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The 20 Oldest Watch Brands In The World

Watchmaking is centuries old, with origins dating back to the middle of the 16th century. It's an almost unfathomable period of time, but be that as it may and since then, the beloved mechanical timepiece has seen many iterations, with almost as many technical innovations and ergonomic changes, all in the pursuit of chronometry excellence.

When we talk about the history of watchmaking and the founding of brands that we all know and love today, there is an enormous amount of grey area. Who started what when, was it official, can it be proven. These are all questions asked, so for the sake of brevity I've put together a list of brands that have solid linearity to their respective origins, that are in operation today and that had very little to no down-time since their inception.

Here are the 20 oldest watch brands from youngest to oldest.

Seiko - 1881

Seiko is a globally renowned Japanese watchmaker celebrated for its innovation, precision, and diverse range of timepieces. Founded in 1881 by Kintaro Hattori in Tokyo, Japan, Seiko began as a small watch repair shop. In 1892, Hattori expanded the business, establishing Seikosha, which produced Japan's first wristwatch in 1913. Throughout the 20th century, Seiko continued to innovate, introducing numerous groundbreaking technologies, including the world's first quartz wristwatch, the Seiko Astron, in 1969. Seiko's commitment to innovation extended to other areas of horology, such as the development of the Spring Drive movement in 1999, which combines mechanical and quartz technologies for enhanced accuracy. Over the years, Seiko has diversified its product offerings to include a wide range of watches, from affordable quartz models to high-end mechanical timepieces under its Grand Seiko brand. Today, Seiko remains a leader in the watch industry, admired for its craftsmanship, reliability, and technological advancements.

Bulova - 1875

Bulova is a renowned American watchmaker celebrated for its innovative designs, precision timekeeping, and rich heritage. Founded in 1875 by Joseph Bulova in New York City, the company quickly gained recognition for its commitment to accuracy and craftsmanship. In 1911, Bulova revolutionized timekeeping by introducing the world's first full line of wristwatches for men. Throughout the 20th century, Bulova continued to innovate, pioneering advancements such as the introduction of electronic timekeeping in watches with the Accutron in 1960, which utilized a tuning fork instead of traditional balance wheels. Bulova's Accutron technology played a crucial role in the development of space exploration, as it was used in various NASA missions. Over the years, Bulova has remained a leader in the watch industry, blending classic design with cutting-edge technology. Today, Bulova continues to uphold its legacy of innovation and precision with its diverse range of timepieces, from classic dress watches to sporty chronographs, catering to a wide range of tastes and lifestyles.

Audemars Piguet - 1875

Audemars Piguet is a revered Swiss luxury watchmaker known for its innovative designs, exceptional craftsmanship, and iconic timepieces. Established in 1875 by Jules Louis Audemars and Edward Auguste Piguet in Le Brassus, Switzerland, Audemars Piguet quickly gained recognition for its precision and expertise in complicated watchmaking. In 1892, the brand produced the world's first minute-repeating wristwatch, solidifying its reputation as a pioneer in horological innovation. Throughout the 20th century, Audemars Piguet continued to push the boundaries of watchmaking with groundbreaking creations, including the Royal Oak, introduced in 1972 and designed by Gerald Genta, which revolutionized the concept of luxury sports watches. The brand's commitment to excellence and creativity is evident in its diverse range of collections, from classic models like the Royal Oak and the Royal Oak Offshore to high-complication timepieces like the Royal Oak Concept and the Code 11.59. Today, Audemars Piguet remains a symbol of luxury and innovation in the watchmaking industry, admired by collectors and connoisseurs worldwide.

Piaget - 1874

Piaget is a prestigious Swiss luxury watchmaker and jeweler renowned for its exquisite craftsmanship, elegant designs, and exceptional quality. Founded in 1874 by Georges Edouard Piaget in La Côte-aux-Fées, Switzerland, Piaget initially focused on crafting high-precision movements for other prestigious watchmakers. In 1943, Piaget began producing its own wristwatches, quickly gaining recognition for its ultra-thin movements and luxurious designs. Throughout the 20th century, Piaget expanded its expertise into jewelry, incorporating colorful gemstones and innovative techniques into its creations. The brand became synonymous with glamour and sophistication, favored by celebrities and royalty worldwide. Piaget's dedication to innovation led to the development of groundbreaking timepieces, such as the iconic Altiplano ultra-thin watch and the Emperador cushion-shaped watch. Today, Piaget continues to push the boundaries of watchmaking and jewelry design, offering a wide range of exquisite creations that embody elegance, creativity, and technical excellence.

IWC - 1868

IWC (International Watch Company) is a renowned Swiss luxury watchmaker celebrated for its engineering excellence and distinctive design. Founded in 1868 by American watchmaker Florentine Ariosto Jones in Schaffhausen, Switzerland, IWC has established itself as a pioneer in the industry, combining precision engineering with innovative design. Initially focused on producing pocket watches for the American market, IWC quickly gained recognition for its high-quality movements and exceptional craftsmanship. Throughout its history, IWC has introduced numerous innovations, including the Pallweber pocket watch with digital display in 1884 and the Portugieser watch collection in the 1930s, known for its iconic design and precision timekeeping. Despite facing challenges during World War II and the quartz crisis, IWC persevered, reaffirming its commitment to mechanical watchmaking. Today, IWC continues to uphold its legacy of innovation and craftsmanship with its diverse range of timepieces, including the Pilot's Watch, Portofino, and Ingenieur collections, each reflecting the brand's dedication to excellence and innovation.

Zenith - 1865

Zenith is a Swiss luxury watchmaker renowned for its high-precision timepieces and innovative craftsmanship. Founded in 1865 by Georges Favre-Jacot in Le Locle, Switzerland, Zenith quickly gained recognition for producing movements entirely in-house, a rarity at the time. The company achieved significant milestones, including the creation of the El Primero in 1969, the world's first integrated automatic chronograph movement with a high frequency of 36,000 vibrations per hour. This movement set new standards for precision and remains a cornerstone of Zenith's legacy. Over the years, Zenith has continued to innovate, blending traditional watchmaking techniques with modern advancements, solidifying its reputation as a leader in horological excellence.

TAG Heuer - 1860

TAG Heuer is a prestigious Swiss watchmaker known for its innovative designs and strong association with sports and precision timekeeping. Founded in 1860 by Edouard Heuer in St-Imier, Switzerland, the company initially gained fame for its patented chronographs and precision instruments. Notable achievements include the invention of the oscillating pinion in 1887, a key component still used in modern chronographs, and the Mikrograph in 1916, the first stopwatch accurate to 1/100th of a second. Acquired by Techniques d'Avant Garde (TAG) in 1985, the brand became TAG Heuer and continued to excel in creating high-performance watches. Today, TAG Heuer remains synonymous with avant-garde design, motorsport heritage, and cutting-edge technology.

Panerai - 1860

Panerai is an esteemed Italian watchmaker renowned for its robust, nautical-inspired timepieces. Founded in 1860 by Giovanni Panerai in Florence, the company initially operated as a watch shop, workshop, and school. Panerai gained prominence in the early 20th century by supplying precision instruments and watches to the Royal Italian Navy, most notably the Radiomir and Luminor models, distinguished by their luminescent dials and water resistance. The brand's designs, characterized by large, cushion-shaped cases and minimalist aesthetics, became iconic. Acquired by the Richemont Group in 1997, Panerai transitioned from military to luxury watchmaking, maintaining its distinctive style while incorporating advanced Swiss movements, solidifying its status in the high-end watch market.

Omega - 1848

Omega is a prestigious Swiss watchmaker celebrated for its precision, innovation, and association with space exploration and sports timekeeping. Founded in 1848 by Louis Brandt in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, Omega initially gained recognition for its high-quality movements and timepieces. The brand achieved numerous milestones, including becoming the official timekeeper for the Olympic Games since 1932 and producing the first watch worn on the moon, the Speedmaster, during the Apollo 11 mission in 1969. Omega's pioneering advancements include the co-axial escapement, enhancing durability and accuracy. Known for its elegant designs and technical prowess, Omega remains a symbol of excellence in the horological world.

Cartier - 1847

Cartier is a renowned French luxury goods brand, celebrated for its exquisite jewelry and sophisticated watches. Founded in 1847 by Louis-François Cartier in Paris, the brand quickly gained a reputation for crafting elegant and innovative designs. Cartier introduced the first practical wristwatch, the Santos, in 1904, created for aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont. The brand's iconic designs, such as the Tank watch, inspired by military tanks in World War I, have become timeless symbols of luxury and style. Over the years, Cartier has continued to blend creativity with technical mastery, establishing itself as a leader in both haute horlogerie and fine jewelry. Now part of the Richemont Group, Cartier remains a symbol of refined elegance and craftsmanship.

Ulysse Nardin - 1846

Ulysse Nardin is a distinguished Swiss watchmaker celebrated for its innovative marine chronometers and high-precision timepieces. Founded in 1846 by Ulysse Nardin in Le Locle, Switzerland, the brand initially focused on creating marine chronometers, which quickly gained acclaim for their accuracy and reliability, becoming essential instruments for navies and merchant ships worldwide. Throughout its history, Ulysse Nardin has been a pioneer in horological advancements, incorporating cutting-edge technology and materials such as silicium in its movements. The brand's iconic collections, like the Marine, Diver, and Freak series, reflect its nautical heritage and technical prowess.

Patek Philippe - 1839

Patek Philippe is a prestigious Swiss watchmaker known for its exquisite craftsmanship, technical innovation, and timeless designs. Founded in 1839 by Antoine Norbert de Patek and François Czapek in Geneva, Switzerland, the company initially gained a reputation for producing high-quality pocket watches. After partnering with French watchmaker Adrien Philippe in 1845, Patek Philippe introduced several groundbreaking inventions, including the keyless winding mechanism. The brand is renowned for its complicated timepieces, such as perpetual calendars, minute repeaters, and split-seconds chronographs. Patek Philippe remains family-owned, a rarity among major luxury watch brands, and continues to set the standard for haute horlogerie with iconic models like the Calatrava, Nautilus, and Grand Complications series. The brand's commitment to tradition, innovation, and quality has solidified its status as one of the most respected names in watchmaking.

Jaeger-LeCoultre - 1833

Jaeger-LeCoultre is a revered Swiss watchmaker known for its technical mastery, innovative designs, and refined craftsmanship. Founded in 1833 by Antoine LeCoultre in Le Sentier, Switzerland, the company quickly became renowned for its precision and inventiveness, notably creating the Millionometre, the first instrument capable of measuring microns. The partnership with Parisian watchmaker Edmond Jaeger in 1903 led to the creation of some of the world's thinnest movements. Jaeger-LeCoultre has developed over 1,200 calibers and holds hundreds of patents, contributing significantly to horological advancements. Iconic models like the Reverso, with its unique reversible case, and the Master Control series exemplify the brand's blend of elegance and technical innovation. Today, Jaeger-LeCoultre continues to be a leader in haute horlogerie, celebrated for its dedication to tradition and excellence.

Longines - 1832

Longines is a distinguished Swiss watchmaker celebrated for its elegant designs and precision timekeeping. Founded in 1832 by Auguste Agassiz in Saint-Imier, Switzerland, Longines initially produced pocket watches and quickly gained a reputation for quality and reliability. The brand's winged hourglass logo, registered in 1889, is the oldest unchanged, registered trademark still in use in its original form. Longines has been a pioneer in the development of horological technology, including the creation of high-precision chronographs and being the official timekeeper for numerous sports events, notably equestrian sports and the Olympics. Known for its blend of classic aesthetics and innovative features, Longines continues to uphold its legacy of elegance and technical excellence in the watchmaking industry.

Baume & Mercier - 1830

Baume & Mercier is a renowned Swiss watchmaker known for its commitment to producing high-quality, elegant timepieces. The company was founded in 1830 by brothers Louis-Victor and Célestin Baume in the Jura region of Switzerland, initially as "Frères Baume." The brand expanded internationally and became known for its precision and innovation in watchmaking. In 1918, William Baume partnered with Paul Mercier, leading to the creation of Baume & Mercier. The brand earned a reputation for its refined designs and technical prowess, winning numerous awards, including the prestigious Geneva Seal. Today, Baume & Mercier is part of the Richemont Group and continues to uphold its heritage with collections like the Classima, Hampton, and Clifton, blending traditional craftsmanship with contemporary style.

Girard-Perregaux - 1791

The extensive and intricate history of Girard-Perregaux commences in 1791 when watchmaker Jean-François Baute founded a watchmaking workshop bearing his name. In 1852, another watchmaker, Constant Girard, established Girard & Cie., which later evolved into Girard-Perregaux following his marriage to Marie Perregaux in 1854. In 1906, Constant's son assumed control of the company and acquired Baute's company, subsequently integrating it into the family business. These strategic business maneuvers enable the modern Girard-Perregaux to trace its lineage back to 1791, even though neither Girard nor Perregaux were born at that time. Despite its convoluted beginnings, Girard-Perregaux boasts a rich historical background in the realm of haute horology. One of its most notable creations is the Three Gold Bridges Tourbillon, a patented innovation by Constant Girard that reimagines Abraham-Louis Breguet's iconic tourbillon. This "Bridges" design continues to shape Girard-Perregaux's watchmaking innovations both aesthetically and technically. Another significant milestone is the Laureato sport-luxury watch, conceived in the 1970s and re-launched in 2016, which has since become a flagship in Girard-Perregaux's collection, with recent models featuring collaborations with their automotive partner, Aston-Martin.

Breguet - 1775

Abraham-Louis Breguet (1747 - 1823) is a pivotal figure in watchmaking history, credited with inventing the tourbillon, a mechanism designed to enhance the precision of watch movements by counteracting the effects of gravitational forces. The modern Breguet watch brand, which traces its roots back to 1775, continues to showcase innovative interpretations of the tourbillon. Breguet also revolutionized watch design by introducing the first crown-wound watch in 1830, a departure from the traditional key-wound mechanism. Throughout history, Breguet timepieces have adorned the wrists of influential figures such as King George III, Queen Marie-Antoinette, and Sir Winston Churchill. The brand's iconic Breguet hands, established in 1783, remain a hallmark feature found in both Breguet's Classique collection and numerous other watch brands. In addition to its renowned tourbillon-equipped watches, including the "Extra-Plat" Classique references, Breguet offers a diverse range of luxury timepieces, from the nautical-inspired Marine collection to the classical aeronautical flair of the Type XX series, showcasing rare complications like the world-time Hora Mundi and Equation of Time models.

Vacheron Constantin - 1755

Vacheron Constantin is a distinguished Swiss watchmaker renowned for its exquisite craftsmanship, timeless designs, and rich heritage dating back to 1755. Founded by Jean-Marc Vacheron in Geneva, Switzerland, the company quickly gained recognition for its precision and innovation in horology. In 1819, François Constantin joined the firm, establishing Vacheron & Constantin and expanding its international reach. Throughout its history, Vacheron Constantin has produced exceptional timepieces, including intricate complications and exquisite artistic creations. The brand's commitment to excellence and tradition is evident in its iconic collections such as the Overseas, Patrimony, and Traditionnelle. Vacheron Constantin remains one of the oldest continually operating watch manufacturers, embodying a legacy of luxury and sophistication that spans over two centuries.

Favre-Leuba - 1737

Favre-Leuba is a renowned Swiss watchmaker celebrated for its innovative designs and rugged, adventure-ready timepieces. Established in 1737 by Abraham Favre in Le Locle, Switzerland, the brand quickly gained a reputation for producing high-quality timepieces, including pocket watches and chronometers. In 1815, Henri Auguste Leuba joined the company, forming the partnership of Favre-Leuba. The brand continued to excel in precision timekeeping, introducing innovative features such as the twin-barrel movement in 1845 and the Bivouac, the world's first wristwatch with an altimeter, in 1962. Favre-Leuba's commitment to technical excellence and durability has made it a favorite among explorers and adventurers worldwide. Today, the brand continues to push the boundaries of watchmaking with its bold and distinctive designs, maintaining its legacy of innovation and adventure.

Blancpain - 1735

Blancpain is a distinguished Swiss watchmaker celebrated for its commitment to traditional craftsmanship and uncompromising quality. Established in 1735 by Jehan-Jacques Blancpain in Villeret, Switzerland, Blancpain is recognized as one of the oldest watchmaking brands in existence. The company quickly gained renown for its expertise in producing complex mechanical movements and elegant timepieces. Throughout its history, Blancpain has pioneered numerous innovations, including the creation of the world's smallest round movement in 1931 and the first modern diving watch, the Fifty Fathoms, in 1953. Despite facing challenges during the quartz crisis of the 1970s, Blancpain remained dedicated to mechanical watchmaking, leading to a resurgence in popularity for traditional timepieces. Today, Blancpain continues to uphold its legacy of excellence with its range of meticulously crafted watches, including iconic models like the Villeret, Fifty Fathoms, and the elegant Women collection, remaining a symbol of Swiss horological mastery and timeless elegance.


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