Hublot was the first brand to put a solid gold watch on a rubber strap, which in 1980 was as revealing and transgressive as wearing sneakers with a suit. Forty years later, the brand is still experimenting with materials, recently figuring out how to sculpt an entire watch case from a single block of lab-grown sapphire.
Foundation year: 1868
Best known for: WWII aviator’s watches that you can wear with a costume.
IWC redesigned their Big Pilot watch this year, but to see it alongside the ones they made for British pilots in the 1940s, you might not be able to tell which is which. Everything else about this watch – and every other watch made by IWC – is an exercise in top-to-bottom luxury, from the sand-colored ceramic case of the Mojave Desert Edition to the tide indicator at the Portugieser Yacht Club.
Foundation year: 1833
Best known for: Very sophisticated sports watches; unpronounceable name.
Jaeger-LeCoultre’s most famous creation, the Reverso, was designed for polo players in the 1930s. It was also the watch Don Draper bought when he got his name on Sterling Cooper’s door. . Wherever you wear yours say it zhey-ZHER leh-KOOLT or risk being laughed at by the publicity directors and horse people.
Foundation year: 1832
Best known for: Perfect vintage reproductions of archival drawings.
When you spend thousands of dollars on a watch, the idea of ”good value” becomes more than a little subjective. That said, Longines offers everything a leading Swiss watchmaker should (heritage, high-quality Swiss movements, unique design) at a (relatively) affordable price. If you want something with a vintage look and modern reliability, look no further.
Foundation year: 1894
Best known for: To be the first watch on the moon.
More than half a century after Neil Armstrong achieved what could be the greatest watch flex in history, the Omega Speedmaster is still the brand’s most sought-after creation. Rugged, refined and technically advanced mechanical sports watches are what this brand does best, and there are plenty to choose from, with or without Apollo 11 ties.
Foundation year: 1860
Best known for: Big, beefy dive watches adored by Sly Stallone, Dwayne Johnson and other guys with arms like tree trunks.
The first Panerai watches were created for the Italian Navy, with dials that glowed a vibrant green thanks to Radiomir, their patented luminous paint. Radiomir turned out to be radiocative, but Panerai’s original design details and bulky proportions are as good as they’ve ever been.
Foundation year: 1839
Best known for: Extremely expensive button-down watches coveted by hedge fund managers, oligarchs and John Mayer.
At the highest levels of watchmaking, a certain amount of TOC is considered an asset. An example: Patek Philippe hand finishes every component of its watches, even those that no one other than the watchmaker will ever see. That, combined with nearly 200 years of heritage and a known stable resale value, makes this brand one of the most coveted brands on the planet.
Foundation year: 1874
Best known for: Incredibly fine mechanical movements.