Fonds
Key models: Carrera, Monaco, Aquaracer, Formula 1, Monza, Autavia.
TAG Heuer are a highly prestigious Swiss brand that have been in business for over 150 years. The company was founded in 1860 by Edouard Heuer in the town of Saint Imier, though they later relocated. The brand hasn't been known as TAG for their entire history, being named the slightly less catchy Uhrenmanufaktur Heuer AG until 1985, when the TAG Group bought a majority stake in the company.
TAG Heuer specialises in sports chronographs. In its early years, the company produced many bespoke timing solutions for sports events, including the Antwerp, Paris, and Amsterdam Olympic games. It also has a strong affiliation with the racing industry, chiefly due to then-owner Jack Heuer's interest. One of his ambitions was to create the perfect race watch for drivers, which led to the creation of the iconic Carrera series. TAG still has many sporting models, like the Monaco and Autavia, that are considered classics by watch aficionados.
The manufacturer is also known for its elegant dress watches, which often feature retro call-backs to their design heritage. You can find a variety of both sports and dress pieces in our pre-owned TAG Heuer collection, where we stock fully verified watches from this Swiss brand.
What makes Swiss watch brands the best in the world?
In 2017, Swiss-made watch exports totalled $20.2 billion US dollars, more than double that of second-place Hong Kong's $8.4 billion, according to figures from the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry (FHS). But, why does the rest of the world look to Switzerland for good watch brands over every other country?
Simply put, it's a combination of history and heritage, quality control, and some very careful brand management. Switzerland has a long history of watchmaking that dates back hundreds of years, but it wasn't until the end of World War II that they cornered the market. Brands based in neutral Switzerland were able to produce watches faster than nations whose industries had been repurposed for the War. Thanks to this, mechanical Swiss watches began to make their way across the world as they were exported.
Though the market was impacted by cheaper quartz and digital models in the 70s, by the mid-80s, the Swiss industry was booming again thanks to the resurgence of mechanical timepieces and an increasingly affluent customer base. Switzerland repositioned itself to ride the wave of interest in quality wristwatches, with many watchmakers styling themselves as 'manufacturers', a more distinguished type of brand that made everything inhouse, by hand. This, coupled with the careful building of the image of a Swiss watch as a luxury must-have, forged the country's reputation.
Plus, watches must meet stringent criteria if they want to wear the 'Swiss-made' label. These FHS rules are taken so seriously that they're codified in the national law, requiring most of the manufacturing and testing to have taken place in Switzerland.
We hope that this guide has provided you with some insight into the best Swiss watch brands, so that you can make an informed investment in your timepiece. You can find more help and advice about luxury wristwatches on our blog.
Be sure to visit our full watch collection to discover many fantastic examples from the brands mentioned in this piece — you're bound to find the perfect piece to add to your collection. Here at Est1897, we also offer a luxury watch buying service, which is ideal if you want to unlock the value of any Swiss watches you own.