Like so many other things, the niche world of timepieces and watch brands can often seem like a daunting one to enter. The tricky vocabulary, the annual collector scramble for new models, the encyclopedia of complications—where to start? The easiest point of entry is to get familiar with the best watch brands. Yes, there are those household names that often make parents’ bedside tables and song lyrics, but are they worth it? (Short answer: oftentimes, yes.)
But, there’s more to consider: Is there a new brand worth looking at when going for a purchase? And what if you’re just starting your watch collection? Or adding one for not too much money? Which brands will most likely accrue value over the years? E.t.c, e.t.c. There is information on all of these questions—answered in very broad strokes—below; see and shop our extensive list of the best brands to know.
Up there in the most well-known of watch brands, Rolex watches are continually and constantly a hot commodity. Their value holds—and most often increases—years after purchase. This is true of almost all styles.
Rolex Datejust 36 watch
Rolex Explorer watch
Largely thought of as the premier sports watchmaker—driving, soccer, diving, etc. They also make clean and slimmer options for those who want something more demure.
Tag Heuer Aquaracer professional 300 stainless steel bracelet watch
$2800.00, SAKS FIFTH AVENUE
Tag Heuer Carrera watch
$2300.00, TAG HEUER
Similar to their jewelry, Cartier’s cult classics have been a celebrity and watch-buyer favorite for decades. Watch models get an update every few years to keep them cutting edge.
Cartier Tank Must watch
Cartier Panthère de Cartier 22mm small 18-karat pink gold diamond watch
This Japanese watchmaker is a bit of a sleeper brand. The watches have a lot to pay attention to, however: good looks, stellar craftsmanship, and not too spendy.
Grand Seiko Heritage SBGX263 watch
$2200.00, WATCHES OF SWITZERLAND
Grand Seiko Heritage SBGX261 watch
$2200.00, WATCHES OF SWITZERLAND
The French luxury brand has a way with watches as well. The models are an extension of what they do so well: refined and timeless.
Hermès Timepieces Nantucket 17-mm 18-karat rose gold mother-of-pearl watch
Hermès Cape Cod 29mm stainless-steel and leather-strap watch
$3125.00, SAKS FIFTH AVENUE
Classic and sporty options from the official timekeeper of the Olympics, the partner of most every recent James Bond, and what’s on the wrist of Cindy Crawford and Nicole Kidman.
Omega 38mm Seamaster Aqua Terra 150-meter Co‑Axial Master Chronometer watch, with Small Seconds subdial
Omega De Ville Trésor Master Co-Axial Chronometer 40mm watch
Clean and crisp in design, the Nomos Glashütte watch brand offers designs that are quiet and won’t compete with an outfit.
Nomos Glashütte Ludwig Neomatik 39 limited edition automatic 38.5mm steel and leather watch, ref. no. 250
$3700.00, MR PORTER
Nomos Glashütte Club Sport Neomatik 42 date black watch
There’s plenty of history in the almost two hundred years of watchmaking from Longines. The brand has equally petite and chunky styles to offer.
Longines Dolcevita 28.2mm ladies watch
$1600.00, WATCHES OF SWITZERLAND
Longines Elegant 25mm ladies watch
$3875.00, WATCHES OF SWITZERLAND
Watches as jewelry is how many people style their Van Cleef & Arpels pieces. The storied jewelry recently leaned into this philosophy with a watch pendant as an extension of their quintessential Alhambra line.
Van Cleef & Arpels Alhambra secret pendant watch
$19200.00, VAN CLEEF & ARPELS
Van Cleef & Arpels white gold Cadenas watch
$14000.00, 1ST DIBS
Swiss watchmaking without the sticker shock of a lot of the other brands on this list. This is a great entry price point into the watch market without sacrificing craftsmanship.
Tissot 26mm Bellissima watch
Tissot Lovely 19.5mm watch
A real balance of flashy and functional, Audemars Piguet has everything from a classic watch to all-gemset and full of sparkle.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak frosted gold quartz watch
$43400.00, AUDEMARS PIGUET
Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 watch
$30200.00, AUDEMARS PIGUET
Piaget—oftentimes the holder of the prize for the thinnest watch (a mechanical feat)—was a favorite of Jackie Kennedy and still holds true for a watch that is demure with a twinkle of glamour.
Piaget Possession watch
Piaget Altiplano watch
A hefty price tag, but for good reason. Patek Philippe is often thought of as the gold standard in watchmaking. The pieces retain value so well the company’s marketing campaign insinuated that owning one of their watches was merely looking after it until you pass it down to the next generation.
Patek 5711/1A Nautilus watch
$34890.00, PATEK PHILIPPE
Patek 5738P Golden Ellipse watch
$55830.00, PATEK PHILIPPE
The Detroit-based brand that’s also known for its bicycles and leather goods started with watches. Proudly partnering Swiss-made movements with American craftsmanship, Shinola has as many rugged options as they do ladylike.
Shinola the 34mm Birdy watch
Shinola the Sea Creatures 40mm watch
Though they are best known for their sporty-luxe ceramic J12 model, Chanel’s watches have plenty more to offer—like their more restrained Boyfriend watch—and pieces with more classical watchmaking skills like hand-painted dials and chronographs.
Chanel 41mm J12 chronographic watch
Chanel Boy-Friend watch
Originally Appeared on Vogue