If they’re not busy making the scrummiest chocolate you’ll ever taste (seriously, Lindt is to die for), the Swiss are quietly churning out the finest timepieces in the world. And I’m not exaggerating; the country’s watch portfolio resembles the recording-breaking roster of the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls.
From Breitling to Tissot, the best Swiss watch brands are to thank for some of the most recognized time tickers to have graced a man’s wrist. I’m talking about luxury watches like the Rolex Submariner, Omega Speedmaster, and Patek Philippe’s Nautilus (or in basketball terms: Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Dennis Rodman). Which is why I think it’s important you get to know all of the big names on offer.
Keep reading for my detailed guide to the Swiss watch brands that should be on everybody’s radar. You’ll soon realize that these names offer so much more than helping you tell the time.
We’re all aware of huge names like Rolex, Longines, and Patek Philippe, but this is only scratching the surface of the top Swiss watch brands.
In my guide, I’ll be taking you through the catalog of iconic watchmakers that you need to know, plus some of the sweetest styles that have been made throughout the years—including Tissot’s Seastar 1000, Rolex’s Submariner, and Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak.
In the name of fairness, I’m not planning to only include the big boys in this guide. The aim is to sprinkle in a few hidden gems that you may not have heard much about. Iota is one of those. They’re actually from the UK but make their watches in the Lugano region of southern Switzerland—adhering to the same regulations as Swiss-born brands and using only the finest craftsmanship, engineering, and movements.
With a less is more approach to design, the label’s watches are inspired by the major cities of the world. The New York has taken the light brownstone used across the city and used it for a tan strap that pairs with a golden case and matt white dial. What impresses me most is its ability to display two time zones, using a GMT hand and 24-hour markers.
Famous Models: The New York, The Sydney, The London | Price Range: $269 to $495
If you’re yet to venture into the Swiss watch market, Tissot is a great place to start. With the average automatic starting at around $500 and quartz versions even less, they offer an affordable entry into the world of luxury watches.
The brand was founded in 1853 by father and son duo Charles-Felicien and Charles Emile-Tissot. Together, they went on to become somewhat of a pioneer in the watchmaking sphere. They are credited for producing the world’s first non-magnetic and self-winding timepieces, plus the first mass-produced pocket watch. Today, the brand continues to offer a wide variety of exciting models (including the popular Seastar 1000), as well as being the official timing sponsor of the NBA.
Famous Models: Seastar, Gentleman, Supersport Chrono | Price Range: $250 to $4,000
With headquarters in Grenchen, Switzerland, Breitling has been a leader in meticulously-made watches since 1884. To this day, it remains one of the few independent major Swiss watch brands in the world. It is perhaps best known for its close links with aviation and highly accurate chronographs, including the Aviator 8—complete with a day-date window, large Arabic numerals, and a power reserve of 42 hours.
It has been in partnership with the Royal Air Force for over two decades, which gives the brand unique permission to carry the Red Arrows insignia on its watches. Head to the online store, and you’ll find an impressive catalog categorized by nine lines and a variety of styles, sizes, and functional features.
Famous Models: Aviator 8, Superocean, Avenger | Price Range: $3,000 to $67,000
Hamilton may not be a name you’ve heard much about, but the Swiss watchmaker (with American roots) has a strong history and a portfolio of slick yet affordable men’s timepieces. It’s widely known as the ‘movie brand’ thanks to its close association with Hollywood. The first Hamilton watch appeared on the silver screen in 1932, during the Marlene Dietrich movie Shanghai Express. You’ll also find them in Interstellar, The Martian, and on the wrist of Elvis Presley in Blue Hawaii.
Hamilton watches represent excellent value for money, giving you some of the very best options for guys on a budget. Most of the designs are yours for under $2k, and there’s plenty for considerably less too. The Jazzmaster is a little pricier, but considering it has an automatic chronograph movement, 42mm stainless steel case, and 60 hours power reserve, I think it’s an absolute steal.
Famous Models: Jazzmaster, Khaki Field, Ventura | Price Range: $545 to $11,000
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock since falling out of the womb, chances are you will have heard of Rolex (and its unrivaled reputation). The brand has remained the king of timepieces for more than a century and even found itself in Forbes‘ list of the world’s most powerful brands.
But Rolex just doesn’t get by on name alone. The quality of the watches really does speak for themselves—with top-notch movements and the most minuscule luxury detailing. If you’ve never owned one, you’ve definitely dreamed of getting your hands on the Submariner worn by Mr. Bond. Originally created for underwater exploration and diving, it’s now the perfect watch to take you from business meetings to fancy restaurants and family weddings.
Famous Models: Datejust, Explorer, Submariner | Price Range: $5,000 to $50,000+
Loved by collectors, worn by the rich and famous, and admired by the average Joe, Patek Philippe is no ordinary watch brand. Using over 50 in-house movements and highly complex workings, the Swiss watchmaker has made watches for royalty, rappers, and global sports stars.
Since its inception in 1839, it has continued to develop a vast collection of ridiculously cool timepieces. This currently includes models such as the Complications and legendary Nautilus—known for its rounded octagonal bezel, porthole case construction, and horizontally embossed dial.
Famous Models: Nautilus, Aquanut, Complications | Price Range: $20,000 to $100,000+
Part of the Swatch Group, Longines produces luxury watches with a price point somewhere between the Rolex and your favorite Tissot. With an ever-expanding catalog of over 1,000 models, they offer up a beautiful timepiece for just about any occasion.
The Elegance Collection is the largest they offer and focuses on the kind of dress watches you can wear to awards evenings and business lunches. It’s set out into five separate lines: Longlines Dolcevita, La Grande Classique de Longines, Longines Primaluna, Presence, and Flagship. The latter is perhaps my favorite, fitted with a self-winding caliber and boasting a wide range of dials and various sizes suitable for all wrists.
Famous Models: Flagship, Record, Elegant | Price Range: $1,500 to $12,000
An independent company with a rich history that most can only dream of, Audemars Piguet is to thank for some of the very best watches on the planet. Since it was first established in 1875, it has produced a wide range of iconic designs. Among them is the world’s first automatic wristwatch, the rectangular Edward Piguet tourbillon, and endless dress watches in the instantly recognizable Jules Audemars line.
However, things didn’t always look so rosy. If it wasn’t for the making of the Royal Oak, the company might have never made it through the financial ruin of the 1970s—caused by the growing popularity of the inexpensive quartz watch from Japan. Today, the business-saving timepiece is a modern icon, complete with a steel case, octagonal bezel, “Tapisserie” dial, and integrated bracelet.
Famous Models: Royal Oak, Royal Oak Offshore, Code 11.59 | Price Range: $10,000 to $50,000+
Most famous for its chronographs, precision, and affiliation with motorsports, Tag Heuer has firmly cemented its status as one of the best Swiss watch brands out there. In fact, it was once even the maker of watches for many of the other industry leaders, including Rolex.
Its catalog is bursting with iconic styles including the Monaco and Carrera. But most recently, it has branched out to offer its first collection of smartwatches, such as the titanium Connected. The line of digital styles comes with a full-day battery life, with a plethora of interchangeable features that allow you to fully customize the watch to meet your personal needs.
Famous Models: Monaco, Carrera, Formula 1 | Price Range: $1,200 to $24,000
The International Watch Company, better known as IWC, was founded in the mid-1880s by an American watchmaking pioneer named Florentine Ariosto Jones. Throughout the World Wars, the brand made a wide range of mil-spec pilot watches—something that is still very much prevalent in the IWC portfolio today.
They offer six main lines, each perfectly combining precision engineering with timeless design and ethically sourced materials. My favorite is the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph, which offers everything you need from an everyday sports watch. Water-resistant with a diameter of 43 millimeters, it has a stainless steel case, blue dial, and rhodium-plated hands.
Famous Models: Pilot, Da Vinci, Aquatimer | Price Range: $4,000 to $100,000
Omega could create quite the scrapbook. I mean, how many of the best Swiss watch brands can say they were the first to land on the moon? Not to mention getting to call JFK and James Bond fans. Oh, and did I mention they’ve been the official timekeeper of the Olympics since 1932?
The current portfolio of watches is broken down into four main collections: Constellation, Seamaster, Speedmaster, and De Ville. But within these, there are a number of sub-collections. You’ll find the world’s deepest diving watch, a $109,000 pocket watch, and a variety of everyday timepieces suitable for all kinds of calendar events. If you’re looking for an excellent all-rounder, may I suggest the Speedmaster Moonwatch? One of the most universally recognized designs around, it’s been part of all six moon landings and can easily take your own outfits to a new dimension.
Famous Models: Seamaster, Speedmaster, Constellation | Price Range: $5,000 to $50,000+
A guide on the top Swiss watch brands wouldn’t be complete without the oldest operating watchmaker in the world. Founded way back in 1755, Vacheron Constantin has produced watches worn by just about everyone imaginable. I’m talking kings, emperors, presidents, and some of the most significant men in history. If you’re looking for a watch you can pass down through the generations, look no further.
As you’d expect, the company’s works are full of wonderfully unique models, using old-school techniques and features that only add to the unbeatable charm. My top pick would be the self-winding Fiftysix, named after the original design it is based upon. It features a sepia-brown dial, with an 18K 5N pink gold case and brown calfskin leather strap.
Famous Models: Fiftysix, Overseas, Historiques | Price Range: $12,000 to $100,000+
What To Look For In The Best Swiss Watch Brands
There are many different types of timepieces available. From dive watches to military styles, the options are aplenty. But which one you choose will largely depend on your personal style and wearability. You may also want to take the current watch trends into consideration.
For guys who spend the majority of their time dressed smartly, a dress watch would be a wise investment. If you’re looking for something better suited to every day, a sports watch may offer the most versatility. Are you a collector? I’d suggest a vintage piece.
When it comes to finding a watch you can afford, it can pay to already have a budget in mind. You can then narrow down your options and pull together a list of possibilities that are affordable. Remember, while the price of a watch can often indicate the complexity and luxuriousness of its workings, you can still get your hands on some high-quality watches that won’t leave you begging for your next paycheck.
Just like the engine of a car, watch movements are the mechanisms that make the whole thing run. Or, in this case, tick. There are three main types of movement: quartz, automatic, and mechanical. Depending on your lifestyle, hobbies, fashion preferences, and budget, you can determine which type is best for you.
Now that you’re clued up on the best Swiss watch brands, you’ll probably have a better understanding of why the country was rated fourth in the World Happiness Report 2022. I mean, how could you not be delighted with the types of timepieces on offer? Your only problem is choosing the right one for your growing watch wardrobe.
For starters, I suggest taking a serious look at Tissot. Offering a wide variety of options at various price points, the brand gives you your most affordable gateway into the luxury watch market. With timepieces starting at $250, you can explore an impressive catalog of wrist companions, including the Seastar 1000. Merging style with performance, it’ll take you from pool parties to days exploring the city. And it can be worn with everything from suits to khakis and flannel shirts.
Based in Geneva, Switzerland, Rolex is not only the biggest-selling brand in the country but also the world. It continues to dominate the market with a share of around 30%.
With new brands popping up on the regular (we’re talking hundreds), it’s almost impossible to give an exact number on how many Swiss watch brands there are. However, in terms of the biggest and best Swiss watch brands, you’re looking at around 50-60.