Short History Of The Most Important Luxury Watch Brands

Short History Of The Most Important Luxury Watch Brands


In 1902 Hans Wilsdorf founded Rolex. He was born in Kulmbach, Bavaria, Germany, in 1881. He moved to London in 1903, and in 1905 he founded a watch-making company with Alfred James David called Wilsdorf & Davis Ltd with his business partner Alfred Davis. They imported Hermann Aegler’s quality movements, based in Bienne.
In the beginning, they focus on two watches, a pocket watch, and a purse watch - for men and women. At that moment, wrist-watches weren’t popular among men because they were perceived as too feminine and not strong enough to withstand a man’s daily activity. At the same time, Wilsdorf observed that during the Boer War, soldiers weren’t wearing jackets, which made the pocket watch challenging to carry. Many soldiers used to strap the watch around their wrists. The latter inspired Wilsdorf to specialize in wrist-watches, up to the moment a neglected market.

In 1915 Wilsdorf & Davis changed its name to Rolex. It was more catchy and easy to pronounce in different languages, and in 1919 they decided to relocate to Geneva to reduce costs and be closer to their suppliers in Bienne.

Since the beginning, Wilsdorf had the goal to create watches that would be able to be part of a man’s daily adventures, and he certainly did it: Rolex gave the horological world its first wrist chronometer, the first waterproof watch, and the first self-winding mechanism.

Till his death Wilsdorf in 1960 continued to develop new models and improvements. Also, in 1946 he founded a subsidiary company, Tudor, which offered high-quality watches; without the aspirational and luxury attributes associated with Rolex, it was an entry-level brand with more affordable prices.

Iconic Watches: 

Rolex Daytona:

Rolex Submariner:

Rolex Datejust: 


Audemars Piguet

 Louis Audemars and Edward Auguste Piguet came from a family of watchmakers. Both were talented in different areas, making it possible for them to complement their skills- production and sales, respectively. They founded the company in 1875 in Swiss. One of their significant innovations was manufacturing the world's first minute-repeating movement for wristwatches in 1892. 

After Audemars died in 1918 and Piaget's in 1919, the company kept growing, and generations from both families continued to lead the business. Up to the moment is one of the few companies that wasn't acquired by giant luxury conglomerates.

The WWI and the Wall Street Crash, represented hard times for the company. It was only in 1950 when the company begun to be led by a savvy businessman, Georges Golay, that it begun to shine again. Golay introduced a successful restructuring plan and several innovations.


In 1972 the brand manufactured its iconic octagonal Royal Oak sports model. A revolutionary design by Gérald Genta, being the most expensive steel sports watch ever marketed. Among other remarkable creations of Audemars Piguet, we can mention in 1986, they manufactured the first ultra-thin self-winding tourbillon wristwatch, and in 1995, they added a split-seconds chronograph to its Triple Complication launched in 1992, giving rise to the first "Grande Complication" self-winding wristwatch.

Iconic Watches: 

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak:

Patrimony Minute Repeater Ultra Thin:

Jules Audemars Grande Complication:

Patek Philippe

After the war, Antoine Norbert Graf de Patek left Poland and settled in Switzerland. In 1839 with the Polish emigrant Czapek they started manufacturing custom pocket watches for high-society members.

In 1844, at the Exposition Nationale des Produits de L’Industrie in Paris, Patek met Adrien Philippe, presenting his watches. They got the attention of Patek, and Phillipe joined the company as a technical director. In 1951 the company was renamed, Patek Philippe.

The Great Depression of 1929 meant a significant recession in the luxury industry. To avoid being acquired by a competitor, the company reached Charles and Jean Stern, brothers owners of Cadrans Stern Frères, a Patek Philippe supplier specializing in high-quality dials. In 1932 the Stern brothers purchased Patek Philippe, and it was during the following years that the brand created some of their most iconic watches. In 1932 the Calavatra, in 1968, the Philippe Ellipse Collection, and in 1976 the Nautilus.

Craftsmanship, high-quality, and innovation have been at Patek Philippe's core. Since the beginning, their pieces were the top choice of many kings, princesses, wealthy celebrities, and personalities. In 1996 their slogan became famous: “You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation.”

Iconic Watches: 

Patek Philippe Nautilus:

Patek Philippe Ellipse 3748/1:

Patek Philippe Calatrava:

Vacheron Constantin

The brand was founded in 1755 by Jean-Marc Vacheron in Swiss, and they are the oldest watch manufacturer, who have been producing watches throughout the centuries without interruption. It survived turbulent times like the French Revolution and WWI, always maintaining its prestige and exclusive clientele.
Among them, we can mention Prince Napoleon, Queen Mary of Romania, Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim, Prince Charles Albert of Carignano Edward VIII, and Pope Pius XI. The brand began producing custom-made pocket watches, and since then, they've maintained a reputation for producing fine timepieces that stand out for their elegance and quality. 

In 1805 Jean-Marc Vacheron died, and his grandson Jaques-Barthélemy took over the family business. At that moment, the watches were made with a dial "Vacheron Chossat & Comp. A GENEVE. It was apparent that to recover from the crisis after the French Revolution; the brand would need to expand overseas. For this, Jaques-Barthélemy partnered with a business strategist François Constantin; in 1819, the name officially changed to Vacheron Constantin and in 1880 they started using the Maltese cross as its symbol inspired by a watch barrel component made to control the tension in the mainspring. 

Heirs from both families took over the company after Francois Constantin died in 1854 and Jacques Barthelemy Vacheron in 1863.

In 1907 Vacheron Constantin created the Royal Chronometer pocket-watch, a bestseller due to its robustness, accuracy, and resistance to climates that once were considered too tough to operate in. 

Between 1910 and 1930, the company manufactured several clocks with unique complications. (Egyptian kings Fuad I and Farouk), watches with ultra-thin movements, and even a watch with a 65-day power reserve. In 2019, they added two features to the Overseas collection: a tourbillon and an ultra-thin perpetual calendar. Vacheron Constantin is known for manufacturing the most complicated watch in the world, the 57260

Since 1996, it has been a subsidiary of the Swiss Richemont Group. 


Iconic Watches: 

Vacheron Constantin Overseas:

Vacheron Constantin Patrimony:

Vacheron Constantin Malte Tourbillon Regulator:

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