Beyond Rolex – Swiss Watch Brands to Explore

Rolex remains the undisputed heavyweight of the Swiss watch world; the self-titled King of Watches. However, when it comes to listing the best Swiss watch brands, there’s much to be gained by exploring other, lesser-known Swiss watch brands. If not Rolex, then the Swiss brand watches that might spring to mind are the opulent Omega and the sublime Patek Philippe – but we’ve gone beyond the top Swiss watch brands to find the best of the rest. With Swiss pocket watches representing the work of some of the finest horologists in the world, we’re confident that you’ll discover something new from Swiss watchmaking.

Tudor by Rolex watches

If you’re looking beyond Rolex for your next Swiss watchmaker to fall in love with, Tudor has to be your first stop. Montres Tudor SA, known as Tudor, is the Geneva-based Swiss watchmaker that was registered in 1926 by Hans Wilsdorf. Wilsdorf is also Rolex’s founder and the brands have operated as sister companies since their foundation. Both companies remain in the ownership of the Hans Wilsdorf Foundation. Tudor was created by Rolex to provide a more affordable, more easily accessible route to purchase; however, with the demand for Rolex seemingly unending, vintage Tudors have been quietly rising in value over the last decade.

All Tudors are Swiss-made and it’s fair to say that some models clearly take their design inspiration from some of Rolex’s greats. Tudor’s Submariner Black Bay, released in 2012, comes in a dual-coloured bezel GMT option that captures the very essence of the Rolex GMT Master, down to the red and blue Pepsi colouring. If you’re looking for an alternative to the Rolex Datejust, Tudor’s Style models bridge that gap.

Tudor’s brand ambassadors certainly showcase the brand’s robust credentials, with David Beckham, rugby’s All Blacks and big wave surfer, Nick Von Rupp, representing.

Tag Heuer watches

Tag Heuer has long been associated with sports and time-keeping, with elite sports sponsorships that have included the Ferrari F1 team and Manchester United. Tag Heuer’s skill and expertise at producing chronographs is so advanced that it has produced watches for many other Swiss watch brands, including rival brand, Rolex.

Tag Heuer’s foundations are firmly placed in invention and innovation, with creator, Édouard Heuer, a constant at pushing the boundaries of timekeeping technology. Launching his watchmaking business in 1860, Heuer was able to take out his first patent in 1882 developing the oscillating pinion, which allows a chronograph to be to be stopped and started and is still used in watchmaking globally today.

Breitling pilot watch

Founded in 1884 by Léon Breitling, this Swiss watch brand is known worldwide for its aviation and Swiss dive watches. As chronograph specialists, Breitling’s technical expertise in watchmaking has been responsible for several advancements in watch history. While other Swiss watch brands may be synonymous with aviation, space exploration and sports timekeeping, it is Breitling that supplies several air forces, including the RAF. The first watch ever worn in space was a Breitling, sported by American astronaut Scott Carpenter in 1962.

Working with Dubouis Dépraz, Breitling produced the world’s first chronograph with automatic winding in 1965. Every one of Breitling’s watches, since 1999, has been certified as a chronometer by the COSC (Contrôle officiel suisse des chronomètres), which focuses on precision and accuracy.

Cartier watches

Cartier is as well-known for the brand’s couture and jewellery as for their watches – such as the Cartier Tank and the ground-breaking Santos aviation watch – but how does the brand bring together the best in chic Gallic flair with Swiss made watches?

While the Cartier brand was founded by Louis-François Cartier in Paris in 1847, the French brand has evolved in the century and a half since its conception. Now a luxury brand that incorporates fine fragrance and leather goods, Cartier captures the best of Switzerland and France. Cartier is currently entirely Swiss-owned by the Richemont Group, although the brand is headquartered in Paris. As a watchmaker, however, the Cartier brand has always produced their luxury watches using Swiss-made movements.

It’s tempting to place focus on the look and feel of both Cartier men’s and women’s watches. After all, Diana, Princess of Wales, owned two Tanks, one of which now belongs to Meghan, Duchess of Sussex. Yet Cartier has been the Swiss watch brand behind some of the most exciting advancements in modern watchmaking. It was Louis Cartier’s friendship with aviator, Alberto Santos-Dumont, that led to the flat wristwatch design that is now worn on billions of wrists worldwide every day.

 IWC pilot watch

While Swiss made watches have delivered the finest in engineering and innovation over the years, the IWC brand has represented the perfect blend of both since its conception in 1868. IWC stands for International Watch Co, which captures the essence of the brand’s story. Created by an American in Switzerland, Boston watchmaker, Ariosto Jones, brought his brand to life in Schaffhausen, controversial for its distance from the watchmaking hubs in the of French-speaking regions of Switzerland.  Jones paired his knowledge of advanced American production technologies with detailed Swiss watchmaking practices to create watches par excellence.

IWC watches stand out from other Swiss made watches for their mechanical brilliance, with IWC creating some of the most complex watches ever produced. IWC’s II Destriero Scafusia, made in 1993, was, for a time, the most complicated watch in the world. IWC watches can fetch up to $1m at auction and they are all the more precious because they are made in such small numbers.

IWC is hugely respected for its pilot watch models, which include watches made from titanium. Although IWC is forensic in their approach to watchmaking, they are also an imaginative brand with a hint of romance in there too. While three of their aviation watches are named with solid, robust names – Classic, Spitfire and Top Gun – the literary-inspired Le Petit Prince, and Antoine de Saint Exupery show a dash of flair.

If you’re looking beyond Rolex for your next watch or have a brand listed that you’d like to discuss with our experts, please get in touch with us. You can also shop our range of pre-owned luxury watches online now.

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